It’s been a phenomenal year for new music (after a fairly low-key 2015). There’s one clear winner for me, but literally anything else I’ve bought this year could take the #2 spot, depending on my mood.
So, listing this year’s new albums in order of release rather than trying to rank them:
1. Mantra Vega - The Illusion’s Reckoning
New works from Heather Findlay are few and far between these days, so this debut album from her latest band project was a welcome way to open the year. This crosses over between folk and rock with a strong 60s feel and a little bit of modern prog. It’s maybe a bit too middle-of-the-road to be a stand-out classic, but she’s still the best singer in the world today so even her middle-of-the-road songs are streets ahead (see what I did there?) of most other bands.
2. Boreas - Ahoy Hoy
Another debut from a new band. They straddle the Scottish and Norse folk traditions and mix new tunes with traditional songs so there’s a lot of variety here, and it all sounds beautiful.
3. Iamthemorning - Lighthouse
In a year of incredibly strong albums, this is my album of the year. (And it just won Album of the Year at the Progressive Music Awards, so it’s not just me.) it’s a concept album about mental illness, so very cheerful. But so powerful. I got to the last track and literally cried. I think it’s wrong to take a single track from a concept album out of context, but this gives you an idea what they sound like:
4. Rachel Newton - Here’s My Heart Come Take It
There’s a formula to Rachel Newton’s albums: insanely complex harp instrumentals interspersed with traditional folk ballads sung in English and Gaelic. But that’s what she’s good at, so why mess with the formula? Another worthy album-of-the-year contender (though I preferred her previous album overall).
5. Josh & Co Ltd - Transylvania Part 1 - The Count Demands It
You wait years for a concept album and then three come along at once (this is the second of three this year). Well, this is exactly what the title says, but it works because Bryan Josh isn’t taking it seriously, he hams it up in the lyrics and the spoken word passages more than enough to let you know that. Where he is serious is in his guitar playing, which is as excellent as always. So yes, if you want some good fun, guitar-based, bombastic rock, this is what you need.
Ok, that’s only taken me through the first quarter of the year I’ll do the next quarter later…