I gotta admit that I went a bit overboard on music this year with 58 albums purchased. That's a lot for me. But in my own defense, a bunch came from RareNoise's "leap of faith" (buy up-front all their releases for the year and pay no shipping) and another bunch came from buying David Kollar's entire Bandcamp catalog with a sweet "black Friday" deal. And you'll notice in the write-ups below, these albums each led to purchases of related albums.
I wrote few album commentaries throughout the year simply due to time constraints. And even this list will lack explicit justification for my choices. I recommend you click through to each album's page to stream a sample because I am not good at describing the music versus sharing my reactions to it.
Choosing favorites from such a big (for me) list was difficult but here it is.
The Stone House by Wingfield Reuter Stavi Sirkis
The Stone House by the quartet of Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Yaron Stavi, and Asaf Sirkis was completely improvised and recorded live without overdubs in a single day. And the result is a complex, progressive, instrumental performance that's astonishing for how composed yet relaxed it feels. It was followed later in the year by Lighthouse from the same sessions and a third album is promised. "Wow" came out of my mouth before the first track on Lighthouse had finished. The Stone House and Lighthouse are both available from MoonJune's Bandcamp page.
Loneliness Road by Saft, Swallow, Previte ft. Iggy Pop
I will admit right up front that I came into this album a bit biased because I'm not really a fan of Iggy Pop's prior work. Bias aside, this is a damn beautiful performance by a jazz trio (piano, bass, drums) with three of the tracks featuring Iggy Pop's vocals that, upon repeated listens, provide a gravely, emotive contrast. Loneliness Road is available from RareNoise.
After Loneliness Road I developed an insatiable appetite for Saft's work and bought The New Standard (again with Swallow and Previte) and two albums by Saft's New Zion Trio: Fight Against Babylon and Sunshine Seas, the latter featuring Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista.
Magnetic by Gaudi
I really enjoy a lot of the music coming from the RareNoise label. So when it was announced that Gaudi's new album would use sounds from the entire RareNoise catalog as his "orchestra of musicians" combined, augemented, and enhanced with new performances by a broad cast of musicians, I was sold.
Magnetic did not dissapoint. It's like a party with all your friends with their best work on display but with intersting bits highlighted that you may not have noticed before and then want to go rediscover.
Notes from the Underground by David Kollar
I was first introduced to guitarist David Kollar through the album KOMARA from the trio of Kollar, Pat Mastelotto (drums), and Paolo Raineri (trumpet) that I praised back in 2015. This year, Kollar released Notes from the Underground.
Kollar performs on guitar, synth, and treatments and is accompanied by Raineri on trumpet. The result is a bittersweet hopefulness.
I was so impressed by Notes from the Underground that I purchase his entire catalog of music that I'm still trying to sort through.
Rosebud by Bernocchi, Einheit, Quail
The first thing that popped into my head upon learning that Eraldo Bernocchi's next album (with drummer FM Einheit and cellist Jo Quail) would be called Rosebud, was to try to draw some analogy with the movie Citizen Kane. Then there's the cover art with (what I see as a) roughly painted black star with the word Rosebud neatly nested inside. But I digress.
While I'm reluctant to label this music, the best I can come up with is industrial ambience. The performances balance the infinite with the immediate, tragedy and beauty, rigor and fragility.
My list of all 2017's listening is available for the curious. And regarding my musical tastes, just remember what I say: "I don't know much about music, but I sure like the sound it makes."