Album of the Year 2018 – Number 22

Welcome to the ninth chapter of 2018’s ‘Album of the Year’ series. Not even a third of the way through my list and already I have received some really heartening comments about the choices and the fact that some of you have discovered something that you originally missed out on earlier in the year for one reason or another.

And this, in a nutshell, is why I do what I do. A list would be easier of course, but this way gives me the opportunity to provide a little more context as to why I feel the way I do about an album. And in so doing, it has convinced some of you to revisit something or uncover it for the first time. Long may this continue. And all the while that it does, I shall keep doing this!

As always, if you’ve missed the previous picks in this series so far, links to these can be found at the bottom of this post.

But now for today’s main event…

Number 22:

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Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik
‘Hugsjá’
Norse Music
Score of Much Metal: 9.5

An album on this list that’s not metal? How absurd. And yet, one again I am delighted to feature an album in my countdown that offers something a little different to my usual rock and metal fare. Admittedly, the protagonists behind today’s choice are embedded in that world and it is because of their work with Enslaved and Warduna that I know about this project. However, whilst having some rock influences within in, ‘Hugsjá’ is very different animal from the duo’s day jobs.

‘Hugsjá’ is an exercise in creating atmospheres and telling stories to the listener using the compelling and organic medium of traditional Norse folk music. The music feels like it soothes and cleanses the soul a little, thanks to a flow to the music which allows more ingredients into the mix than is noticeable on a first listen, not to mention the sounds of birdsong and running water both within and between compositions.

The melodies within the music are incredibly strong too, with ‘Ni Modre av Sol’ still sending shivers down my spine even now, some six months or more since I reviewed the record. Then there’s the raw power and emotion of ‘Fornjot’ which just gets better and better. The pull of these melodies and the purity of the music as a whole are so strong that I don’t go many days without dipping into ‘Hugsjá’ or delving into the entirety of the album. And each time that I do, I am richly rewarded.

To quote my review of 25 April 2018:

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“Curiosity may have killed the proverbial cat but on this occasion, it has led me to one of the most magnificent discoveries so far in 2018 and beyond. I have a strong emotional bond with Scandinavia and so I have ultimately found this record to be a powerfully intense listening experience. But even had that bond not been so strong, I am certain that the music would still have has a profound impact upon me, such is its authenticity, rawness and rugged beauty.

‘Hugsjá’ isn’t a pure, out-and-out folk record either. There are plenty of subtle ingredients that ensure that there’s a nice balance between authentic Norse folk music and rock of the progressive variety. AC/DC this isn’t, but the intelligent use of Bjørnson’s guitars and bass alongside the drums within some of the compositions lends the material a more robust, imposing quality alongside a sense of greater power and urgency.

However, as far as I’m concerned, it is the strong compositional nous of the duo and their ear for a strong melody that makes ‘Hugsjá’ such an amazing record. There literally is no track on the album that threatens to lower the quality or ruin the flow; every song eventually delivers an earworm or two – it might take a bit longer for some to come to the fore than others, but they are there and it’s a heady feeling when they finally make their mark.

You can feel the conviction that both artists have towards the music on this record, meaning that you believe in the material and buy into it wholeheartedly. The combination of traditional and more modern instrumentation is well-balanced, complimenting each other perfectly.”

Read the full review here.

If you missed the previous posts in my 2018 list, click here:

Album of the Year 2018 – Number 23
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 24
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 25
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 26
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 27
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 28
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 29
Album of the Year 2018 – Number 30

If you missed my ‘best EPs and compilations of 2018, you can read that here:

Album of the Year 2018 – EPs and Compilations

And here’s a reminder of my countdown series from previous years:

Album of the Year 2017
Album of the Year 2016
Album of the Year 2015
Album of the Year 2014
Album of the Year 2013
Album of the Year 2012

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