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Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The 10 albums that I enjoyed most in 2015

Here are the 10 albums (in no particular order) that I've got hold of and enjoyed the most in 2015:

Sid Griffin, writing on 'The Importance of The Basement Tapes,' describes in Biblical terms how the 'beat poetics' of Dylan's political and urban songs 'morphed into whimsy or Biblical-like prophecies'; 'songs derived from old sea shanties, melodic reflections about life's absudities, hard-rockin' and often hilarious fictitious character sketches, musical tributes to past heroes which bordered on pastiche, musical pastiches so authentic they bordered on being tributes, devout spirituals, C&W laments, a new take on blues balladry, and, yes, love in all its guises'

To mark the 50th anniversary of the freedom marches as well as the Staple Singers’ performance at the New Nazareth Church on Chicago’s South Side, their concert has been remastered and restored to its original setlist and runtime. Pops Staples, patriarch, bandleader and musical visionary, had written a song about the freedom marchers called ‘Freedom Highway’ which was debuted at this concert and which became the family’s biggest hit to that date, a pivotal record, connecting gospel music with the struggle for civil rights, that inched them toward the pop mainstream without sacrificing their gospel message for a secular audience.

'The Staple Singers have left an imprint of soulful voices, social activism, religious conviction and danceable “message music.”' 'Pops and the family were rooted in gospel, blues, and "message music" traditions. He sang about darkness, and he sang about light. He's done it again [on 'Somebody Was Watching' from Don't Lose This], and while the song's arrival might be belated by over 15 years, it's a total gift to hear one of the greats completely owning his lane.'

Bill Fay's 'beautifully hymnal fourth studio album' Who is the Sender? 'contains sublime, heartfelt ruminations on nature and the world.' With less light and shade than Life is People but with a more consistently meditative tone, With profound simplicity, like that of Chance in Being There, Fay mourns the inhumanity of our warlike impulses while prayerfully calling for a new world to be manifest.

Carrie and Lowell is a meditation on grief observed that channels the emotional honesty of C. S. Lewis' reflection on his time in the shadowlands. 'I saw intimacy pass by while going about it's business, like something sung and felt by Sufjan Stevens on his new beautiful solitary and rich record filled with faith and disbelief and the resurrection of trust and dreams.'

Carleen Anderson said in an interview for Huffington Post: 'the spiritual element in my life comes from miracles, in the form of love, like my child being born, or the way my grandparents raised me. It's emotional rescue. Love is a miracle, and from that music is made, as is all art.' 'The one piece of music I'm most proud of is probably a gospel song I wrote called 'Salvation Is Free' [Soul Providence, 2005]. It's about how I feel when everything in life is going wrong; it's about finding peace within all that.'

'Look Out Machines! is ... probably [Duke Special's] best, most complete work for a good while ... it’s broad enough to encompass the big issues. ‘Son Of The Left Hand’ is religious guilt with a dash of William Gibson. The title track is big enough to call down the apocalypse, with the help of Shakespeare and Betjeman: “What’s done is done, so drop the bomb”.' ‘God In A Dive’ is the best song I’ve heard for ages, about religious acceptance of one’s own kind. 'In A Dive', he says, concerns 'my living in Belfast and finding beautiful and profound qualities in people in the most unlikely of places.'

'On The Life Pursuit [by Belle & Sebastian], [Stuart] Murdoch treats church almost as a matter of course – yes, he goes to church, doesn’t everybody?! The references are simply there; they don’t attract attention themselves. Christianity (and church) is portrayed as an almost unspoken factor in the everyday lives of real people, one that is in turns pathetic and profound, but a factor nonetheless. In other words, his references ring true.'

Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices is the second album by The Welcome Wagon, the musical duo of Vito and Monique Aiuto, a Presbyterian pastor and his wife. 'Vito explains: “This album has a somewhat liturgical structure, ordered loosely like a worship service. It begins with the existential and cosmic dread of ‘I’m Not Fine,’ immediately followed by ‘My God, My God, Parts 1 & 2,’ a prayer that rails against God’s seeming absence from this world and our lives. The words are adapted from the prayer of Jesus while he hung on the cross."'

'"Banga" ... opens with the first of two songs about Europeans’ discovery of the New World. Piano and strings drive the rhapsodic, epistolary "Amerigo." On this and other tracks, [Patti] Smith sings with more depth, timbre and richness than perhaps she ever has ... Writing and art-making are recurrent themes on "Banga." On "Constantine’s Dream," the second track about voyages to America, Smith tackles the very nature of art - and the art of nature. Halfway through the 10-minute opus, painter Piero della Francesca shouts this "Horses"-worthy Patti war cry: "Oh lord let me die on the back of adventure/ With a brush and an eye full of light." ... "Banga" is both a return to form and her best album in many years.'


Carleen Anderson - Salvation Is Free.

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