Kælan Mikla – Kælan Mikla LP
Stranger Things OST
I’m definitely a child of supernatural sci-fi movies of the 80s, and despite the hype, I was totally hooked on Stranger Things when it came out this year. Perhaps equally as compelling as the story was the amazing soundtrack from the people behind S U R V I V E, which came out in two double LP volumes this year on various labels. It’s this perfect mix of pulse-y synth, mostly without drum samples or vocals. It’s perfect music to zone out and work to, and I’m also dying for season 2!
Perturbator – Uncanny Valley
Another super impressive release from French retrosynth artist Perturbator this year with his highly anticipated The Uncanny Valley full-length on Blood Music. The 3xLP box set came beautifully packaged with a graphic novel from artist Ariel ZB, and it spent quite a long time on my turntable this year. I was also thrilled to get to see Perturbator live at Berghain this year with Gost and Dan Terminus.
New Model Army – Winter
I’m always impressed with New Model Army‘s ability to consistently churn out quality releases and material year after year, and this year they dropped Winter, one of their strongest releases in several years. Winter really harkens back to a more aggressive, older school of NMA songwriting, where acoustic interludes and distorted choruses meet behind the towering thunder of Justin Sullivan’s distinct voice. I really enjoyed their live set at Huxley’s Neue Welt in Berlin on this tour, and can’t wait to see them again and again.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Skeleton Tree
This album and the accompanying film One More Time With Feeling really hit me in the guts in September. Probably one of the most beautiful depictions of the creative process in the recording studio, combined with the immeasurable loss of his son, this Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album is a bit hard to digest without having seen the film, as the two seem inseparable. While I wasn’t completely transfixed by the album as a whole, this track, “Anthrocene” is something I play over and over while I’m working, and it haunts me in this really beautiful, strange way.
Youth Code – Commitment to Complications
I’d like to personally thank Youth Code for making industrial music something to be excited about again. I first saw and shot them live, opening for Skinny Puppy in Seattle, and was really impressed with their energetic set. I love all of their releases, and their newest this year, Commitment to Complications, kept that energy going with a few added BPMs!
Chroma – Cuerpos Dóciles 12″
Chroma was a big surprise at this year’s K-Town Hardcore Fest, and my main regret this year was getting there late to the venue as they were finishing their last two songs. This trio from Barcelona, Spain plays percussive punk that’s rooted in 80s anarcho, modern noisey/raw stuff, and a slight hint of darkness. This 12″ is fantastic and I can’t wait to see what future material holds, and also hopefully a chance to see an entire set! (Curse you hangover!)
Blixa Bargeld & Teho Teardo – Nerissimo LP
Somehow I completely missed the boat on their first full-length, this collaboration between Einsturzende Neubauten mastermind and former Bad Seed Blixa Bargeld and Italian musician and composer Teho Teardo was one of the musical highlights of this year for me. On the one-year anniversary of my relocation to Berlin, I also got an opportunity to see them perform this album live in the beautiful Volksbuhne theater. It’s a stunning album, and every time I listen to it I hear a new detail or nuance I didn’t notice before.
Eagulls – Ullages LP
Eagulls‘ sound progressed into darker territory this year with the release of Ullages, and although I’m more privy to the upbeat nature of their first album, this is really a great listen and the guitar tones are amazing. They have mastered this chorus-y underwater sound, and live this translated just as well as it does on record.
Impalers – Cellar Dweller CS
Once again Austin’s Impalers manage to steal the punk show for me, and this little EP they toured Europe with over the fall was certainly no disappointment. It’s rare that a raw punk band can write such intricate riffs without them sounding contrived or over-produced, and everything has just the right amount of grit, intensity, and especially reverb in the mix. For some reason this band makes me want to break windows when I hear them. I think that’s a good thing.
Aaaaaaaand for what it’s worth, here’s the live shows that rocked my face:
- The Cure at Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin (this was a dream come true and I’m still reeling from it)
- Insect at Koma F, Berlin
- Blixa Bargeld and Teho Teardo, at Volksbuhne, Berlin
- Stress SS at Ungdomshuset, Copenhagen for K-Town Hardcore Fest
- Avskum at Cykloppen, Stockholm for Punx 44 Fest
- Killing Joke at Huxley’s Neue Welt, Berlin
- Digable Planets at Cassiopeia, Berlin
- Death Side at The Dome, London
- Christ vs. Warhol at Wave Gotik Treffen fest, Leipzig
- Scumraid at Harem Bar, Malmö