5 Akira Sakata, Jim O’Rourke with Chikamorachi & Merzbow – Flying Basket
In which veteran Japanese free jazz mentalist Akira Sakata teams up with Tokyo resident and experimental guitarist Jim O’Rourke, noisemonger Merzbow and drum and upright bass duo Chikamorachi. It might be expected that too many cooks might spoil the free jazz broth with each musician trying to out-crazy the other. Well, there are quite a few everyone-goes-fucking-insane-and-loses-their-shit-at-the-same-time moments, but overall this is a well-paced, nuanced and richly textured album with each musician bringing their skills to the table, but being respectful of the master, Akira Sakata, who keeps it all together with his shrill sax. Every time I hear it I hear something that I’d previously missed (although it could just be the new amp and speakers that I bought recently!).
4 Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect
Detroit Punk of the post- variety, with a brain and a whole load of hooks and earworming melodies. Last year’s ‘Under Color of Official Right‘ was good, but this album is much better and a great leap in songwriting from main man Joe Casey and music from the rhythm section (not quite sure what that means, but it sounded good when I wrote it!). It is packed full of intelligent and hummable tunes and was never far from my record player this year.
3 Sunn O))) – Kannon
A late edition to the list as it was only released a week or two ago. I’d been waiting for it to come out for a while though and it didn’t disappoint. Divided into 3 long tracks, it has the usual crushing guitars and deep bass riffs that are Sunn O)))’s trademark, this time welded to Attila Csihar’s chanting-singing that gives it a dark, hypnotic, almost psychedelic feel. Great sleeve notes by critical theorist Aliza Shvartz too that manage to convincingly intellectualise what is basically a noisy metal album!
2 Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
By far my most listened to record this year. I’m sure most of you are familiar with its perfectly wry narratives set to grungey 90s guitars and acoustic strummings, delivered without pretension in that wonderful Australian brogue, so I won’t waste time describing it! I’ll just say that the whole album is packed full of ace tunes from start to finish and was my default listen this year.