Words by Andrew Lampela
Andrew Lampela was an employee and eventual co-owner of the 40-year old institution, Haffa’s Records in Athens, Ohio, just outside of the dark woods from which Skeletonwitch emerged. Over his years there he has played in a number of bands ranging from rock to noise to metal and has taken his lifelong knowledge of music into contributing to a number of publications. He writes the periodic Ears of Decay metal column. Here are his top ten albums in no order.
If you’re looking for a recap of my favorite Metal releases this year, this is not that. Check this month’s Ears Of Decay for a rundown of a very stacked year in heavy releases. Otherwise, read on for ten albums that offered much needed respite from the crumbling world around us.
It’s difficult making these lists. Ranking albums that reach you on this deep of a level just isn’t fair to the bonds made with the art. Having said that, this is the album that I crushed the hardest this year, hands down. A blissful slice of spiritual American Kosmische, “We Center” rearranges me on a molecular level with every listen. Stunningly deep vibrations from a powerhouse trio. Nathan Bowles is a national treasure. Absolutely perfect album.
I have been a fan of Daniel’s for some time now. He’s an incredibly nice guy, a fantastic guitarist, and turning out to be one hell of a gardener to boot. His current path of banjo concrète really hits fruition with Where The Roses Come Again, not only a favorite this year, but quickly becoming one of my favorite Bachman. An immersive start to finish stunner.
Danny Paul Grody can do wrong. Arc Of Day is a bit different for Grody, being a full band setting (more Clarinet on everything!), but it’s still his masterful soul-expanding finger work that compels me to flip this on repeat all day. I highly recommend peaking in on his social media presence, those mid-week meditations are mental health life savers.
Morgantown West Virginia’s Lincoln was a regional connection to the explosive mid-90s Emo scene. The Hoover/Lincoln 7” is, to this day, the impossible standard for a split, two songs that go so hard they become part of your DNA. “Bench Warmer” has lost none of its punch. If you’re interested in the raw, uncommercial roots of Emo, Repair And Reward is absolutely essential. Jay Demko dropped an Exit Angles album on us, as well. Unsurprisingly, you should also check it out because it is also awesome. A bit more mature, but compromising none of the ethos.
It has been an extremely fruitful, satisfying experience, being a Lau Nau fan all these years (Kuutarha is one of my all-time favorite walking-in-winter albums, of all time). You are never guaranteed the exact same vibe twice, but Laura Naukkarinen is such a stellar composer, I’ll follow these records anywhere. Aphrilis is a stately set of Finnish Folk songs, blending electric and acoustic instruments into lush beds of orchestration. Possibly some of the most beautiful arrangements in her ever-growing body of work, Aphrilis is an absolute gem in an incredibly stacked discography.
Beautiful minimalist piano with Julia Kent’s cello and violin by Hoshiko Yamane? Got me figured out. Absolutely gorgeous, I can, and have, listened to this for hours.
Powers/Pulice/Rolin – Prism (Cached Media)
You could throw a dart at the pile of ‘currently digging’ records beside my turntable, and you’d have a fair chance at hitting something Matt Rolin related. Here, the core of Rolin and Jen Powers is augmented by Cole Pulice on sax for some otherworldly retro-futuristic vibe-outs. Very easy to get lost in these sound waves.
The wave of Jazz reissues is unrelenting these days, but poking my head around the deluge of archival material, these two albums come in for a bit of a tie, as they spend equal time on the stereo. Chimera wavers between ambient chill 70s Miles vibes and more angular but not crazy avant Jazz, with a killer, intuitive cast of musicians. Since Time Is Gravity rumbles through some sparse, free, rhythmic drone anchored by Joshua Abrams absolutely heroic bass. Both benefit from some headphone time, and both are excellent.
The music enough is worth noting here, but goddamn, that is some insane packaging. Great album, great bonus LP of live stuff, completely bonkers extras, this is well worth blowing the monthly record budget on.
Ever wonder what Midlake’s old singer would sound like if he went 80’s Goth? Well, has Tim Smith got an album for you! I didn’t realize how much I missed Smith’s voice (and songwriting) until this snuck out in December. Imagine, if you will, those first two Midlake albums less influenced by Fairport Convention and Fleetwood Mac and more by the Cocteau Twins and the Cure. Albion is healthy blend of all that and more. A very welcome return from a distinct voice.