Alasdair Roberts & Robin Robertson - Hirta Songs (2013, Stone Tape)
This is a real treat for lovers of Scottish folk. A cycle of original songs with a traditional feel, all situated around the abandoned island of Hirta. The songs range from festive and upbeat to calm and contemplative, with a couple of gorgeous solo harp pieces thrown in. Centerpiece is the ten-minute suite "Leaving St Kilda", a psychogeographic spoken word piece that should set your heart beating if you enjoyed other recent Hebridean art pieces such as the game Dear Esther and its soundtrack by Jessica Curry.
Immortal Bird - Akrasia (2014, Self-released)
Metal releases don't often sweep me away these days, but the début EP Akrasia by Chicago's Immortal Bird most certainly did. Four super-intense, high-energy black/death pieces that never relent. I suppose lots of the kudos should go to drummer/vocalist Rae Amitay, who does a stellar job in both roles. Absolute standout track is "Akratic Seminar", a super-dark piece wavering between slow and fast, with horrifying echoes of Dolorian in its melodies, at least to my ears. In short, it's heavy, it's intense, it's smart, and I want more.
Kentin Jivek & Miro Snejdr - Voir Dire (2014, Self-released)
I'd been following Kentin Jivek's slightly psychedelic neofolk on-and-off for a while now, but this collaboration with Miro Snejdr — who does drums, accordion, and piano — is a bullseye. It's misty, dreamy, with a central place for Jivek's warm, honeyish French drawl, and very well arranged around songs that mix neofolk with echoes from (European) pop and rock history. The album is a balanced mix of ballad-like chansons (such as the wistful "Si un jour") and more powerful, beat-driven pieces (like "Comme une comète").
Celestite starts familiar enough: a warm, organic heavy ambient buildup with drones, horns and strings. But the black metal outburst you expect never comes. This album is content to linger in ambient territory, and frankly I kind of prefer it that way after a couple of metal albums from the band. Their new synth/drone approach may perhaps be a temporary sidetrack, but it's actually damn good. The compositions flow strongly, often calm, but never letting go of the epic moments that featured in their earlier works. It's simply a very solid set of soundscapes that weds a retro synth sound to organic guitar drones.