Usually by mid-December my email and social media feeds are filled up with a lot of “Best of 2018” lists. Not wanting to leave my readers out, I thought I would offer another one.
If you are a writer like me though this list may actually be of some use to you. I have taken a moment to compile a list of my favorite albums to write by of 2018. Anyone who has read my blog before knows I write supernatural mystery, so naturally, I like my musical accompaniment dark and minimal.
Just as a caveat… these are not necessarily the best new albums of 2018. Only a few were released this year (one comes out January 2019). These are my favorite personal discoveries in minimal ambient, dark ambient and classical of 2018.
Enough with the handwringing… here it the list.
A-Sun Amissa, Ceremony In The Stillness
Far and away, I listened to this album more than any other in 2018. I still use Apple iTunes for music on my laptop, so I come away with a pretty accurate read on how influential an album was on my creative process. I’m a bit embarrassed to say I’ve listened to it over a hundred times, which probably represents like half of my writing days.
One reason this four track album has been so deeply influential on me is that A-Sun Amissa achieves a gloomy mood through an effortlessly minimal blend of key boards and guitars. There are a few stirring peaks on the track list and there are also a few moments where the sound simply leaves you alone. On Ceremony In The Stillness there is depth and woe and a few times glimmers of the surface. Best writing album of the year.
Do yourself a favor and download Ceremony In Stillness here on A-Sun Amissa’s Bandcamp page.
Tsunxmi, Digital Paradise
Even now, I can feel the swirling, seasick atmospheres on this record. They’ve settled down in the very depths of my coffee filled belly.
I’ve struggled to capture the feeling here, but I’ll do my best. This recording feels as though it was culled from a box of warped records discovered at the bottom of a lilac colored cosmic ocean.
Yeah, Digital Paradise comes together in bizarre ways. It is definitely an album for crafting other worlds. This is the kind of suggestive album that a writer can put on as a vehicle to get lost in their creative process.
Post-metal may seem like an odd fit as an accompaniment for writing, but hear me out. There were precious few heavy music releases of 2018 that were this murky and triumphantly emotional while grinding as hard as it did. Leave it to the Norwegians, am I right? The guys from Spurv crafted a record in Myra that is satisfying on one hand as a heavy metal release and on the other as a work of damp atmosphere.
Usually, I break up my writing music into two camps. There is music I use for writing and there is music I use for thinking about writing (which in my process is two separate times). This album falls comfortably into the latter. I wouldn’t drill down into the line with this on, but the doom laden atmosphere on this is a wonderful porthole for exploring the hell you want to put your characters through.
Black To Comm, Seven Horses For Seven Kings
For my next favorite record we head to Deutschland for the dark mastery of Black To Comm. Anyone familiar with the music site Bandcamp will attest to the fathomless depth of content contained on the site. It’s also worth noting how many artists with massive backlists are out there churning out outstanding albums.
Black To Comm is one of the many projects of audio artist Marc Richter. This album is an experimental blend of horror inspired electroaccoustic and psychedelic tinged electronics in a funhouse atmosphere. The tracks on this album really get under your skin and push the creative needle. There is also a subtle element of magic on Seven Horses that I’m at loss to put a finger on, even more than thirty listens in.
Black To Comm releases Seven Horses in January of 2019. You can pre-order it here on Bandcamp.
As noted above, Bandcamp houses an endless supply of fantastic music. Monplaisir’s album Loops was an exciting early year discovery that managed to hold up through the last turn of the calendar to 2019.
Call it “vaporwave” or call it “ambient” either way the results from repeated listens of this album are out and out dreamy. As a writing companion album, Loops gives you freedom to tune everything else in your surroundings out. Got a kid? Not anymore.
Often when I put music on while writing it’s to block out noise… other times it’s to isolate one noise in particular. We lose sight that the proper auditory conditions are often subjective. This record offers an almost perfect balance. I can put it on and tune out everything but this and my story. The songs here are really a tightrope I traverse between ideas and content.
You can download Monplaisir’s album Loops for free on Bandcamp.
Oly Rafle, Notes From Another Sea
The last record on my list comes from the under-appreciated world of contemporary classical music. There are few records I have listened to in the last year that can match the beauty on Notes From Another Sea… make that the last decade. What Oly Rafle does while seated at the piano is quite simply a sublime divination of tranquility.
Often it feels like you’re in a room by the sea with him as he plays.
In college I had a roommate who felt that the aesthetic quality of the music he listened to while studying had a direct influence on his retention of information. I don’t believe that. I think great ideas can come from anywhere (as this list reflects, I am fond of introducing a lot of darkness to my process). If my roommate was right though, and he had this album, he would have ended up a Rhodes Scholar.
You can find Oly Rafle’s record, Notes From Another Sea on his website.
Are you a fiction author with a favorite album to listen to while you’re writing? Have you given any of the albums on this “Best of 2018” list a listen?
What do you think?
Leave me a comment below or suggest a writing album that I can cover in my next “Music For Writers” column.
Meanwhile, check out my book page to see the latest Oregon supernatural mystery I’m working on.