And my one-per-day set of lists for Advent continues, this time with a list of favourite albums released this year. Maybe I’m getting old and I’m just far too comfortable in my musical tastes, but in recent years I’ve found it harder and harder to compile this list. Or perhaps it’s been easier and easier, because the problem is, I don’t seem to like that much new stuff. As a result, I think I’m buying less and less too, despite the ease of buying music online. For several years I’ve really tried – but failed – to get into the critics’ top albums (you know the sort of stuff, Joanna Newsom, LCD Soundsystem, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Bon Iver, etc). Now I don’t even bother with them much. Anyway, here are five albums which I liked this year and which I still expect to like in a few years’ time.
Bruce Springsteen: The Promise
The biggest cop-out of all, because the songs on this album were all recorded over thirty years ago. But they’re very, very good. I can’t remember another example of an entire set of songs from a major artist at their peak being released like this. Imagine 20 Beatles songs recorded at the same time as Sgt.Pepper suddenly seeing the light of day. “An indispensible portrait of an artist at the top of his game. File this one under American Greats.”
Tinie Tempah: Disc-Overy
I’ve probably listened to more chart music this year than at any time since college, thanks to having a 9-year-old who’s beginning to find the music scene interesting. I’m amazed at how much of the top 40 each week is simply terrible, but I shouldn’t be, because it’s always been that way. Standing out like a beacon, however, are the never knowingly too serious British rap artists, normally filed under ‘grime’ or something, but really just this decade’s mainstream pop.
Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble: Officium Novum
My perfect Sunday morning, should it exist, would surely involve the house being filled with music from any of the (now) three Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble albums. Not jazz, not choral, this is genuinely unique music which is hauntingly beautiful. If the idea of Armenian church music or Arvo Pärt’s Most Holy Mother of God sounds off-putting, you shouldn’t let it be.
Stornoway: Beachcomber’s Windowsill
All the fuss being made around American indie folk over the past few years has left me a bit cold, but some of the new young English acts in that genre are a different matter. Stornoway were a terrific headliner on the warm-up night at this year’s Cambridge Folk Festival, but this album would have made it into the list regardless.
Laura Marling: I Speak Because I Can
Her first album was showered with awards, but the difficult follow-up proved to be just as good, as well as being a development. An album I can listen to over and over.