As the team at the Arctic Drones mansion grows, so too does the range of tastes and influences that inform what we do.
Irrespective of genre boundaries, anyone with a passion for music has had at least one moment they know changed their outlook on not just music, but what’s beyond it. The beauty of the matter is that these are almost always positive moments, expanding our horizons and bringing us back to harmony. Anything capable of inspiring such feelings deserves to be shared, and so we at Arctic Drones have narrowed that down to one album each.
We do not consider our selections to be the “best” albums ever made, but they do all hold a very special place near and dear to our hearts. We chose these because we want to share the feelings the music instills in us and our unique relationship with it. All the selections were made individually, with no input from more than one member of the team each time.
The fact that a certain album is missing doesn’t mean any of us don’t consider it good, important, or even a milestone in any of the genres covered on this site. The word has already been spread on so many albums; we choose the ones we think can really change your life if you look at and listen to them the way that we do.
With that in mind, welcome to the second part to Arctic Drones’ series:
“If there was one album you could play to every single person in the world – and that person would hear it exactly the way you hear it – which album would that be?”
(See Part 1 here: http://arcticdrones.com/staff-picks/one-album-to-rule-them-all-part-1/)
MOGWAI – COME ON DIE YOUNG
I know I’ll probably get a lot of headshakes with this since Mogwai is probably too much of an obvious choice. Even though ‘Come On, Die Young’ certainly isn’t the first of their records that comes in mind when we think of their greatest work, I can’t help it.
On this record, Mogwai are at the peak of their creativity in terms of instrumentation; every single instrument delivers the melody from time to time. Sometimes it’s the drums (Helps Both Ways, Kappa, Ex-Cowboy), the bass (Christmas Steps) or the guitar (everywhere) that is leading the band in a harmonious and meticulously crafted way; like a story without words. Their beautiful and haunting melodies instantly make us feel an unbelievable mix of emotions from comfort (Cody) to sadness (May Nothing But Happiness Come Through Your Door), anxiety (Kappa) or Rage (Christmas Steps). Mogwai don’t need lyrics to make us feel vivid emotions for 70 minutes and, 15 years later, Come On Die Young is still the best example of their unique musicianship.
– by Eloi Mayano-Vinet
HAMMOCK – CHASING AFTER SHADOWS…LIVING WITH THE GHOSTS
When it comes to beauty in misery, Hammock can create more poignancy with one note than what other bands can do with a whole discography. The opening pluck to ‘You Lost the Starlight in Your Eyes’, about 50 seconds in, is ethereally attached to your limbic system, summoning an ineffable feeling of ecstatic despair. This note alone tears you apart, strand by strand, while the purpose of the remainder of the track is to tenderly put you back together. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, which at any given time can send anyone with the tightest control of their emotions into a bout of sobs.
Though the album is far from perfect, this momentary disassembly of your being is with brutal and effortless finesse – every time it occurs throughout the record, the consciousness is sent to a place it’d otherwise never want to go.
– by Hugh Thomas
WHITE DENIM – LAST DAY OF SUMMER
My love story with White Denim is just as much about where I was in life when I discovered them as it is their music. ‘Last Day of Summer’ came out in the summer of 2010 and caught me during a vulnerable period in my early 20s, where I was living out of place right in the middle of Hamburg´s red-light-district. The blithe, carefree and delicate music took me back to the warmth and the lazy air of Northern Georgia where I grew up. While it was largely a chance encounter, the music has become tied to this point in my life and it takes me back every time.
No two songs are alike on the album: The dreamy, warbling reimagined recording of ‘Fits’ track ‘I´d Have It Just The Way We Were’ contrasts noticeably with artsy instrumental ‘Light Light Light’ and folky numbers like ‘Some Wild Going Outward’. This, the paper-thin production and James Petralli´s frail but assertive vocals projects an endearing air of optimistic insecurity, and that is the main reason I remember this album so fondly. ‘Last Day of Summer’ took me home when I really needed it. If there´s even the remote chance it can do the same for you, give it a spin.
– by Jonathan Spratling
65DAYSOFSTATIC – THE FALL OF MATH
It is hard to enjoy 65daysofstatic the first time you hear them. They don’t create conventional music. Instead, harsh, loud electronic noises and sheer complex rhythm is essential to their sound. Be that as it may, in my case when I came across this band I found myself returning to their music. Listening over and over again. There is just so much going on, and my admiration lies in the possibility of personally constructing something beautiful within the loud, seemingly chaotic mass of sound.
Although I would not consider myself an avid math-rock fan in general, 65daysofstatic is ranked in the top 5 of my favourite bands ever. Their very first album, The Fall of Math, is my pinnacle to good music. This starts with the album artwork: a man, a boy, overwhelmed by a mass of data coming from the sky, serves as a beautiful metaphor for this record. It ends with the music: from the ominous opening track (the explosions…that destroyed our city) to the fast and seemingly unstoppable closing track, ‘The Fall of Math’ provides an action-packed journey. And every time I retake this journey I discover new elements that were undiscovered before.
– by Mattijs De Lee
KING CRIMSON – RED
‘Red’ is the roomiest album I know – an exploration of vast musical space, respectful of the old, while remaining as bold and fierce as any Crim album when it comes to innovation. It’s arguably, and oddly enough, the most Beatles-inspired album in King Crimson’s discography, from the record cover to the accessible, almost radio friendly passages scattered here and there between the jagged riffs. Robert Fripp’s icy intellectualism is perfectly counterbalanced by John Wetton’s groovy bass and heartfelt vocals, stretching his ability to the limits. While this fragile balance is maintained throughout each track individually, there’s also a sort of overarching level to it; the album itself feels caught between fierce extremes in a majestic display of musical architecture that has left me in awe ever since I first heard it.
Listening to ‘Red’ the way I hear it would be much like midnight thunder right before the storm breaks; like realizing you’d been feeling a certain way about someone for years and had been oblivious to it yourself; like waking up in the morning and understanding that everything is alright, for the first time in a very long while. To me, ‘Red’ feels like changing your mind for the better.
– by Mircea Laslo
LEPROUS – BILATERAL
Leprous’ 2011 prog metal opus doesn’t so much fuse together incompatible musical styles and ideas as it does transport you to a world where they fit together naturally. Their blend of techy riffs, funky bass lines, jazz guitar solos, blast beats, chaotic polyrhythms and pop melodies feels as organic and as alien as the giant mushrooms on the cover. And it’s not just the mix of styles – Leprous’ sense of melody, their constantly inventive songwriting, the myriad sounds they wring out of their instruments and Einar Solberg’s incomparable voice all work together to create something truly special.
To say that standout track ‘Thorn’ features both a trumpet solo and a guest vocal from the Emperor frontman gives you an idea of the creativity on display. It’s also catchy as anything. Leprous do prog in a big way but never at the expense of a good hook – ‘Restless’ sinks its claws into your brain effortlessly with its scratchy, King Crimson-esque guitar lines and crooning vocal melody, while ‘Forced Entry’ and ‘Waste of Air’ are musical battering rams that leave you reeling.
Once your brain catches up and develops the language to comprehend ‘Bilateral’, you can start to explore all the little intricacies and details that make their vision of music so unique and compelling – this has been my favourite album for over a year and I’m still finding new things to enjoy about it. Leprous went on to refine their sound and strip away some of the excess on their next two albums to create a more restrained, moody experience, but for one album they decided to totally cut loose and I don’t think the world will ever hear anything else quite like it.
– by Paul Ewbank
SIMPLE MINDS – NEW GOLD DREAM (81-82-83-84)
Sitting in my dad’s car as a kid, whenever it was my turn to pick a CD I would always reach for the black one with the colorful crowned heart on it. Later I would learn it was the ‘Best Of’ compilation by the Scottish band Simple Minds. My father used to listen to their albums back to front and even play them for other people on a local radio station, hence the reason why one could find that particular CD in his glove compartment.
Nostalgia. That’s probably the reason why that CD is sitting in my glove compartment nowadays. When asked what my favorite band of all time is, my choice immediately goes to Simple Minds. Challenged to pick one particular album however, that’s when I start to mutter and stutter. At gunpoint, I’d have to say ‘New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)’. It’s the little things in many of that album’s songs, like the opening bass line in ‘Glittering Prize’ and the joyful synthesizers in the title track, that put me back in that passenger seat, a place I’d sometimes rather be.
– by Ruben Vandael
AGALLOCH – MARROW OF THE SPIRIT
I’ve never given too much stress on the words in a song, for they merely feel like another track of instrumentation to me. Perhaps that’s why I have always preferred listening to instrumental work. I’ve always found them deeper emotionally and technically. Though, ironically, when I was told to choose “that one album”, I picked up a record with only one instrumental track, that too is just a prelude to the wonders that are to come ahead. Well, it is indeed irony that makes nature so beautiful; that makes everything so beautiful.
And it is irony which makes Agalloch’s ‘Marrow of the Spirit’ so beautiful. The album, sketching both grim and joyful aspects of life, leaves me in awe; it plays with me, tears me apart in every way possible, both good and bad. Being highly dramatic as it is, it bursts the fragile bubbles our minds feel safe in, disturbing all the peace and psychological balance that we try to have every single day of our lives, provoking us to go wander off into the infinity.
Though I must say that it might take a little time before you understand this madness before you cherish it. For ‘Marrow of the Spirit’ is not just an album; it is joy, it is misery, it is peace and it is chaos. It is indeed a labyrinthine experience, which every being must have.
– by Varun Khatri