Among very little else in common, the 3 albums I decided were my favorites out of this year are all albums that take the genre (or lack thereof) that they are associated with and seriously raise the bar or just destroy it all together. Deathspell Omega have been brooding and growling for over a decade and have been consistently breaking ground in the black metal world. Their latest effort (the last in a trilogy) is as trve and kvlt as it gets while really expanding and experimenting with mind-blowing instrumentation. All the blast beats and tremolo picking you would expect are present but there is so much more here: haunting guitar breaks, time signature experimentation, mesmerizing progressions and dense atmosphere make this album stand out, not only from other black metal albums I've ever listened to but also most music in general. The drumming in particular is insanely impressive and its not just the speed of his blast beats or the amount of rack toms this guy must have. The variation and tasteful nature of his style lends itself remarkably to the harsh brand of music. Now, I'm aware that black metal-ish music isn't for everyone...but if there's ever a reason to give it a chance, here you have it. I would find it difficult to believe that one could come away from listening to this album without a newfound respect for the genre or at least, a reason to not hate the french so much.
Who knew hip-hop and harps went so well together? Flylo has done it again! As I might've referred to Teebs as a 'sonic architect' of sorts, I think a title that awesome should probably be reserved for Flying Lotus. He pieces together a plethora of new, intriguing and beautiful sounds most producers might overlook or reject. The tasteful nature of his constructions never cease to amaze me, especially the way they all flow together so seamlessly. This LP utilizes a lot more live instrumentation than his previous efforts and it really shines in this context. My favorite addition is all the live bass work by Thundercat. He pretty much tears everything apart and adds soul that any bass synth wishes it could emulate. Throughout the album, soundscapes will creep up on you, beats will drop on you like a ton of bricks and even the sampled sound of a pingpong match makes an appearance, strangely and wonderfully complimenting the angelic vocals of Laura Darlington. I don't even really know what I'm doing trying to explain all of this because it's quite simple; if you haven't heard this yet, you're not doing yourself a favor by going another minute without it.
It's hard to put this album into words...I saw them play it live in it's entirety before I ever heard the album and I was completely dumbfounded. The composition was so tight, dissonant, dark and intense. The lack of guitar work confused me at first but Toby Driver's bass application was unique as it was interesting. He took a chorus/delay laden bass and turned it into a new way of looking at a lead instrument. The violin really stands out as well but mostly compliments the dissonantly harmonizing drones of the trumpets and saxophones. Add onto that some complex, jazzy drumming and haunting, glitchy synths and that's the best I can do to explain how this record sounds. It's a melancholic journey based on the last part of someone's life and accomplishes every mood and emotion it sets out to convey, especially the minuscule glimpses of beauty found at the very end of life. This album is nothing short of a masterpiece and is a complete success in every way possible.
SO, there you have it. I hope anyone bored enough to read all of this took something away with them. We can only hope that next year will be so amazing (in terms of music of course).