In a shocking twist of fate I finished my May Bandcamp Day reviews a week early. Which means I have time to do a part II of amazing new releases before Friday 5/7/21. As always I have gotten into my tiny goth boat to sail the seas of amazing music from around the world that stirred my heart like a bracing wind on stormy seas. So look with me to the stars as we navigate these choppy waters. Leave some of your great finds in the comments below, and as always keep it dark yo.
Big Time Kill – Recovery – Let’s jump in with a bang to the new EP by Boston based BTK. This EP absolutely floored me. It’s a ear worm blasting blend of catchy intense lyrics flicking through a rollercoaster dynamic ride with glam, electroclash, synthwave, and grunge. The way Adam Schneider and Ben Caccia bounce through effortless transitions is engaging and artistic. To cover so much ground in 4 tracks is a masterwork. I know I am using big shoes here but this journey holds the toothy refinement of Pretty Hate Machine. An early contender for surprise hit of the year.
Favorite track: Cliche’ – Whipping chains of ghost riding fire. Drops away with a crooning desire. The chorus is an expansive hit that taps deep into a feeling any artist in 2021 has looked down the barrel of. Bubbling guitar leads counteract with Adam’s piecing sky splitter voice. “What are you gonna do, when the world keeps coming for you”. Banging guitar solo 10/10 on the pump my fist in the air scale.
Sweat Boys – Adrenaline (feat. Valerie Abbey) – Blistering blaze single from Benny Sweat who has teamed up with Valerie of Abbey Death to tackle goth classic Rosetta Stone’s synth anthem. It’s fresh in it’s violet electric pacing and the wispy beauty of Valerie’s delivery. I love Ben’s gift for taking something untouchable and making it his own. It has reinvented the song as well as his own style. Everything about this cover feels fresh. The flowing keyboards step forward to take the place of the guitar line and turn the dark sky neon. This single is an instant club hit.
Era Nocturna – Hell – Another Boston artist Era has has returned from a 13 year hiatus to release a new single featuring three remixes. Her voice has the stalking power of a giant black wolf, blood dripping from it’s jaws. A sinister ferocity and stalking cadence. The whole sound feels cornered and dangerous while exposing a vulnerability. The lyrics are a poetic journey like Dante emerging from the inferno. It’s hard, it’s mean, and it happens in 4.5 minutes. I hope this spells the return of a powerful darkpop voice. Special shout out to the Lilith My Mother remix which softens the edges and adds blending of the grey hues to the music. This brings a clarity and resilience to Daeva’s voice. I can’t wait to see what style will be her next prey.
Coor Brow-Obles – MacGuffin Baby – Bopping new gothglam single from Gillingham UK. I always love the high range old school croon of Coor’s voice. The tongue and cheek of beauty against S & M concept. Put your hands on me and choke me softly. I think Coor has a true star quality and I want to see the production level find the same heights of cleverness as the songs. A fun ride between Bowie and Syd Barrett that leaves me hungry for more.
Death Loves Veronica – Chemical – The first album from the glorious union of the Texas siren and Cold Transmission Music. I love the crashing tide synth drive and the contrast of warm whiskey sliding down the back of your throat. A ritual incantation and self realization. Every time Veronica announces a new release I am left wondering what new territory her voice will take me. Pre Order is currently available with the first two singles “Burn” and “Spindein“. The power of this album is how instead of you studying the painting while listening. The stalking control and awareness in the eyes of the music is staring back at you. You are the one on display and the tendrils of the music creep towards you and wrap you up.
Favorite Track: Spindein – Such a deliberate, calculated crawl of leather and feathers. When they say a song can get under your skin, this is what they mean. “Nothing dies, the way you do” I love the buzzing guitars at the halfway point. It really adds a second act to the story of the song. Light the candles, pour a glass of wine, get seduced by the power of music.
WeirdWolves – Overdrive – First single from the Austin TX band which combines Raphael Colantonio and Ava Gore (Daughter of Depeche Modes Martin Gore). It’s a nice early 2010’s electrosmasher club killer. Nice duet blend vocals. I had to really force myself to hear it on it’s own merit and not the power of it’s royal blood. Top notch production and some lovely giant mechanical snake sidewind slither. It was a brief but tantalizing introduction. You have my attention, but the bar will be high. I want to see open veins and dynamic power from a full length release.
Dead Animal Assembly Plant – Bring Out The Dead – Another bone jarring hit from our friends at Armalyte Industries. This album is venturing a little closer to the metal aspects of industrial/metal than I tend to go. Sometimes in life you just need music to smash shit to, and that’s what the Portland band is bringing with rapid fire whole sale destruction. What leaves me impressed isn’t the moments it hits hard, it’s in the subtitle intelligence where pulls back and lulls you into a false sense of security just to swing the bat at you again with reckless abandon. Another great highlight is the cover of the folk song “Gods Gonna Cut you Down“. They say when Johnny Cash covers a song he makes it his own. Sometimes though you need to rip it out of his hands and shake the shit out of it with blistering guitars and fiercely whispered vocals by Time Bitch.
Favorite Track: Sacred Disgrace – It’s all the power and fury of the other tracks, with Lulu Black adding an eerie and off putting violin line which makes the vocals spew forth with added vigor. A crushing dirge of power and beauty.
blackcell – Burn the Ashes – Ok this came to me as a hot tip from Michael Smith. Just to discover it is a collaboration of Eric Isbell and Matt Jones. Mastered by Chase Dobson. Dark, dripping, delicious death disco that I didn’t know how much I needed in my life. Take one part Ultravox, one part Cabaret Voltaire, a dash of modern production to sooth the lofi edges and you have the recipe for your next low key sexy dance party. A twisted carnival of Andy Warhol’s most fiendish nightmares made of shadows and spun in technicolor. I was not ready for this and fell deep. Prepare to hear a lot more about this band from me in the future. This gets the where have you been all my life award.
Favorite Track: Creep Like Fire – This is the song playing when John Travolta stumbles into the Black Lodge of David Lynch and wanders aimlessly while a thin man in a suit speaks in reverse.
An album is a multi-faceted piece of art. There’s the lyrics, the music (instruments, vocals, effects, mixing), and then there’s the visual side of things. Today, we’re exploring some great pieces of cover art shared in the Sound & Shadows group.
To start off, this is the cover to Automata by Confusion Inc. “The artwork to my Automata album is special to me, because the original image used was a photograph of my mother’s artwork,” Colin Cameron says. “She’s an abstract expressionist – life long painter. I love the stone-looking background here, as well as the several dimensions of glitchy-ness added over it. This is an elegant cover with a heart-warming backstory.
Next up is the cover to The Fire Within by Vaselyne. This piece is a self portrait by Yvette Winkler. The photography here is excellent. It is still, yet in a day dramatic and dynamic. I love how the picture fades so seamlessly into the black void background. It altogether creates some emotion I can’t quite name.
Here’s the art for Plague Garden’s upcoming album. The piece was done by Albie Mason. I’ve got several aesthetics on the tip of my tongue while looking at it. It’s visually striking. There are many elements at play here, but they all form a wonderful cohesion under the vintage-feeling grain. It reminds me of browsing the sci-fi section at an old bookstore tucked away somewhere.
Inertia by We Are Parasols is coming in hot with this rainbow orb! The art was created by Daniel Kopton . This feels like something I could see in a museum. It would make a great desktop background, too. A poster, even. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I love looking at this. The choice of using a bar code instead of text is bold, but I think it works well.
Changing gears a bit, let’s take a look at Sea Lungs. This art was done by one of the band’s own members. It has a slight comic book cover vibe to it, I think, in how perspective and action are both played with. I’ll admit when I first glanced at it, I thought of astronauts due to the suits, the crater-like ground, and the star-like bubbles. I think this ambiguity adds to it, though. After all, space exploration and deep sea exploration are both equally terrifying intrusions into the harsh unknown.
Here’s a shocker. The album cover to Batavia and Their Friends by Batavia. No, you didn’t suddenly get transported back to the 1970s. “Nobody we showed this to thought we would actually use this and risk losing 200% of our goth credibility,” says band member Ed Cripps. “Risk is the spice of life.” That it is, Ed, that it is. I applaud this bold stylistic choice and devotion to an artistic direction here! I love it.
Another strong artistic direction is shown here in the album Leyendas de las Almas Perdidas by Valentina Maurino. “Endăley (fairy of the souls) is the one I portrayed here, the one who tells the stories of the lost souls behind each song, and these lost souls are represented through objects on the little table (it’s a telephone seat), some of these appear in my music videos too, I love symbolism,” Maurino tells me. I absolutely adore the whimsical handwritten wording. The broom-like hands, the table ornaments, the lighting…it all comes together and, I agree, tells a story.
“I wanted to convey the question that was arising for so many women at the time, myself included – is our sexual objectification and submission hot, or is it violent? Does it depend on who’s doing the choking? How can we be sure of the person’s intentions? Are we getting off, or are we endangering ourselves? As it turns out, in the following four songs on the EP that I would write between 2016-2017, I ended up unearthing and purging all my relationship trauma, and recalling a memory I’d suppressed – one where I was choked in anger by a dominant male partner I’d been financially supporting as his submissive. Through the course of the album writing and recording process, I answered the question “who can you trust” and I learned discernment. When the EP was released in early 2018, we were four months in to the crest of the #MeToo movement, and it was right on time.”
More information about Arden and the #MeToo movement can be read here.
Lastly for today, here’s the cover of Nervous Prayers by Sweat Boys featuring the logo work of Jim Marcus. This piece is serene yet dangerous. The imagery is drowning and, yet, reaching for help all at once. I am reminded of the hand of Adam reaching towards God as the Sistine Chapel.
Sitting down to write and absorb for the first time in a few weeks. I love the way my boundaries keep getting stretched further by the sounds I am hearing. I feel like the Goth/Industrial genres are a buffet of ever widening flavors to test that adventurous streak in my heart.
SYZYGYX and ELZ AND THE CULT – ANXXX – Two of the sexiest bands on Cold Transmission team up for this razor hot single. Trying to put this in a box of genre or previous sound is a herculean task beyond me. This is found metal sculpture sounds, wet leather, and heavy breath. Static glitch dance beats are a 3D computer image of horror pop fingers on the back of your spine. Elz’s voice is captivating and sensual. Luna steps outside her breathy whisper to scream out with terrifying demonic exultation. The result is a horror film spectacle that leaves you frozen to the floor. Elz spoken word poetry shows a William Burroughs raw creativity and free form emotional overcharge. Everything these bands do is glorious art. Working together it is a powerful and un nerving statement.
Actors – Strangers – Another single, another amazing slow tease from Actors. This song has a synth heavy influence with wonderful understated staircase guitar. The energy is star crossed and introspective. That kind of infatuation that rattles your DNA and leaves you be lost in the journey of knowing someone that first time. The change in bass players really adds a bright bursting color to the tone. Jason takes the reins on the vocals here and every phrase is a come hither lilting rise. The way he sits in the mix like it is the scenery of this story. This album can’t come soon enough.
Echo Haus – Deth Werk – New single from Echo Haus, one half of Chicago based Lorelei Dreaming. AJ does a focus on electronic imagery and scenery in their music. This one instills a picture of a hospital intensive care unit. The thrumming heart beat blips and tension. The journey seems to dive into the patient around 1:27 and becomes a part of the blood stream. Twisting and turning past organ and system. I love their ability to transport you with frequency and modular shift. Sometimes I want to focus on the words and energy of music. Sometimes I want to to hide behind my eyes and drift through the world. Echo Haus is the latter.
aliasynesthesiamusic – Stop Go – Beautiful twisting tension track. I feel that sense of Bjork surrealism pop with shadowy edges. As though she is a character in a Mario Brothers adventure. City hopping on angel wings from one cloud to another and never able to escape this digital prison. One of those solo ritual dance songs made for your alone time in your room. A true imagination fuel mind gripper. This really gets me excited for the future releases. Beautifully produced and expertly crafted.
Burnt Souls – Desolation – An Australian recommendation from Ant Banister (Sounds Like Winter) who is always a spot on source of great music. I love the complexity of emotion and overlapping sound. They have some flavor of The Church and even The Smiths but Colin Gallagher has a unique and delicate voice that really slips through the cracks of it’s own ground. It definitely rides that lo-fi throwback tone which sits perfectly within itself. The drum transitions flow like water through a rocky path. Every emotion seems to find it’s focus without screaming out. I love the steady control and thoughtful precision. This is one of those albums you can throw on and feel something different each time. Be drawn to a new aspect every time. This isn’t a record of bangers, it’s one that needs to be absorbed.
The Ghost Of Bela Lugosi – No Way Home – I can’t take a trip to Australia without visiting my good friend Vin Price. Every single he puts out is a master class in song writing and creativity. I know I say this every time I review him but he is staggeringly underrated. This track is a beautiful synthesis of the past and future with barbed hook guitar riffs, cascading tempo shifts, and ensemble cast vocals (even though it is all him). It’s a wobbling stumble through streets with broken lights. Following the voice of the one you love to certain danger. A power your can’t ignore. Every time I hear a new TGOBL track it instantly becomes my favorite.
Klack – Deklacked V1 – Matt and Eric are back at it once again. This time they have brought all their friends to share in the power of the Klack. To understand the power of Klack you need to grasp the friendship of the members. This in turn becomes a contagious connection which draws in the artists in this scene like moths to a flame. You can feel the affection of all these artists to these songs as they lovingly craft new lights and blips to make them their own. Assemblage 23 , Sweat Boys , Null Device, Caustic, and many more put the tender heart in a blender and spew forth visceral blood and guts to fling at the walls of your dance hall. If you love EDM/EBM no one is doing it at a level higher than Klack.
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.
All songs written & performed by Benny Sweat except “Never Be You”, performed by Benny Sweat & Jerry Miller (guitar) & “Endlessly”, written by Dylan Thomas Lambert & Benny Sweat, performed by Benny Sweat & Nicklas Stenemo (guest vocals). Vocal Engineering, Mixing, Additional Production: DEATHDANCE. Mastering: Rob Robinson. Logo Design: Jim Marcus.
Sometimes I fall in love with an album because it is something really on the edge and sometimes because it feels familiar like an old friend you haven’t seen in several decades that showed up and filled you with feelings you had forgotten. The second was how it was for Sweat Boys. This is a beautiful synth driven welcoming EP full of tender hooks and very personal lyrics containing familiar themes. Relationships, longing, loss, acceptance. I kept coming back to one of the most important albums of my youth Yaz “Upstairs at Eric’s”. These songs are beautifully crafted and delivered with piercing emotion while the music is warm and comforting. Much of it is full of blood pumping dance beats and snapping snares.
Benny Sweat has a gorgeous voice that is clear and to the front. He doesn’t hide it behind a lot of effect and slush and the clarity of it really adds to the personal nature of the songs. For a 5 song EP it has a tremendous amount of range movement. You just don’t hear enough music in this genre in the modern era that takes the courageous stance of beautiful pop hooks without hiding behind layer after layer of production. It takes me back to sitting in a room with close friends and really sharing the feeling invoked by an album together. That stumbling youthful searching and awkward energy of finding a truth in each other. I found myself lost in nostalgia but at the same time enamored by the freshness of it because this just isn’t done anymore. I forgot how much I missed that feeling and that is what this album gives you.
I Don’t Love you – Here is that beautiful ringing energy and clarity of Erasure and Yaz. It cooks at a breakneck medium pace but still makes Benny’s vocals the star of the track. We have all felt this moment of realization and it is an intense feeling but the simple beauty of the music keeps the heady concept so light and bright.
You’re Gone – This is a darker tone and beautifully transitioned. Giving it more of a early INXS or Pet Shop Boys feel. The isolated keyboard line here rings out so beautifully and really carries the melody. This is a dance around my living room in my underwear throwing my hands in the air and just feeling a moment.
Endlessly (featuring: Nicklas Stenemo of Kite) – What a gorgeous ballad breakdown that has a soulful Madonna/Cindi Lauper feel. The back and forth discussion like vocal lines are extremely powerful. “lying awake I can’t sleep but still I’m dreaming” It’s mesmerizing and so real. A glimpse into a personal discussion and a stirred emotion.
Overall this was a beautiful and touching album that leaves you feeling someone shared a piece of life with you. It has true blood and soul in it. Maybe dance music has forgotten how to infuse this kind of heart felt power but Sweat Boys are bring that back and I am here for this moment. Get this in your collection right away.