Central Industrial – Flaring Blue in a Timeless Space (Samurai Music Group): Music for exploring an abandoned steampunk spaceship that may or may not be haunted but probably is haunted Clarke:Hartnoll – 2square (VeryRecords): Half of Erasure and half of Orbital do electro-house and tribute the moment when rave turned into trance Lone – Levitate (R&S): If rave music never died The Kills – Ash & Ice (Domino): They’re back! With hooks! Ocean Wisdom – Chaos (High Focus Records): Clever as hell Eminemy double-time raps over sludgy grime beats make this a hugely impressive debut) Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers): I always forget how much I love this dude. Nerdy woke personal stories, internal rhyme schemes, RTJ-y production. St Lucia – Matter (Columbia): Every year it seems like I have a shiny 80sy production-based pop record on my list. This is this years, from the producer of HAERTS which was on my list last year Luke Howard – Two Places (Lukktone): Sad Jazz plus loopy stuff = solid rainy day tunes) The Veils – Total Depravity (Nettwerk): Grimy dirty rock/boogie with a hint of electronics) Maxwell – blackSUMMERS’night (Columbia): Was never much of a fan of his, but this is gorgeous. Especially wonderful on vinyl. Plaid – The Digging Remedy (Warp): As usual, the first track on a Plaid album is the most interesting. The rest is up to their top quality of warm melodic playful IDM Shearwater – Jet Plane and Oxbow (Sub Pop): Shearwater’s albums (other than their covers one) are always on my top albums list. If you like them you will like this. This is why I am not a record reviewer by trade.
Singles and EPs Theremynt – Vampiros Discos (Neopren): Dd-elicious italo-electro-disco goodness El Perro Del Mar – dream baby dream (one of the most gorgeous covers of a Suicide song evar) Phaeleh – All That Remains (Self-released) (Burial-ish melancholic beats and post-rock sounds with nils frahm-ish piano)
Album I still can’t bring myself to listen to even though I’m sure it’s amazing: Bowie – Blackstar
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
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)
I’ve done my “top 10 albums of the year” every year since 1999 (Ever since we made it an official tradition at TVT Records). It’s a great way to keep track of and remember the music that made a difference to me throughout my life.
Of course, a few problems arise whenever one is making lists, and I’d like to list some of those here:
Inevitably, as others release their lists, I will find myself panicked around December 15th when there are an additional 40-50 albums that I’ve never heard of that others say were their favorites that I have to listen to before finalizing my list.
No matter what I do, I will realize 5 minutes after I hit “send” that I forgot an album I loved in favor of one I really liked but haven’t gone back and listened to that much.
In February I will hear an album I completely missed out on but would have been on my list.
I keep all my lists here on the site (yes, RSS readers, you will have to actually click through), and I’ve helpfully created Spotify playlists for all the albums that are available for each year (because I love you!).
So without further ado, here’s the final Top 10 of 2011 list. (you can see the unedited version in the sidebar)
A.A. Bondy – Believers (Fat Possum) – Late contender, but totally glad I didn’t miss this one. Moody indie/garagey rock and balladry from the former Verbena singer. Marcin Wasilewski Trio – Faithful (ECM) – Delightful melancholic european jazz. Frivolous – Meteorology (Cadenza) – Clever and playful tropical jazzy IDM-y house music Dustin O’Halloran – Lumiere (FatCat) – Mournful, lovely, cinematic piano + string ensemble (featuring the ACME Ensemble, who guested on the latest Grizzly Bear and Owen Pallett records) from the composer of Marie Antoinette Peter Bradley Adams – Between Us (Mishara) – My favorite guy-with-guitar album of the year. Ezekiel Honig – Folding In On Itself (Type) – Organic, found sounds, intimate, rhythmic, pulsing, wood-y (not wooden). My favorite from the uniformly excellent Type label (sorry, Nils Frahm) Noah and the Whale – Last Night on Earth (Mercury) – My favorite ecstatic pop/indie/rock album of the year (think random strings and brass). Wears its Tom Petty influence on its sleeve. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky) – Just epic. The “biggest” record here. Ellie Goulding – Lights (Polydor) – My favorite pure dance-pop album of the year. Great synths (sorry chillwave). Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow (ANTI-) – The sexiest she’s ever been. The sexiest Stephen Fry has ever been. There’s a song about seducing and bedding a snowman. Yeah. Runners-up: Mountains – Air Museum (Thrill Jockey) – The best electronic droney post-rock album of the year. Ari Hest – Sunset over Hope Street – His best since “Someone to Tell”, but i didn’t end up going back to it much Dela – Translation Lost (Drink Water Music) – My favorite hip-hop album of the year Sarah Jarosz – Follow Me Down (Sugar Hill) – Who thought that a bluegrass album could make the list? Not I, but the songwriting is super strong. Does It Offend You, Yeah – Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You (Cooking Vinyl) – Great stoopid party album. (Sorry, Justice) Starfucker – Reptilians (Polyvinyl) – Another 80s-synth influenced pop album. Very fun but didn’t have the replay value to keep it on the list) Arnaud Rebotini – Someone Gave Me Religion (Blackstrobe Records) – 1/2 of Black Strobe delivers one of the most interesting IDM-y house records of the year. Worth it for the 13 minute shiny
Disappointments: M83 – Like a “Kim and Jessie” covers record that just won’t end.