January is generally a slow month. In the northern hemisphere at least, we tend to have colder days with less sunlight, while everyone is still recovering from the holidays. As a student, I'm also caught up in the moment of trying to succeed. Without fail, every new year brings desires of becoming a better person. Whether it is because people are dissatisfied with their past year or looking to improve a mundane lifestyle, we all set these arbitrary goals. Now you're probably thinking, why am I discussing this philosophical revelation - where's the music? Well partly because my brain can't stop thinking of these questions but also that my goals are generally music related. Last year I set out to listen to as many new releases as I could - and was it worth it? I'm torn because I discovered many releases I loved that I wouldn't have checked out otherwise, but also how many of these albums I listened to actually stuck with me long term, and the answer to that is not many. So this year I intend to focus more strongly on just what I care about. Music (and most media) can be so easily consumed nowadays that we sort of lose this emotional connection to art.
I digress, as January is a slow month for music for myself, I still managed to find 5 releases that I thought were noteworthy to mention. January also brings the excitement of what could possibly be released this year. It is always fun to try and guess who will make their beloved comeback as the year goes on. To 2019, and may we all have a fantastic year both in music, and in life.
Starting off with one of my favourite ambient drone musicians, we have Hilyard's Mercy Within. Hilyard makes dreamy, drone ambience that can simultaneously been cold and warm. With Mercy Within, we see Hilyard continues his journey to use music to find peace in his life. The album was recorded in a cabin void of any civilization nearby, and of course in the middle of winter nights. Hilyard explains that the album is about realizing your suffering and beginning to step forward with self forgiveness. The album certainly gives off this emotion as we consistently hear dreamy soundscapes starting off with almost suffocating nature and erupting into these enlightening feelings. This album comes out perfectly in the middle of winter, as it is a feeling of being stuck in a frostbitten wasteland but discovering happiness of what you have.
We got Portal last January, so it is only fitting to get Spain's counterpart Altarage this January. Of course I would include a dark, chaotic death metal release, and with the release of The Approaching Roar, Altarage continue their aggressive brand of music that could fittingly scare off the most faint hearted. Altarage definitely will be in contention for my favourite metal album of 2019 already, but I sure do have a bias to this brand of dissonant metal music. This album also is perfect winter music, especially in those dark cold nights where you just want to sit in and be nihilistic about the world.
A musician I'm not terribly familiar with but that doesn't bother me as this album is fantastic. I mean, that's obvious with me including it in this section. Juan Wauters took this album with him while moving to South America for a movie role. While travelling in South America, he recorded and wrote this album in many different countries - as well as trying to record with different musicians in each country. This brings us a vibrantly diverse album. With Wauters latin roots, the album contains iconic latin folk but also later takes a direction into art pop and electronic tinges. Wauters also has mainly sung in English his entire career but decided to sing this album entirely in his native tongue, which adds a nice touch to the entire albums story.
A Cambodian Spring is actually a documentary that was recorded over 6 years of three Cambodian activists trying to fend off a giant corporation from taking their land. I have yet to see the documentary yet I have heard nothing but good things as well as some heart clenching truths about the dark side of the world. James Holden though, is a electronic musician who made a name for himself DJing as well for his creative output that is dreamy and technical. A Cambodian Spring is a little different from his usual style - being largely a dramatic synth soundtrack. Since I haven't seen this documentary, I don't know how well the music fits to the film - but the music itself stands on its own, and that's always something I can appreciate from a soundtrack. On this soundtrack, the synths can go from dreamy and quiet, to bombastic and in your face, almost reminiscent of Vangelis.
For my final entry, I'm going to include something from one of my favourite bands (especially during my teen years). Oliver Appropriate is the sequel to the album ...Is A Real Boy, and while this album doesn't certainly bring the same bang as its predecessor, it's still pretty darn good. Say Anything have always been a pop punk band at heart, and I always felt they were one of the more creative groups of that early 2000's generation. They're technical while still catchy, and a little more punk than pop. On this new record, Max Bemis (the mastermind behind it all), we continue the story of Oliver exploring his sexuality. For the uninformed, Max came out as bisexual last year, so the story explores what Max felt, and how we had to come with terms with his change in sexuality. The music itself is great, but almost a little more of a folk album than punk for sure. Some parts remind me fully of another band, Modern Baseball, which I find amusing since Say Anything most likely influenced them as a band. Again, people expecting old Say Anything might get some of it with this release, but like any musician they grow and change their sound. I believe Max is happy with this last record, and I'm satisfied with it being the finale.
Angelo de Augustine - Tomb
Malibu Ken - S/T
Wristmeetrazor - Misery Never Forgets
Croatian Amor - Isa
Dead Melodies - Primal Destination