December 28, 2018

HCTF's best of 2018 (20-16)

HCTF's annual list of the 20 albums that will be in regular rotation for many years to come. As per usual many genres are represented. This blog covers a lot of ground and it shows in this eclectic, final tally.

Today: countdown from number 20 to 16.

Please shop at your local record store, buy directly from the artist, attend live shows. Don't block anyone's view with with your phone (better still, switch it off altogether). Shut the fuck up while the band is playing. Educate your friends. Word-of-mouth can't be beat as the prime source to discover new music.

20 Xander Naylor: Transmission

Going places with a guitar and more.

Brooklyn based experimental guitarist Xander Naylor pushes the boundaries of jazz and rock on his new album Transmission. While most virtuosos so are reluctant to share the spotlight Naylor gives his fellow musicians ample opportunity to step forward. It results in delicate interplay - check out One Field / Many Fields for a prime example of musical conversation. Holding back has given his compositions a wider perspective and explore neo-classical themes. Ghost Logic is a friendly clash between free jazz, rock and Indian vocalizing.

» Full review

19 Big Apple Blues: Manhattan Alley

NYC veteran musicians are in sync with the pulse of the big city.

They are fluid, without being slick. While it's tempting to compare them to Booker T. & the M.G.'s, that would sell them short in terms of genre variations. It happens to any band that has a prominent Hammond B3 player and a guitarist with way above average slide skills in their midst. Big Apple Blues like to lean towards jazz, each time when they change it up withing the parameters of the R&B idiom. They are not a dance band, but their music is a sure fire guarantee for an irresistible urge to tap your feet. Funky, dirty at times and played with the confidence of musicians who have made a name for themselves in one of the most competitive environments for cutting it as an artist.

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18 Pocket Knife Army: Forever Counting Sheep

Haunting electronics on a concept album about sleep paralysis.

The music has a hallucinating yet alluring intensity. By sitting on the fence between being awake and asleep it's neigh impossible to decide if something is real or a mind fuck. Forever Counting Sheep might be too scary for some, but as a project/concept album it is a fascinating journey into darkness. The self-imposed limitations - both musically (if they can't make it work in a live setting, it's not on the album) and thematically - made it a record that unfolds like a chrysalis into a butterfly.

» Full review

17 Dusty Stray: Estranged

Jonathan Brown bears his soul. It might hurt a little.

Breakups are responsible for a lot of great music. Estranged (...) is filled with smoldering anger, grief and despair. He took a long hard look at himself and the bad ending of yet another relationship. With his vocals and acoustic guitar, banjo and ukulele at the core of the song he lays down dreamy freak folk songs, enhanced by keyboards, omnichord, backwards masking and almost church like backing vocal arrangements.

» Full review

16 Peter Kernel: The Size Of The Night

Swiss/Canadian indie art pop duo refuses to give in to their inner demons.

At first it may seem that they don't know what the fuck they want to prove, but then it becomes clear they looked inside themselves and found a bunch of dark and nasty things. Those could only be tamed - sort of - by capturing into them music. Not just the nightmares though - there is space for dreams of a less troubling nature. The Size Of The Night is captivating and scary, a journey to the dark side. The signposts are not particularly helpful, but following them always leads to intriguing discoveries.

» Full review

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