We asked to different musicians, producers, bloggers, journalists, label owners to make a short list of their best albums of this year. This is the list curated by Italian songwriter and musician Alberto Mariotti aka King Of The Opera.
Mdou Moctar – Ilana (The Creator). It is my album of the year! I actually found out from a world music magazine bought at Glasgow airport at the end of a holiday with my girlfriend, and in the attached album there was “Kamane Tarhanin”, the opening song of Ilana that literally knocked me out. I immediately ordered a vinyl in which I found a kind of blues – feverish and hyperdynamic rock played by a sublime guitarist and driven by an almost always uneven rhythms which is both alienating and very solid. Mdou comes from Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world and certainly not associated with a certain type of rock culture. But the music scene is there, all right.
American Football – III. What impressed me the most of these eight tracks is the absolute balance and fluidity with which they flow one after the other. The guitars are something special as always but the enrichments of vibraphone, flute, trumpet and all the “alien” instruments present are extraordinary. The features of the three female voices are really an added value; the one with Hayley Williams for the single “Uncomfortably Numb” is overwhelming
Handlogic – Nobodypanic. These guys are really good, I had discovered them with the first eponymous EP where there is a song, titled “Arles”, which is for sure a masterpiece. Since I am from Florence, I did not hesitate for a moment to contact them to involve them on a song on my new album, before they become rich and famous.
Niccolò Fabi – Una somma di piccole cose (2016). I can never thank Niccolò enough for writing these songs which every time I listen to them freeze my blood and lead me to tears without an end. An album of almost unbearable intensity and one of the best of all time in the field of the songwriting.
Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen (Acoustic). The 80s pop (I am slightly obsessed) is full of great and capable writers and composers, and Paddy McAloon is one of them. You can understand it by listening to these eight acoustic version tracks taken from their 1985’s classic “Steve McQueen” which recorded for the extended version of the album in 2007. The lean lines, without the 80s sound, show how those songs are impeccable from a writing point of view; they are very stylish, even without frills. “Bonnie” ‘s new arrangement is something ecstatic and unreachable.
The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin (1999). I have always been a fan of Flaming Lips and I know all their records (and they are a lot) but after seeing them in concert this September in Prato, I had a smile on my face (like if it was paresis) for two entire weeks. Another beneficial contraindication was the compulsive listening to “The Soft Bulletin” in the following months.
The Blue Nile – Hats (1989). Traveling to Scotland gave me the chance to know this cult band which I learned to love more and more listening after listening. Not only I love them but I totally identified with them; Blue Nile are not simply what I listen to but what I am or at least what I have become. In short, I discovered that I have a brother, his name is Paul Buchanan.
The Blue Nile – A Walk Across the Rooftop (1984). The first Blue Nile album is probably their best for ideas, innovative range and complexity but in “Hats” there is the immense “The Downtown Lights”, currently my favorite song of all time.
Felt – The Splendour of Fear (1984). As a fan of new wave, post-punk, dark-rock and all that “alternative” that came out from the 80s, I was a little surprised (and regretted) that I hadn’t known this band before. The scores are mostly instrumental, the music is suggestive and never predictable. “The Splenduor of Fear” is their best album.
Aztec Camera – High Land, Hard Rain. Scotland Again! “High Land, Hard Rain” is the album which represents twee-pop style and which even anticipates the return to the Smiths’ jangle-pop for a few months. The similarities with the Manchester band in terms of sound are evident, so much so that Roddy Frame was Morrisey’s guitarist after Johnny Marr’s abandonment and just before the band’s final breakup. The singles “Oblivious” and “Walk Out to Winter” are still very fresh today, 35 years later. Very easy to listen and very difficult to play, believe me.