Well here we are again, at that wonderful time of year that has us all family oriented and warm and reminiscent. As I sit here in my bed with quilts up to my ears and a warm cup of cocoa on my side table, I can’t help but feel optimistic for the coming days. This year was both trying and rewarding for me, through the microcosm of this blog and in my personal life. One of the most trying tasks I’ve undertaken thus far was narrowing down by “best of” list for this year. The sheer volume of music that I’ve been exposed to has made this hard enough, but then there’s the fact that most of it, amazingly, was brilliant.
In any case, I won’t bore you with the details of scouring my iTunes library and re-visiting albums from earlier in the year. Instead I’ll just commence with the list! Happy holidays!
10. Rewild – Amazing Baby
To be honest, I feel a bit bad putting this album last. It really was, in my opinion, a great record. The production was flawless with its intricate string arrangements and layered synths. I found something new and interesting after each listen. My only real problem with this album was not with its execution, but with its scope. I feel that since there’s been a sort of neo-psychedelic revival, these guys needed to really reach and “push the envelope” of their sound. This isn’t to say that the album is uninteresting, I believe it is quite the contrary. However, I couldn’t help but feel like there were missed musical opportunities.
9. Two Suns – Bat For Lashes
If I lived in a fairy commune with a unicorn overlord, I think Natasha Khan would be, like, the queen. She just oozes this creative self-assurance and transcendental understanding and that definitely informs her music. It leaves nothing to be desired, exploring all sonic possibility and weaving vast dreamscapes to lose yourself in. Two Suns is a much more cohesive effort than Fur and Gold, although it lacks the kind of tongue-in-cheek humor that made songs like What’s A Girl To Do? soar (remember that verse in the chorus: “When your dreams are on/A train to train wreck town”?). Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful, ethereal listen.
8. True Romance – Golden Silvers
From the minute I laid eyes upon the swirly intricate purple and gold album artwork of True Romance, I knew it was going to be one of my favorites for this year. I mean, how could anyone in their right mind resist Golden Silvers’ witty mix of nostalgic doo-wop and 80’s pop? True Romance was my go-to song this summer, and for good reason. Golden Silvers are fun and smart, two things everything (people, music, cake etc.) should aspire to be.
7. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
This album, Karin Andersson’s (you know, the female half of The Knife) crazy side-project, was one of the best musical WTF moments of the year. When I chanced upon the music video for When I Grow Up earlier this year, I was utterly confused. “What is this?” I wondered, totally bewildered by what I had just seen, “Is this electronica, or pop?” I questioned, “Why is that girl dancing over a pool?” I still don’t really know the answers to those questions, but there’s no denying that Fever Ray is different, lively, and crazily danceable at some points. With its quirky sampling, cryptic lyrics, and creepy undertones Fever Ray is sure to be an album you need to revisit.
6. Logos – Atlas Sound
Shelia is just, just one of those songs that grabs hold of your imagination and won’t let go. You find yourself singing it absent-mindedly to yourself and making it your internal life-soundtrack when traversing snowy streets. In a lot of ways, Logos, as a cohesive effort is the same. It’s pop music, but not quite. It’s dreamy and airy and childish all at the same time. At some moments though, My Halo for example, it’s dark and brooding. However, it never leaves you in that scary place for too long. I may be a bit biased since I kind of love anything Bradford Cox lays his hands on, but there’s something undeniably endearing about his brand of screwed up transcendentally melodic pseudo-pop.
5. Album – Girls
I was fortunate enough to be tipped off about this crazy San Francisco duo by Gerlin, and seriously, thank you Gerlin because this album is like, wow. On a theater trip in London earlier this year, Lust For Life became our theme song, blaring as loud as we could possibly make it from our home-made cup speakers. Album is pretty much the crowning jewel on the lo-fi crown for this year, epitomizing that carefree, slightly-crappy but lovable sound that seems to be coming exclusively from California recently.
4. Merriweather Post Pavillion – Animal Collective
Now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’m not about to prostrate myself before a shrine to Noah Lennox and sacrifice a baby with Brother Sport playing in the background. No sir, not that crazy yet. What I will say is this album was, categorically, awesome. It’s like synthy, loopable gold flowing all through your head and making you wanna dance like a lunatic. It’s also amazing from start to finish. No half-assed attempts or fillers here. It’s just 54 minutes and 42 seconds of masterfully crafted electronic bliss. If your friends are anything like mine, you will have had constant arguments about which song is best, but in the end it really doesn’t make a different because they’re all so fucking amazing.
But for the record guys (you know who you are), My Girls = WIN
3. Bitte Orca – Dirty Projectors
I will express my love for this album in the form of haiku:
Solange Knowles covered your tune?
Massive respect dudes.
But seriously, this album deserves some major kudos. Not only is this Dirty Projector’s most accessible album to date, it might just be their flat out best. Longstreth’s guitar acrobatics along with his girl’s warbling, ghetto-songbird-esque vocals leave you with cool tunes that are as suited to your local indie club as they are to a chilled our party at your friend’s house.
2. Here We Go Magic – Here We Go Magic
I think that this was the album that I anticipated most this year. From the minute I heard Fangela, I was hooked. The crazy soundscapes that Luke Temple manages, almost single-handedly, to create are all-encompassing and deeply engrossing. The lo-fi edge of the record almost serves a foil to the intricacy of the melodies and arrangements, while simultaneously giving the record a homey, accessible feel; like the record was a demo from a ridiculously talented friend working out of his basement. I absolutely LOVE this record, and know that I will be immersing myself in its wonderful melodies for years to come.
1. Fits – White Denim
Call it bias, call it lack of musical taste, but I am totally committed to spreading the gospel of Fits. Not only do you get 24 tracks for $10 on the extended American release, but basically every song is this amazing, in-your-face psychedelic rock explosion that will leave you breathless and energized. In a scene where a lot of music is over thought and overproduced, White Denim are wonderful glowing monsters ready to shake things up and present something awesome.
Most Promising EPs (in no particular order):
1. Mystery – BLK JKS
2. Rainwater Cassette Exchange – Deerhunter
3. Life of Leisure – Washed Out
Have a kick-ass new year everybody!