Thursday, December 29, 2011

Albums of the Year: top 10

10. Clams Casino - Instrumentals

With a release on Tri angle, a Washed Out remix under his belt, and production credits for just about every break out rapper of the year, not many artists owned 2011 quite like Clams Casino. The spotlight really started to focus when he shed the goofnugget MC's of his early career and released Instrumentals. The songs take on new life presented on their own when ghostly vocal samples and luscious synths have room to take center stage. Supremely chill, but never nostalgic; Instrumentals is one of the best electronic albums of the year, from a guy who just wanted to make hip hop.

Download Instrumentals

9. Wu Lyf - Go Tell Fire on the Mountain

The intriguing and occasionally frustrating Wu Lyf shed all vestige of mystery in 2011 after the release of their debut album. “Go Tell Fire” proved that Wu Lyf’s cult following wasn't just a successful exercise in creating hype. The music is huge and tribal, while Ellery Roberts, easily one of the most cathartic vocalists in Indie rock, howls on themes of unity and love. All other considerations aside, Wu Lyf make the kind of music you can believe in.

Spitting Blood - Wu Lyf

8. Yuck - Yuck

Phrases I’ve read far too many times this year: “Nostalgia Obsessed” “Half Remembered” and just about any blog post with the word “memory” in it. Yuck masterfully navigated the pretentiousness becoming inherent with “fuzzy recollections” by shooting for straight forward imitation.  Wasting no time, “Get Away” starts with a gleeful burst of fuzz and the album never looks back from there. No introduction, no indication that the year is 2011 and far better off for it.  

Get Away - Yuck

7. Gauntlet Hair - Gauntlet Hair

Gauntlet Hair are two best friends with trading vocals, youthful vigor and an uncanny ability to keep punk music cerebral. No Age and Japandroids comparisons were all but inevitable, and trading in layers of noise for electropop sheen garnered the band more than a few Animal Collective nods as well. As eager as critics were to find comparisons, at the end of the year I still had not heard anything that sounded quite like it: a fundamentally aggressive album matched, but never overpowered by its pop sensibilities.

Keep Time - Gauntlet Hair

6. Washed Out - Within and Without

Depending on who you ask, 2011 was either the year chillwave grew up or the year it died. Either way you look at it, the genre's kingpin Ernest Greene took the opportunity for artistic growth in stride. Greene’s biggest move was abandoning his signature lo-fi production and the uneasy detachment that naturally came with it. The music doesn’t sound a whole lot different than his first few EPs, but combined with that close up album art, and surprisingly personal lyrics Within and Without definitely feels different. No more irony, no more tape hiss, just intimacy.  

Amor Fati - Washed Out

5. Bobby - BOBBY

Be it short attention span or closer to coincidence, BOBBY is the only album on my top ten that passes the hour mark. Instead of packing in anthem after anthem, (I’m looking at you M83 and Fucked Up) Bobby displayed an impressive penchant for flowing song structures and impeccable sequencing. More importantly, their wide array of indie and folk influence made sure the sleepier moments were just as impressive as the singles. And while there are certainly songs capable of standing alone, this is an album that only feels right taken as a whole.  

Ginger (Water Birth) - Bobby

4. Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation

Initially a bedroom recording project, The Year of Hibernation is one of the most impressive albums of its kind. Perhaps the most dynamic album of the year, songs like July begin with just piano and Trevor's fragile, distant voice and explode into thundering, supremely triumphant crescendos you can't help but sing along to. As surprisingly fully formed arrangements rise and fall around him, it becomes apparent that no one can capture the feeling of wide-eyed wonder quite like Trevor. With a knack for melodies that make you smile and arrangements that let your imagination run wild, The Year of Hibernation couldn't help but shine.

July - Youth Lagoon

3. Born Gold - Bodysongs

Technically a collection of singles rather than a debut album, Bodysongs was both Gobble Gobble’s eulogy, and Born Gold’s coming out party. Genres blend indiscriminately into a 33 minute overdose with one mission: to make you move. Some of these songs have been floating around the internet for over a year, but I still find myself noticing something new on a regular basis. Born Gold is pop music for the future, and with any luck that future will come sooner rather than later.

Download Bodysongs

2. Coma Cinema - Blue Suicide

Mat Cothran is certainly one of the most poignant lyricists of his generation, but the music behind Coma Cinema has never been complacent to his stark depression. Instead, Blue Suicide, like the Stoned Alone and Baby Prayers before it, thrives on duality. How can songs this brutally sad sound so comforting? On each successive album Mat has refined his sound, deftly balancing the power struggle between his pop sensibilities and his dark world view. Unspoken glimmers of the hope betray the crushing lyrics, like a soft still voice comforting you even as our world spins out of control. Maybe just maybe everything will be alright.

Whatevering - Coma Cinema
Download Blue Suicide

1. James Blake - James Blake

No other album stuck with me like James Blake's self titled debut. Every time I listen to it I can't help but be completely encompassed in its world. More so than any other album this year, James Blake is both a sonic masterpiece and an emotional juggernaut. Often times nervous, haunting and self depreciating, hope still shines through in Blake's piano and ever soulful voice. Knowing when and more importantly when not to include elements of dubstep proves his mastery of the genre more than anything else he has done. When he does employ his signature style, its better than anything else I've heard this year. The build up on "I Never Learnt to Share", the bass release in "Limit to your love" and the list goes on to include parts of every song. I could write twice as much on James Blake, but my favorite album of the year doesn't need any more justification. Just listen to it.

I Never Learnt To Share - James Blake

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Albums of the year: 20-11

The year end onslaught continues with the first half of my favorite albums of the year. The ever so coveted top 10 should be out by the end of the week, but there's already plenty to dig into below.

20. The Weeknd - House of Balloons
 Download House of Balloons

Go Bang - SBTRKT

18. The Drums - Portamento 
Money - The Drums

17. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
Cruel - St. Vincent

16. Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica
Replica - Oneohtrix Point Never

15. Sound Kapital - Handsome Furs
Serve the People - Handsome Furs

14. Panda Bear - Tomboy

13. Balam Acab - Wander/Wonder 
 Oh Why - Balam Acab

12. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Battery Kenzie - Fleet Foxes

11. Braids - Native Speaker 
Lemonade - Braids

Monday, December 26, 2011

Albums of the Year: Honorable mentions

In classic fashion, I've waited till the absolute last minute for my year end lists. Today I present this years honorable mentions, while my top 20 albums will be revealed over the next two days. The albums mentioned generally fall into two strains: albums with fantastic singles that didn't come together as well in their full form, and albums that I felt the need to recommend but didn't quite make the top 20 cut. They are presented in alphabetical order based on artist.

Active Child – You Are All I See
Hanging On - Active Child

Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Holocene - Bon Iver

The Caution Children - Unknown Lands

Craft Spells – Idle Labor
Beauty Above All - Craft Spells

Cults – Cults

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr – It’s a Corporate World
Skeletons - Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr 

The Dodos – No Color
Going Under - The Dodos

Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
The Other Shoe - Fucked Up

Hooray for Earth – True Loves
True Loves - Hooray For Earth

Jane Jane Pollock – Jane Jane Pollock

M83 – Hurry up, We’re Dreaming

Oh no! Yoko – Pau Pau

Opiate Eyes – Opiate Eyes

Pepepiano – Pepepiano

Radiohead – King of the  Limbs
Lotus Flower (music video)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The xx - Open Eyes (demo)

There aren't many albums more feverishly anticipated in 2012 than the XX's sophomore effort. Clearly, the band realizes this, and decided to give us all a Christmas present. Quietly released on youtube and their blog, the demo is a hushed intimate affair. The track is notably missing Jaime's signature room filling drums, but still manages to produce that spine tingling effect that only the XX can create.

Open Eyes (Demo) - The XX

At this point, there isn't an official release date, album title or any word on if we'll see a finished version of Open Eyes on the album.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 recap: top 10 EPs

Its that time of year again. EPs today, LPs next Monday and tracks by the ends of the week. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

10. Tree Hopping - MJ MJ Split w/ Messy Sparkles

9. Holy Other - With U

Touch - Holy Other

8. BeachesBeaches - BeachesBeaches

7. Carrousel - Darling

6. High Highs - High Highs

5. Elvis Depressedly - Goner

4. Reptar - Oblange Fizz Y'all

3. Seven Saturdays - Secret Things (remix album)

2. Fruit Flesh - Guilt Exchange

1.Tv Girl - Benny and the Jetts

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cultus Vibes: Together compilation

I have a Biology final tomorrow that I'm supposed to be studying for. Finals will render this blog mostly desolate this week, but for now I'm procrastinating to tell you about Cultus Vibes! The digital label run by Canada's chillwave kingpin Teen Daze released its first compilation last week, and I still have it on constant rotation. Besides Teen Daze, the (totally free!) comp features ATHID favorites like Ghibli and Des A Boda. I can see almost any of the acts on the consistently great compilation becoming favorites in the future, particularly Slow Magic. Keep an eye on Cultus Vibes, I have a feeling they may be one of few shining lights left in the stagnating chillwave scene. Don't let me fool you into thinking "Together" is a one trick pony however, the last third features ambient post-rock, folk and even a decidedly soft-rock number from Teen Daze side project Little Chords. If this comp can't keep me sane until Christmas break, I'm not sure anything can.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Music Video: Happy Trendy - January 6

HAPPY TRENDY - January 6 from Micah Van Hove on Vimeo.

Music Video for January 6th, the first single from Happy Trendy's  "Die Young EP". If you haven't checked out the whole EP, I would strongly suggest you do that right now.

Orca Orca/ Qualms split 7"

Last week, Boston dream-poppers Orca Orca and Qualms released a collaborative split single on the web. Although all three musicians (Orca Orca is a one man affair and Qualms is a duo) played on both songs, the two songs have distinct enough feels to justify being separately credited. The Orca Orca track is another slice of the sort of mellowed out lo-fi pop that was unavoidable about two years ago. Vintage Casio tones, slightly more aggressive guitar work and vocals vaguely similar to Ben Gibbard keep the song distinct. The Qualms track is colder, sparser affair with hypnotic guitars and synth stabs swirling around two part vocals. Orca Orca's vocals fit the second track even better than his own, making me hope such a fruitful collaboration won't be relegated to just one single.

Check Out my original post on Orca Orca, and Qualm's first single below.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Matt Nichols - "Open"

While walking the streets of LA, Matt Nichols sees sounds and locks himself in his apartment for weeks until he is able to render those sounds into his music. The product is meticulously crafted trance which relies on the solid fundamentals of the genre while wildly experimenting with darker themes (EDMversion of Mangum, anyone?). He has used his gift and teamed up with Film-Maker Vincent Dale who hears sights. Dale put together a rough cut of a video, sent it to Nichols who made the track based off the rough cut, then sent it back to Dale for a final edit. The product is divine.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ifan Dafydd - No Good

UK bass music made by a man whose name doesn't start with the letter "J". Though this track isn't made by an artist named James or Jamie, it holds a striking resemblance to the style of the eloquent James Blake. It turns out that Dafydd was room-mates with the prince of dubstep himself and took influence from James. The result is perfect.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Shearwater - Breaking the Yearlings

I think I can finally see Shearwater without unfairly casting them in the shadow of Okkervil River. The former  side project has been a stand alone unit (without Okkervil frontman Will Sheff) for several years now, but the side-project feel was hard to shake. Signing to Sub-pop never hurts when it comes to taking a band more seriously, but its their first single for the label that really has me reevaluating the band. "Breaking the Yearlings" is massive, vaguely prog-rock and a great reminder that Ornate arrangements don't have to be tame arrangements.

"Breaking the Yearlings" is the first single off of Animal Joy, which drops February 14