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Old 12-28-2011, 02:25 AM   #61
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Originally Posted by Jive Turkey View Post
I don't think I'm gonna do a top albums this year. I don't feel like I've listened to enough and what I have listened to hasn't hit me nearly as hard as in previous years.
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Old 12-28-2011, 03:16 AM   #62
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JT might need the musket kind of persuasion.

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Old 12-28-2011, 06:21 AM   #63
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with Grouper, PJ Harvey and Kate Bush just falling outside of my top 15, I'd say it must have been a pretty awesome year of music
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Old 12-28-2011, 11:21 AM   #64
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A grouper with Grouper, PJ Harvey and Kate Bush would be a pretty awesome year for me.
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Old 12-28-2011, 05:53 PM   #65
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I've been absent from this enclave in the forum for a very long time. I have been looking forward to this thread. Great lists so far.
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Old 12-29-2011, 03:54 AM   #66
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It's pretty convenient for me that I only really gave a deep listen to 15 new albums this year, and I enjoyed them all immensely. I'm really liking my filter. I had a noticeable hip-hop/R&B slant this year, which is something I wouldn't really predict, but I've found a lot of good new sounds with that mindset.

House of Balloons - The Weeknd (15) - Far and away my album of the year. I've personally never heard anything like it - so drug-fucked, so faded, so soulful... it sounds like the hidden nasty side of the life I wish I was living right now. And I love it. This is the album I put on before I go out, at full blast. That's the vibe I want.

Take Care - Drake (12) - Drizzy's fast emerging as one of my favourite rappers, the Weekend tracks on this plus the title track are some of my favourite songs of this year.

Suck it and See - Arctic Monkeys (12) - Alex Turner's finest moment to date. Their most complete album. Can't believe it isn't getting astronomical praise.

Watch the Throne - Jay-Z & Kanye West (12) - HAH?!

El Camino - The Black Eyed Peas (12) - Jammin'.

Echoes of Silence - The Weeknd (7) - The second best Weeknd album, the most recent one. It fits together so well, starts with an amazing Michael Jackson cover (oh, the audacity) and is just a banger.

Mylo Xyloto - Coldplay (7) - GAF called it glow-in-the-dark rock and that's the best description I've heard for it since release.

Nostalgia, Ultra - Frank Ocean (7) - In a similar vein to the Weeknd but a little bit more conservative in terms of song structure and music, still great.

Thursday - The Weeknd (7) - The worst of his trilogy, it drags on a bit, but there's still some brilliant songs on it. The fact it's midway through my top 15 means even at his worst, Abel Tesfaye is better than most at their best.

Strange Mercy - St. Vincent (4) - I want to marry Annie Clark. Her guitar is basically just an extension of her voice.

Zonoscope - Cut Copy (1) - Somewhat of a let-down, but the first half is immense. Only grew on me in the second half of the year.

The Pursuit EP - Cocaine 80s (1) - I love Common and I love some of the soulful hip-hop sounds on this.

Electronic Dream - Aarab Muzik (1) - This is the album I put on after 'House of Balloons'. It takes shit up a notch.

Goblin - Tyler, the Creator (1) - I just like his style, he's badass. Good FIFA background music.

Within and Without - Washed Out (1) - I can just put this record on and space the fuck out. I value that.
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Old 12-29-2011, 09:07 AM   #67
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Have I ever mentioned that I feel much the same way about the Arctic Monkeys as Michael Scott feels about Toby Flundersonn?

Because I do.
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Old 12-29-2011, 09:20 AM   #68
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What are your favorite albums of the year, Kieran?
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Old 12-29-2011, 09:29 AM   #69
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Pretty sure I made a stab at that in some other thread, one of the other threads concerning best-stuff-of-2011. The upshot is that it hasn't been a great year and I'm left scratching my head.
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Old 12-29-2011, 09:58 AM   #70
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The 2011 album I need to devote more time to is the new Tom Waits. I've only listened to a couple of tracks, and that was weeks ago.
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Old 12-29-2011, 10:26 AM   #71
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Yes, you do.

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Old 12-29-2011, 12:42 PM   #72
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Okay, here is my final list. My apologies for the length. I got a little over-exuberant on the ten hours of flights that I have had recently.

1. Radiohead: The King of Limbs (15 points)

Of the many criticisms leveled at King of Limbs upon its initial release, perhaps the most shortsighted was that of “disappointment.” To this charge, I ask, “disappointing in what sense?” KoL is not OK Computer. It is not Kid A, nor Amnesiac. It is not In Rainbows. It is, however, a work of ingenuity from a band that refuses to rest on its laurels or pander to critics.

Like Kid A and Hail to the Thief before it, KoL asks for investment from the listener, revealing itself in layers of emotional complexity and instrumental subtleties. Bloom, for example, adds an understated flugelhorn where the band once might have depended on electronics. In a similar manner, Codex slips delicately between resignation and euphoria, painting in broad and diverse colors where earlier piano-rooted tracks, such as Pyramid Song, were content to remain monochromatic. The second half of the album shows off more stylistic range than most bands can hope to achieve in a whole career, with Yorke’s sprawling vocal range adding mood over a panoply of instrumental textures. The range and nuance on display ensure that, regardless of how many times I hear the album, I always feel that I have experienced something valuable; that something, however, is succinct and elusive enough that I keep returning for more, never certain that I have comprehended the full scope of the music.

The length, therefore, strikes me as a major strength of the album rather than a weakness. What so many others have deemed “slight,” I would instead call “restrained,” a characteristic that becomes all the more remarkable when one considers the tendency toward bombast in the year’s music, however well (Destroyer) or haphazardly (M83) executed. Radiohead has already made albums for the arena and for the disaffected technological zeitgeist; they have earned the right to move in new directions, and, frankly, I doubt that they care whether Pitchfork or PopMatters like the results or not.

2. St. Vincent: Strange Mercy (13 points)

My award for most-improved artist would undoubtedly go to Ms. Annie Clark, which might seem odd given the strength of her last effort, 2008’s Actor. Strange Mercy, however, raises the stakes in almost very sense imaginable. The melodies are unconventional but infectious. The song structures are delightfully off-kilter. The guitar work is searing. And the vocals are expansive and almost compulsively emotive. Take, for example, the vocal work on Surgeon: a track that begins with her cooing sweetly about spending the summer on her back gradually morphs into a frantic plea for excision, conveying a persona by whom the listener is at once allured and concerned.

Surgeon encapsulates well the album’s incredible breadth of range. The deftness with which she oscillates between moods – alternately sensual and frigid, intimate and detached, comical and caustic, submissive and rebellious – is testament to an artist of rare talent and vision. Speaking of vision, Ms. Clark is fearless and percipient enough to imbue the album with social commentary on the state of young women in society: femininity and sexuality are sources of both empowerment and vulnerability, a juxtaposition that compromises any attractive, intelligent woman’s perception as a serious artist. Given the lamentable tendency for female artists to go the route of the corporate pop drone and act as tools of damaging social conventions, Clark’s awareness and confronting of such issues makes her not only an intriguing member of the musical community, but an important one as well. Here’s to her continued success.

3. Tom Waits: Bad as Me (12 points)

As clichéd as it will sound to begin a discussion of Tom Waits with a reference to alcohol, the venerable slumdog’s eccentric approach to music has aged as well as the bourbon and rum that soak his entire catalogue. Here’s the impressive part: whereas other icons of the 60s and 70s, such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan, have tended to approach age with a sort of introspection and humility, Waits has confronted Father Time, subdued him, and then bought him a pity drink. What is clear to me is that Waits has no intention of playing the elder statesman – and may the gods bless him for it.

Bad as Me is a night of Dionysian revelry filtered through the jazz and vaudeville traditions of New Orleans and Chicago. Every track is not so much a new story as a new chapter to the night, so that, by the record’s end, listeners have a broad range of flavors on their tongues that are just as eclectic as any good night on the town. There is a sense of bravado, but it never becomes arrogant, and it is tempered in many places with more sedate but no less self-assured moments. The overall effect is much like the spell cast by Matt Berninger: these are guys with whom you would invite the opportunity to have a few drinks.

4. Destroyer: Kaputt (10 points)

I am going to extend a personal thanks to LemonMelon for beginning a thread about Destroyer’s Kaputt back in December of 2010, as Mr. Bejar has been for me, as I know he has for several others as well, one of the most rewarding discoveries of the year. Thinking back now, I don’t think that there was a less likely critical darling this year: the underlying concept of hyper-literate tales of malaise and debauchery set to a hybrid of 80s pop and jazz textures still sounds like a disaster as I type the description. The execution, however, is impeccable, and the melodies sublime. The horns gently accent the silky-smooth bass lines, and, although the album shows all the signs of pristine studio work, the album never feels superficial or forced. Quite the opposite, actually: the disaffected lyrics cut through the sheen of the production, infusing the whole thing with a sense of deliberate juxtaposition and subtle drama.

Although every song contributes an essential piece to the atmosphere, the closer, Bay of Pigs, is arguably the most important track here, bathing the album in gentle light over its ten-plus minutes and providing a gentle, modern denouement to the nostalgic energy of the preceding tracks. That sense of balance and timing is a sure sign of a practiced, confident artist, and also of one of the year’s most memorable albums.

5. Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 (10 points)

As much as I enjoyed Ravedeath on my first several listens, I only recently fell in love with it. Working on my laptop while on a nighttime flight, the meticulously crafted textures of the In the Fog suite provided a sublime accompaniment to the distant lights below and expansive darkness above. The most fitting word that I can find to describe this album is “coruscating.” Individual sounds flit into and out of the mix, creating an otherworldly atmosphere reminiscent of that transient state between sleep and waking, or, perhaps more abstractly, between life and death. Such ambivalence of mood is also reflected in the heavy use of pipe organ; on the tracks in which it features most prominently, the instrument moves between optimism and despair, creating a funereal aura perhaps appropriate to the antiquated church in which the album was recorded.

Hecker’s talents with mood are undeniable, but the technical ability on display here is no less impressive. On headphones, the full range of textures comes to the fore, demonstrating how sounds of only a few seconds’ duration interact with each other in order to form a rich, multi-layered tapestry, or how the simple, organic notes of a distant piano anchor the synthesized chords at the top of the mix. This combination of inspiration and raw technical ability makes Ravedeath easily the finest of the 2011 albums that I perhaps unjustly group into the “electronica” category on my iTunes.

6. Bon Iver: Bon Iver (8 points)

I suppose that I am one of the few who was underwhelmed by Mr. Vernon’s widely acclaimed debut, For Emma, Forever Ago. It was well-crafted and occasionally brilliant, with some very pretty and some heart-wrenching moments, but also a little inconsistent and self-pitying. All credit to Vernon, however, for taking everything that was promising about the debut and expanding upon it for Bon Iver. The lead track, Perth, encompasses the upgrade quite well, retaining the sparse, home-spun feel of For Emma while adding carefully-chosen instrumental accents through horns and military-style drumming.

The album benefits greatly from the pacing and sequencing; both individual songs and the album as a whole dance skillfully with texture and tempo, creating arguably the most consistent album of the year. Credit again to Vernon for demonstrating that albums can be enhanced through discretion in sequencing and timing rather than simply through production techniques. Vernon’s knack for seeing the whole picture once again comes through in the final track, which changes the texture of the record at just the point when the deciduous atmosphere is beginning to overshadow the songs themselves. Ultimately, Bon Iver is an intelligent record: the type that understands its strengths and capitalizes upon them through a variety of techniques both essential to and external from the songs themselves. There were stronger albums this year, but perhaps none as self-aware.

7. The Antlers: Burst Apart (7 points)

In all honesty, Burst Apart sounds like the album that Hospice was intended to be. The latter was certainly a fine record, but the plaintive guitars and positively ethereal vocals imbuing Burst Apart are as emotive of aging and death as anything that this or any other band is likely to produce. The lyrics seem to fight resignation around every turn, most notably in the tracks I Don’t Want Love and Putting the Dog to Sleep, yet the gorgeous atmospherics in songs like Parentheses and Corsicana suggest that melancholia can be as life-affirming as it is torturous. I’m tempted to say that Burst Apart intentionally crafts a paradox by commenting that the humanity necessary for recognizing beauty necessarily invites suffering; perhaps the true beauty of this album, however, is that it works just as effectively when stripped of any cerebral interpretations and simply enjoyed for the music’s sake. That ability to function effectively on multiple levels makes Burst Apart one of the year’s standouts.

8. Wild Beasts: Smother (5 points)

Despite some laudatory reviews, Wild Beasts’ Smother managed to fly under the radar this year – which is a shame, especially given the skillful arrangements and stately melodies on display throughout the record. Perhaps the album’s most impressive accomplishment, though, is the otherworldly atmosphere that it achieves with predominantly acoustic instrumentation. Piano, organ, guitars, tabla drums and, to my best guess, harp all weave together to create a sound both inviting and slightly baroque. Much of the latter characteristic derives from singer Hayden Thorpe’s unconventional but haunting voice, his quivering, operatic falsetto lending tremendous character to the songs. Much of how you feel about this album and Wild Beasts in general will depend on how you react to the vocals, but one would have a hard time denying that the vocal delivery is matched impeccably with the instrumentation and mood of each song. Wild Beasts now have three superb albums under their collective belt; a fourth will make it increasingly difficult for them to remain in the shadows.

9. Washed Out: Within & Without (5 points)

Forget “chillwave” and all of the inane commentary about it being ossified and irrelevant at the tender age of three years. There will always be a place in music for an album as self-assured, melodic, and optimistic as Within & Without. The lush haze that hangs over the record is the most immediate characteristic, but the details, such as the female vocal sample in Before, are the lynchpins of the album, the accents that imprint the individual tracks in the listener’s head. The record is also an immediate mood-lifter, awash with major keys and sunny hooks. Even a misanthrope like me wants to relax and have fun from time to time, and there was no better album for those ends this year than Within & Without.

10. Iron & Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean (3 points)

Few artists in the music world have evolved as rapidly as Sam Beam. His lo-fi, antebellum folk has transfigured into an orchestral fusion of jazz, pop, and soul in only ten years. Kiss Each Other Clean is the latest step in his transfiguration, offering a wide palette of textures and genres percolated through 70s-infused pop structures. The vocal work continues to evolve as well, with Beam now more confident to place his voice high in the mix rather than obscured in effects or tape hiss. His vocals and lyrics especially take center stage on the finale, Your Fake Name Is Good Enough for Me, in which the delicate and often gorgeous melodies and textures of the preceding nine tracks come swirling into a barn-burning homily on all the largest themes imaginable. Such ambition, I think, bodes well for Mr. Beam's future.

11. James Blake: James Blake (3 points)

I am reluctant to brand Mr. Blake’s eponymous album as “Dubstep,” so I will instead apply a similarly over-abused term to it: “downtempo.” The beats and vocals are languidly evocative throughout and often supported by a keen ear for a hook (see especially The Wilhelm Scream). But perhaps the finest compliment that I can pay to the album is that it takes me back to London whenever I hear it.

12. Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost (3 points)

Arguably the finest straight-forward rock album released this year, Father, Son, Holy Ghost was kept from my top ten only by a few aimless songs. The surrounding tracks, however, show off some of the best guitar work and melodies of the year, especially in the crescendos of Die and Forgiveness.

13. The Horrors: Skying (2 points)

Skying made a case for my best-of list based on the stunning tracks Changing the Rain and Still Life alone. The remainder of the album, however, is filled with a similarly lush hybrid of Post-Punk and New-Wave homages, making it another of the nostalgia-tinged records that worked wonders this year.

14. Zola Jesus: Conatus (2 points)

There had always been some light peering through the deeply-stained glass of Zola Jesus’s work; Conatus wisely brings those melodic instincts into the foreground. The medieval allure of the soundscapes and theatrical vocals remains the foundation of the album, but the understated pop sensibilities cultivated throughout show an artist who is willing to push herself in new directions.

15. Crystal Stilts: In Love with Oblivion (2 points)

Imagine Ian Curtis singing over warm textures and pop-leaning, almost sunny guitar tones. Although Joy Division-meets-R.E.M. might sound like an odd pairing, In Love with Oblivion pulls off the feat with aplomb. That it manages the rare feat of brimming with personality while also tipping its hat to its influences is the sign of a talented band at work.

16. Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues

Starker and darker than the debut, Helplessness Blues retains Mr. Pecknold’s uncanny sense for a hook while also trying some new approaches – some of them effective (Bedouin Dress) and some not so much (An Argument). Ultimately, though, there is no denying the musicianship and vision on display here.

17. Feist: Metals

When I saw Feist in November, I became convinced that she was deliberately eschewing any sense of pop songcraft, as she gave even infectious songs like Mushaboom a brooding, almost tribal interpretation. Metals is similarly bathed in gray-scale, but even the relatively dark textures cannot disguise the sensuality and raw expressiveness of the voice that carries all of her work.

18. PJ Harvey: Let England Shake

On Let England Shake, Ms. Harvey’s political outrage is so even-mannered as to be almost polite – how wonderfully English. The great thing, though, is how smoothly her historical awareness and social incisiveness complement the Brit-Pop sensibilities underpinning most of the songs.

19. EMA: Past Life Martyred Saints

Candid, raw, and almost violent, Past Life Martyred Saints might be the most intense album of the year. Its impact comes from more than emotion, though; the diversity of the song structures keeps the listener guessing and, ultimately, coming back for more.

20. TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light

Although somewhat uneven as an album, the highpoints of Nine Types of Light, most notably Will Do and Second Song, are some of the very finest tracks of the year. Furthermore, the funk that was latent on Dear Science makes a glorious return here, ensuring a good time whenever the album is spinning.

Honorable Mention:

Beirut: The Rip Tide
Bjork: Biophilia
Dirty Beaches: Badlands
Future Islands: On the Water
Wilco: The Whole Love

Albums I heard this year

Andy Stott: Passed Me By
Antlers: Burst Apart
Atlas Sound: Parallax
Balam Acab: Wander/Wonder
Battles: Gloss Drop
Beirut: The Rip Tide
Bjork: Biophilia
Black Keys: El Camino
Bon Iver: Bon Iver
Braids: Native Speaker
Charlotte Gainsbourg: Stage Whisper
Cold Cave: Cherish the Light Years
Coldplay: Mylo Xyloto
Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Volume 2
Crystal Stilts: In Love with Oblivion
Cults: Cults
Cut Copy: Zonoscope
Decemberists: The King Is Dead
Destroyer: Kaputt
Dirty Beaches: Badlands
EMA: Past Life Martyred Saints
Esben & The Witch: Violet Cries
Feist: Metals
Fitz & The Tantrums: Pickin’ up the Pieces
Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues
Florence + The Machine: Ceremonials
Fucked Up: David Comes to Life
Future Islands: On the Water
Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Hercules & Love Affair: Blue Songs
Horrors: Skying
Iron & Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean
James Blake: James Blake
Kate Bush: Fifty Words for Snow
Kills: Blood Pressures
Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring for My Halo
Los Campesinos!: Hello Sadness
Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes
M83: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Neon Indian: Era Extrana
Nicolas Jaar: Space Is Only Noise
Noel Gallagher: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Okkervil River: I Am Very Far
Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica
Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Belong
Panda Bear: Tomboy
Peter Gabriel: New Blood
PJ Harvey: Let England Shake
R.E.M.: Collapse into Now
Radiohead: The King of Limbs
Raphael Saadiq: Stone Rollin’
Real Estate: Days
Ryan Adams: Ashes & Fire
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: Soul Time!
Smith Westerns: Dye It Blonde
St. Vincent: Strange Mercy
Sbtrkt: Sbtrkt
Tim Hecker: Dropped Pianos
Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972
Tom Waits: Bad as Me
Tune-Yards: w h o k i l l
TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light
War on Drugs: Slave Ambient
Washed Out: Within & Without
Wye Oak: Civilian
Wilco: The Whole Love
Wild Beasts: Smother
Wild Flag: Wild Flag
Zola Jesus: Conatus

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Old 12-29-2011, 12:46 PM   #73
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Old 12-29-2011, 01:40 PM   #74
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Iron Yuppie, much appreciated write up. Kudos for including Washed Out.
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Old 12-29-2011, 01:54 PM   #75
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Right, because that Washed Up album was super obscure and didn't appear on countless best-of lists this year.

Friggin' mikal.

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