Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Favorite Music of 2015

I went a little nuts this year with new music (new to me, not necessarily newly released). Forty-three albums is a lot relative to prior years, from which you may rightly infer that there was a lot of stuff I liked out there. Now the challenge becomes picking my favorite music of 2015.

The Aristocrats

The Aristocrats continue to make raucous, joyous, intricate, funny, and deviously complex music. The (nominally) rock trio of Guthrie Govan (guitar), Brian Beller (bass), and Marco Minnemann (drums)  have not yet disappointed with any of their releases, including this year's Culture Clash Live and the (in my opinion) more wonderful Secret Show: Live in Osaka. The trio molds rock, country, metal, blues, and other genres - within the same song. Here's the band's official preview of Culture Clash Live.

Just listening to that video while I write this makes me smile. As a bonus, later in 2015 I picked up the band's latest studio album, Tres Caballeros. Another winner.


Heaven and Earth by ProjeKct X

I finally plunked down the cash (twice, due to a shipping mystery) for the hard to find Heaven and Earth by ProjeKct X, one of the King Crimson side projects (hence the "Kc" in the name) from the Construction of Light era (2000). Robert Fripp (guitar), Adrian Belew (guitar), Trey Gunn (Warr guitar), and Pat Mastelotto (drums) share raw - but not in the unfinished sense - progressive rock in turn of the century KC style. The tracks include studio chatter, stops and starts, but that's what gives Heaven and Earth it's essence, in the same way that crowd noise adds to a live album. The performance has a rumbley sheen, like big cats wrestling inside a velvet bag. Give it a listen.

2015 also brought me Live at the Orpheum, from King Crimson's recent tour and the promise of other music from the tour or its rehearsals in 2016.

Doctoring the Dead by Metallic Taste of Blood

MToB's lineup for Doctoring the Dead, their second album, evolved into Eraldo Bernocchi (guitar), Colin Edwin (bass), Ted Parsons (drums), with contributions from Roy Powell (keyboards). The performances are rich without being heavy, refined without being constrained. Give it a listen.

I knew as soon as the last track ended on my first listening that Doctoring the Dead would make my favorites list for the year.


The debut album from the trio of David Kollar (guitar), Pat Mastelotto (drums), and Paolo Raineri (trumpet) was a wonderful addition to 2015's listening. Mastelotto provides the pulse, Kollar growls the attitude, and Raineri gives voice to what I can only inadequately describe as experimental heavy ambient jazz. See for yourself.

I could lose myself in here for hours (and have).

From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete by Markus Reuter and Zero Ohms

Lest anyone think my musical preferences have gotten all heavy and hard, rounding out this year's favorites is From Worlds Unseen A Light Yet Streams A Sound Replete by Markus Reuter and Zero Ohms.

This album (inspired by a Kubrick quote which makes me in turn think of 2001: A Space Odyssey which in turn makes me think of Eno's Apollo which ties back to this title) is a vast canvas of "composed improvisation," a three-dimensional aural landscape that we each illuminate by our own attention.

With each listening, new worlds appear.

Honorable Mentions

  • Carousel by Robin Guthrie - simply beautiful
  • Absinthe and a Cracker and Official Bootleg by TU - My favorite duo (Trey Gunn and Pat Mastelotto), performers of one of my favorite live albums of all time (Live from Russia), create arresting music.
  • So (25th Anniversary Extended Edition) by Peter Gabriel - Why did it take me so long to buy this?
  • I'll Tell What I Saw by Trey Gunn - This 2 CD "best of" compilation is a must-own.
UPDATE, 02 Jan 2016: Allow me to correct an egregious omission. The live album pair, Midori: Live in Tokyo by Stick Men featuring David Cross is absolutely fantastic. Cross allows the band to delve deep into King Crimson's catalog to delicious effect, most notably on Shades of Starless.

For the record, here's all my new music from 2015.

 "I don't know a lot about music but I sure like the sound it makes."

I received no compensation of any kind for these reviews.

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