I always have a tough time with these introduction things when it comes to End of Year lists. The temptation is to sum up the year with some anecdotes about what it meant to me and how the music I loved played into it. Yet what could I say about a year that was such a mixed bag for me? On a personal note, my mental health took an all-out nosedive last year that I’m still trying to claw my way out of, yet my partner and I got engaged and are looking forward to spending the rest of our lives together (not that we weren’t already, but you get the point). The weight of the worst depression and anxiety I’ve ever faced affected my ability to connect to a lot of the music I heard last year, yet I started a column on here that lead me back to a genre of music I had not seriously kept up with for some time, and in doing so I found a little piece of myself again. Years are years are years, and life is cyclical and spiralic in nature. I won’t pretend there weren’t good things to come out of last year, just as I won’t pretend there won’t be hard times in the year ahead. But I will always have a carefully curated soundtrack to help me along the way, and below represents what helped me get through 2019.
The Runners Up
The Winner’s Circle
5. Falls of Rauros – Patterns in Mythology
I don’t know what dark ritual Gilead Media has performed to assemble so many wonderful albums in such a short period, but in a year of winners, this is easily another. I suspect it may alienate black metal purists, but who even needs those people anyway? Nothing ruins a scene like people who abhor change. So embrace progress and enjoy the results. We didn’t need genres anyway.
From Charles Randall’s review of Patterns in Mythology.
4. Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Ceiling
I’ve said it before a hundred times and I’ll say it again: no one writes music like this. You could measure any of the best black metal of yesterday or today against Yellow Eyes’ discography and I doubt it would hold a candle. The interplay of harmony and chaos, of aggression and melody, of coherence and incoherence, is unlike anything I have ever heard.
3. Vi som älskade varandra så mycket – Det onda. Det goda. Det vakra. Det fula.
Moving with a similar grace to genre giants envy, Vi som älskade varandra så mycket (in English: We who loved each other so much) deliver an album of post-everything goodness, with the pained melody and frantic energy of screamo filtered through the euphoric crescendo of post-rock to deliver an album covering everything from slow-burn melancholy to the aggression of “Sioux City,” to the gut-wrenching climax of album centerpiece and highlight “Hjärtats förlorade slag.” The best albums are the ones that make you feel like your chest is caving in while you listen to them and Det onda. Det goda. Det vakra. Det fula. delivers that experience in a monumental way.
2. Alcest – Spiritual Instinct
It took time for me to find the center, the heart, of Spiritual Instinct that connects it to Alcest’s discography at large, to the feeling that only this band evokes in me, but once that piece clicked into place, so did everything else.
Every new Alcest album ends up being my favorite Alcest album. Spiritual Instinct is my favorite Alcest album. Enough said.
1. Elle – …
Oakland, CA’s Elle create emotional hardcore that takes the genre hallmarks of frantic instrumentation and soaring melody and binds them together in a package that will be familiar to long-time genre enthusiasts, but is excecuted so brilliantly and passionately as to put them head and shoulders above their peers…Ellipsis is an album that delivers everything I want and look for in my screamo like very little else I’ve heard this year; it’s an album that has truly grabbed me by the heartstrings, and even the short time I’ve spent with it has convinced me this is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year.
From Chaos is Me: August 2019.
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