Tag Archives: Salt of the Chief Cornerstone

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

The Gigs of 2015: Part 2 (Shows 8 – 1)

Continuing on with the Gigs of the Year…now we are into the good stuff.  I saw some great shows this year as well as some no-so-great.  The best concert of the year also turned out to be the last one I saw — I had high hopes for this gig, and the guys did not disappoint.


  1. Riverside (The Agora Ballroom, Cleveland)

This was the fourth of the four gigs in a row that I caught during the Love, Fear and the Time Machine tour in North America.  It was a difficult show; Duda was sick and exhausted, battling some kind of throat infection. Cleveland came the day after blowing the roof off in Chicago and Mariusz was essentially running on fumes, doing his best to not just phone it in but clearly struggling, short on energy and fighting his way through the songs.  However, towards the end he got a huge injection of energy when the crowd belted out Happy Birthday (and mangled his name; his expression was priceless).  That really seemed to make him happy and boosted the last few songs.

Cl_MD and PG


  1. Árstíðir (Church of St. Stephen’s-in-the-Field)

I can’t remember exactly how I came across this outfit, gentle folk rock/post-rock from Iceland; I tried a few tracks from youtube and they didn’t really grab me, far too sedate; but the idea of seeing a band like this in a church seemed like something worth checking out.  And they really were very good, very musical, personable and intimate, a beautiful setting, it was a special evening.


  1. Riverside (The Mod Club, Toronto)

Toronto audiences are a bit weird.  Really hipster alty and metal types, not really into prog, and I was a bit nervous about the turnout for Riverside given the size of the venue.  And the crowd was smaller than I had hoped for, a couple hundred people or so, but the show, being the first of four in a row I was to see, was a great introduction to the new material and new stage presence of Riverside.  They were much heavier on stage than the new album would have suggested, lots of energy; and it was the first time to experience the beauty of “Found” with the lights.

T_MD 5T_MD and PG 4

Continue reading The Gigs of 2015: Part 2 (Shows 8 – 1)

Albums of 2014: Numbers 1 and 2.

And finally…the Winners….   🙂

Number 2

Seven Impale:  City of the Sun

This was one of those albums that came out of the blue.  A recommendation from a friend, he also provided the warning: “give them a chance” – which can be regarded as either a challenge, or a red flag.   And the first time I played the album, I knew exactly what he meant: I spent a lot of the time thinking, “What the fuck is going on here??”   But I also got that feeling…the one where I have no idea if I liked what I heard, but there was something.   Albums that start out that way, that leave me bemused and intrigued, that demand revisiting in order to make sense of them, often end up being long-term winners.

Who are they? A six-piece from Bergen, Norway. What are they? Well, it is hard to describe what they do. Psychedelic jazz-rock-fusion, lots of saxophone winding all through prog-like songs, they sound deceptively loose and crazy, but don’t be fooled. What we have here is masterfully-controlled chaos.

While they do not really sound like any of those bands, they are reminiscent of Soft Machine, Quiet Sun, a bit of jazz-era Crimson. Each song is a surprise, the way the elements are all intertwined, sliding smoothly from raucus disorganized noise to nice melodic themes, changing up the time signatures but not in that self-referential way that modern prog bands tend to do—when it happens, it’s like it takes everyone by surprise, listener and performer both.

Every time I play this album, I am surprised how much I like what I hear, because otherwise every musical instinct tells me this is not the kind of thing that holds my attention. But these guys are the real deal. They don’t sound quite like anyone else, and sometimes they sound less like a band than a loose collective of people wandering in and out of the songs at random. If you do choose to listen…well, give them a chance.


Continue reading Albums of 2014: Numbers 1 and 2.