There isn’t a more gorgeously unsettling score this year than Mica Levi’s hair-raising soundtrack to Jonathan Glazer’s 2014 film, Under The Skin. Based on the Michel Faber novel of the same name, the film follows an alien in the guise of Scarlett Johansson — a cipher and seductive predator who travels Scotland enticing men into a darkened building-turned-inky black void.
For the last few years, the task of making a Best Music list has become a trickier prospect. I’m notionally open to listen to anything; I like to dabble in other people’s recommendations, try to hear what they’re hearing or find merit or craft in things that aren’t for me. But by December, it’s difficult to narrow down to a list that encompasses juggernaut pop stars, mid-career veterans, and relative unknowns. All can be great, and all deserve some accolades. But they’re operating with different goals and aiming for different audiences.
With a thick, face-concealing beard, stringy long hair and black t-shirts galore, Timothy Showalter would not look that out of place fronting a metal band. But for many years, his band Strand Of Oaks crafted woodsy American folk songs that stirred emotions more with their intimacy than intensity. Yet the Philadelphia band’s latest album, Heal, represents a turning point, both sonically and cathartically, with folk rock songs that let Showalter and company show off a richer and mightier palette that may just capture some of that metal spirit.