Sorry, but I love lists. It is, of course, completely impossible to rank, say, the Death Grips and the Mara Carlyle albums when I’d have to be in completely different moods to want to listen to either of them. But I really love reading and comparing all the album lists of this year, and it’s a good excuse for me to highlight a lot of overlooked records that came out in 2011! I’ve written blurbs for some that deserve more attention (I’m sure you’ve heard enough about PJ Harvey and Destroyer, etc) and linked to a few reviews I’ve written on No Ripcord. My top 50 tracks are at the end.
60. Feist – Metals
Listen: ‘How Come You Never Go There’
59. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Listen: ‘Ffunny Ffriends’
58. Byetone – Symeta
Minimal/glitch techno reminiscent of Autechre. Clinical but arresting.
57. Daniel Thomas Freeman – The Beauty of Doubting Yourself
Although The Beauty of Doubting Yourself is all instrumental, its structure only alluded to in the song titles, it’s never possible to separate listening to these seven ambient/drone compositions from the album’s intensely personal overtones. The six years it took for Freeman to create this are all mapped out simply by his talent for shaping music as lingering moods.
Listen: ‘Dark House Walk’
56. Prurient – Bermuda Drain
Most of Prurient’s previous work is unlistenably nihilistic and brutal, but here he begrudgingly uses synth riffs and cleaner production, venting his bottomless rage with screams and death-metal vocals and lyrics about doing obscene things with a tree branch. So, Bermuda Drain is listenably nihilistic and brutal.
Listen: ‘Many Jewels Surround The Crown’
55. The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient
Listen: ‘Baby Missiles’
54. Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow
53. David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time
I had low expectations for this, given Lynch’s questionable tastes and those early singles, despite how masterfully he uses music in his films. It sounds odd to say this, but Crazy Clown Time is more experimental and bizarre than I expected! The alienating and subversive qualities of his films are present on Crazy Clown Time – it’s not nearly as striking as any of his films, but still quintessentially Lynchian, which is good enough for me.
Listen: ‘Crazy Clown Time’
52. Cold Cave – Cherish the Light Years
Listen: ‘The Great Pan Is Dead’
51. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Mirror Traffic
50. Christina Vantzou – No. 1
Really rather gorgeous ambient record. Vantzou was in The Dead Texan with Adam from Stars of the Lid; I’d certainly recommend this as much as anything I’ve heard by SotL.
Listen: ‘Homemade Mountains’
49. Kanye West & Jay-Z – Watch The Throne
So much fun, even though I have some unavoidable issues with anyone who thinks it’s cool to talk about their “other other Benz”…
Listen: ‘Niggas In Paris’
48. Nicolas Jaar – Space Is Only Noise
47. The Men – Leave Home
About as raw and dirty and heavy as a record can get.
46. Emmy the Great – Virtue
Emmy is a really strong and underrated songwriter, perhaps overlooked because her performance is quite understated. There’s lots to listen for on Virtue.
45. Emika – Emika
I vehemently disagree with the notion that 2011 was “the year of boring music” (if you’re narrow-minded and pessimistic enough to overlook all the brilliant and original new music this year you’re probably just a boring person) – but I did not get into much dubstep or synthpop this year, even though in theory there are a lot of exciting possibilities for the genres, I found it hard to engage with many of the artists being hyped (sorry James).
Emika’s mission statement is to avoid the pitfalls that caused my indifference to many of her peers; she makes every effort to ensure that her music is never boring. I find opener ’3 Hours’ repellent and disturbing, but still captivating, and with her variations of styles throughout this album, Emika ensures she never loses my attention.
Listen: ‘Drop The Other’
44. Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place
This would be higher, but my speakers aren’t good enough to convey the gorgeousness of all these layers of vocals! Never has a record felt so ruined by my substandard audio equipment. I can tell it is great, though.
43. Hauschka – Salon Des Amateurs
House music arranged for prepared piano and mostly acoustic instruments. A really fresh and enjoyable record.
42. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Listen: ‘Let England Shake’
41. Battles – Gloss Drop
40. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck
Listen: ‘Birth of Serpents’
39. Josh T. Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen
Listen: ‘Honeymoon’s Great, Wish You Were Her’
38. Mamiffer – Mare Decendrii
Aaron Turner from Isis teams up with virtuoso pianist Faith Coloccia, creating ambient soundscapes that veer into dissonant and grandiose climaxes. Post-rock does not have to just keep sounding like post-rock; Mare Decendrii contains some enlightening experimentation.
Listen: ‘We Speak In The Dark’
37. The Antlers – Burst Apart
36. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
35. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
I met Kurt Vile at End Of The Road festival. Can you tell which is me?
Listen: ‘Jesus Fever’
34. Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica
Listen: ‘Sleep Dealer’
33. Wild Flag – Wild Flag
32. Colin Stetson – New History Warfare, Vol. II: Judges/Those Who Didn’t Run
Much has been made of this bass-saxophone virtuoso, who recorded this whole album without loops or overdubs or even any instrument other than his saxophone (almost). A small army of contact mics pick up the percussive thuds of sax-keys and Stetson’s guttural bursting lungs, the ghostly hums of the metal itself, flesh and brass fusing into one hulking mass of minimal note runs and tortured squawks.
I also feel that his subsequent EP, Those Who Didn’t Run, is overlooked – Stetson extends his circular breathing patterns to two ten-minute tracks; it’s transfixing.
Listen: ‘Judges’. Yes, this is literally an unembellished solo recording.
31. James Ferraro – Far Side Virtual
This album is gaining James Ferraro a fair bit of recognition (it topped The Wire‘s album of the year list), but I reckon he’s one of the weirdest people making music. Earlier this year I fell completely in love with his hypnagogic, holographic tapestry Marble Surf, which consists of one minimalist keyboard riff loop buried deep in fuzz, repeated (with almost-imperceptible, accidental imperfections), for 40 minutes. (I’ve been intending to post a full article reviewing this record). His work with The Skaters followed similar lines, no-fi riffs which feel completely buried in time and space.
Far Side Virtual couldn’t sound more different. It’s Ferraro’s first experience composing with anything close to digital technology, and it’s made up of 16 hyperactive vignettes of MIDI sounds and pure cheese. It’s like getting high and looking at Angelfire websites. It’s like using Google Streetview on your iPad listening to ringtones in a cellphone shop. It’s like playing Sim City while watching infomercials. Ferraro samples the Skype startup sound in not one but two tracks, informs you that ‘your dish is being prepared by master chef Gordon Ramsay’ on ‘Palm Trees, Wifi, and Dream Sushi’, and closes with a deconstruction of the four-piano-note Windows logoff sound. It sounds hopelessly 90s, even though it’s a record supposedly “about” 2011.
The reason this makes the list, in spite of its wilfully plasticy aesthetic, is because Ferraro made me think a lot about what it is that makes good music. In using ghastly-sugary MIDI instruments, and samples from the least artistic of sources – and doing so without ever once seeming pretentious – he’s completely subverting my expectations of underground art, particularly because his former work was so different. It’s a parody record that is, I have to admit weirdly enjoyable.
Listen: ‘Global Lunch’
30. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
Listen: ‘Glass Jar’
29. The Book Of Knots – Garden of Fainting Stars
This is what I’d always hoped The Residents would sound like: bizarre alternative rock with fearless experimental streaks, but remaining undeniably fun to listen to. Hugely underrated.
28. Andy Stott – Passed Me By
This feels like one of the most important electronic releases of the year to me. Production that sounds like the music is coming from deep within, you don’t so much listen to it as you just get the idea of it pulsating through your body.
27. Crash of Rhinos – Distal
Crash of Rhinos earn their name – their drummer is unbelievable; their two bassists pummel you down through the loud bits and they drop out when all five of them sing along, creating anthemic moments as huge as possible. They are phenomenal live, and although Distal loses a bit of that energy in translation, it’s still a near-masterpiece of math-emo.
Download it for free
Listen: ‘Big Sea’
26. Touché Amoré – Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me
A tightly-wound barrage of emocore, 13 tracks clocking in at under 21 minutes. Not a moment is spared; it’s all anthemic and wonderful. They’re coming to Nottingham in March and I can only imagine this will be one of the best live experiences ever.
25. Rustie – Glass Swords
If Daft Punk weren’t so busy disappointing you, they’d be making awesome music like this.
Listen: ‘Ultra Thizz’
24. The Field – Looping State of Mind
“What makes it so perfectly-suited to its function as background music is revealed in the second way of listening, which is just to immerse yourself in it, to explore these textures; this approach, so rarely for a minimal techno full-length, is rewarding and fascinating. There’s a fractal quality to Willner’s production, by which I mean you can focus in on one sonic thread and lose yourself in the dozens of others it reveals – there’s always more than meets the ear. It sounds very repetitive on a cursory listen, but delve further and you realise that what your mind loves about this music is how it’s actually shifting, constantly refreshing itself, layers of sound drifting in and out almost imperceptibly.
To pin down what it is that makes The Field special, it’s his masterful subtlety. He’ll introduce a new percussive syncopation or vocal manipulation so steadily and softly that you might not even notice what it is that’s making the track change, whereas a lesser producer might want to stick this new sonic layer at the forefront of the mix so as nobody misses it.”
Listen: ‘Arpeggiated Love’
23. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
Listen: ‘The Piano Drop’
22. Wugazi - 13 Chambers
Wu-Tang Clan verses set to beats constructed from Fugazi songs. If this sounds like the best thing ever that’s because it is!!
Download it for free
Listen: ‘Nowhere to Wait’
21. Radiohead - The King of Limbs
An absolutely gorgeous record – my favourite thing about it seems to have been overlooked in a lot of criticism, and that’s just how perfectly the thing fits together; it is shaped with sublime elegance. The imagery of clarity and immersion and solitude (perhaps most obviously on ‘Codex’) is represented with some remarkable production techniques; the guitar melody towards the end of closer ‘Separator’ is like emerging from water (just listen to how that song emotionally progresses – I reckon it’s as powerful as anything they’ve done before). What Radiohead are doing here is extremely subtle, which is perhaps why reactions were somewhat muted. But as their most experimental and ethereal record, it will surely be cherished.
20. Big K.R.I.T. – Return of 4eva
I don’t tend to associate the word “charming” with rappers, but that’s just what K.R.I.T. is. He raps about memories of when he was younger, in the car with his dad on ‘Time Machine’, ruminates on death and faith on ‘The Vent’, and finds the perfect music=life metaphor on ‘Highs And Lows’. It’s a really fun record with some well-paced introspective moments.
Download it for free
19. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Listen: ‘Helplessness Blues’
18. La Dispute - Wildlife
It’s been a brilliant year for emo. La Dispute deserve special attention because they break the mould of emo bands that I actually talked about in this article: La Dispute do create music that appears solipsistic and allows the listener to superimpose his/her experiences onto their lyrics (and they do it very well – especially on opener ‘A Departure’). BUT what makes this album particularly mind-blowing is that Jordan Dreyer manages to take the vivid emotions of his lyrics and use his style to explore completely different perspectives, perhaps even to superimpose his experiences onto those of others – and he leaps into some intensely dramatic situations. (I just had to edit five more uses of the word “intense” out of this paragraph). He uses multiple fictional narrators without any sense of distance in his assumption of these roles. I’m hesitant to call it “empathic” because he imbues each and every word with as much agony as if this were all purely confessional; it all feels so heart-stoppingly real. The most remarkable moment is ‘King Park’, in which the narrator explores the viewpoint of the family of an innocent victim of a drive-by shooting, describing how he becomes a third-person omniscient narrator who wants to explore every detail of this horrific event: ‘I float there, transcend time. I want to capture it accurately.’ After the interlude, he returns to track down the 20-year-old kid who was responsible – I don’t want to spoil the song’s climax but it is hair-raising, and it takes something really special to stand out from an album so unremittingly extreme.
Listen: ‘King Park’
17. Tom Waits – Bad As Me
This is actually the first Tom Waits record I’ve properly gotten into, I feel as though I should be ashamed to say so… ‘New Years’ Eve’ is one of the best album closers I’ve ever heard, I well up every time.
Listen: ‘Bad As Me’
16. Death Grips – Exmilitary
“Hip-hop, as a genre, is never really associated with obscurity. We associate rappers with fame and self-elevation, but Death Grips are (mostly) anonymous, releasing Exmilitary for free online – and its chaos and experimentalism make it intentionally difficult to enjoy.
Before I go on, I should clarify just how confrontational this record is. This is a dude screaming at the top of his lungs over beats ranging from gritty guitar riffs (‘I Want it I Need it’) to menacing synth-bass hums (‘Guillotine’). It is pure violence, pushing the limits of the listening experience; if that doesn’t sound intriguing, Death Grips is not for you.
[...]It’s going to polarise listeners, but it’s useless to criticise it for being so angry and unlistenable because that’s Death Grips’ prerogative. It’s kind of like reading a good book entirely in caps lock. It’s a spot-on realisation of their themes, but relentlessly, perhaps brilliantly, inaccessible.”
[link], and for the record, yes, this deserved more than a 7! It was my first NR review :\
Download it for free
15. The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
Leyland Kirby’s exploration of memory and Alzheimers’ disease in relation to music feels like a very important record, prompting a lot of introspection towards the listening experience. I can’t quite pinpoint exactly what this record makes me feel, because it hints towards so many subconscious effects that music can create that it remains, to me, a complete enigma. It sounds at once ancient and contemporary, completely unique. In spite of Kirby’s postmodern, intellectual prerogatives, or rather, because of them, this is first and foremost a terrifying yet fascinating album. He gets his name from Jack Nicholson’s role in The Shining and has since imbued that film with valleys of emotional resonance.
Listen: ‘All you are going to want to do is get back there’
14. Grouper – A|A (Dream Loss/Alien Observer)
This is perfect train music… Grouper cleverly mimics the effects of hypnagogia, as little pictures and syllables almost form words and thoughts, all under a blanket of sleepy haze. Dream Loss is more soundscapey and fuzzy, whereas Alien Observer allows the songs to shine through a bit more – both are essential to this gorgeous experience.
Listen: ‘Alien Observer’
13. Destroyer – Kaputt
Listen: ‘Bay of Pigs (edit)’
12. Braids – Native Speaker
Proving that the process of making music can be really arduous and unspontaneous and still sound excellent. This might be higher in the list but Braids also win my awards for Band I Most Want To Be In and Most Fanciable Band.
Listen: ‘Glass Deers’
11. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
10. Mara Carlyle - Floreat
One of the great mysteries of 2011, for me, is how this record is so overlooked. This sort of arty chamber alt-pop is the sort of thing critics foam at the mouth over, but I can only assume that Mara Carlyle has been bewilderingly unlucky. Indeed I only just discovered this, and I already love it to death; I’m already composing mental mixtapes around the songs on Floreat. For instance: I want to one day console a female friend in unrequited love with someone by playing her ‘Pearl’ (a song with which I am utterly obsessed) – “this boy must be blind / If he can’t see you and your gorgeous behind!” I want to allude to an unspoken yet obvious affection for someone by playing her ‘Nuzzle’ - “Can I keep you like a secret, like I already do?” And if ever I compile my favourite vocal lines ever, I might well have to include opened ‘But Now I Do…’ But honestly this is just such a perfectly self-contained record in itself – it reaches its conclusion with a confidence and sense of comfort that makes the album so rewarding, imbuing the phrase “I love you” with duvets of reassurance.
9. The Weeknd – House of Balloons/Thursday/Echoes of Silence
Yes I’m cheating a bit here, but these records are really so consistent and unified that all three deserve a mention. Nobody put out so much consistently great music in 2011 as The Weeknd, and I’m more surprised at how much I enjoyed it than any other music. The internet age allows genres to mutate at alarming rates, and The Weeknd (along with Frank Ocean and perhaps a few others) pushed the boundaries of R’n'B (rap and BULLSHIT, as De La Soul once said) into some fascinating places. This is such gorgeously produced music, music that can also be absolutely harrowing.
Download them for free if you haven’t already.
8. Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older
Some of Aidan Moffat’s finest lyrics ever, with a fresh and compelling new accompaniment by jazz/minimalist multi-instrumentalist Bill Wells. ‘The Copper Top’ in particular is absolutely jaw-dropping.
“Moffat is rightly regarded as an indie legend, but that he’s still making artistic steps on this record might surprise some fans. This is perhaps his most beautiful work to date; its vulgarity is restrained but a sense of humour remains, and Wells and Moffat reach new emotional heights.”
Listen: ‘The Copper Top’
7. Eleanor Friedberger – Last Summer
“It’s unabashed summer music at a time when, regrettably, a lot of recent “summery” indie music has been wantonly simplistic [...] Friedberger manages to be laid-back and sunny without subscribing to this sort of reductive paradigm. The songs still fit comfortable pop structures, but with more ambitious intentions, building from something modest to some glorious culminations, like the sweeping strings of ‘Roosevelt Island’, the jazz-fusiony sax solo of ‘My Mistakes’, and the horn fanfare of ‘Heaven’.
But it’s not just a summer record, it’s also a nostalgia record – if such a thing can be said to exist, Last Summer is a great example. The songs are full of references to New York, stories of memories of the city. ‘Owl’s Head Park’ recalls a day spent building a bicycle out of old parts, and the one remaining photograph of the day. Perhaps one could use the idea as a metaphor for Friedberger’s creative process, as she recycles elements of older pop songs, making something characteristically new, forward-thinking. She throws back to decades-old pop hits and soul singles; it’s full of doo-wop vocal harmonies and funky bass.
[...] This is a charming record with so many standout tracks, that in spite of the divisiveness of the Fiery Furnaces, it would be difficult to really dislike this solo effort. It sounds at once old-fashioned and contemporary, undemanding but clever – a joy.”
This album never gets old! [link]
Listen: ‘My Mistakes’
6. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
“It’s an intentionally daunting work of art, but a fascinating enigma. At first, the album might breeze past you leaving only a few repeated phrases stuck in your mind – “It’s a feeling”, “You know I’m free”, “Who do you think who you are?”, “Clear some space out, so we can space out”. These mantras are as close as Shabazz Palaces get to a chorus, and at first they’re clues with which to approach the record. Black Up’s closing line couldn’t be more fitting: “And still it morphs – this shit is way too advanced”. As it ebbs away, you’re left in awe of their captivating invention.”
Listen: ‘Swerve… The reeping of all that is worthwhile (Noir not withstanding)’
5. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
This is a masterpiece – but a reappraisal of the first two St. Vincent records is in order. She’s been doing what she does on Strange Mercy – pretty on the outside but ugly and subversive underneath – for ages now, although nowhere as expertly as on this record.
4. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
I still absolutely adore this. Pop music that bursts with ideas and is first and foremost a whole lot of fun, but there’s an intentional sense of discomfort running through the whole thing. Merrill Garbus is challenging herself with this songwriting, exploring violence and social issues from deliberately disconcerting perspectives. Oddly enough, the resultant flaws are what make it such an excellent record.
3. Matana Roberts – Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens de Couleurs Libre
Simply one of the most intense, important jazz records I’ve ever heard. It’s an exploration of African American history as well as extreme sonic terrain.
“There are intricacies to Gens de Couleur Libres I couldn’t touch upon, which is remarkable for a live recording. Not only does Roberts refuse to stick to one style of jazz, with her continually rotating structures, but she also denies any singular interpretation of her narrative, allowing a subjective appreciation that actually, in spite of the album’s wilfully hard-to-stomach intensity, will appeal to fans of art music of many different backgrounds. It really is rare that I get so wrapped up in a record; needless to say, I’m full of excitement for the future chapters.”
Listen: ‘Pov Piti’
2. Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness
“Los Campesinos! have developed an awful lot since the hyperactive, twee pop of their 2008 debut, Hold On Now, Youngster…, especially considering they’re perhaps the biggest “cult” band in Britain. Now on their fourth album, they’ve refined since last year’s brilliant (but inconsistent) Romance Is Boring, dispensing with their glockenspiels and yelps. Instead, this is the most immaculately-produced LC! record yet, thanks to Jon Goodmanson’s ability to harness their characteristic maximalism, and accordingly, Gareth’s lyrics tend towards more rewarding extended metaphors rather than snide one-liners, while retaining his knack for ugly detail. LC!’s fanbase is so devoted because their tastes mature along with the band’s songcraft, and although it’s a grower, Hello Sadness is their most perfectly-formed work to date.”
(copied from my No Ripcord blurb)
Listen: ‘The Black Bird, The Dark Slope’
1. Jenny Hval – Viscera
After I gushed with praise for her in this recent post, there’s little left I have to say about Jenny Hval’s Viscera. But I realised that perhaps the terms that best describe this music, “ambient-folk” and “meditative”, might be a bit off-putting – needless to say, I feel that in spite of her use of space, every moment feels vital, and it’s all the more mind-bending when she comes out with lines more graphic than the reaches of a lot of noisy shock-tactics punks, so delicately, over such vulnerable, floating soundscapes. In short, it’s just one of the most perfect albums I’ve ever heard, lyrically and musically the thing sounds so flawlessly self-contained. But of course what really gets me is her lyrics – she talks about bodies with a sense of invention so profoundly unique and inescapably moving. She will turn your view of sexuality on its head (until your organs fall out through your throat).
I was talking to someone about a mixtape exchange recently, and she said she disliked making mixtapes because she’d feel like she might be judged in some way for compiling something that could be interpreted so personally. So I guess I should be a bit more careful about my unabashed love for Viscera. Perhaps it’s gone unrecognised because people are embarrassed to say how much they relate to it? Hval’s artistic presentation of humanity is one of the most daring, and accurate, portrayals I’ve ever experienced.
Listen: ‘Blood Flight’
I’ve also listed my favourite 50 tracks of the year – it feels a lot less complete than my album list, but I still think it’s worthwhile – there are a few things that deserve some discussion.
- Lana Del Rey – Video Games
Under the circumstances I guess I need to justify this: in terms of chord structures, melody, production, sampling, this approaches perfection. It was great to hear this song before all the hype made it impossible to hear this without any sort of bias, and the impact it made on me back then remains. I actually started writing an article about Del Rey and the sexist reactions to her as an artist – my message got a bit confused and I may not end up posting it, but one of my main points was that the backlash bewildered me, because the idea of her being “manufactured” is exactly what the song is about, why her appearance and “video games” are paralleled in the song. It’s a disturbing message, and the song’s narrator’s acceptance of the patriarchal structures she submits to is portrayed with so much grace and beauty, I really do I think it’s the best song of 2011.
- Destroyer – Bay of Pigs (Detail)
This came out in 2009 but I didn’t get it until this year, when it closed Kaputt. Destroyer’s use of stream-of-consciousness reminds me of his collaboration with Loscil last year, ‘The Making of Grief Point’, but here it’s all sung, and all the better for it. There are so many connections to be made, I hear new things every time I listen to it.
- Azealia Banks – 212
She’s going to be huge next year, I hope. She swears with more gusto than anyone I’ve ever heard.
- Tyler, The Creator – Yonkers
- Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – The Copper Top
I adore this, it is utterly heartbreaking. Probably my favourite song Moffat has ever written.
- Tune-yards – Bizness
- Frank Ocean – Novacane
Cocaine for breakfast – yikes…
- Mara Carlyle – Pearl
As I said above – I really wish I could play this song for someone; the lyrics are quite specific but it’s just the most uplifting thing in the world.
- Rustie – Ultra Thizz
- Four Tet – Locked
- Frank Ocean – Songs For Women
- EMA – California
- Cold Cave – The Great Pan Is Dead
- La Dispute – King Park
The conclusion of this song is unbelievable…
- Gang Gang Dance – Glass Jar
- Björk – Crystalline
Björk has obviously been listening to Venetian Snares – and it’s good!
- Baths – The Nothing
Cerulean was my favourite record of last year, and this single was as good as anything on that album!
- Big K.R.I.T – Dreamin’
This beat is just perfect for K.R.I.T.’s nostalgia.
- The Weeknd – House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls
The two halves of The Weeknd’s music summed up perfectly – a sense of unease and excess and need to escape, which (literally) descends into a chilling portrait of his debasement in the second half.
- Nat Baldwin – A Little Lost
Baldwin’s Arthur Russell cover doesn’t deviate much from the original, but there’s something fantastic in his delivery that I could listen to over and over again.
- Eleanor Friedberger – Scenes From Bensonhurst
A song about Facebook stalking, which manages to sound romanticised through Friedberger’s gauzes of memory.
- Low – Try To Sleep
- Los Campesinos! – The Black Bird, The Dark Slope
- The Weeknd – Initiation
When I first heard this, the nearest comparison I could think of was to Xiu Xiu.
- Devon Sproule – If I Can Do This
Sproule’s album I Love You, Go Easy narrowly missed out on my list – but here’s the clear highlight.
- Cass McCombs – County Line
- The Necks – Rum Jungle
Phenomenal composition, comprising side A of their new record Mindset. The second side was a bit of a letdown for me…
- Zoo Kid – Out Getting Ribs
His EP, King Krule, is great too.
- Swede Mason – Masterchef Synesthesia
This is a really amazingly entertaining song/video. I don’t see why it doesn’t deserve a place on here, although I admit it’s kind of worrying that I’m ranking memes alongside art.
- Radiohead – Supercollider
- WU LYF – Dirt
- Fucked Up – Queen of Hearts
I have very mixed feelings about David Comes To Life, indeed I feel like so much work must have gone into it that I feel bad to leave it off my albums list. I generally do not like concept albums; it’s too much of an arduous experience to sit down with the lyrics booklet and give the album the appreciation it deserves. And it makes me feel like a philistine to say that.
There are a few reasons why David Comes To Life failed to really grab me: firstly, it needed more variety. Fucked Up are great at sounding huge yet still really punk (which is why ‘Queen of Hearts’ in particular had to make this list) and Pink Eyes is the most amazing band frontman I’ve ever seen (one of the best gigs I saw last year). But listening to him scream throughout this whole thing gets tedious; I love hardcore punk’s energy, but to hold my interest for a whole 78 minutes takes nuance and melody. Secondly, the postmodern elements of the story – which should by all means have been my favourite thing about David – felt clumsy, overemphasised, and simply confusing. I still don’t exactly understand the role of Octavio; I don’t “get” it. However, I thought that the record’s conclusion, Vivian’s role, and the whole positive message of the record were life-affirming.
- Boris – Flare
- Battles – Ice Cream
- M83 – Midnight City
- St. Vincent – Surgeon
- Yuck – Get Away
I really do resent Yuck, mostly because I know there are lots of people in Britain listening to them who have never heard a Pavement, Sebadoh, or Sleater-Kinney record. To be honest, it bugs me that this is such a good song.
- Times New Viking – Fuck Her Tears
- Crash Of Rhinos – Big Sea
- Tom Waits – Bad As Me
- Death Grips – Full Moon (Death Classic)
Before Exmilitary dropped, Zach Hill (Death Grips’ drummer and math-rock legend) posted this on Twitter – a bizarrely stripped-down and terrifying drums-and-shouting deconstruction of rap, that exposed Hill’s presence more than anything else, whereas the album bore much less of his obvious influence. Waiting for the full-length to drop, my excitement was palpable.
- Girls – Vomit
- Joan of Arc – Love Life
- David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time
- Jenny Hval – Viscera
Hval closes her masterpiece with a narrator who literally vomits out her own viscera while attempting yoga.
- Josh T Pearson – Honeymoon’s Great, Wish You Were Her
- Nicki Minaj – Super Bass
- Chelsea Wolfe – Mer
- Baths – Nordic Laurel
crawling in the frost, i found it / like i’m still a little boy, i found it / gave it to my son and i crowned him / king of the nordic laurel around him – Baths does so, so much with so few words.
- Kurt Vile – Jesus Fever