Thornapple Press

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Instead of Spotify Wrapped, I’m Posting Some Good Albums Here

It’s the season of half of everyone on socmed posting their spotify wrapped and the other half holier-than-thouing about not using spotify (or about how spotify is bad but maybe they still use it? it’s hard to tell.)

I’m doing neither and instead using the opportunity to talk about some of my favorite albums & artists from the past year and of all time.

1. Within the Depths of A Darkened Forest by Autumn’s Grey Solace

This 2002 goth-inclined ethereal-wave album is a recent find of mine—early November or so—and I’ve been obsessed with it since the first listen. It’s got some of that thrumming goth guitar and bass alongside soprano vocals which give it a touch of what I can only describe as “fae frolicking in the distant shade of the forest”. “Shadows of Moonlit Nights” and “Eve” are two of my top tracks from the album.

A really ethereal, soothing album that feels so early 2000s in all the right ways.

2. Rhinestones by HTRK

I’ve been a huge fan of HTRK for ages, and their EP ‘Body Lotion’ is up there in the top five for me. I love their droney, noisy, bass-heavy, reverby and kind of slutty music (they’re on the same special wavelength that Boy Harsher occupies).

However, their 2021 album Rhinestones is… not really like that.

It’s spacey, ethereal, and largely acoustic and I hated it when it came out. I gave it a shot when it came out and it just didn’t click.

Then I saw this video on tumblr and instantly recognized the music as something from that HTRK album I didn’t like. I put the album on to give it another shot and here I am, obsessed with it.

It really is the same HTRK I’ve always been in love with, but much more stripped back. While early HTRK occupies the droning, dreamy reverb of deepest night, this is HTRK at the break of dawn.

“Real Headfuck”, “Gilbert and George” and “Sunlight Feels Like Bee Stings” are my favorite tracks.

[HTRK is pronounced “hate rock” by the way]

3. Lumiere by Dustin O’Halloran

This is not a recent find for the year, but an all-time favorite. Dustin O’Halloran is a piano-soloist-turned-composer whose music you might recognize from Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. This 2011 album deviates from piano solos and goes orchestral ,with songs featuring full orchestras* as well as quartets and quintets.

To save face I might just claim I only listen to this while I’m writing… that’s how my love for this album started out, using it as writing music for what would eventually become King of Knives – Sebastian**, but to be honest I just put it on whenever because it’s gorgeous.

Lumiere has a very specific feeling to me—truly one of light—but light through falling snow. There’s something sparkling-frozen in the notes, something like pure piercing warm light in tracks like “We Move Lightly”***.

Here is something rather overly poetic I wrote on my phone ages ago about this song. Most of the imagery is from Sebastian:

that sort of palpitating rhythm, a rising that reminds me of everything euphorically cold: moonlight, a sort of balmy-buttery wetness of the gleam in moonstone, and that taste of eidolon: pure white sandalwood, a metallic shriek of neroli, a bed of pale roses. the twinkling of moonlight on a lake, the absolute euphoria of the wind sweeping through the tops of the trees at night, their dark shapes moving against the stars, shining far beyond the touch of light pollution, the sound of it mimicking the sensation of gooseflesh breaking out over your skin from a soft touch of pleasure.

and snow

the blankets of snow melting shyly into the earth, the hard cracks of ice-edged mud upon which crystal clear droplets drip from bare branches. the crunch of the powder beneath leather boots. the snow, never ceasing drift of flakes down, across, lazily accumulating on a dark head, the cheeks and chin, nose and lips bright red from the bitterness of cold.

in this is a longing for a gloomy stone collection of rooms atop a mountain. a longing to be touched there, or beneath it, or…

the castle looms the way something looms within you, touching the back of your mind like a cobweb that you think—for a dash of a second—is an absent-minded hand. what is it? and what keeps touching you?

what are you that you do not know yet?

what, exactly, is up the mountain waiting for you in the snow?

there is a loss of innocence, a threshold crossed that can never be uncrossed, a pattern of kisses in the pattern of planets across warm skin, freckle to freckle.

and the snow, falling everywhere around you

“Quintett N.1” has a beautifully aching core—there is a flat sort of loneliness that swells and intertwines within the quintet. I find it so robustly beautiful, very hard to put into words, truly stunning.

Some of the most profound magic, though, happens in the album’s final track: “Snow and Light”.

here we are in the slow, crystalline fall of snow yet again. the pull of it is slower; there is a long, drawn out note beneath it now, a slow growing, aching, tender thing beneath thrumming from below the earth.

it is a song i have spent many times in bed just before sleep concentrating on, delving into that long, slow note, trying to meet it, only to have it disappear.

a violin, somewhere just in another room, perhaps in the hallway just out of sight. the song almost does not return to itself, to what draws me to it, what presents itself in the opening. but it does. it returns. slowly, nothing else is left, and we are left listening to static—to what might be a snowfall out a window looking into darkness. the lights are always off. there is nothing to see, only to hear.

can you hear it?

It is true—I like listening to this one in bed when I’m trying to fall asleep. There is a very long note—from a cello, I think—in the opening, that slowly swells in a way that chills me. It is one haunted thing in the midst of beauty.

And the ending… you have to listen to it with headphones on. It ends with over a minute of a static, distant storm. Emotionally it’s rather overwhelming in its perfection, the choice to let an album so evocative of snow and light to end on such meditative, lonesome weather… I don’t know, maybe I’m being silly, but I think it’s really magical.

4. Mareux

I absolutely adore Mareux’s music. He’s sitting at the same table as Boy Harsher and HTRK with his goth, sort of dancey, reverby dark and weird tracks. Some of the lyrics are a bit unhinged as well, which makes it music that, well, to be honest, is great to listen to while imagining one of your favorite fucked up characters. It’s what I do!

This one is less well written than the other entries, so apologies for that. Check out “Cold Summer”, “Sail”, “Gopnik”, “Little Lies” and “The Perfect Girl.”

5. Melancholia by William Basinski

This one might be my most listened-to album of the year because it’s on my book playlist for The Lord of Astiigos.

It’s completely haunted. Creeping cold shadows, isolation, a constant unnerving feeling that never lets up. As an ambient album, the tracks don’t differ too much from each other, but all bleed in together, repeating motifs, swirling and echoing in and out of each other. Sometimes it’s beautiful, like “Melancholia III”, sometimes it’s a thin, nervy ghost of a melody from the past, like “Melancholia VII”.

I’m honestly unsure if this is a good one for casual listening, but it’s a fantastic album for writing gothic horror.

BONUS: DJ sets from Guatemalan DJ Márian on YouTube

This DJ puts up sets of really good Dark Italio Disco, which is exactly what it sounds like: darker, danceable, goth-y disco. The one linked has a track or two that sound, weirdly enough, like some of the more upbeat tracks from Netflix’s Devilman Crybaby adaptation****. So if you’re into that… give this a listen.

She doesn’t usually list the tracks in the set, but they all run a good hour to hour-and-a-half, making it great to put on and just get to work.

*to my ear, at least, I don’t know what the actual term might be.
**unfinished and on a very far back burner. this is a vampire book tho, very cool.
***this track, absolutely my favorite from the album, I once saw used over footage of a leek field in Wales in some documentary I was watching about food production in the UK. It was very funny. It was also a very good documentary!**** listening to this again, I think someone re-used a beat from the Devilman Crybaby soundtrack in one song, maybe “Akira The Wild (Night Version)” or .. another one I can’t figure out rn. That said, though, a slender portion of the Devilman Crybaby sound track is very dark disco!

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  1. Ladz Avatar

    That Melancholia album has been on my regular “good brain vibes” rotation ever since you shared it with me!

    Thank you for clarifying the pronunciation of HTRK, because my brain immediately went “ha-teh-er-kah” like the bilingual dingus I am :]

    Will defo be checking out the Mareux and adjacent because it’s so good

    1. thornapplepress_4myuxt Avatar

      melancholia is innnnsane, truly astiigos would not be the same without it.

  2. kradeelav Avatar

    i could read you talk about music forever… these were so cool and i’m shocked i haven’t heard of a single one of these despite hanging out in the industrial corner for a good long while. love your poetic descriptions of each.

    1. thornapplepress_4myuxt Avatar

      thank you so much! i’m glad you were able to find some new stuff to listen to!

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