Welcome to day 9 of my ‘Album of the Year 2015’ countdown. I sincerely hope that you’ve enjoyed reading my choices so far – if you’re new to this series, be sure to check out numbers 30-23 via the links at the bottom of this post.
I’ve yet to hear many dissenting voices to my picks thus far – you can’t all agree with me surely?! Please, let me know what you think, I do enjoy a good healthy debate!
But enough of that, here’s today’s main event…
Long Branch Records / SPV
Formed in Reykjavik in 2008, Agent Fresco are a quartet that is comprised of vocalist and composer Arnór Dan Arnarson, drummer Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson, bassist Vignir Rafn Hilmarsson and guitarist/pianist Þórarinn Guðnason. My love of all things Icelandic is no secret but Agent Fresco have given me another reason for taking this wonderful country to my heart.
Many bands use real life experiences as inspiration for their music but with Agent Fresco, it’s a little more than that. Composer Arnór Dan Arnarson was savagely attacked one night leaving both physical and mental scars for a significant period. ‘Destrier’ is the album that channelled all those thoughts, feelings and experiences into something cathartic for the creator and something wonderfully magical for the listener. The vibe of the album is naturally quite dark but a sense of positivity and strength permeates throughout.
Musically, the album is a varied, multi-faceted affair where elements of math rock, prog, alternative rock, ambient, post-rock, pop and electronica all collide in a heady mix of ambition and a steely attitude that absolutely nothing is off-limits.
I penned a review of ‘Destrier’ on this blog earlier in the year. If you want to read it in full including a more in-depth exploration of individual tracks, click here. However, to quote a small passage, “the biggest thing that strikes me with Agent Fresco and ‘Destrier’ is the way that the album flows from start to finish really beautifully, taking the listener on a journey throughout. That journey is comforting, scary, beautiful, sad, thought-provoking and often quite sombre. However, it is a journey that is never dull, always captivating and calls you inexorably back for more.”
What I want to focus on, having lived with this record for several months since I wrote the review is its atmosphere and the feelings that it conjures up within me as I listen. Yes, ‘Destrier’ is a ‘progressive’ album in that it toys with several different and juxtaposing ideas throughout. But more than that, it possesses real depth and that journey that I mentioned previously, it’s one hell of an emotional rollercoaster.
In the moments of calm, I am transported to the wilds of Iceland where there’s literally nothing to keep you company other than the stunningly rugged vistas and an occasional wild pony. I feel comforted, warm and strangely calm. But then, around the corner comes a spiky riff or a moment of musical confrontation that takes on a much more sinister and dark edge. Then there are the moments of utter sadness where you’re left feeling almost bereft. Few albums this year have touched me in such a powerful way and that is credit to Agent Fresco.
Back to the music itself again and I really can’t speak more highly of it. Tracks like ‘Howls’ and ‘Let Them See Us’ are hook-laden and demonstrate an immediacy that will no doubt please many. However, ‘Destrier’ also boasts the likes of the pop-inspired title track, the moody and introspective ambient majesty of ‘Death Rattle’ and the stunningly sensitive ‘Bemoan’.
Put as simply as possible, if you don’t allow ‘Destrier’ into your life, you will miss out on a very special and magical aural experience that gloriously defies simple genre classification.
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 23
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 24
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 25
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 26
Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2015 – Number 30
And from previous years:
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012
2 thoughts on “Album Of The Year 2015 – Number 22”
If I were to write a Top 20 (or so) – I would have had Agent Fresco in my Top 5/10. Thanks to you Matt, I took your advice and listened to this album. What a cracker of an album and certainly a musical journey of the highest order.
Hey Gary, your comment is music to my ears – I love it when a recommendation hits the mark! Glad you like this record – it came out of nowhere this year & knocked me sideways. Icelandic music can do no wrong at the moment.