It’s exceedingly rare for me to buy an album as soon as it comes out. I have to be really devoted to a band to go to that kind of effort. Usually I stumble across albums a few years (or decades) after their release. I also have odd musical tastes. I love musicals and I adore concept albums. I like electro, goth and steampunk all at once. I enjoy classic metal and comedy covers.
Take that as a warning that some of the albums I review here might be a bit weird or not to your taste. I’m not going to apologise for that, as Tenacious D once said, “it only matters if it rocks”.
These are the albums I currently have on repeat. Surprisingly three of them I bought the day they were released, so I guess this also classes as my best-albums-of-2010 list too.
Breedless – Ego Likeness
Are you certain you got your facts straight
It’s been a long time and the language may have changed
Are you certain you trust your memory
From a time when we still believed in right and wrong
Ego Likeness are an amazing creative force producing a constant stream of amazing art, disturbing (in a good way) jewellery, unsettling literature and dark but gorgeous music. Breedless is their fifth album, weaving together themes of disenfranchised isolation and biblical conflict into the heartbreakingly beautiful tale of Lilith. Alternating between the soft, sorrowful vocals on the slower songs like Song for Samael and Thirty Year War, and the rageful, almost sarcastic extremes of Breedless and Lowest Place on Earth, Donna Lynch perfectly captures the character of the lonely, bitter demon viewing the excesses of modern humanity. This is one of those rare albums that doesn’t have a single weak song, each and everyone stands up on its own whilst fitting perfectly with the album as a whole. Plus I simply adore the mix of danceable beats and crunchy guitars.
Unremembered – Unwoman
How can you want something more than me? I give my life for yours, sacrifice my voice
Only in hope, a thousand knives each step, that I may share your soul
Oh, if only I could sing, or if this heart had wings, I would be your angel.
Erica Mulkey, aka Unwoman, is an incredibly talented cellist producing lush, politically savvy steampunk music. Funded through a kickstarter project, this album consists of 14 existing tracks, remixed into a more dance friendly form. If you’re unsure about this type of music this is a great introduction album and the remix element make Unwoman’s unique style more accessible to those with less steampunk musical leanings. Little Mermaid has always been my favourite of her song and this version is even better than the original.
The End of Days – Abney Park
Hey little boy, I think you are always right
I’ve dropped that worthless life and I’m moving on
Life should be adventure, I’m stealing back my soul
I’ve lost too many years now, I’m awake
The third album released since Abney Park reinvented themselves as a steampunk phenomenon, End of Days follows the continuing adventures of HMS Ophelia and her luckless crew. Combined with the previous albums and an upcoming book, End of Days features scenes from Abney Park’s own steampunk universe with appearances from the Neobedouins, a Victorian Vigilante and a Space Cowboy. Fight or Flight returns to the world of the Change Cage (a song from the album ) and Beautiful Decline is a sequel to All The Myths Are True. Whilst it isn’t necessary to listen to the previous albums to enjoy this album, I personally think it improves the whole effect by about 200%, so I’d strongly advise taking the time to listen to their previous releases. In my opinion the single best song on the entire album is Letters From A Little Boy To Himself As An Adult. Featuring cello by Unwoman and advocating following your dreams in place of working to live, Letters is an achingly beautiful but uplifting song that I’d recommend to anyone, whether you’re a fan of AP or not.
Tron: Legacy – Daft Punk
The Grid. A digital frontier. I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer. What did they look like? Ships, motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see. And then, one day, I got in.
The original Tron movie is about 8 months older than I am, so for obvious reasons I don’t remember its cinema release, but (along with movies like Flight of the Navigator and Innerspace) it is still one of the most cherished sci-fi movies of my childhood. The sequel, Tron: Legacy was pretty much everything I could ever have wished for in a follow up to such a visually and musically iconic movie. Whilst I’m not usually a fan of commercial music like Daft Punk this soundtrack is prefect for those times that I need to concentrate without the distraction of lyrics. The dance beats are perfect for keeping my motivated and the relatively consistent themes allow me to enjoy without being too distracted.
Now That’s What I Call Steampunk! Vol. 1 – The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing
Most men like their women deferential and polite, but we prefer the type of girl who looks like she could win a fight
Dainty girls are all well and good, but they can’t fix your stuff, pretty girls are all right for some, but for us its not enough,
I love a girl in goggles, it’s goggles that does it for me, you can keep your girly, girly girls…
Putting the punk firmly back into steampunk this is the first album by the excessively lengthy named TMTWNBBFN. A gloriously British combination of comedy, satire and awesome tunes, Now! covers a plethora of classic steampunk themes including Charlie Darwin and famous Victorian Steph(v)ensons, whilst famous authors and their creations travel to the Moon and the story of Boilerplate Daniel is revealed in detail. Uniquely TMTWNBBFN also cover the controversial topics of war and imperial expansion in Blood Red and whilst Goggles explain why the best girls aren’t just pretty ornaments. Beware this really is punky heavy music, don’t expect any delicate cellos or violins here, this is the kind of music that stomps around the mosh pit.
TMTWNBBFN @ Facebook
Superhits, Vol. 2 – Max Raabe & Palast Orchester
And you’ll think love is to pray but I’m sorry I don’t pray that way
This is probably the weirdest album on the list this time. Max Raabe is a German singer in the tradition of 1920s and 1930s dance hall style music. This album (along with Vol 1) consists mostly of covers of modern pop songs covered in that iconic style. The cover of pop classic Tainted Love is absolutely perfect and should be a permanent steampunk staple.
The Hazards of Love – The Decemberists
What can one do when one is a widower
Shamefully saddled with three little pests?
All that I wanted was the freedom of a new life
So my burden I began to divest
In my opinion, the best albums are usually concept albums and this is no exception. Released in 2006 The Hazards of Love tells the tale of a doomed love affair between a human and a forest shapeshifter and its opposition by the jealous fairy queen. I was originally introduced to The Decemberists by the Clockwork Cabaret radio show and their love of the epic Mariner’s Revenge Song, a darkly comic tale of revenge and whales. Whilst Hazards of Love is filled with beautiful but serious songs such as Won’t Want For Love, Annan Water and The Prettiest Whistles, my personal favourite song has to be The Rakes Song, which still captures hints of that gloriously morbid humour.