Though we have had a tragic year in many respects we have been blessed with some excellent albums. The ranking was closer than ever this year, and there are many releases that deserve a mention, but here are Belwood Music’s top picks of the past 12 months based on album ratings:
10. Overhead, The Albatross – Learning to Growl
Named after the famous opening line from Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’, this Irish band proved to be more than worthy of the name with their instrumental debut. Covering a range of styles, all flowing together like the soundtrack for some epic tale. I’m not normally moved by instrumentals but this was a thrilling and notable exception.
9. Little Scream – Cult Following
The second album from Canadian multi-instrumentalist Laurel Sprengelmeyer is a vivid and varied affair. Full of imagination, it plays around with a numerous genres and the end result ends up greater than the sum of its parts. Cult Following is a self-assured album and surely a sign of greater things to come.
8. Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”
A very surprising late addition! The acutely talented actor/comedian/singer Donald Glover has abandoned his rapping past in lieu of a trippy expedition through the world of 70s funk and soul. Taking inspiration from such artists as George Clinton and Prince, and putting his own unique stamp on the style, he’s produced the biggest surprise of the year.
7. The Amazing – Ambulance
This spellbinding Swedish band really live up to their name with this latest release. Creating a vast bittersweet soundscape it’s an album that’s all too easy to get lost in. Though at first it seems a desolate musical world, give it chance to grow and by the time you’ve finished exploring it’s labyrinthine twists and turns you won’t ever want to leave.
6. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide To Earth
Written as a letter to his young son, this album combines old school rhythm & blues with classic country. An accomplished songwriter and outsider to the Nashville establishment, Sturgill Simpson has managed to make country cool for audiences the world over. Sailor’s Guide has turned this dark horse into one of the most important voices in the genre.
5. Black Foxxes – I’m Not Well
With their tortured debut Black Foxxes have made it clear that they are the best new alternative rock band around and seem set to be amongst the best British bands to emerge in recent years. I’m Not Well is brimming with raw emotion. It wears its heart on its sleeve and is bubbling over with pain, passion and purpose.
4. MONEY – Suicide Songs
The melancholy meanderings of this Mancunian band may be an acquired taste, but once you let it get under your skin this album is a revelation. The sorrowful lyrics are balanced out by the uplifting score, with frontman Jamie Lee proving to be one of the finest lyricists of my lifetime. It’s an album that may go underappreciated for now, but will be looked back on as a forgotten masterpiece.
3. Foy Vance – The Wild Swan
The incredible Foy Vance has released the most diverse, yet most consistent, album of his career. It sees him treading new ground in the form of traditional Irish folk and old school rock’n’roll, but still keeps the incredible vocals and songwriting that has earned him one of the most loyal fanbases around. The Wild Swan is a big step towards the recognition he so richly deserves.
2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Largely written following the death of his young son, Nick Cave has produced the most vivid and visceral portrayal of grief ever put to music. A snapshot of the tempestuous whirlwind of rage and loss that must have kept him prisoner, Skeleton Tree is the most emotionally charged and powerful album for a long time. It stands as his best work and as proof that he is one of the greatest living songwriters.
1. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
With a band as important as this it was difficult to imagine where else they had left to go, what else they had to achieve, but this latest atmospheric release caught us all by surprise. Permeated with an uneasy calm it is the band’s most purposeful and accessible album to date. One must always expect the unexpected with Radiohead but no one foresaw the mellow mesmerising beauty of A Moon Shaped Pool. Taking you on a dreamlike journey it is yet another reason why Radiohead are one of the most important British bands in history.