It is that time once again, when I gather together the music that I have liked over the past year, and give a brief explanation of why I like it.
This year feels like a good year, and that is because most of the albums I’ve included feel like they may just stick around longer than the time it took to get to know them well enough to talk about them. Other of my year-end lists do include entries that never made much impact beyond the listening and inclusion; as much as I thought I liked them at the time, they ultimately made no lasting impression, which is not what I hope for. This year, either the albums are better, or I have made more of an effort to exclude the ones that might be short-lived. Or both. Still, there are a handful at the bottom end of this year’s list that are unlikely to be long-term players, but that do have some good songs, so hopefully I will continue to sample them.
There are fourteen albums here that represent a relatively narrow set of genres compared to other years. There is a fair amount of prog, or at least a fair amount of music from bands with a proggy reputation, which might be a bit of a surprise if you know me. I do not consider myself a fan of modern prog and do not seek it out, mostly because I find the vast majority of it tedious and entirely predictable. However, there are a handful of bands who fall under that (admittedly rather broad) umbrella who can manage to sound fresh, so I can’t write the genre off completely. A few of them released pretty good albums this year. There is some industrial/industrial-related, some post-rock, and straight-up rock. No metal or post-metal this year, and no oddball genres.
In terms of the ranking… I’ve put numbers on them but except for the three or four at the bottom, those numbers don’t mean very much. It’s crowded at the top. There are some clear distinctions among some albums, but there are also places where making a choice is largely arbitrary.
Continue reading Album Reviews: The Music of 2023
It’s a few months and releases later from the March overview, so let’s see what is going on and how the new stuff stacks up. I’ll also take a look at some upcoming albums. You can see what I reviewed earlier in the year, here.
Continue reading The Music of 2023, July Update
Released April 21, 2023
- Kris Wawrzak: basses, sampling, programming, vocals
- Artur Szolc: drums and percussion
- Robert Szrednicki: guitars, keyboards, synths, various instruments
Krzysztof Drabikowski; Inga Habiba; Lunatic Soul
Sebastian Aleksandrowicz; Anna Drabikowska; Michał Górczyński; Mariusz Kumala; Dyba Lach; Mariusz Mielczarek; Nadhir; Maria Oldak; Tomasz Popkrzywiński; Kamil Popławski; Mariusz Rodziewicz; Igor Szeligowski; Krzysztof Szmytke.
- Furta 9. Chors
- Świętowit 10. Zachód
- Wschód 11. Kupałą
- Swaróg 12. Południe
- Mokosz 13. Łada
- Północ 14. Weles
- Perun 15. Rozstaje
- Trzygław 16. Rod
Music Inspired by Slavs is the fourth offering from the Music Inspired By… trio, who have intermittently been releasing largely instrumental thematic albums since about 1999. The last one, 2016’s Music Inspired by Alchemy, is reviewed here.
As the title suggests, the core inspiration for this album are the various deities of the Slavic pantheon. It is meant to be a musical imagining of a distant Slavic past, before conquest, science, and the imposition of a foreign religion, and the release is accompanied by lavish and detailed notes and artwork. There are eleven tracks related to the gods, organized somewhat geographically, interspersed with short, directional interludes to guide us. And so we pass through “Furta” (The Gate) into this lost world. Continue reading Album Review: Music Inspired by Slavs
Generally I don’t have much to say about new music so early in the year, but there have been some interesting things out so far, and other interesting things are on the horizon. Several strong albums have already been released despite the risk of being forgotten by year’s end, and there are singles from what may be promising albums. I also want to comment on a couple things I missed from last year.
In terms of those albums — it is a strangely proggy year for me so far. I spend a lot of time complaining about modern prog and here I am ready to talk about modern prog. Go figure. And two of those albums are (at the moment) head-to-head contenders for Album of the Year. Yes it is early, and there always do seem to be surprises, so we shall see how things play out.
Continue reading The Music So Far: March 2023 Update
Released: January 20, 2023
- Mariusz Duda: vocals, basses, electric and acoustic guitars
- Piotr Kozieradzki: drums
- Michał Łapaj: keyboards and synthesizers, Rhodes piano and Hammond organ
- Maciej Meller: electric guitars
- Friend or Foe?
- Landmine Blast
- Big Tech Brother
- The Place Where I Belong
- I’m Done With You
- Age of Anger
- Together Again
- Friend or Foe? (single edit)
- Self-Aware (single edit)
Algorithms. Influencers and Curated Lives. How to Change Your Life in Ten Words or Less. Memes. Monetization. Tracking. Filters and Avatars. Targeted Ads. Conspiracies. Expectations versus reality. Who is real and who is not? How much control over our lives do we really have?
With ID.Entity, Riverside’s 8th album, Mariusz Duda and his bandmates explore these themes: negotiating virtual realities, hanging on to one’s identity and self, fighting the ubiquitous and implacable presence of the data collectors and algorithms that tell us what we should want, trying to deal with the polarization and angry echo chambers of the online world.
We get some hints from the outset that things are different: the cover is by Polish artist Jarek Kubicki and it thrums with life. This is not the dark, sombre palette of the covers of most of the previous albums. Bright, fragmented shards of colour fly out against a stark white background; we can glimpse shadowy figures in the background. Does this new vision reflect what is inside? Continue reading Riverside: ID.Entity