Saturday, December 10, 2011

Top 10 albums of 2011!

These are some of my favorite albums of the year (no, Bon Iver is not on here), and in a semi-vague general order. Check out some new tunes for finals. The last five have a fair amount more explanation that the first five.

The War on Drugs-Slave Ambient
What a wonderful amalgamation of blues, folk-rock, and electronic futuristic visions. No, you’re not listening to Bob Dylan on the track, it’s Adam Granduciel–rambling shamanistic frontman that makes superb tunes. Give it a listen–he’s so hot right now.

My Morning Jacket-Circuital
Kentucky legends are back with another standout record. Eerie, warm mystic songs topped by Jim James’s sanguine, curling voice.

Washed Out-Within and Without
Yes, chillwave can be a terrible thing at times–2007 certainly stands as evidence. But making hazy, crackling synth melodies dripped in warbled lyrics that seem to have a breathy life of their own will always be enjoyable. Solid album, great sound.

Iceage-New Brigade
Let these super-young Copenhagen bad boys serve as a lesson: punk is far from dead. Their music thrives on percussive bursts, gnomic, cryptic lyrics, and is sodden in overflowing energy. Just listen to “Collapse,” and I dare you to sit still.

PJ Harvey-Let England Shake
A superb record from veteran PJ Harvey. She loves England, and you will too after the album. Tinkling, pretty ditties and brunt guitar abound, covered at all times with Harvey’s gorgeous, coy voice.

Ty Segall-Goodbye Bread
Ty Segall–what a man. The dude makes excellent fuzzy garage rock that’s fit for seemingly any occasion. Goodbye Bread is certainly his most concentrated and successful release to date–it carries emotional depth too, and allows an insight to Segall’s convoluted self-image. The title track is excellent, and it’s accompanying music video functions as sort of a mission statement for the whole album. “You Make the Sun Fry” is a fantastic, sludge-soaked rocker that channels Neil Young energies pretty effectively. Segall has come to a perfect balance between singer-songwriter sensibilities and powerful garage-rocking.

ASAP Rocky-LiveLoveA$AP
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this guy. The internet hypemachine is well known for it’s power to bestow fame, at times seemingly random, upon neighborhood kids making music in their basement. So after two sweet youtube videos for his songs "Peso" and "Purple Swag," he copped a Sony/RCA record deal for a cool 3,000,000. Odd Future’s Hodgy Beats called him “A$AP copy.” But as my father used to tell me, “don’t hate the playa, hate the game,” and this is one of those circumstances–this dude makes great music. He lays down rollicking, stutter stepped, honey soaked verses over smoked out beats. “Peso”, “Trilla”, and “Purple Swag” are clear favorites–Rocky hails from Harlem, but he brings a southern rap flow to smooth classics you cant help but bounce your head to. Some of his work with DIY bay-area troublemakers Main Atrrakionz is excellent too. Who knows what fame will do to the man, but all that can be said for sure right now is that he’s put out a standout debut.

Kurt Vile-Smoke Ring For My Halo
I hadn’t actually listened to Kurt Vile until earlier this year, when my cousin John Chambers took the time to say: get Kurt Vile and The War on Drugs on your speakers pronto. You’ll notice both these names are on my list… turns out he was right. Kurt Vile’s mumbling, bumbling, hyper-wry character is a wonder: listening to his songs is like reading a diary formatted as a Socratic dialogue. It reminds me of Eliot Smith a bit in that way–but Vile brings much a much beefier guitar sensibility and, well, he genuinely sounds like he’s having fun making his music. His range is immense–he delivers catchy freeway cruising tunes (“Jesus Fever”), bare and honest ballads (“Ghost Town”), and finger picking wanderers (“On Tour”). Ultimately, Smoke Ring For My Halo is just a great, cohesive album in the way that you always want.

Clams Casino-Instrumental Mixtape
This New Jersey producer is precisely what the post-Lil Wayne rap world needs. Welcome to a gorgeously bizarre, smoked out sonic landscape that makes you reconsider what rap can be. His hooks are based in warped lyrical samples, and punchy, in-your-face synth pops (listen to “Illest Alive” for a great interpretation of Gang Gang Dance’s “Mindkilla”). This is music that you can blast while doing homework or jumping around your apartment–and I say this from personal experience. “Realist Alive” is apparently a slurry of slowed down Adele’s “Hometown Glory” that’s slippery-sexy–or “Numb,” a rolling beat punctuated by warbled flutes(!). What keeps his music in the ambiguous space between hip hop and instrumental wanderings is, ultimately, his rabid attention to the structure of hip hop–he keeps you waiting for the beat drop, then lathers you silly with it.

WU LYF-Go Tell Fire on the Mountain
The first time I ever heard mysterious Manchester hype-machine-products WU LYF, I was about to go to bed, lying in my bed at night this summer in my apartment. They had just released the “Heavy Pop” single from the album, and when I heard those incredible piano notes rising from the silence into bestial, cathartic awe, all I could think was holy shit–this is what my ears have been waiting to hear for 20 years. I still think that. Even now, listening to the album, its practically impossible to keep my fingers on the keyboard–their music so emotionally devastating, enveloping you in sonic rapture while Ellery Roberts’ Dionysian animal roars beat the shit out of you. And WU LYF are just kids (the oldest is 22), making music about finding your way through the muckymean world, being together with friends, and having a ton of fun doing it. Their name is an acronym for World Unite, Lucifer Youth Foundation, though in “L Y F” they offer an alternate name, Love You Forever. They’ve caused such an internet ruckus through their refusal to give interviews, their blasé attitude towards media sources–every cynic suggests it’s just another hype technique, that they’re pompous and aloof. But ultimately, there is no music that sounds like theirs. Perhaps people are simply baffled in this day and age when a band doesn’t have a website filled with info, festooned with myspace and facebook links, photos of shows, objective information. I could write an entire post just on what their music is, what they stand for, why it’s so fucking good, and what it does to you, the listener. But ultimately, just buy their music, and find your own connection in it. Standouts among an album of standouts: “Heavy Pop,” “Dirt,” “14 Crowns For Me & Your Friends,” “We Bros.”


  1. Sick music, sick list. Hi Dowd.

  2. Clams Casino's The World Needs Change is a slowed down version of Imogen Heap's Headlock - 'parently they like it slow. First time pointing something out musically to the audioguru? check.