This was one of the hardest lists ever to compile. It’s different from 25 Essential Echoes CDs of 2013, which is our picks of the best music played on Echoes. And it’s also different from The Best of Echoes 2013 Listener Poll results. These are my picks from all the music I heard in what turned out to be an epic year for new music. And in an epic year, these are the albums that rose to the top of the top for me.
1- Pat Metheny – Tap: John Zorn’s The Book of Angels, Vol. 20
Metheny takes fragmentary themes from composer John Zorn’s “Book of Angels” series and orchestrates them into expansive, electro-symphonic works. The fact that it features some of Metheny’s most unbridled and psychedelic guitar playing in years is just a bonus.
2- Rhian Sheehan – Stories from Elsewhere
On his 7th album, Stories from Elsewhere, Rhian Sheehan created one of the most sublime shadings of ambient chamber music since Harold Budd’s Pavillion of Dreams. It’s a magical CD of soaring strings, surging rhythms, childlike music boxes and ambient expanses that sounds both familiar and timeless. It was a CD of the Month in May.
3 – Olivier Libaux – Uncovered Queens of the Stone Age
I don’t know if I could’ve gotten behind an album more than I did Olivier Libaux’s sublime covers of music by alt-metal band Queen’s of the Stone Age. Part of the New Wave/Punk cover band Nouvelle Vague. Libaux stepped out on his own to record the albums with singers including Emilianna Torinni and Inara George. He accomplished a melancholy re-imagining of this alt-metal band’s music. It was a CD of the Month in July.
4 – Ludovico Einaudi – In a Time Lapse
In a Time Lapse is a defining album on which pianist/composer Ludovico Einaudi pulled out all the stops, synthesizing a 21st century classicism that is all-embracing in its musical influences, and all-enveloping in its emotional sweep. It was Echoes CD of the Month in March,
6 – Ólafur Arnalds For Now I Am Winter
Both sophisticated and edgy, Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds inhabits his own sonic universe, balancing emotions and mood on a laser’s edge of strings echoing out of frozen skies and electronics trawling the substrata. For Now I Am Winter is his most mature work to date and a CD of the Month in April.
7 – Ulrich Schnauss A Long Way To Fall
A wonderfully melodic, groove driven album of synthesizer wonder as Ulrich Schnauss explores childhood memories with electronic dreams. The title track will leave you breathless. It was an Echoes CD of the Month in February.
8 – Mree Winterwell
Serene dream pop from a 19 year old musician who comes from a singer-songwriter tradition but creates Enya like choirs with her voice on this lush and powerful album.
9 – Bleeding Rainbow Yeah, Right
This Philadelphia based band created a garage-rock psychedelic ecstacy that often attained the epic mixing shoegaze guitars with motoric grooves and heroic girl-group choruses from singer Sarah Everton. I’m still trying to figure out why Savages got so much hipster attention and this album slipped away. Play it loud and you’ll wonder why as well.
10- Sigur Ros Kveikur
Sigur Ros kick out the jams on this album of delirious, roiling textures and Jonsi’s falsetto melodies of prayer. This is one of the Icelandic groups more aggressive outings which is saying a lot for a band that has no restraints in their electric storm.
John Diliberto (((echoes)))
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Tags: Ambient Chamber Music, Avant-garde, Electric Guitar, Fusion, Iceland, John Zorn, Jonsi, Kveikur, Ludovico Einaudi, Moby, Mree, Olafur Arnalds, Olivier Libaux, Pat Metheny, Queens of the Stone Age, Rhian Sheehan, shoegaze, Sigur Ros, Ulrich Schnauss