December 30, 2021

HCTF's best of 2021 (10-6)

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. Here Comes The Flood covers a lot of ground and it shows in this eclectic, final tally.

Today: countdown from number 10 to 6.

Please shop at your local record store. Most of them have a website where you can order your stuff. Buy directly from the artist, attend live shows when it's safe to do so again. Tell your friends. Word-of-mouth can't be beat as the prime source to discover new music.

The Aristocrats: FREEZE! Live In Europe 2021

10 The Aristocrats: FREEZE! Live In Europe 2021

Adventurous power trio brings the heat.

Power fusion rock trio The Aristocrats were in the midst of their lengthy world tour promoting the You Know What…? album, when everything shut down and live concerts were cancelled. Guthrie Govan (guitar), Bryan Beller (bass) and Marco Minnemann (drums) were playing really well and enjoying themselves. FREEZE! Live In Europe 2021, the new album was recorded during the Spanish leg of the tour, captures them in full swing with the improvisational skills of all three band members allowed to roam free. Mad skills is an overused term these days, and most bands are lucky if they have one virtuoso in their midst, let alone two or three. The Aristocrats are all masters of their instruments, applying tension and release, and never playing a track the same way twice. Add their wicked sense of humour to the equation and it's no wonder that they are a household name among musos and fellow musicians.

» Full review

It's Karma It's Cool: Homesick For Our Future Destinations

9 It's Karma It's Cool: Homesick For Our Future Destinations

Full-colour power pop mixing the sound of the West Coast and the heyday of the Canterbury scene.

[They] have expanded their musical palette a bit on their new album, Homesick For Our Future Destinations, adding elements of baroque pop and progressive rock. The first four tracks are flowing seamlessly, with the instrumental Homesick as an overture before they launch into a trio of songs about the passing of time and wondering if it moves faster as it progresses. All Branches Break In Time, with its recurring licks and flourishes, is an ode to melancholy that is filled to the rafters with jangling guitar goodness, continuing into Wild Fire Flames where Martyn Bewick manages to channel both Johnny Marr and Hank B. Marvin.

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Jim Knable & The Randy Bandit

8 Jared Rabin: Cold Rain and Snow

Old school bluegrass that sounds brand new.

[He] has been dabbling in jazz and prog, before gravitating to bluegrass. On his new all acoustic album Cold Rain and Snow he plays guitar, mandolin and fiddle, serving up a meal of traditionals and original material. Rabin likes to explore the boundaries of the genre, finding the proper for arrangement takes time, but when it is done right, the results are superb. Case in point: the instrumental West Fork North Branch, a challenging excercise for any band who are willing to take risks and hone their chops. The classic Whiskey Before Breakfast contains a few surprises that will drive the purists to cry wolf, but applying a fresh coat of paint can make a song shine like new.

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Jack O' The Clock: Leaving California

7 Jack O' The Clock: Leaving California

A musical road trip that explores the highways and back roads as equal partners.

West Coast quintet Jack O' The Clock plays a special kind of orchestrated progressive folk, wrapped in sixties psychedelica rooted in Americana. Their new album, Leaving California, came together in fits and starts - recordings started in 2018 - but it sounds like it was laid down in one truly inspired session. Damon Waitkus, the band's composer, leads the band through the tracks, a colourful journey that kicks off with the upbeat Jubilation and ends with blowing the doors wide open during the sprawling avant-folk closer Narrow Gate.

» Full review

The Foreign Films: Starlight Serenade

6 The Foreign Films: Starlight Serenade

Power pop singer and multi-instrumentalist Bill Majoros makes it cool to be a romantic.

He looks to the past in search for a future that never happened, the one that had the promise of being colourful and peaceful. Is that perspective naive or escapist? No, it is not. He dares to dream about a world that isn't a clusterfuck, but a place that is free from gun-wielding idiots and where the pandemic is only a distant memory. He wants to stare in wonder at his girl, and fill the time that is not with her gazing at A Photograph Of You. He wants to believe The Fortune Teller, chase Rainbows, and tell all the world that his girl is in fact an Angel In Disguise. As a love letter set to music, Starlight Serenade, will be hard to beat.

» Full review

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