So during the current pandemic when artists are taking a hit from an inability to tour and play out, Bandcamp the music distribution platform that seems to actually care about artists waived their fees for a day. Honestly the fees they charge are pretty fair but anything to get people excited to support bands. So here is some of what caught my fancy on the first day of May.
Panic Priest – (Second Seduction) what a strong second offering from Jack. This album really took the sound in a sleeker, stronger, synth driven new direction. His voice remains one of the strongest baritones in the scene but here it is piled on layer after layer of textural experience and the experience is amazing. Extra Credit for the cool fan sourced music video on the single Lonely City.
Blood and Dust – (Compilation) This is such an awesome comp put out by out by TG Mondalf of Venus Aeon. I was just talking to Brandon of Sonsombre on the podcast about the connection of southern sound and goth…which i call Outlaw Goth. This comp is absolutely jam packed with fire tracks of some of the hottest names in new goth rock doing southern style. October Burns Black/Sonsombre/Black Angel/Raven Said/Cliff and Ivy/Guillotine Dream and many more. A cool concept and great execution.
Delphine Coma – (Secondary Eyes) Long awaited EP from Ashe Ruppe. Two tracks and two remixes with that true deep darkwave sound. Rolling baselines and Ashe’s deeper than then earths core voice ringing icy and clear. Yes please.
Orcus Nullify – (Pandemonic ) A poignant track for the current situation. Much more stripped down and electronic feel for doom rocker Bruce Nullify yet holding true to that buzzing noise sword guitar. This one strikes hard and takes no prisoners.
Vlimmer – (Pulmo) Shadow Sound architect Alexander Donat continues to spew forth such a steady stream of quality material at a rate that defies imagination. Here he stays between tighter lines than some of his more psychedelic offerings. The drum beats are tight and the guitars are cold vibrating lasers cutting through the dark din. I really like how the bass walks in track two Sonnenspeer.
The Black Capes – (Lullabies For The Dead) Old school gothic rock from the land of history Athens Greece. Like a big black wolf snarling and writhing these crushing beats and vicious growling vocal delivery is the sound of night creatures baying. It has tender moments of light strings and contrast. Another band embracing the glory of the past to create a dark future. The sound put me in mind of the wild rural parts of my home in Michigan. The land of Iggy Pop.
Ashes Fallen – (Thy Will Be Done) Sinister guitar lord James Perry put out a new single today full of a lot more menace than the last album. I feel like Michelle and Jason have really had an effect on the tone for this single. The guitar and baselines still include a lot of movement and technique. The keyboards fill the space to give those hard down strokes more accent. The vocals are not a clean alternative romanticism I heard and enjoyed on the last record.. They are dark, full, gritty, and not what you want to meet in a dark alley. Love the direction.
Pilgrims of Yearning – (Forsaken Land) – Pre release of the June 5th album offers a first track and single The Visitor. Juls Garat has a clear and slicing voice which knows how to shine light through every crack in the dark and driving bass wall. This was a taste that gets me excited for the whole meal and the future of an exciting sound.
Plague Garden – (Left in The Grave ) – Ok important question, how the fuck did I not know about Plague Garden? Paul Barker of Redwing Blackbird (who i love) is involved in this project. This is gorgeous, sinister, old school artistic almost Tones on Tail lo fi drone goth. Great use of changes and making every sound count. Goth with clinical efficient effect.
Caustic – (The King of EBM) So if Matt Fanale has a new EP and the title sounds like a play on Run DMC best believe I am here for this. Of course it is just what you would think. Look it is not an overstated boast to say The King. Infectious beats drive your body like a bolt of electricity from the sky awakening dead flesh. It’s Alive! It’s Alive! It’s blue collar, it’s high ideal, it’s everything I love about punk, and EDM and nothing I hate about either.
A Cloud of Ravens – (The Earthen Call) New York darkwave duo with a new single out. I really want to listen to this while doing ritualistic magic in a secret underground lair. Not that doing that doesn’t sound cool all the time, but to this song in particular. Love the walls closing in guitar for an otherwise traditional darkwave song. Gave the whole feel flaming wheels.
Raven Said – (Beyond the Darkest Hour) Ok, I have a confession/moment of self reflection on Raven Said from Russia. I have had 3 reliable people all tell me to listen to this record and just hadn’t gotten to it. I get a little full of myself sometimes from writing this page and start to think if it was really that good I would have found it right? Holy shit this is good. I hate myself for the moments I wasted not knowing about it. It’s driving through haunted woods chased by a ghost luxury automobile full of specters and demons on a foggy night. It bounces on tight coils like post punk but it has the soul of really spooky quirky bat cave. So don’t be dumb like me, buy this immediately.
From The Mouth Öv Belial – (Defied and Devoured) Have you ever wondered where modular synths go after they die if they have not lived a good and pure life? Adrian can show you. This is disturbing sonic nightmares given flesh. In fact I might have to write one more review just so this isn’t the last thing I hear before I pass out. Honestly he should have wrote the soundtrack for the Suspiria remake instead of Thom York.
Mindless Faith – (Insectual) Washington DC based electronic robot invasion music that makes me long for humanities inevitable collapse at the hands of our metallic superiors. I suppose it is easy for me to think of Rick Furr as part of Steven Archer’s posse. Here with Jason Sevanick, Paul Green and Chris Sevanick they have unleashed soulful energon cube filled landscape of precise mixing and slapping beats. I got half way through writing this and realized it came out last year, but somehow skipped past my notice. An endless tide of automation integrating your mind.
Well I didn’t come close to writing about everything I listened to this Bandcamp day (My new favorite holiday) I wrote a lot though. It’s a strange and scary world full of uncertainty. Listen to new music. Support the artists who make it. I suppose it is time for a little shameless self promotion.
Tiny Gods Who Walk Beside Us – I made a compilation, to save my cat. Beyond that it is really good. I honestly astounded how good. If you like Goth/Industrial/Post Punk/Darkwave/Coldwave A lot of the hottest new talent is here. $10 for 25 songs.
These tiny beings that we let into our lives change us in ways we cannot imagine. The relationships we build are the supporting blocks of our existence. That which gives it perspective and texture. When my three year old cat Freyja was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer in her leg the full power of how much we invest in our tiny companions really struck me. My fear of a future without her and the big questions of how to proceed. What that would mean weighed heavy on my soul. Cats were once worshiped by the Egyptians and many cultures as deities. There is no other creature save humans that truly embodies the idea of pride and love. When I created the review page Sounds and Shadows I found in my love for new music the power in hearing and understanding the lives of the artists who make it and shared that with people around the world. In these dark moments with Freja’s life hanging on a knife edge these artists who I had woven a connection with reached out to me and ask “How can I help?” This was an affirmation which touched me to my core at a time I needed most to believe in the importance of those around me. From around the world they came together in collaboration and kindness to offer their time, their art, and their charity. Freyja required an amputation of her leg which was successful and I am happy to announce saved her and left her the same glorious, loving ball of warm energy as she was before, albeit on three legs. The cost of her operation was quite substantial but it was a sacrifice worth making for my tiny goddess. Buying this compilation of songs contributed by dear friends is directly funding Freja’s care and operation. Any additional funds beyond direct medical costs will be donated to a non kill shelter charity to help other animals in need. A special thank you to Pete Burns for the immense task of mastering the compilation. Cate McFarland for the wonderful cover art which I feel really captures the concept. Slade Templeton for releasing it. Collin Schipper for being my rock and helping me put it together. As well as William Zimmerman for helping me promote. To anyone who has ever written a song, recorded it, and released it, you know how much effort goes into each one. How much love I have for all the artists below is hard to put into words. I never could have imagined something so beautiful and powerful could arise from this dark event. I hope it’s power touches you and reminds you to pay a special homage to your tiny God today.
Also Here is the podcast Part 1 where we discuss the first 8 tracks
I wanted to do a quick breakdown of all the artists who contributed a song to save my baby. When I look at the list of the amount of talent here it is a bit staggering. We had submissions from all over the world and quite a few collaborations of people who never knew each other before this project.
Lorelei Dreaming – (Edge of the World Dj Senseless mix) Chicago based dystopian electro dance. Comprised of Laura and AJ remixed by Madison WI’s Dj Senseless. This song is such a different sound for Lorelei Dreaming, it was the perfect opener with it’s emotional swell.
2. Amaranth – (For Freyja) Goth/Industrial/Synth Rock from Kalamazoo MI. That’s us 🙂 I had some really deep emotions that needed uncorking with this song. Collin wrote a great song way out of our normal wheelhouse including Derick on a mandolin and Kam with some very delicate brushwork. It’s the loudest I ever screamed in anguish on a song. Hope you enjoy it.
3. A Covenant of Thorns the lovely sweeping romantic goth synth from near Chicago. What an amazing voice with this song remixed by Chicago Rock/Industrial super group The Joy Thieves. This is my favorite ACOT song and I don’t know how I could have liked it more. Enter Dan Milligan, this remix found another level of what I already loved in beauty and clarity.
4. Corlyx – England by way of LA and Berlin glitter grunge electronic duo remixed by EDM Industrial noise mechanics Electronic Substance Abuse (ESA). This song Deform is such a wonderful combination of both styles. Caitlin’s voice is ethereal and airy, floating through the void when the creeping digital build starts burrowing into your mind.
5. Antipole – Norwegian post punk revivalist of Karl Morten Dahl. Ft Paris Alexander and Eirene are experts of taking what is glorious of the past and making it rise again into the present. They are the most reviewed band in Sounds and Shadows history and true masters of the music craft. This song is such a different flavor for them and one I immediately fell in love with. That same signature Karl guitar but with this crisp sizzling dance beat. Together with Eirene’s smokey sultry voice it’s a real burner.
6. Ego Likeness – Maryland dark rock industrial duo of Steven and Donna have been such an important part of this scene for decades. This Dräcos Deep remix by Sombre‘ of the song Darkness really places a cool highlight on Donna’s voice and a crisp dance beat.
7. Machinery of Desire – Traditional goth rock of Adrian Auchrome. I trade music back and forth with Adrian often. I say as no light sentence I think this is the best song I ever heard from them. I was touched beyond belief that they shared it with me for the compilation. The vocals really cut loose and highlighted their unique and romantic darkness. Gentle crawling guitar lines of piercing intensity.
8. Adoration Destroyed – The glamour gloom stars of Austin TX remixed by Philly’s Authentic Impulse. I really liked the way Erik’s voice sits on the bouncing glitchy effects and pounding drum beats. AD does such a great job on remixes themselves it was really cool to see what William was able to do with their song.
9. Crying Vessel – Swiss dark glam star Slade Templeton gets a double credit here. Both for this amazing song remixed by Dead Agent, but also for helping me release the compilation. Ed Finkler (Dead Agent) did a sizzling breakneck dance song and let Slade’s voice ride on top like the crest of a wave. Such wonderful movement and balance. This was a beautiful team up that happened for the first time on this compilation.
10. I Ya Toyah – Chicago’s one woman sonic explosion Ania has been remixed here by Arcontas Blank for her single Code Blue. This sizzles with her intense soul and some intricate and beautiful synth pad work. I really love how varied and dynamic the different sounds used here are.
11. Twin Tribes – (Dark Crystal) The lovely princes of Texas darkwave. Twin Tribes was the first band we reviewed for Sounds and Shadows and they remain one of the bands that inspires me in the modern scene. This track is a beautiful, swirling ritual of emotion and pageant. The future is so bright for this band.
12. Radiograph – (Catnipped) This is the solo project of John Edwards Palais Ideal in the Netherlands. I love this sizzling disco prog synth with a early New Order guitar line. Palais Ideal is always finding ways to step outside the box of what post punk could be.
13. Caustic – (Fuck that Fascist Beat) Silverwalks Remix – Madison WI old school Industrial/EDM brings an intense shoulder tackle political hailstorm. Remixed in a smoother synth slither dance style by Pennsylvania based Silver Walks. This track slams so hard both in your mind, and in dat ass.
14. Seven Federations – (Syzygy) – North Dakota based goth Industrial full of rolling bluesy soul and electronic glitch. I love how hard it is to classify what I am hearing. This song has a really cool sample/spoken word effect that reminds me of 90’s VAST.
15. Vlimmer – (Schnittstelle) – Alexander’s Berlin based ambiant darkwave project is a masterclass in structure and sound creation. The rate and quality of the music he puts out never ceases to amaze me. This song is a intense and terrifying well of emotion and abstract prism to twist the mind.
16. Dogtablet – (Showtime Melodywhore Slave Remix) – The project of industrial titans Jared Louche (Chemlab) and Martin King (Test Dept) created this wondrous album based on the concept of totemism. Every track feels like a different creature embodied. This track is a sultry triphop prancing creature of grace and agility. It has a very feline quick quality.
17. Kiss of the Whip – ( The Pain is Ours) – I have been a fan of the Baltimore based retro synth weavers on Cold Transmission for a while now. Beautiful familiar feels with modern edge and a layered beauty. This track is a roller coaster of peaks and valleys gliding though a rainbow landscape of color.
18. Steven Archer – (The Showroom) – The amazing artist of (Ego Likeness and Stoneburner) appear once again showing his range in this synth prog builder. I really love how different his vocals come across in this song. Theatrical and with a Nick Cave flare. What is it he can’t do?
19. Cliff and Ivy – (Will to the Power) – Alaska’s darkest couple have been creating batcave punk fueled witchcraft for over a decade. It is raw, fierce, and intelligent. I love the drive and bloody claws of this track. Ivy and Cliff really show the power of two people in perfect lockstep making eachothers art stronger.
20. Orcus Nullify – (March of the Lost) – South Carolina’s Bruce Nullify creates a brand of unapologetic terrifying rumble of old school death rock. I love the over the top imagery and slashing guitars. I feel like this track perfectly captured that style but with a focused clarity which added extra weight and power.
21. Ritchual – (You Lied) – Austin TX based Ritch Napierkowski of Adoration Destroyed and Nimbus has done this synthwave solo project and it is absolutely lights out. This song could have been a missing track on Depeche Mode “Sounds of Faith and Devotion” Just a delicious dark ear candy jam.
22. Sister Sarin – (Split) – Baltimore Percussion specialist Hemlock has done this solo project where she weaves intricate texture and pulsing drum beats to create lovely isolated sonic paintings. This song has a driving dance beat and saber slash keyboard melodies to create an instrumental full of movement and dynamics.
23. Swansect – (Clovermouth) – Norwegian noise artists Adrian Kjosnes of Missfit Toys and writer for Sounds and Shadows unleashes this terrifying and avant garde solo project. It has this brimming intense Goblins feel of sinister noise and stealthy builds. This track is a haunting horror movie soundtrack to grab your nightmares with it’s claws and leave you screaming for more.
11 Grams – (DNA) Half Washington DC half Australia the industrial electronica dance floor lords have been a part of this scene for a long time and always bring the highest level of precision and technique. This track is a slow dark builder that crackles with life and a whisper that draws you in.
Sombre’ – French post punk with a very cool organic world beat feel. They always remind me a bit of the Happy Mondays. Cedric has a resonant and soothing voice and the baselines always really drive. Here he does a wonderful remix of Ego Likeness. I really love how Donna’s vocals are highlighted here.
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.