Tag Archives: album reviews

Albums of the Decade: 2010 to 2019

An ambitious project, to be sure, and there is every chance that if I look back on it, say, in three years, I’ll probably disagree with myself, but at the moment, this is my list.

 The albums I considered were the ones that I had already chosen in my yearly lists — most of them, anyway. Occasionally an album came along after the fact that I realized should have been included had I heard it at the right time. The chore was to figure out which of them were good enough to make The Final List. I began with about 45 albums, gleaned from my listening over the years — I had no set number I was aiming for, I just went year-by-year and chose what I considered to be the standouts from my list for that year. In the end, I narrowed it down to fifteen albums: some years were simply better for great music than others, and I see no reason to ignore that fact.

 Of course, there is the obvious question: What makes an album good enough to be an album of the decade?? It is a question that is harder to answer than I anticipated, since I have to have criteria that includes perhaps some … unexpected entries.

 It comes down to a couple of essential qualities. The first, naturally enough, is sheer staying power. It has to be an album that can stand up to repeat visits and retain the power and appeal that made it a favourite in the first place. There are lots of albums that grab me and make me play them a lot, but eventually I drift away, and whatever it was that drew me to them has gone.

 The best albums continue to be able to hit all those same triggers that snagged me in the first place: that ineluctable rush of joy, the goosebumpy thrill, forcing me to pay attention. They manifest the transcendence of the best music to me, whatever idiosyncratic stimuli I require in order to consider an album something of lasting value. It’s difficult to explain why I feel that particular set of responses for any record, given the variety of genres these albums represent — obviously the oriental-folk syncretism of Lunatic Soul is very different from the pounding hard-rock of Pretty Maids — but albums from both those outfits are capable of transporting me.

 I guess it comes down to this: whatever the music is, it must feel authentic. I am not attracted for very long to stuff that sounds forced, or derivative, or self-absorbed, or that emulates something else even with the best of intentions. The best music should feel natural, unselfconscious, emanating, as it were, from a place deep in the soul of the creators.

 In terms of the artists who made the cut: certainly there are The Usual Suspects, the ones I tend to find consistently satisfying, but I am always prepared to be surprised, and I surely have been over the years. There are albums on this list that literally came out of nowhere. There are candidates from bands that I have found unlistenable at times; there are albums that are not consistently great — that have a few tracks I don’t play very much — but the overall impact of the album as a whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. I hope at least you will find the list interesting.  

Continue reading Albums of the Decade: 2010 to 2019

Riverside: Wasteland

Released September 28, 2018

 Personnel

  • Mariusz Duda: vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, piccolo bass, banjo, guitar solo on “Lament” and “Wasteland”
  • Piotr Kozieradzki: drums
  • Michał Łapaj: keyboards and synthesizers, rhodes piano and hammond organ, theremin on “Wasteland”

 Guests

  • Maciej Meller: guitar solo on “Acid Rain – Part 2: Dancing Ghosts”, “Guardian Angel”, “The Struggle for Survival Part II – Battle Royale’and “River Down Below”
  • Michał Jelonek – violin on “The Day After”, “Lament” and “Wasteland”
  • Mateusz Owczarek – guitar solo on “Vale of Tears”

 Tracklist:

  1. The Day After
  2. Acid Rain: Part I – Where are we now?; Part II – Dancing Ghosts
  3. Vale of Tears
  4. Guardian Angel
  5. Lament
  6. Struggle for Survival: Part I – Dystopia; Part II – Battle Royale
  7. River Down Below
  8. Wasteland
  9. The Night Before

 If you have been reading reviews for Wasteland, you already know how they tend to start, so I will not repeat all that. In summary: Wasteland is probably the most fraught album in Riverside’s career, awaited with enormous anticipation, apprehension, trepidation…and so on. As fans, we all know why.

 The big question is: Did the decision to continue as a trio, with no permanent replacement for the beloved Piotr Grudziński, actually work? Did they pull it off? The responses have ranged from enthusiastic “absolutely!”s to carefully worded versions of “nope”, and everything in between. The only thing we knew for sure about Wasteland was that it wasn’t going to be the same as the previous albums, but Mariusz Duda always says that. I did have a hint of the sound to come, hearing something early in the spring albeit in an unfinished form, and I liked it very much; but auditory memory being what it is (bad), I wasn’t willing to bet the farm on that few minutes of a demo heard once.

 Three singles were released in the weeks before the album hit. Promotion, marketing – it is an understandable practice, but it is fair to say that for the most part, these songs caused more consternation than relief among the fanbase. I was certainly among those consternated. The first, “Vale of Tears”, despite some interesting moments, came across as a rather cliché poppy mashup of … well, everything. What on earth was that all about? There was a gradual improvement with the next two such that by the time “Lament” appeared, folks had gotten their hopes up again…but still, doubt had been sown.

 Then Wasteland arrived. And all my doubts were vaporized. Well, after about the third listen…but gone. Continue reading Riverside: Wasteland