And so to part two of this year's Baker's Dozen. Go back and read part one if you haven't already. This second half contains discs 7 to 13.
Earth : The Bees made Honey In the Lion’s Skull
What makes this album quite so astonishing to me is how evocatively slow it is. When you’re listening to Vai, Satriani, Gilbert and many others noodling solos at 150bpm and then slam into an album at barely 60bpm for its entirety which has no sense of waste or drag to it, it’s an amazing thing. ...Lions Skull is like lying in a field of corn in Tornado Alley with the air crackling expectantly around you as watch the darkest, most massive thundercloud be blown ever slowly, ever inevitably towards you.
Portishead : Third
Manchester in the early to mid nineties was full of the end of Hacienda, Take That and the beginnings of Oasis and Britpop. Which is fine if you like that sort of thing. I found myself frequenting the Academy and assorted venues for Anthrax, Rollins and Machine Head on one end of the musical spectrum, bypassing the entire nascent Madchester in the middle and finding trip-hop at the other. Maybe I should have gone to uni in Bristol. I missed a ticket to see Portishead in 1994. Who knew we’d have to wait 14 years until Third came out. At least they had the decency to make a bloody good comeback.
Battles : Mirrored
The funny thing about Battles is that they have always been a quartet even though their fourth member, Tyondai Braxton, left after they made Mirrored. With Gloss Drop and La Di Da Di the in to the music has been the ever interesting videos marking the loops and overlapping themes in an otherwise now-impenetrable music. Just have a listen to My Machines and The Yabba and then see the videos. Tyondai brought a sense of fun and an entry point to Battles which I miss. Warren Ellis once described Atlas, a track on Mirrored, as alien smurf rock. Which about covers it.
Black Crown Initiate : The Wreckage of Stars
My favourite album from the first eighteen months on the radio, The Wreckage of Stars is the best of mid-period Opeth combined with the best aspects of Mastodon and it is huge. Somehow it’s also BCI’s debut album which is ridiculous. If this is a one-off then thanks to the music gods for letting it happen, but here’s to praying that they get better and better as both Opeth and Mastodon have done in the past.
Deafheaven : New Bermuda
When Deafheaven released their previous album Sunbather, they got almost as much press for the fact they tried to do something different with that post black metal platter as for the fact it was actually really very good. Cue the release of New Bermuda and not only did they continue to experiment with the set formula of the genre, but they almost created a hybrid which is almost entirely accessible to anyone who cares to listen to something other than trite chart nonsense. Its roots are still evident but now there are delicious solos and intermissions building on what they had with Sunbather.
Lithium Dawn : Tearing Back The Veil 1 - Ascension
One of the disappointments in losing all my music in mid 2016 was that I never got to compile my Best Album list of 2016 and declare this number one. Djent is a tricky genre to get right - you're looking for chug, for groove, for the heavy side but beyond that where's the hook? Ferocity? Humour? Brevity? Lithium Dawn took the prog-route here with part one of a double concept album. There are stories, proper ssequencing, a clever tight rope walk between smart and brutal, and oh so many hooks. It was the first thing I heard in 2016 and was still my favourite at the end of the year.
Monument Valley Soundtrack
You cannot overestimate the ability of a soundtrack to guide a viewer through their film's narrative. I could write another baker's dozen on just soundtracks, but Monument Valley is special. It's the first video game soundtrack that I've had to sit up and listen to again and again probably since Magical Sound Shower poured out of the Outrun cabinets in the local arcade. Now that may mean I've missed a lot of amazing music because I wasn't playing games but at least I've heard this one. An ambient treasure.