Airlands – So Much To Keep (Self-released) ASC – Trans-Neptunian Objects (Auxiliary) – ASC keeps putting out wonderful dark spacey ambient and I keep adding it to my top lists. He’s very prolific, so this was basically just the first one I listened to. Ben Lukas Boysen & Sebastien Plano – Everything (Soundtrack) (Erased Tapes) – A soundtrack to a game about literally everything. Somber and overwhelmingly lovely. Bicep – Bicep (Ninja Tune) – Artificial Intelligence-style club music. Casey Dienel – Imitation of a Woman To Love (Paddle Your Own Canoe Society) – Singer of White Hinterland’s solo debut, not so different from the WH stuff. Feed Me – Feed Me’s Existential Crisis (Mau5trap Recordings) – Just a bunch of electro-house bangers David Fray – Chopin: Piano Works (Erato/Warner Classics) – Gorgeously produced impeccably played versions of some of my favorite piano music. Goldfrapp – Silver Eye (Mute) – You know, just another album of dark synthpop to poke my inner goth. GQ – E 14th (Jamla) – Literate slightly political boom bap hip-hop produced by 9th Wonder. Grails – Chalice Hymnal (Temporary Residence) – Wall of sound post-rock, very melodic and soundtrack-y. Jeremy Enigk – Ghosts (Lewis Hollow Records) – Finally some Fire Theft-type output from the SDRE frontman Julien Baker – Turn Out The Lights (Matador) – Julien bleeds her heart out onto an album and offers it up to you, teary-eyed and hopeless. Plus strings. Jeff Buckley vibes. Matthäus – Effigy (Ears And Eyes) Pretty electronic-tinged chamber pop is basically my cryptonite. Partner – In Search Of Lost Time (You’ve Changed Records) – The best wryly funny Canadian queer indie rock album of 1994 except, you know, came out this year. Peter Bradley Adams – A Face Like Mine (Self-Released) – One of like three guy-with-guitar artists that pretty much shortcut to my feels. Rainer Maria – Rainer Maria (Polyvinyl) – The best indie grungey shoegaze album of 1992, except, you know… came out this year. A welcome return. Starsailor – All This Life (Cooking Vinyl) – Another welcome return Stumbleine – Static Bloom (Self-Released) – Slightly Burial-y atmospheric house. SW. – The Album (Sued / Apollo) Ten Walls – Queen (Runemark) Úlfur Eldjárn – The Aristokrasia Project (One of the members of the Apparat Organ Quartet which is exactly as weird as it sounds makes Waaktaar & Zoe – World of Trouble (Drabant Music) – The main dude from a-ha and the daughter of Jimmy Gnecco from Ours make lovely pop together)
Singles and EPs and such:
Sasha – Scene Delete Remixes 3 (Late Night Tales) – Plaid remixes can do no wrong in my book, even if I’ve always found Sasha to be boring. SubtractiveLAD – Ritual (n5MD) SUMS – SUMS (Berlin Atonal) – Side project of Barry from Mogwai and Kangding Ray Lamb – Illumina (Self-Released) – Always look forward to more from this duo. Nine Inch Nails – Add Violence EP (Nothing)
AirLands – AirLands (Self-released): Dude formerly of Stars of Track and Field does Greys Anatomy pop, collaborating with Ben Weikel (Helio Sequence).
Young Wonder – Birth (Feel Good Lost): Irish electronic pop. Distinctly mid 2010s EDM sounds but more reverie and 6/8 than BROWWWWWWWWWWMMM-y
Matthew Perryman Jones – Cold Answer (Self-Released): My list always has a dude-with-guitar-Americana record and MPJ has been on the list several times. This one has banjo!
BT/Gregory Tripi – Dark Places (Original Score) (Milan Records): Dark, atmospheric, brooding, reverby. Featuring Belong and David Kristian
Vessels – Dilate (Bias): Dancey post-rock, reissued in 2016 with some new great remixes. RIYL Oneohtrix point never, Holly Herndon
Calexico – Edge of the Sun (Anti): Calexico goes synthy? With new collaborators including Sam Beam, Ben from Band of Horses and Neko Case, it works.
VV Brown – Glitch (self-released): Former Janelle-alike (in a good way) takes her craft in more Emika-meets-Robyn-like direction.
Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness (Domino): Avant-garde weird music auteur goes ever-so-slightly pop, spotlights her gift for lush and melody, Polly Jean fandom.
ASC – Imagine The Future (Samurai Music Group): Music with which to explore a barren unfamiliar-yet-somehow-super-mechanical underground city on a newly discovered planet while wearing a comfortable yet slightly restrictive space suit.
Bluebirds Of Paradise – In A Night (Project 4): Ari Hest and Caitlin Canty craft a light-as-cotton-candy confection straight out of a 70s French rom-com, flute solos and all.
Editors – In Dream (PIAS): Icy, in a Nick Cave and Depeche Mode (and side project Recoil)-esque way
Arovane & Hior Chronic – In-Between (A Strangely Isolated Place): Music for the end of Brazil, or if Blade Runner were a more contemplative meditation.
The Unthanks – Mount the Air (RabbleRouser Music): Steeped in melancholy in a profoundly British/Celtic way.
Conforce – Presentism (Delsin Records): Like a lesser Polygon Window album
Marriages – Salome (Sargent House): Like a lost Catherine Wheel album or a soundtrack from 1993. Featuring former members of Red Sparowes and Isis.
Findlay Brown – Slow Light (Dead People’s Choice): One of those albums with vocals drenched in echo and choir and close-mic acoustic guitar.
Single/EP honorable mention
Idjut Boys – One For Kenny (Smalltown Supersound): Hypnotizing multi-phasic slow nu-disco remix from Bjorn Torske of this 106bpm classic tribute to Kenny Hawkes, plus a Prins Thomas banger on the flip side.
16 Bit Lolitas – Not The Only One EP (Anjunadeep): When 16bL hit on a solid melody rather than random noodling, they are the kinds of deep proggy tech-house.
Mix honorable Mention:
Jon Hopkins – LateNightTales
OK so there are 26 albums on my top of the year playlist, but just for you guys, i will narrow it down. Realizing a lot of my top music this year is sad white dudes. Guess that says nothing great about me (and also how behind i am on ‘albums to listen to 2014’ playlist)
In no particular order (and i no make no claim to super high quality descriptors):
Low Roar – 0 (Tonequake) – Just crazy gorgeous beautiful. Formerly Oakland-based Ryan Karazija of Audrye Sessions moves to Iceland and writes lovely haunting music about his new unfamiliar surroundings
Luluc – Passerby (Sub Pop) – Girl with a sultry voice, guy with a guitar. Sublime on vinyl.
Locust – After The Rain (Editions Mego)
Loscil – Sea Island (Kranky)
Phantogram – Voices (Universal/Republic) – Dark electro synthpoppy goodness in the Ladytron/Royksopp/School of Seven Bells (RIP) realm.
Alcest – Shelter (Prophecy Productions) – French black metal turned poppy shoegaze/post-rock band featuring Neil Halstead and Amiina from Sigur Ros
Asteroids Galaxy Tour – Bring us Together (Hot Bus Records) – Big Beat is back? RIYL the last Daft Punk album, I guess.
Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were (Island) – Melancholy british white dude music.
Elizabeth and the Catapult – Like it Never Happened (Scratchback Records / Self-released)
Emerson Hart – Beauty in Disrepair (BMG) – Hooky mainstream pop/rock which kind of reminds me of the late great Will Owsley. Yes, the lead dude from Tonic.
White Sea – In Cold Blood (Vocalist from M83’s album is better than his latest)
Otto Totland – Pino (Sonic Pieces) – Anyone who enjoys Nils Frahm and the Erased Tapes crew will find this piano solo stuff divine. Also probably fans of ECM will like it, too.
S. Carey – Range of Light (Jagjaguwar) – Cinematic and gorgeous indietronica/jazz/americana inspired by the southwest
If I had to pick 10, they’d be Midlake, Rachel Zeffira, Savages, Emika, Jon Hopkins, Janelle Monae, Disclosure, Rhian Sheehan, Locust and Minilogue
Rock and Metal
Midlake – Antiphon [Bella Union] By far my favorite rock/psych record of the year
Palms – Palms [Ipecac] – My annual guilty “Sounds like Filter/Deftones/Alt-Metal” choice, with the added bonus of it being made up of members of ISIS with Chino Moreno on vocals
Device – Device [Warner] (Dave Draiman from Disturbed and Geno from Filter do nu-metal)
Bring Me The Horizon – Sempternal [Sony/Epitaph] – Yes i know their last record made them kind of a joke, but I’m really digging this one.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter at the Feast [Abstract Dragon/Vagrant] – Their best in awhile
Mogwai – Les Revenants [Sub Pop] – I’ve never been a huge fan of these guys, but this album may have turned me around
Pop and Folk
Rachel Zeffira – The Deserters [Paper Bag Records] – Lovely Tori-ish Dream/Chamber Pop. Just so so good.
Savages – Silence Yourself [Matador] – Plenty has been written about this record. For me it brings up good Siouxsie/Catherine Wheel-ish memories
Rudimental – Home [Warner UK] / Disclosure – Settle [Island] / Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune [EMI Australia] – These three seemed to scratch the same itch for me. Dancey-housey-80sy but not dumb.
The Mavericks – In Time [Sanctuary] – I will never not love Raul Malo’s voice, and I’m happy they’re back.
Caitlin Canty – Golden Hour [self-released] – Classic intimate girl-with-guitar coffeeshop stuff. She has a project with Peter Bradley Adams called Down Like Silver which I love, too.
Joseph Tawadros (with Bela Fleck, Richard Bona, James Tawadros) – Chameleons of the White Shadow [self-released] – Bluegrass and so much more
Soft Location – Fools [self-released] – Kinda Kate Bush-y
Electronic and Shoegaze
Emika – DVA [Ninja Tune] – LOVE this / Maya Jane Coles – Comfort [I/AM/ME] – Another pair of albums that feel similar to me. They’re both dark electronica, though Emika is more explicitly gothy and MJC has more of a trip-hop edge (and a track with Tricky on guest vocals).
Locust – You’ll be Safe Forever [Mego] Dark and IDMy but with a distinctly warm, organic crunch
Jon Hopkins – Immunity [Domino] – Every album he’s released has been on my top 10. This beautiful, broken cinematic half-loud half-quiet masterpiece is his best yet
Minilogue – Blomma [Cocoon] – One disc of FSOL-y/Underworldy proggy dance music (with LONG tracks), One disc of epic slow chillout stuff. Each apparently improvised and recorded in a single take. Delicious
Sigur Ros – Kveikur [XL] – A welcome return to form, after the meanderings of the last two. Also closer to Jonsi’s solo stuff than most of their other works.
Joseph Trapanese – TRON: Uprising [Disney] – Obviously not as stellar as the Daft Punk Tron:Legacy score, but a fulfilling followup.
C2C – Tetra [Mercury] The first album from the turntablist and DMC winners reminds me a lot of people like Soulwax, The Avalanches and Basement Jaxx
Minilogue – Endlessness EP – More long tracks with lovely samples that are never tiring
Olafur Arnalds – For Now I Am Winter [Mercury Classics/Decca]
Rhian Sheehan – Stories from Elsewhere [Darla] – This one wins my ‘epic cinematic ambient/post-rock with strings’ award that i usually give to Hammock (their release this year was disappointing to me)
Message to Bears – Maps
Ben Lukas Boysen – Gravity [Ad Noiseam] – Also known as industrial noisemaker Hecq. Gurgly dark underwater stuff.
Main – Ablation [Editions Mego] – Creepiest ambient I’ve heard in awhile and a welcome return for Mr. Hampson
Hip-Hop and R&B and Jazz
Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady [Bad Boy/Atlantic] – Leaves her first record (which I was not impressed by) in the dust
OK, as usual, going through everyone else’s lists has broadened the scope of what I needed to listen to, and I just know I’m gonna find something I wish I would’ve been able to swap in, but here’s my top 10 as well as a bunch of albums that almost made it for whatever reason. A lot of great stuff this year (though not that many new artist discoveries for me).
Top 10 (in no particular order)
Kishi Bashi – 151a (The Arts & Crafts / Polyphonic Spree album I actually liked)
El-P – Cancer4Cure (Better than the Killer Mike album by far I think…then again i dont like southern rap)
Hammock – Departure Songs (Epic, orchestral, so beautiful it hurts to listen to.)
Ryan Teague – Field Drawings (on the filmic side of post-rock electronica. Beautiful uses of unusual instruments similar to how Thomas Newman does in things like Shawshank Redemption and American Beauty)
School of Seven Bells – Ghostory (Let’s just forget Disconnect from Desire ever happened. Integrates more Secret Machines sounds. Like an old Siouxsie record featuring Liz Fraser)
Matthew Perryman Jones – Land of the Living (My favorite guitar/piano rock record of the year. Reminds me a lot of Will Owsley with a grander scope (string section, etc)
Emeli Sande – Our Version Of Events (My favorite pure pop album this year. “Suitcase” makes the room go all dusty.)
Duke Special – Oh Pioneer (Cabaretish art-rock with pop instincts. So so good.)
Susanna Hoffs – Someday (I love this record so so so much. A fabulous collection of jangly power-pop songs from my second favorite modern female singer/songwriter.)
Sun Kil Moon – Among The Leaves
Shearwater – Animal Joy (This and the Sun Kil Moon album feel like the defeated and the pumped-up versions of the same band. The SKM continues to channel Nick Drake-on-downers in the best way, though it ends on a more Red House Painters rockin-ish note)
Runners-up (in no particular order):
John Talabot – Fin (Like a 2012 sequel to Future Sound of London’s “Lifeforms”)
Elenowen – EP (Admittely I have a huge weakness for guy + girl + guitar lush acoustic folk-pop… see: The Weepies, Ida, last years Down Like Silver. This is this years entry in that line, and it adds piano.)
Mark Lanegan Band – Blues Funeral (I really like it, but its kind of annoying to listen to all in one sitting. Worth it for “Harborview Hospital” alone)
Mike Wexler- Dispossession (Nice dreamy swirly guitars, Slowdive-style. Thanks to Courtney Smith for the recommendation)
Keith Kenniff – Branches (Lovely soundtrack for a film that doesn’t exist. Plays like a demo reel for directors like Tim Burton and also indie darlings. The songs themselves are beautiful, i’m just not sure it holds up as a cohesive album more than a set of songs that convey a particular mood)
Eva Abraham – Cold Light (Best country/folk album i heard this year…if only i liked country more…)
Milo Greene – s/t (Lots of great songs and sounds…I like it a lot, i just dont LOVE it. Maybe the next one.)
Plan B – iLL Manors (I like this one like I like the first album by The Streets. Dystopic British electronic-backed hiphop ftw)
Of Monsters And Men – My Head Is An Animal (Fits squarely in the “I enjoy it while its on but I can’t remember any songs once its off” camp, like Florence and the Machine. Music for VW commercials.)
Geographer – Myth (My favorite Dance-Rock album of the year.)
Steve Hogarth & Richard Barbieri – Not The Weapon But The Hand (sophistipop at its finest. Just missed the list because it can get a little same-y)
Caravan Palace – Panic (The most clever record I listened to this year. Swinghouse = always good times. I’m interested to see what the breakout artist/album will be of this trend of sampling the 30s now that the 70s have pretty much been tapped)
fun. – Some Nights (The most…er…fun record I listened to in 2012. Suffers from overexposure, but also led me to rediscover the Queen catalog. I have a feeling this is going to stay on my iPod, though I will be skipping We Are Young and Some Nights.)
Die Antwoord – Ten$ion (This years Fat Of The Land. Listened incessantly when it came out, haven’t really listened since)
Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream (best mainstream R&B i heard this year)
Solar Fields – Random Friday (Great psy-ish ambient trance in the vein of old Juno Reactor. Ultimae Recordings has become one of my favorites.
Wouldve made the list except they are compilations:
David Sylvian – A Victim Of Stars 1982-2012 (a brilliant collection of one of the kings of elegant, elegiac sophisticated pop)
Four Tet – Pink (For “Locked” alone…)
Favorite remix of 2012:
Four Tet – Vessel (Jon Hopkins Mix)
The ongoing adventures of a NYC boy reinventing himself in Atlanta