It’s October my darklings, the month of spook, where goths can be goths. So I need to start thinking about my Halloween soundtrack. I’ll fire through the latest batwings and eye lashes of newt falling into my cauldron.
Swansect: Kill Pop Goth – Adrian is always thrashing like a madman in a new direction. Always producing something he hasn’t done and something I hadn’t heard a million times before. Track #1 Horse of Grass has this cool percussion driven guitar strike. Almost a folk goth tempo with vibrating underwater vocals. Track #2 Kain is my favorite and has this sinister Tones on Tail Daniel Ash sex appeal. The words are in Norwegian telling the story of Cain. I love the old school batcave rockabilly riff. Swansect always takes you to a place in your mind with the music, and usually that place is a nightmare.
SpankTheNun: The Bunker Tapes II– This album is mixed by the legendary Claus Larson (LeatherStrip). Out of Texas Eric Hanes does a hard and nasty industrial, full of chant and eye beam precision. Track 2 Fight and Breed is a building whisper that holds aggression on a greasy chain to make a tension build you can feel on the back your neck. I think what really sets this above the bar are how clearly the vocals ring for industrial music. It has a bit of effect, but you can savor every growled line. Some amazing remixes here from Melodywhore, Sapphirra Vee, and Assemblage 23. My favorite track was Lies and Hate which unleashes a real Nitzer Ebb feel. I think what impressed me most of this album is how it never has to turn the volume up to 11 to hit you in the fucking teeth with it’s power. It’s a real skill to project that much rage without screaming.
Vazum: Rated V – Ok I know I recently reviewed the Detroit band Vazum, but they did this new release specifically for Halloween with a monster/ghoul theme. It’s stalking creature abomination horror full of heavy guitars and sinister keys. Zach unleashes and inner demon from behind his usually lovely lilting vocals to send a shiver up the spine. I said the same about the previous album Vampyre Villa but I love the use of 90’s alternative mixed into the horror. Emily has a soulful Concrete Blonde vocal style that is the perfect offset in every song. Each monster has it’s own tone and flavor, my favorite was Werewolf . This one really let Emily shine on vocals and truly laid out the primal transformation. Cool lyrical poetry, “Copper turns to gold, sell our gold for silver”. There is so much going on here stylistically. We had an interview with them last week (which will post soon) I am really bummed I hadn’t heard this to discuss before hand.
Vanity Kills : Chapter 2 Enemy – Hard rocking cyberpunk from Cardiff UK. The real beauty captured here is the driving rock 90’s aggression of Helmet phase shifting into pixilated time dilation of club smashing electro-core. The intensity almost rides the line of metal. Yet the distinctive dance stomp is catchy and clean. For personal preference I wish I could hear more of the lyrics and feel the melody lines. The music really placed me in an empty room of drywall I found myself smashing out of, I wanted to know more about why. Favorite track was “This is Gonna Hurt”, it had such a punch it made me picture Clutch smashing synthesizers on a flaming stage. This one shows great promise for the future.
UnderTheSkin: End This Summer – New single complete with some outstanding remixes from Poland. This one is a Cure heavy darkwave bird of prey soaring on a night sky. Mariusz has a beautiful and captivating voice. The bassline of the song is everywhere beneath the soaring wings. A powerful track in crafting and execution. So who could successfully remix such a track? Ash Code, Shad Shadows, Kill Shelter, and Antipole with Paris. Now that is a heavy weight endorsement of some of the great production tunesmiths of our scene. A lot of individual flavor here for each remix on an absolute scorcher of a track.
Twin Tribes: Shadows(Matte Black remix) – Holy shit how did I not know this was coming out? Also why does Matte Black get to remix Twin Tribes and I don’t? Ok now that petty jealousy is out of the way, this is my favorite Twin Tribes song. The song I discovered them from. I didn’t even recognize it at first in the best possible way. This is everything I want from a remix. It has taken their glorious violet energy and fired it through a prism to create something new and beautiful. I am jaw dropped on the floor right now. Buy this immediately.
Panic Priest: When Daylight Disappears – Brand new single from Jack, and it’s another burner. Such a master of blending sizzling guitar licks and neon streaming synths. His bellowing baritone voice is an trap I can’t stop falling into. This song is a prayer to the darkness that surrounds us. I want to sit on a Chicago roof staring at the moon as the city sleeps below.
Klack: Two Minute Warning (Depeche Mode Cover) – This is a beautiful cover with a beautiful and tragic story behind it. Claus Larsen (Leatherstrip) recently lost his husband Kurt after a long battle with sickness. It left a lot of medical bills and the community really rallied around him in this tough time. All proceeds go to assist their family. I’ve always loved this song and Klack of course didn’t disappoint to capture it’s energy and majesty.
Today is the day when Bandcamp (The one music streaming and distribution company that seems to care an iota for musician’s) waives it’s fees and gives everything spent, to those making the music. It’s been a tough few months in particular and I am in the middle of Sotember (The month each year where I recharge and drink nothing stronger than Earl Grey tea)
Death Loves Veronica : In The Silence
Newest single from Texas darkwave sultry star Veronica Campbell. This song has a brighter more open tone than previous offerings. It really highlights the elegant purity of her voice. Also included is a beautiful synth rich remix of “In The Silence”. A cascading waterfall of cool crystal sound.
I have been waiting for someone to put raw emotion and sass back into the darkpop genre. This album crackles with mid tempo dance beats to fill the back walls of the club. The lyrics are an inward journey with an 80’s Madonna soul. Beautiful modern layered vocals to create movement and build. It’s one of those sounds that flows through your earbuds and into your nervous system and flexes attitude through your body. I feel like other people can hear these songs through my movements when I listen.
Chicago retro-synth dreamboats Wingtips have done this fitting tribute to criminally underrated 90’s Aussie pop band Savage Garden. I love the interlocking vocal duet here. The frosting sweet swirl of keyboards and chimes on this song make my heart dance with delight.
Firebrand driving doom dance with a nice sprinkle of Industrial guitar and finger firework keyboard work. I really like the effective chanting vocals which hit right on the needle of what I want from a club jam. Extra bonus remix layers on some teeth and glitch for a aggro feel. Stomp your feet and scream obscenity.
Listen to Klack or I will attack, and you don’t want that. A fresh new feel here from Matt and Eric. I really have enjoyed every evolution of this project. This has a Construction Time Again DM flavor. It has clever carefully placed samples. The beats have a real shake that ass groove. The keyboard melody lines are beautiful retro hooks. I really fell hard for these breathy cleanly delivered vocals. It’s something I hadn’t heard from them before and immediately wanted more of. The lyrics really became a strong suit here. This is an album plucked out of the timestream and dropped hard in 2020.
Kim Bell and company have released this lovely shadowpop with misty daybreak darkness. It has a dreamlike quality, with a Til Tuesday retro flow. I really like the front edge of Kim’s delivery on the vocals. This really gets me excited for the future direction of the project. Now on Swiss Dark Nights
I will always buy every GoFight release. I will never regret my decision. Jim Marcus understands the blending of body gyrating dance music in the way an Indian executive chef understands the blending of spice. The layering of elements allows you to get lost in what kind of a song you are listening to. His voice is that perfect growling beauty snapping at your heart with desire and terror. Another single, another home run.
I think this band from Toronto now on Cold Transmission takes the award of the day for something I had no idea I needed and now can’t live without. The scope of tempos here run from blistering car chase to lullaby shouting fuck. Gorgeous dreamy vocals that would make Robert Smith raise an eyebrow. I’m not sure where this was hiding but it just took my 2020 by storm.
I can’t sugar coat this. The world is frightening and hard right now. People are scared for their financial future, their health and safety. Usually in times like these I turn to music more than ever. Even that has not been enough to inspire me. Tonight is the first time I am taking a stab at writing in a few weeks. Looking at the enormous wealth of material piled up in my inbox seems a daunting task. Tonight though, I felt that glimmer again. That need to share with you what is making me shine and feel connected in these dark times. Artists need to feel our love more than ever. Reach out and tell them you are listening. Show them you support them by buying their merchandise. Let them know culture still matters and the beauty of the world is still alive. Here is what touched me lately.
Attrition – The Great Derailer , This EP single from Martin Bowes Feat: Emese Árvai-Illés of Black Nail Cabernet is nothing short of breathtaking. I’m an enormous fan of her voice and style. This razor wire blend of Martin’s sandpaper and her silk to Industrial post modern jazz sounds is so fresh and so nostalgic. I have played this so many times in the last two weeks. Also the video is a must see piece of art on it’s own.
I Ya Toyah – Released Code Blue Reloaded: The one woman sonic army has uncorked this series of remixes from industry leaders like Skold, Joy Thieves, Adoration Destroyed, and Xentrifuge to bring re imaginings of 2018 emotional explosion Code Blue. Ania is currently shooting like a rocket to the top of the EDM /Electroclash world with her fearless emotional style. If you don’t know about I Ya Toyah know that your world could be brighter.
Joy Thieves – A Blue Girl : New release from the Chicago Industrial superband The Joy Thieves. Led by Dan Milligan and featuring industrial titans like Chris Connelly, John Fryer, Ania Tarnowska, Gordon Young, and many more. This album is that seamless place where 90’s electronic industrial meets hard rock and organic excitement to find a blistering percussion express train to shake that assville.
ELZ and the Cult – Horrified: The Turkish electronic heartthrob is back with this creeping storm of broken glass and velvet vocals. This song oozes sex appeal and sinister intention. Dance hard and scrawl ancient runes upon thine wall.
Caroline Blind – The Spell Between : The first new album from Caroline Blind of Sunshine Blind is about to drop and although too long a wait is well worth it. She has assembled a who’s who of the goth scene from The Wake, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Switchblade Symphony, Pretentious Moi, Bellwether Syndicate, Muse. Do I have your attention yet. The record has covers and several new songs so full of passion and emotion I got misty several times listening. This is one of the all time powerhouse voices in goth spewing forth decades of ideas in one offering. It runs the range of dance hall burner, to soul baring acoustic Stevie Nicks tear jerker. If you never spent your formative years listening to Liquid, drinking black coffee and smoking cloves you need to embrace this release of all that made goth great. This record stands on the shoulders of it’s own giants.
Sopor Aeternus – Island of the Dead : Honestly this is one of those bands I am embarrassed I didn’t already know about. I heard this on the Pat 626 show and I fell instantly in love. It’s dark, quirky, and utterly unique. It has a mystical and theatrical quality full of poetry and intensity. Brooding and whip crack sharp with hammer dulcimers and vocal deliver as sharp as a dagger. Music like this is my dark secret passion.
Antipole – Perspectives II : Another album of steller remixes from Karl and Antipole. This one featuring Actors, Crying Vessel, SYZYGYX, ect. You may think, how does Karl manage to continue getting such incredible artists to remix his songs? Because they are so fracking good. I am hard pressed to think of anyone who has more of a scholars approach to taking the concepts of the past like Joy Division/New Order/Cure then holding that concept and breathing it forth as a new idea. So when you have that dedication to sonic texture, the line of people willing to take those building blocks and mix them into something that inspires them is endless. Prepare for another amazing offering. Starting with the first single by Actors.
Black Angel – The Widow: LA is doing a very bringing rock back to dark music thing at the moment. I hear a very psychedelic lizard king vibe happening here in this giant 16 song offering. Lots of steady movement and venom dripping from reverb laced retro amplifiers. I like the concept of a modern goth rock, but going back before Sisters of Mercy or Mission to a 60’s/70’s vide in dark music.
Panic Priest – Nighthunter: A very different feel for Chicago darkwave Panic Priest on Negative Gain. Jack has a deep resonant voice dripping with sex appeal and introspective energy. This new single evokes a very 80’s Depeche Mode stack and build feel. I can’t wait to see what turns this new direction takes.
Ash Code – 1981 – Ash Code has released a new video and it is aesthetic and sonic glory. I always feel when i listen to them this ultra sleek coolness full of retro advent guard beauty and slithering excess that transports me and gives you a glimpse into an ultra hip life just beyond my pedestrian fingers. Just listening to this song makes me feel like a part of something more awesome than i am.
Goth Covered – Oskar Terramortis the goth father of Europe has put together this stunning compilation of modern goth rock bands doing old school goth covers. My favorite is Sonsombre doing Nosferatu Dark Angel . The whole thing is magnificent as always. I’m just bummed it didn’t include our Peter Murphy cover
I have no shame, I’ll include it now. This is Amaranth‘s cover of Peter Murphy‘s I’ll Fall With Your Knife Feat: Lorelei Dreaming. DON’T YOU FUKING JUDGE ME
Listen Darklings, the world is cruel and promises get broken. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Band together, look out for each other, and keep sharing music that inspires you. We will get through this together.
Here I sit again with a tequila in hand sifting through all the glorious new sounds that crossed my electronic desk in the past few weeks. Already 2020 has promised to be an adventure of new music.
Sonsombre – “Lights Out” The hottest band in traditional goth revival have done it again. Fresh off their groundbreaking album “The Veils of Ending” Brandon Pybus and company have released a new single with that beautiful breakneck paced goth glory building anticipation for a new album. I love the staccato guitar pinpricks and Brandon’s deep rich croon. A promise of a world emerged in darkness waiting for you to join in this reborn culture outside the sun. This track makes me so hopeful for the future of goth music.
Caroline Blind (Sunshine Blind) – “Heaven” – The third single from goth/Industrial royalty Caroline Blind. Continuing on with this acoustic shadow witch Stevie Nicks vibe of her recent releases. Caroline’s voice is a beautiful gift full of emotion and nostalgic blanket wrapping warmth. Ritch W of (The Wake) provides these driving rhythmic acoustic harp strike guitars to propel Caroline’s angelic vocals. While the winding dream of David Wolfenden (Red Lorry Yellow Lorry) electric leads wrap like tendrils on your sleeping mind. I keep being more and more impressed with each new single.
Dilk – “Hardship” – Sassy new release from our friends at Cold Transmission. Spanish based DILK has a breakneck electronic drum beat that put me in mind of Devo or Sigue Sigue Sputnik but with this rich darkwave edge to the vocals that held a melodic beauty keeping these sizzling dance beats in check. Something fresh and glorious to spice up your Saturday darkness.
Helvete Inc. – “Filth” I loved this fierce mouth punch industrial tire fire from Baltimore. It has a definite NIN Broken feel with dangerous themes, slashing electronic noise attacks, and sinister counter culture poetry. I listened to this before going into work to dwell on my own hypocrisy. It’s sexy, filthy, and unapologetic with songs like “Goddess Heathen Fuck Machine”
Klack – “Move Any Mountain” Industrial dance gurus Klack doing The Shamen’s hit which is the most remixed song of all time. This scintillating dance drone with Eric and Matt chanting away to the cascading waves of retro synth glory. Yes please, every time.
Dread Risks – “Errorcode” (Remix by Adoration Destroyed) I speak from experience when I say Erik and Ritch of Adoration Destroyed do the best remixes. This track is sinister, sultry, and full of snap beat attacks. The vocals are a whisper growl of agony full of broken glass and torture while the keyboards flow in lovely melody. Dance floor this now.
Electronic Substance Abuse Feat: Caitlyn of Corlyx – “You are safe here” This is a fearsome dance jam with vocals from the lovely and talented Caitlyn Stokes. It’s a floor destroying audio assault full of velvet and exploding sparkles. Turn it to 11 and stomp your feet.
2019 has been quite a year for my dream. It has found it’s tar dark wings and started flapping them to places I never imagined it would go. I have new writers like Collin, Katy, and Adrian. I have 4 times as many followers. Made new friends which I have come to love and value. Traveled to distant lands. Started a podcast. In general it gets me excited for the future that so many people all over the world have shared with me this love of what is happening in modern music.
Unlike last year when I did a top albums review all alone I know had a wine drenched democracy of shouting voices sitting in a room and debating what had moved them in this years music. It was an amazing feeling I had forgotten. I wanted to make this list hold weight. So we made hard cuts and decisions to get our list down to 4 genres and 10 albums per genre. Everyone had input and voice and no one 100% agreed. I love that. This was never suppose to be about me but about the celebration of art. I hope you find something new here. I know I did and it fills me with hope for places a song or album can still move me. We split it into 4 parts 1) Post Punk/Goth 2) Industrial/EDM 3) Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave 4) Wildcards
First up is Post Punk/Goth. This one is my primary wheelhouse so I took point here. There has been a true resurgence in this genre and this was a hard list to choose. The albums listed here are all amazing but we fought long and hard to try and pick some form of order. Here is what we found.
10) October Burns Black (Reflections) – London superband and Traditional goth act from London put out this amazing record this year. James Tramel (The Wake) has composed this album with Rod Hanna (Vox), Lars Kappeler (Guitars) and Tommy Olsson (Guitars) Simon Rippin. It is so full of flowing sinister goth sounds. It really holds true to the sounds of yesterday while forging new ground. Every song is an emotive blast.
9.5) Ritual Howls (Rendered Armor) – I know, i cheated. I just can’t leave this record off. We debated and argued so hard to get this list to 10. This album is just such a world beater. It’s Nick Cave putting on the armor of Echo and the Bunnyman. They are even Detroit fam. They are keeping a flame burning for a sound that cannot be forgotten.
9) Frozen Charlottes (Wax Venues) – Santa Ana post punk doom weavers Frozen Charlotte released this beautiful album in November of this year. I have been in love with Chandler Grace, Janell, and Sky’s savagely dark spit and vinegar punk goth style since their previous incarnation. With Wax Venus they really found a way to refine that edge to a razor point of intensity, Waxing and waning like the moon in a flowing dance around the fire witchcraft ritual.
8) La Me’canique (Dernier Voyage) – This is such a lovely record from Cold Transmission that really embraces the post punk ideals. It’s wide, flowing, and full of landscapes. It feels large and comes through the lens of a distant camera. I think of 80’s Duran Duran and the way they transported you to another place while listening to the songs. A vacation in musical form.
7) Mark E Moon (Refer) – Another exceptional album with a lot of traditional goth elements. Another Cold Transmission band on this list who has a wonderful vibe of old Peter Murphy but with a modern edge full of poetic lyrics and Mark’s deep resonant vocals. Lots of balance and pop hook in this record. I want to peel the layers of this onion and find the core of it’s art.
6) Crying Vessel (Illusions) Slade Templeton is bringing the glam razzle dazzle back into dark music. His dark rich voice climbs and slide around an impressive range. I found it in my heart, and building a place in my head. I had the wonderful opportunity to see them live in Germany this year and it really gave this record another plateau of range. A perfect mixture of previous styles and modern technology this record is a must have.
5) Golden Apes (Kasbek) – Berlin based post punk Golden Apes have been making music for a long time. To find an album of this power and depth of idea deep in a storied career is a noteworthy achievement. Peer Lebrecht has a voice so full of soul and power that it wraps you in it’s world. The music is a masterclass in what post punk can achieve in movement and embrace. I will finally get to see this played live in Boston this year for their first US tour. If you don’t know about this record plunge head first into one of the genres most exciting artists.
4) Antipole (Radial Glare) – Karl Morton Dahl of Norway holds the distinction of being the most reviewed artist on Sounds and Shadows. I feel moved by every album he has made. This one found a way to hit a special new level for me. Antipole is everything you love about post punk music like Joy Division and New Order. Karl is a true historian of the genre, but finds exciting new ideas about how to use modern technology to make the concept sharper and more intense. This record was such a wonderful tribute to his homeland. A record that transports you to that reflected, glittering place of dark ice. Paris Alexander and Eirene of Young and Cold records have added perfect vocal compliments to create one of this years stand out records.
3) The Dream Collision (The Certainty of Forever) – This album from Pedro Code of IAMTHESHADOW was a piece of art that left me changed and moved. Pedro has possibly the most beautiful and sensual voice in modern dark music. This record was so stripped down and exposed I found myself unforgettably moved. It is powerful and tender like Nick Cave but with the beauty and elegance of Ian McCullah. A truly moving offering.
2) Twin Tribes (Ceremony) – With their recent transition to Negative Gain Joel and Luis of Twin Tribes hold a special place here at Sounds and Shadows. Their Debut album “Shadows” was the inspiration for this webpage. They are bringing the concepts of spiritual post punk into the modern era. This sophomore offering was not a lull but a leap forward in concept, depth, and power. Rich and full of energy each song is a ritual to summon forth an intimate experience in the listener. You probably need this one on vinyl. Also they do a must see live show, find them in your town and bare witness.
Part II is the best Industrial/EDM – I grew up on industrial. It was my punk rock. My scream at the world release. Somewhere along the way i just drifted to other avenues. This year was a huge one for me to rediscover Industrial. Adding in Adrian and Collin to the family who are both stronger on Industrial than me have really helped me find this world again. The albums that have come out this year and bringing it back front and center for a lot of people. These were our top picks.
10) Klack (Introducing the 1984 Renault Le Car) – Matt and Eric are workhorses. They had a Daddybear album, Null Device, and another Klack album all this year which could have easily made this list. This album rose to the top for me. It’s perfect blend of retro and fresh feel with dance beats and unique concepts has become a go to for my listening parties. New ideas for the new industrial.
9) Lingua Ignota (Caligula) – I just found this through Adrian. Wow. It was like nothing I have heard. This is a sound so frightening and intense it gives The Goblins nightmares. It is the sound of a priestess ripping out her own eyes and bleeding from the sockets. Do not listen right before bed unless you want to be haunted by disturbing dreams. I speak from experience.
8) Kid Saint Nothing (Above_Below) – What a treat that I get to add a dear friend from Kalamazoo MI to this list. They belong here. This album is a raw heartfelt therapy session scream set to catchy dance beats. It’s wide and intense and needs to be played constantly on your listening device.
7) Dogtablet (Feathers and Skin) – Industrial music lords Jared Louche (Chemlab) and Martin King have worked with others to create this massively powerful record of animalistic spirit totem sounds. It feels like a creature speeding free under a moonlit sky. This album came late in the year but has been my constant companion ever sense.
6) FIRES (All My Dreams Are of This Place) – Aedra is a force of nature. Her intensity and vocals have really pushed the edges of the Industrial genre. This album has a tight mixture of early 2000 emo and electroclash force. Whenever I need to find my inner tiger to face the day this album is where I reach first.
5) Moris Blak (The Irregularity of Being ) – This album is a force of creative expression and cyber blending technology. Lots of amazing guest vocalists like Pete Crane, Amelia Arsenic, and Angel Metro. A true tapestry of electronic sound woven and blended with dance hall beats and shattering brash power. This needs to be in heavy rotation of every club you shake your ass at.
4) Curse Mackey (Instant Exorcism) – Curse has been a huge part of the industrial scene for a long time as Evil Mothers, Pig, Pigface, ect. This album represents his first solo offering and it is nothing short of breathtaking. This album has such a focus on lyrics with a true William Burroughs literary quality. Full of slashing beats and laser focused vocals. I own it on LP. You need it on LP.
3) Bones UK (Bones UK) – More of a big label offering but a straight burner. This album is on the top of Collin’s list this year. I love the ladies getting representation in this genre and this album cooks from front to back. Lovely pop hooks to really add some mainstream club vibe, and we unapologetically love that.
2) Stoneburner (Technology Implies Belligerence) – This record changed the game for me. It made me fall back in love with Industrial music. It has that same old school flavor, but takes such incredible chances. A thinking persons industrial with a concept and follow through. Steven Archer of Ego Likeness has unleashed something transcendent and powerful and managed to save enough in the tank to follow the record with another this year “Massdriver”. Both are incredible pieces of art you need to explore but you never forget your first love. This record was that for me.
Go Fight (Anthem) – Jim Marcus and Die Warsaw were a part of my first obsession with Industrial music. A titan in the genre and one of the great humans who holds this scene together. This record is all covers of the 80’s songs that helped build his musical life. It’s perfectly crafted. It’s full of soul. It finds a way to make something of the past connect with my present. I mean any time i can hear two of my favorite things in this life Go Fight and Shriekback happen simultaneously consider me hooked. Nothing on this record doesn’t immediately send my body into motion. This is the work of a master crafting a love letter to the things that built him.
Next up is Synthwave/Darkwave/Coldwave: Another brutal list to try and widdle down to 10 albums with everything wonderful released this year. As genres have expanded and new ground was broken the resulting art which is dreamy and beautiful has grown with it. This is a list of our favorites.
10) Lilith My Mother (Her Fall) – Beautiful dance magic with clear pop beauty infused with midnight dark lyrics and fallen angel vocals. Every song fills me up and has me asking questions. Do not sleep on this amazing artist.
9) Corlyx (In 2 the Skin) – Sexy LA sludge grunge is my weakness and this album is the cure. It’s sensual, powerful, and forces your body into motion. Caitlin has a voice that wraps around you and stirs that hairs on the back of your neck. Doesn’t your party deserve to be this hot?
8) Standalone (Standalone) – Steven Seibold of Hate Dept has unleashed this solo project so delicious and stripped down with beautiful synth sounds crafted with a wizards touch. It’s so personal and easy to relate to at once. The vocals are smooth and elegant and hold your heart with tender timing. So underrated.
7) Boy Harsher (Country Girl Uncut) – The feels of this record. It’s a smokey dimly let exclusive club that would turn me away at the door in music form. It’s efficient in the use of layers and sounds and has gorgeous imagery in the lyrics. I love everything about the crafting done on this record.
6) Agent Side Grinder (A/X) – Oh the delicious post punk infused stabbing drum beats. The dynamic vocals have a dark tone and emotional delivery. It’s full of songs that always feel like they are moving faster than they are. It’s that energy and crackling synth pad sound that makes ASG have such a unique sound. This album builds on everything that makes them one of the biggest names in the genre.
5) Sweat Boys (Nervous Prayers) – This record off of Give/Take strikes a special chord with me. Sitting in my room listening to Yaz “Upstairs at Erics” was such an impact on me. Waiting to hear a synth driven album that captured that same purity and exposed feeling has been something i have searched for a long time. With this record my search finally ended. It’s beautiful, electric, and makes me jump up and down like only a 260lbs man on a pogo stick can. If yuo care at all about synth pop you need this in your ears.
4) Drab Majesty (Modern Mirror) – Drab Majesty off Dais records isn’t just an album, it’s an experience. Knowing the exact amount of every sound to use to get a perfect blend is such a difficult art form. The harmonies, and flowing lush beauty. They are like aliens operating at another level from us common music plebs. This album is staggering and unique in it’s beauty and darkness.
3) Mr.Kitty (Ephemeral) – 31 tracks, all of them good. Take that in for a moment. This album was such a memorizing accomplishment. It’s an artist exposing themselves and making it sound lovely and pure. I played this record so many times this year I feel like I have a personal relationship with the artist and I have never spoken to them. If you don’t have this you need to make that a priority.
2) Hante (Fierce) – The soundtrack to a film of a better life lived than mine. Just listening to the gorgeous vocals and visual sounds on this record fill me with hope. The creative force unleashed here is an epic achievement. It makes you think, it makes you believe.
Wingtips (Exposure Therapy) – Look I can tell you what I love about this music. To me the real power of this album is that so many great musicians I know all talk about how much this record meant to them. It has been mentioned and picked on our podcast by almost everyone we have interviewed. It’s perfect, nostalgic, fresh, and full of texture and intensity. Every track is a banger. Every line is a poem. This was our combined number one pick out of one of the hardest categories to judge.
Final Catagory Wildcards: This was all the things too far out of the box to fit anywhere else. In a way I feel like it made it really exciting and definitely some of my top overall picks.
10) Scary Black (Shadow Dwellers) – Kentucky sinister darkness Scary black released this shadow storm full of familiar elements and fantasy sparkles. It’s full of dangerous dreams and lovely rich vocal melodies. I really look forward to their future.
9.5) Vlimmer (XIIIII) – German sound wizard Alexander continues to spew forth the most gloriously textured collections of sounds with pull heart strings like a horses reins. It baffles me how good every single release is.
9) The Purge (Rain) – Strange winding electronic storms. This album feels like weather shifting and changing. It has a flavor of trauma and young love lost. Thomas does a beautiful job using his vocal range to tell stories and build tension. It’s my sad rainy day music.
8) Girl Band (The Talkies) – Strange twisting and powerful. I really liked the chant of this band and the abrupt changes. This one came courtesy of Katy. Really intense sound.
8.5) The Joy Thieves (This Will Kill That) – Again a little bit of cheating here but this EP needs to be on the list. Such a perfect blend of hard rock and industrial with some of the biggest vocal talent in modern industrial. It’s smash everything in this room music because you are happy. I first described it as Clutch beating the shit out of Stabbing Westward with a baseball bat and I stand by that.
7) SYZYGYX (Fading Bodies) – One of the fastest up and coming bands in the scene. On both Negative Gain and Cold Transmission Luna and Josh are a sonic experience full of sexy dark disco grooves you would find in David Lynch’s private club at 3am. It breaks every mold and is always in my rotation.
6) The Ghost of Bela Lugosi – Ok technically not an album, but my house my rules. Australian based Vin Price has released about 12 singles this year and everyone of them is straight fire. It’s so punk rock, so raw, but so melodic and beautiful. It touches every part of every genre and I am here for all of it. It won’t play by the rules and that is part of it’s power.
4) Hide (Hell is Here) – Sheer unbridled power with a meaningful message. This is like nothing you have heard. Raw, intense, full of power tools. The vocals have more spit and acid than most metal. This album changed my world view
3) ELZ and The Cult (Psychodrama) – Visually, sonically, sassily, there is nothing about this album that does not completely enthrall me. It’s filthy, beautiful, it’s a horrible dream of a broken world that i can’t escape or look away from. I find a new layer to it every time i listen. You must have this.
2) Palais Ideal (Pressure Points) – I have been waiting to make this one of my top albums of the year all year long. This record broke all the boundaries of post punk. It’s thoughtful, precise, unique, and tells a story of some of the best science fiction I read in any novel. A thought provoking example of the power of music. Have this on LP and feel it’s warmth and glory as it was meant to be spun
Mesa Luna (Feel Nothing) – This one came to our attention courtesy of Jason Corbett (Actors). We didn’t have enough shoegaze representation here and this album was a stunner. #1 pick from Katy. It’s haunting, diverse and full of life. Take a journey with this record.
I had about 40 more albums this year that could have made this list. Maybe I will do an honorable mentions. I’m shredded though. There is currently a glorious revolution happening in music. Be a part of it. This list is a great place to start. Happy Holidays from us at Sounds and Shadows.