THE BEST 55 NEW ALBUMS OF 2015-PART FIVE.

THE BEST 55 NEW ALBUMS OF 2015-PART FIVE.

SIDSEL ENDRESEN AND STIAN WESTERHUS-BONITA.

One of the most eagerly awaited albums of 2015 was Sidsel Endresen and Stian Westerhus’ sophomore album Bonita. It was released on Rune Grammofon in January 2015. Bonita was the followup to Sidsel Endresen and Stian Westerhus’ debut album Didymoi Dreams. Just like Didymoi Dreams, Bonita is another album of groundbreaking, innovative music. However, unlike Didymoi Dreams, Bonita is a live album. 

On Bonita, Sidsel Endresen and Stian Westerhus pickup where they left off on Didymoi Dreams, renewing what’s an almost telepathic relationship. Sidsel reacts to Stian’s guitar playing, and improvises. Her music veers between dramatic, ethereal, heartfelt, sensual and urgent. Listening intently, Stian picks up on a change of direction. Straight away, he reacts, and his trusty guitar and effects take the listener on a musical adventure. He’s responsible for washes of blistering, dramatic ethereal, jagged, fuzzy, scorching and understated music. This is the perfect compliment for Sidsel’s vocals. 

Feeding off each other, Stian and Sidsel drive each other to greater heights, fusing elements of ambient, avant-garde, experimental, jazz, psychedelia and rock on Bonita, where Sidsel becomes yin to Stian’s yang. It’s no surprise that Bonita is an ambitious, captivating, and groundbreaking album from Sidsel Endresen and Stian Westerhus, two of Norwegian music’s most talented artists.

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SKYDIVE TRIO-SUN MOEE. 

For many musicians, making the step up from sideman to bandleader can be problematic. Other musicians embrace the role and seem to enjoy the added responsibility. That’s the case with guitarist Thomas T. Dahl. He founded Skydive Trio, who released their debut album Sun Moee on Hubro Music.

Sun Moee is the perfect showcase for one of Norway’s most talented guitarist, Thomas T. Dahl. His playing takes centre-stage on Sun Moee. Behind him, Olavi Louhivuori and Mats Eilertsen provide the backdrop for Thomas’ guitar wizardry.   Although they’re both hugely talented and experienced musicians, it’s Thomas guitar playing that takes a starring role on Sun Moee. The music is variously beautiful, cinematic, dramatic, elegiac, ethereal, mesmeric, sparse, stirring and understated. Elements of jazz and rock melt into one. Occasionally, elements of avant garde and experimental music can be heard. Especially on Four Words, which closes Sun Moee, Skydive Trio’s debut album.

As debut albums go, Sun Moee is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year. That’s not a surprise, given Skydive Trio feature three of Scandinavia’s most talented musicians, who showcase their considerable talents on Sun Moee.

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STEIN URHEIM AND MARI KVIEN BRUNVOLL-FOR INDIVIDUALS FACING THE TEROR OF COSMIC LONELINESS.

Stein Urheim and Mari Kvien Brunvoll have both enjoyed lengthy careers as solo artists. They’ve also collaborated on a trio of albums. The latest was Individuals Facing The Terror Of Cosmic Loneliness, which was released by Jazzland Recordings  and recorded in just four days.

That hasn’t affected the quality of music on Individuals Facing The Terror Of Cosmic Loneliness. It oozes quality. oozes quality. The album is a filler free zone, on what can only be described as a genre-melting album. There’s everything from alt-sunshine pop, ambient, avant-garde, dub, Eastern blues, experimental, free jazz and synth pop. The result is an eclectic and potent mix of musical genres for two innovative artists, Stein Urheim and Mari Kvien Brunvoll.

Together, they have created an ambitious, innovative and captivating album. It’s like the musical equivalent of a magical mystery tour, where Stein Urheim and Mari Kvien Brunvoll “are coming to take you away” on. Over Individuals Facing The Terror Of Cosmic Loneliness’ nine tracks the music veers between atmospheric, beautiful, dark, dramatic, ethereal, haunting, hypnotic, melancholy, mesmeric, sparse, thoughtful and wistful. Quite simply, Stein Urheim and Mari Kvien Brunvoll’s Individuals Facing The Terror Of Cosmic Loneliness is an album that you’ll constantly return to.

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STORNOWAY-BONXIE.

In June 2014, Stornoway announced their intention to use crowd funding to fund their third album Bonxie.  Just four days later, Stornoway had 222% of their target funding. With funding in place, Stornoway were able to relax and write and record their third album Bonxie. It was released to critical acclaim via Cooking Vinyl Records.

Bonxie is, without doubt, the best album of Stornoway’s career, Bonxie. It features hook-laden music,  including anthems, ballads and  calls to dance. There’s something for everyone on Bonxie.

That’s no surprise. Stornoway combine everything from Americana and country, to electronica, folk, folk rock, indie pop, indie rock, psychedelia and rock. Musical genres melt into one. So do influences. Everyone from Fairport Convention, R.E.M. and Teenage Fanclub to The Beatles, The Jayhawks and Wilco seem to have influenced Stornoway. Their influence can be heard during Bonxie, Stornoway’s career defining album.

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SUN RA ARKESTRA UNDER THE DIRECTION OF MARSHALL ALLEN-BABYLON LIVE.

2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of most enigmatic and innovative musicians in the history of music, Sun Ra. So, last year, Marshall Allen decided to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Sun Ra’s birth by taking the Sun Ra Arkestra on the road, choosing the setlist can’t have been easy. Literally, Marshall Allen was spoiled for choice. However, when the Sun Ra Arkestra reached the Babylon Club, Istanbul on 21st May 2014, the concert was recorded. Eight of the eleven tracks feature on Babylon Live which was recorded by the Sun Ra Arkestra Under The Direction Of Marshall Allen. It was released on the German label, In-and-Out Records.

Babylon Live was recorded at the Babylon Club in Istanbul, Turkey on the 21st May 2014. That was always 100 years to the day that Sun Ra was born Herman Poole Blount. Little did anyone realise that, that day, one of most enigmatic and innovative musicians in the history of music was born. He combined Egyptian history and space-age cosmic philosophy with freeform jazz. Some felt that Sun Ra hid behind his newly adopted personal. Throughout his life, he remained an enigmatic figure. So much so, that  many people referred to Sun Ra as Mr. Mystery. Despite being an enigma, he was one of jazz music’s great innovators. 

Sun Ra’s approach to music was unique. He combined Egyptian history and space-age cosmic philosophy with freeform jazz. Over a career that spanned nearly forty years, Sun Ra and His Arkestra pushed musical boundaries. He was a perfectionist and a relentless taskmaster. Continually, he surrounded himself with some of most talented, inventive and adventurous musicians of their generation. They became the Sun Ra Arkestra, who celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of their founder, the man born Herman Poole Blount.

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SWEETHEARTS OF THE PRISON RODEO-PIGS IN THE BULL RING [HUMANS LIKE BEASTS].

Pigs In The Bull Ring [Humans Like Beasts] was released on the Wiseblood Industries label, and is the followup to Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo’s 2013 album, On The Desolate Hillside. It introduced listeners to Falkirk’s very own purveyors of freak-country-folk, the Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo. Their raison d’être is to release cerebral music with a social conscience.

The Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo don’t make things easy for themselves. Writing and recording a concept album wasn’t going to be easiest way to followup their debut album. Especially when it’s told by the ghost of Mussolini. This makes Pigs In The Bull Ring [Humans Like Beasts] sound like an album that harks back to the classic concept album of the seventies. 

Pigs In The Bull Ring [Humans Like Beasts] doesn’t come courtesy of Pink Floyd, E.L.P. or Yes. Instead, it come from David King and his Falkirk collective, Sweethearts Of The Prison. They’re not progressive rockers. Far from it. Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo described themselves as a freak-country-folk combo. That’s almost selling themselves short. They combine everything from blues, country, folk, indie rock and indie rock. Musical genres combine and collide seamlessly on Pigs In The Bull Ring [Humans Like Beasts]. To this musical hotpot, Sweethearts Of The Prison Rodeo combine, melodies and subtle hooks and social comment.

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TARAF DE HAÏDOUKS-OF LOVERS, GAMBLERS AND PARACHUTE SKIRTS.

Twenty-five years ago, Taraf de Haïdouks made their debut. Little did anyone realise that this was the start of musical journey that saw Taraf de Haïdouks crowned “the best Gypsy band in the world.” That’s quite an accolade. However, anyone that’s seen Taraf de Haïdouks live, will agree with this. 

Live, Taraf de Haïdouks seamlessly flit between heartfelt ballads to love songs, through old school dance tunes and Turkish tinged instrumentals. It’s a potent mix of musical genres that featured on Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts, Taraf de Haïdouks’ latest album, which was be released on Crammed Discs, in January 2015.

Seamlessly Taraf de Haïdouks flit between heartfelt ballads to love songs, through old school dance tunes and Turkish tinged instrumentals on Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts. It’s a captivating, potent and powerful mix of musical genres. The listener is taken on a musical and emotional journey, one where  

the music veers between beautiful, cinematic and dramatic, to heartfelt and irresistible and urgent. Relentlessly, Taraf de Haïdouks toy with your emotions. By the time Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts draws to a close you realise that Taraf de Haïdouks are still “the best Gypsy band in the world.”

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THE LAST HURRAH!!-MUDFLOWERS.

For over thirty years, H.P. Gundersen has been at the heart of Bergen’s thriving and vibrant music scene. The Bergen based singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer is a veteran of many groups, including Animal Farm, House Of Hiss, Nekken, Rust, Sensible Twins and The Stain Monster. Then there’s H.P. Gundersen’s latest project is The Last Hurrah!! They released their third album Mudflowers on Rune Grammofon in August 2015. Mudflowers marks the debut of the latest member of The Last Hurrah!!, up-and-coming vocalist Los Angeles based singer-songwriter Maesa Pullman.

For Mudflowers, bandleader H.P. Gundersen put together what can only be described as an all-star band. Everyone plays their part in the sound and success of Mudflowers.  Marty Rifkin on pedal steel and John Thomas on Hammond organ play starring roles. However, the star of Mudflowers is Maesa Pullman, H.P. Gundersen’s latest discovery. She’s a versatile vocalist who breathes life, meaning and emotion into songs. Maesa Pullman has a great future ahead of her. So does the other vocalist on Mudflowers is Rosa Pullman, Maesa’s cousin. The Pullman family it seems, is a talented family. They’ve played a huge part in the success of The Last Hurrah!!’s third album, Mudflowers.

It’s an album that’s been inspired by an eclectic and disparate selection of musical genres. Everything from Americana, blues, country, pop, psychedelia, rock and even soul shine through on Mudflowers. One influence overshadows the rest. That’s country. Sometimes, Mudflowers sounds as if it’s been written and recorded in Nashville. Instead,  Mudflowers was written and recorded in Bergen, Norway, and  is a career defining album from The Last Hurrah!! On Mudflowers, A Star Is Born, and her name is Maesa Pullman.

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THE PHANTOM BAND-FEARS TRENDING.

Ever since 2002, The Phantom Band have been making music. They released their fourth album Fears Trending back in January 2015, on Glasgow’s premier label Chemikal Underground. Fears Trending  was recorded at the same time as The Phantom Band’s previous album  Strange Friend. However, Fears Trending is a very different album. 

 The songs on Fears Treading are longer, darker and filled with drama. Some of the songs have a much more experimental sound. Bursts of futuristic, sci-fi, shimmering synths augment the fusion of art rock, folk rock, indie rock, post rock and psychedelia on Fears Treading. It’s an eclectic and ambitious combination of influences. However, it’s a combination that works. 

Although Strange Friend and Fears Trending are very different albums, they’re both are captivating and groundbreaking albums from one of Scotland’s top bands, The Phantom Band, who for thirteen years, have been pushing musical boundaries to their boundaries, and sometimes, beyond.

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THE SOULJAZZ ORCHESTRA-RESISTANCE.

Ten years after releasing their debut album in  Uprooted in 2005, The Souljazz Orchestra returned with Resistance, which was released by Strut Records. Resistance sees The Souljazz Orchestra add some new ingredients to their musical melting pot. This time, The Souljazz Orchestra added some of French Caribbean and Francophone West African influences. To do this, The Souljazz Orchestra have fused elements Coupé-Décalé, Zouk, and Ndombolo to their usual mixture of Afro-beat, funk, jazz and soul. The result was Resistance, the next chapter in The Souljazz Orchestra story. 

Resistance features The Souljazz Orchestra at their very best. When they’re in full flight on Resistance, it’s a joyous, impressive and irresistible sound. Especially when they’re tempting the listener to the dance-floor. They tease and tempt the listener with blazing horns, vintage keyboards, a myriad of percussion and a oulsating rhythm section. They provide The Souljazz Orchestra’s heartbeat. It’s an irresistible sound. Few can resist the delicious sound of The Souljazz Orchestra as they fuse everything from Afro-beat, Carribbean, jazz, Latin and soul with elements of Coupé-Décalé, Zouk, and Ndombolo. That’s not forgetting lyrics bristling with cutting social comment. The result is a potent and heady brew. It was recorded in The Souljazz Orchestra’s Ottawa studio. and has a decidedly lo-fi sound. 

Don’t expect to find the latest equipment. No. It’s an analogue studio full of an eclectic selection of instruments. Many of these are instruments are long lost, sometimes unloved junk shop finds. A transistor organ, cheap guitars, reverb and echo units, an electric piano rescued from a dumpster and the crowning glory, an old eight-track Tascam tape machine, that was bought at a yard sale by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. These instruments come to life in the hands of musical alchemists, The Souljazz Orchestra as they recorded their career defining album Resistance.

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