This is the forty fifth of the “50 Albums to Christmas 2019” series.
2014 was a great year for instrumental albums. Alison Balsom’s trumpet was soulful and vital in her homage to the classical works inspired by the French capital Paris, and Bill Frisell’s jazz arrangements of 60s surf and space pop tunes for Guitar in the Space Age were just as trippy as the 60s dudes that inspired and created them. Lindsey Stirling continued to prove that a fusion of violin, dubstep and pop might sound odd but actually works just fine and then there were some guitar albums too. Alek Darson’s Panopticon and Polyphia’s Muse were highly impressive with the latter’s Champagne an insanely infectious and upbeat treat. However….
My favourite album of 2014, instrumental or otherwise, by quite some distance remains Animals As Leaders’ album The Joy Of Motion. The first ALL album was more a solo showcase for lead guitarist Tosin Abasi while the second saw AAL expand to a trio and learn how to write material as a band. With Matt Garstka installed as new drummer before writing began, The Joy of Motion meanwhile highlights a band that really worked as one blending common ideas and passions while not being tied down by a lack of technique or pre-set boundaries. It’s just 12 genre-bending songs with nary a weakling to be seen. It’s disappointing to see AAL labelled as Djent, Tech-metal, or even Progressive Metal on the basis that they play 8 string guitars and drums. There are elements of that sure, but alongside Fusion, Funk, Rock, Jazz and more besides.
The shyness at the disco feel that covered second album Weightless has gone completely. The want to prove that they aren’t just a prog metal band that constricts fourth album The Madness of Many hasn’t arrived. This is a serious piece of work and if you’re even vaguely into playing a guitar, this is mandatory listening.