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Album of the Year

Arild Danielsen (Used by Permission)

This is the time when music lists appear proclaiming best albums/artists/songs of the year. NPR has a few.

Groups like Vampire Weekend have great songs:


But there are albums that come along and resonate with you on a seemingly personal level. Such is Uncommon Deities- a collaboration between Norwegian musicians Jan Bang and Erik Honore.

Brought together by the annual Punkt Festival, this exquisite, haunting and profound album is the convergence of European chamber jazz (Eberhard Weber, Ralph Towner, Jan Garbarek, et al), the turn-of-the-century dissolution of tonality in the hands of Schoenberg, and the electronic experimentation of Stockhausen, mixed together with both improvisation and written composition.


All those influences could lead to a dizzying pastiche going in so many directions that it accomplishes nothing. That's why this album is so utterly brilliant because the music never undermines the texts, but rather elevates the often mysterious behavior of these minor deities. Here the God of Lesser Gods has a troublesome task:

He worries about the smaller gods, they are merry and irresponsible, they have forgotten their destiny and so they are amiable of purpose. He tries to keep them in order. Night after night he sits entering them in thin endless ledgers, name upon name, with a slightly quavering hand. He recreates them in solemnity and in writing. The lamp over his desk burns into the night as he attempts to repair defect little gods. They fill him with deep melancholy and a sense of meaninglessness that he will not admit to. He remembers everything the lesser gods prefer to forget and this wears him out.

The poetry of Paal-Helge Haugen, read by David Sylvian and the otherworldly voice of Sidsel Endresen, who both sings, speaks and makes unearthly utterances- all those influences join towards the expression of the texts.

I cannot think of any other album that has been my constant companion, an inspiration and something more akin to an engrossing novel.

This is a rare jewel that transcends, uplifts, makes you smile and stirs the flames of the longing heart. It's that good, people.

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