Sunday, January 12, 2020

Aural Awakenings: Top 25 Albums of 2019

After wrapping up another great year for music on Aural Awakenings, we’re excited to present the Top 25 Albums of 2019 with a special 2-hour episode, which showcases some of the most memorable releases in the new age, neoclassical and contemporary instrumental genres. Spanning acoustic, piano, ensemble, international and relaxing vocal styles, our list features albums that were released and charted before December 1st, 2019. One track from each of the top 25 albums has been included in this episode, which can be streamed just below the accompanying alphabetical list of recordings. Additionally, you can follow along to the program with the full playlist displayed beneath Mixcloud player.

Acoustic Ocean – Blue Moon Rising

Inspired by the Hawaiian Islands and holistic healing arts, Blue Moon Rising features beautifully reflective acoustic guitar melodies woven among atmospheric soundscapes that incorporate calming nature sounds.

Al Jewer & Andy Mitran – Perihelion

Blending ambient-world and contemporary instrumental motifs, Perihelion showcases Al Jewer on several woodwind and brass instruments while Andy Mitran plays an array of keyboards and global percussion, with the duo being accompanied by several talented guest musicians throughout.

Camille Nelson – Sacred Lullabies

A flawless amalgamation of acoustic folk, neoclassical and contemporary Christian music with a light sprinkling of Celtic flavors, Sacred Lullabies gently alternates between inspirational vocal and lulling instrumental compositions.

Crystalline Dream – Seventh Chakra

A mesmerizing confluence of earthy ambiance and spacey electronics, Seventh Chakra is sculpted from electronic, contemporary acoustic and traditional world instruments.

David Wahler – Two Hearts

A dazzling collection of dreamily romantic and lushly ethereal synthesizer ballads, Two Hearts is quintessential new age music with a touch of ambient groove.

Douglas Blue Feather – Ascension

Combining traditional Native American-style flute melodies with contemporary electronic arrangements, Ascension epitomizes some of the finest atmospheric world music around today.

Forrest Smithson – The Healer’s Way

Although Forrest Smithson may be better known for crafting ambient-electronic soundscapes, The Healer’s Way takes his sound in a more new age piano direction while nevertheless retaining the signature hallmarks of his spacious atmospheres.

Harrison Edwards – Into the Unknown

Exploring themes of spiritual journeying and search for the Great Mystery, Into the Unknown is a remarkable listening experience that interweaves new age synthesizer sounds with contemporary melodic arrangements.

Jonny Lipford – Migration

Playing a variety of world flutes throughout, Jonny Lipford combines traditional wind instruments with lush soundscapes and earthy rhythms on Migration for a stunning display of instrumental global fusion.

Juliet Lyons – The Light Within

Serving up a soothingly soulful blend of ethereal vocals and lush instrumentation bathed in an Eastern mystique, The Light Within conveys an overall vibe that could be described as a Buddha Bar meets healing spa soundscape.

Karen Biehl – Starlight Dreams

Painting serenely nocturnal images throughout its intricately woven piano passages, Starlight Dreams is noted by its interlocking melodies of seamlessly alternating major and minor keystrokes that often boldly fluctuate in tempo amid gracefully agile and winding figures.

Kerani – Small Treasures

A graceful interweaving of piano, synthesizers and classical orchestration with a touch of ethereal vocals sprinkled along the way, Small Treasures elegantly unfolds like a poetic narrative of both personal reflection and mythic imagination.

Libera – Beyond

Classical crossover phenomenon Libera is comprised of an English all-boy choir whose concert tours around the globe have included performances in many magnificent cathedrals. On Beyond, their celestially transcendent vocals once again soar amid contemporary synthesizer and orchestral arrangements.

Lisa Pressman – As We Imagine

Performed on a 7' Bösendorfer Concert Grand Piano, As We Imagine showcases gently melodic and comfortingly serene arrangements that are beautifully immersed in Lisa Pressman’s celestial vocal washes and Tim Ponzek’s enveloping synth orchestrations.

Mikuskovics Baum – Timeless

Marking the ten-year anniversary of the recording duo Mikuskovics Baum, Timeless beautifully intermingles Celtic, Native American and other world elements to create deeply tranquil atmospheres of minimalist ethnic fusion.

Mirabai Ceiba – Agua De Luna

Musical duo Mirabai Ceiba beguile the senses with an enchantingly eclectic blend of acoustic ambient and devotional world music on their album Agua de Luna, which features soothing lyrical vocals sung in both English and Spanish.

Paul Adams & Elizabeth Geyer – Deeper Imaginings

A contemporary and world multi-instrumentalist and poet, Paul Adams has teamed up with Elizabeth Geyer on piano, flugelhorn and vocals to paint an eclectic sound on their album Deeper Imaginings, which could be described as ambient world fusion.

Peter Kater – Wings

Among the early pioneers of new age piano music, as well as one of the genre’s most prominent and successful artists, Peter Kater elicits poetic passion and romantic mystery on Wings, an album that boasts beautifully evolving and sparkling arrangements.

Rémi Orts Project – Peaceful Moments (Reign of the Forest) 

On his album Peaceful Moments (Reign of the Forest), Rémi Orts furthers his sonic explorations of fantasy realms and nature mysticism with a magical offering of symphonic electronic wonderment.

Sangeeta Kaur – Compassion

Classically trained opera singer, Tibetan Buddhist and Kundalini Yoga practitioner Sangeeta Kaur weaves her heavenly soprano vocals with live orchestration, pristine choral arrangements and meditative mantra singing on her album, Compassion, for a unique style that could be described as new age classical crossover music.

Scott August – Beyond Summer

Acclaimed world flutist Scott August musically traverses the globe on his album Beyond Summer with a captivating sound collage of world instruments, lush electronics and pulsating rhythms.

Sharon Fendrich – Red Sky Prairie

An impressive debut album from Sharon Fendrich that beautifully epitomizes neoclassical new age exquisiteness, Red Sky Prairie is a striking combination of gentle piano and heavenly vocals set to mellifluous orchestral ensembles.

Shoshana Michel – Reflection

Like a gently flowing river softly shimmering in the moonlight, Reflection’s elegant solo piano pieces delicately sparkle, as Shoshana Michel’s soothing melodies often take unexpected yet subtle paths along tranquil currents.

Timothy Wenzel – Running Away

Laced with many Celtic and renaissance elements, Running Away conveys a magical innocence and fairytale-like narrative that’s crafted from an enthralling ensemble of strings, woodwinds, percussion and electronic keyboard arrangements.

Vellúa – Portrait of Souls

One of the most enjoyably remarkable surprises of 2019 was Vellúa’s Portrait of Souls, an album that mostly hovers between the contemporary instrumental and world fusion genres with its unforgettable array of global percussion, distinctive guitars and soul-stirring vocal performances.

First Set:
0:00:17 / Scott August / Spirit of the Canyon / Beyond Summer
0:05:05 / Al Jewer & Andy Mitran / Welcoming Light (ft. Sherry Finzer) / Perihelion
0:10:03 / Juliet Lyons / Flow / The Light Within
0:17:15 / Acoustic Ocean / Spirit Awakening / Blue Moon Rising
0:21:35 / Kerani / Sakura / Small Treasures
0:26:48 / Sharon Fendrich / Song of the Dove / Red Sky Prairie
Second Set:
0:31:38 / Rémi Orts Project / Leaves Are Falling / Peaceful Moments (Reign of the Forest)
0:36:32 / Mirabai Ceiba / Silence to Break / Agua De Luna
0:40:35 / Timothy Wenzel / Gazelle Dance / Running Away
0:44:33 / Camille Nelson / Into the West (ft. Alex Sharpe) / Sacred Lullabies
0:49:16 / David Wahler / Night Sky of Orion (Remix) / Two Hearts
0:54:55 / Lisa Pressman / At First Light / As We Imagine
1:00:00 / Shoshana Michel / Shooting Stars / Reflection
Third Set:
1:05:27 / Douglas Blue Feather / Celebration Day / Ascension
1:09:41 / Harrison Edwards / Into the Light / Into the Unknown
1:13:33 / Sangeeta Kaur / Sa Re Sa Sa / Compassion
1:20:26 / Forrest Smithson / Compassion Wheel / The Healer’s Way
1:26:41 / Libera / Benedictus Deus / Beyond
1:30:01 / Crystalline Dream / Inner Voice (ft. Alex Kelly) / Seventh Chakra
Fourth Set:
1:37:18 / Jonny Lipford / Migration / Migration
1:42:31 / Vellúa / Meraki / Portrait of Souls
1:46:46 / Paul Adams & Elizabeth Geyer / All That I Am / Deeper Imaginings
1:52:37 / Mikuskovics Baum / Endless Ozean / Timeless
1:59:15 / Karen Biehl / Meditation on a Moonlit Lake (Full Version) / Starlight Dreams
2:03:45 / Peter Kater / Angel’s Nest / Wings