Echoes Picks the Best Albums of 2015...So Far
See the complete Best of Echoes 2015…So Far list below.
Hear the Best of Echoes 2015… So Far this weekend on Echoes
As we reach the half-way mark of 2015 we take a look back at some of the best albums so far this year. Although I’ve racked them up in order from 1 to 25, to my ears there aren’t a lot of clear winners. Some artists put out signature releases, other artists reached for ambitious highs and still others reflected on very long careers.
In at Number One, Robert Rich’s Filaments was an album that summarized a lot of his career, while still pushing forward. It is at once as spacious and conceptually deep as anything he’s recorded but also one of his most melodic recordings. His use of loops, modular analog synthesizers and sequencers is unparalleled, except, maybe by Steve Roach, who, on Skeleton Keys, his May CD of the Month and number three selection here. He also uses modular analog synthesizers and sequencers yet emerges with a very different and provocative sound. Rich floats you on interwoven strands that envelope you while moving you into a dream world. Roach sends you on a headlong spin into oscillating space where up is down and foreground and background are as indeterminate as an Escher painting.
Both Roach and Rich are descendants of the German space music sound created by Tangerine Dream in the 1970s and that’s heard on our Number Five pick, Dream’s 3 CD live set, Supernormal-The Australian Concerts 2014 . They perform music from across their career, reinvigorating classics and making us remember way they were one of the most important bands of the 20th century while making music for the 21st.
At Number Two, Sonomad, along with Robert Rich, probably should’ve been a CD of the Month. Made up of members from the Supreme Beings of Leisure, Sonomad’s self-titled debut is one of the best trip-hop albums of the year.
We were overjoyed to welcome the return of Digitonal after seven years away. We made their album, Beautiful Broken, the CD of the Month for June and number five on this list. How this gorgeous release of ambient chamber music got left out of the first release of this list is beyond me.
Heather Woods Broderick’s Glider is our July CD of the Month and technically, it’s not out yet, but we’ve been playing it for a month already and comes in at number four here . It is one of the most hypnotic vocal albums of the year.
Rebekka Karijord works a dream-pop terrain across the tracks from Woods, a neighborhood where the singing is more soulful, the instrumentation more organic, the rhythms are rootsier, but the melodies just as haunting. Her album, We Become Ourselves is is like hearing a chain gang of angels. This album actually came out in Europe in 2012, but just saw its American release this January.
While Steve Roach has released three albums in the last three months, Another Fine Day has released only three albums in 20 years. At number 8, A Good Place to Be was worth the wait as AFD’s Tom Green creates a dreamy, ambient jazz meditation, but with a surreal world music touch with his kalimba.
Jesse Cook completely surprised me with the number nine pick, One World. He’s been slowing working his way down a different path from his Nouveau Flamenco roots and he does it on One World which embraces world music elements along with electronica rhythm loops.
Canadian singer Patrick Watson has been making his dream pop for a while now, but Love Songs for Robots, our number 10 selection, is his most atmospheric album to date, moving from guitar-picked ballads like “Hearts” to dramatic set-pieces like “Bollywood.” His arrangements often have a surreal classicism about them and fit beautifully around his soprano-to-falsetto voice.
Leading us into the rest of the list at number 11 is Qntal, the German band that takes Mediaeval texts and sets them into electronica grooves, all propelling the astounding voice of Sigrid Hausen who sounds like a firebird descending from the heavens.
There are many other joys in the Top 25 including Jacco Gardner’s psychedelic pop Hypnophobia, Keith Jarrett’s solo piano ruminations and a couple of our other CDs of the Month, Fernwood’s Arcadia and Lanterna’s Backyards. And bringing up the rear, a band I know nothing about, Cole & Coffman. I was contacted about them on Facebook, downloaded their album Shapeshifter, and have loved their pastoral brand of space music with acoustic guitars, mountain dulcimer and melodica mixed in with synths.
THE BEST OF ECHOES 2015. . . SO FAR
1 Robert Rich/Filaments (Soundscape Productions)
2 Sonomad/Sonomad (Prismtone Records)
3 Steve Roach/Skeleton Keys (Projekt Records)
4 Heather Woods Broderick/Glider (Western Vinyl)
5 Digitona/Beautiful Broken (Just Music)
6 Tangerine Dream/Supernormal (Eastgate)
7 Rebekka Karijord/We Become Ourselves (Control Freak Kitten)
8 Another Fine Day/A Good Place to Be (Interchill Records)
9 Jesse Cook/One World (eOne Music)
10 Patrick Watson/Love Songs for Robots (Domino Recording Co.)
11 Qntal/VII (Metropolis Records)
12 Kaki King/The Neck is a Bridge to the Body (Short Stuff Records)
13 Michael Spriggs/Back to 1 (Agnes Records)
14 Erik Wøllo/Blue Radiance(Projekt Records)
15 Kristin Hoffmann/Amazing Space (Starr Records)
16 Niyaz/The Fourth Light (Six Degrees Records)
17 Keith Jarrett/Creation (ECM Records)
18 Jacco Gardner/Hypnophobia (Polyvinyl Records)
19 Fernwood/Arcadia (Whitehorse One Records)
20 Forrest Fang/Letters to the Farthest Star (Projekt Records)
21 Hannah in the Wars/Hannah in the Wars (99x/10)
22 Jeff Oster/Next (Retso Records)
23 Sinikka Langeland/The Half-Finished Heaven (ECM Records)
24 Lanterna/Backyards (Badman Records)
25 Cole and Coffman/Shapeshifter (Matt Coffman Music)