Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best of 2011 Part 7

This is it! We made it! This year is over, and these are my top albums of the year. I hope you were entertained, maybe found a new artist you didn't know, and will join me again in 2012 for many more great tunes as the blog enters its third year. Now hurry up and check this, then go enjoy your evening!

The King Of Limbs

We waited for years after their last album and finally "Lotus Flower", followed by a further seven tracks of Radiohead genius. Sure, it might not have been their greatest album ever, but it was still awesome and was easily good enough to make it near the top of the charts even if it did feel a little abruptly truncated. I'm pretty sure we won't have to wait as long for the next one. I hope not anyway.

At this point I think everyone in the world has heard of these guys, and if not they're probably beyond help. I don't think this would be the album to win over too many new fans, per se, as it's basically just another minor evolution of their expansive electronic ideas that they've explored since their landmark album "Kid A". Either you're into this stuff or you aren't, and if you're not you should be, because this is the best band in the world. End of story.


Morning Mr. Magpie

Little By Little

Bon Iver
Bon Iver

I have to admit I wasn't really into Justin Vernon's deput LP, but this one had me captivated as soon as I heard the first single "Calgary", one of the best songs of the year. Actually there are several songs in this album that would be in the running for that title.

Most impressively, this album has taken the same haunting lyrical songwriting style but added layers and layers and layers of sounds, all blending into one masterful musical painting that will have you in fits over its utter majesty. Just check out the live performance below and see the amazing collection of multi-instrumentalists that have been put together and you'll know what a special album this is. He even drafted a certain Colin Stetson to help out a little on the saxomophone. Say no more.





I had a good laugh when Pitchfork described Aaron Jerome as a "journeyman". Talk about being wide of the mark. Anyone who was into progressive electronic music even a bit would have known him before this album came out, and there was a ton of anticipation for his debut LP. To say he delivered would be an equally derisive understatement.

This album not only has my favorite song of the year, "Wildfire", but also ten other absolutely killer tracks that bridge the gaps between house, dubstep, and everything in between. The mixes are perfect, the vocals are seamless, and what we have here is an introduction into the future of electronic music. The bar has been set very, very high indeed. Enjoy.


Trials Of The Past


EP #1
Alabama Shakes
Alabama Shakes

Does anyone else find it interesting that the last three albums on this list all were self-titled albums? I think it just ties in with the overall theme of the year, one of experimentation and introduction to new sounds. All of these artists will, I'm positive, go on to even bigger and better things so it's extremely exciting to introduce you to Alabama Shakes, hands down the most exciting newcomers of the year. I posted a stunning live performance a week or so ago, and here are the other three songs on the EP you should be getting your hands on pronto.

I Found You

Hold On

On Your Way

Happy new year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011 Part 6

Now we're really moving quickly, we're heading into the top 5 today, with some of the year's truly outstanding albums. It's exciting, but getting harder and harder to pick only three songs out each one. I guess that's part of the fun. Onwards and upwards!

Gus Gus
Arabian Horse

Gus Gus is constantly evolving, both in sound and in membership. Hailing from Iceland they are an electronic ensemble who have been around for several years now and have always been on the "pretty cool" side of things, but this album was really a changing point for me. Whereas most electronic music these days is released in smaller EPs and full albums are scarce, this one is meant to be listened to as a whole composition rather than in singles.

It's essentially a tech-house album, but features lots of airy reverb and pulsating pads and beats that give it a trance-like feel. It's subtle, smooth, progressive and deep all at the same time. The production is superbly done and the vocals are just enough to keep it interesting without being overbearing. The mood overall is almost a searching, inquisitive tone, teetering effortlessly along positive and negative space. Devote an hour of your life to listening it straight through and you might find yourself in places you didn't expect. A musical journey well worth taking.


Arabian Horse

Changes Come

Red Fang
Murder The Mountains

I think it's kind of awesome when the most fun album of the year comes from a metal band out of Portland, Oregon. These guys look like four dudes who work at the bottle depot after their high school garage band careers didn't quite pan out. Their videos are super low budget (and hilarious), they have scruffy haircuts, are in their mid-30's at least, and they kick f'in ass. Seriously. They absolutely rock. A strange bit of trivia too, this album was produced by Chris Funk, a member of The Decemberists. Nice of him to make this album even better than his own.

Their sound is kind of like Mastodon, who they're opening up for on a European tour starting in mid-January, but with less screaming and kind of a southern rock tinge, though at times they are classic metal in a Black Sabbath vein. They really are something else. I haven't been this excited about a metal band in a long, long time so I'm more than happy to say that if you are into hard rock at all, this album is a must have. After that you'll probably buy a shirt, because they're so damn cool.


Dirt Wizard

The Undertow

The Roots

This is back-to-back killer albums from The Roots, who's album "How I Got Over" was my choice for album of the year in 2010. Whereas last year it was a full eighty minute killer front to back, this time it's a thirty-eight minute concept album, delivered backwards from death to life about a street hustler. The critics are going crazy over it, and I'm just another member of the chorus this time.

Some prefer it over the last album, I'm not sure I feel the same way. It's a masterpiece, for sure, but it's just different. This one feels more like a sort of rap opera, there's completely different pacing and voices throughout and it just seems to move through time and space to bring you to the conclusion. Check out the accompanying short film that I posted a few weeks back and it might help explain. Then get this album. It solidifies this band as THE premier hip-hop act in the world right now, and one of my favorite acts, period.


Make My

Tip The Scale

EP #2
Sweatshop Union
The Bill Murray EP

Anything with Bill Murray in it has to be awesome, doesn't it? These guys are reppin' the 604 out of Vancouver and seem to be getting better with each new release. This one, for me, is their best yet. Up until a week before I started this list this was tops on my EP list, and at twenty-three minutes of top notch hip-hop it's my favorite Canadian disc of the year. It'll probably be yours too after you listen to this.

Makeshift Kingdom

Bill Murray

John Lennon

Tomorrow we get to the big cheese, numero uno!

Best of 2011 Part 5

Inside the top 10 today, let's waste no more time and get at 'er!

I Love You Dude

This is the stage name of Germany's Jens Moelle and Ismail Tüfekçi. I have no idea how you pronounce that name. What I do know is that I love this album. Often as a DJ when you're looking at genre-specific sets you have a preconceived idea of what category a particular artist falls under. These guys, although their instrumentation is fairly similar throughout, have managed to mesh electro-pop, electronica, industrial, techno, and even a little trip-hop into one album.

What I really like about the album is that you can listen to it track by track, or you can just put the thing on and press play and hear it all at once and it's equally impressive. Most of the tracks have an "epic" feel to them, but there's enough variety in the tempo and style of each track that keeps it fresh as you move along. And you will be moving.

2 Hearts



Death Grips

Holy cheese and rice what an album. This one came out of nowhere. I first came across the single "Takyon", and my immediate reaction was WTF?!? That pretty much explains the album right there. I should just stop this review. That's it.

Ok maybe not just yet. Maybe you've heard of Tyler The Creator. His album got a ton of hype and really turned out to be pretty average. This album got no hype and turned out to be pretty awesome. It's really, really loud and really, really angry and really, really intense. The production is totally whack, the vocals are on the verge of insane, and the whole thing in general doesn't even make sense. You probably won't like it. At all. Definitely not. No chance.


Culture Shock


The Decemberists
The King Is Dead

This album is pretty much a polar opposite of the last one. It would have to be from a Disney soundtrack to be further from it. That's why it's so much fun to be a music nut. On one hand you can rock out to something completely insane, and then five minutes later you can groove out to something smooth and fairly straight forward. This is one of those albums. It glides, swings, and melts its way through your ear canals into your soul.

I really don't know much about these guys. I'd heard of them before and I guess this is their sixth studio album, but I wouldn't recognize anything else. This is also a little weird for me because I really hate country noise, and while this is a folk rock album at heart it is heavily marked with the taste of slide guitars and garish fiddles. Somehow, though, they work. There are no fake southern accents in the vocals, and the pace of the album is pretty flawless. For lovers of folk, indie, and probably country too, this album is a sure bet.

Rise To Me

Don't Carry It All

This Is Why We Fight

EP #3
Scientists Of Sound
Wealth And Hellness

I have to admit my slight bias in this particular review, as I've been following these guys in their previous life as half of the Jimmy Swift Band, but don't let that sway you from the truth. This is an awesome EP. Craig Mercer and Aaron Collier are probably best known for their stunning live renditions of electronic classics like Daft Punk's "Around The World" but it won't be long before their originals start to catch on. Get this album. Better yet, see them live. You will move your booty, guaran-freakin-t'd.


March Of The Killer Ants

Wealth And Hellness

Two more to go, stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011 Part 4

Hard to believe but we're already half way through the list. We have some really divergent stuff for you today, so let's get to 'er!

DJ Cam

Laurent Daumail is our next contributor to the list, and does so with his latest solo effort. I'm a huge fan of the stuff he's done with his group, simply called the DJ Cam Quartet, and while this album doesn't stray too far from the lo-fi jazzy trip-hop style beats that he's known for, it offers a few more intricate and less loop-based jams that are an evolution from his previous material.

This is really a champion of chill-out tunes we're listening to, and this album is as intimate as you could ask for, pulling you in with some brilliant, soulful, almost haunting tracks while at other times just gently tugging with bright, fleeting artsy jazz rhythms. The only question now is when can we hear more?


California Dreamin'


Kraak & Smaak
Electric Hustle

After hearing the really crunchy sounding single "Dynamite" I figured the rest of the Dutch's trio's new album would be a similarly sounding house album. I'm happy to say I was proven wrong. I loved the single, but the album just had so many surprises and so many layers that any of my preconceptions were totally off-base.

This album has elements of soul, blues, jazz, R&B, but really at it's hard is a sort of synth-pop nu-funk awesomeness that should be listened to in its entirety. The whole thing just really makes you want to get up and boogie. They also tour as a live act to rave reviews and are now on my list of bands to see before the world blows up. Might have to make a little European tour to catch them.

Let's Go Back

Hold Back Love

Wasted With A Smile

The Black Keys
El Camino

Into the top 10! This is an interesting selection for me, because I actually have mixed feelings about this album. With their follow up to last year's wildly successful "Brothers" album, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have put together another fine album of bluesy rock that anyone who liked last year's record would love as well. Starting with the single, "Lonely Boy", it's full of the same catchy hooks and nearly every song is a winner, but is that really a good thing?

For music aficionados this album just sounds like an extension, some left over songs from the same writing and recording process. In this essence I'm not as excited about it, but that doesn't mean it's not a very good album. In fact just about any other rock duo in the world would be ecstatic about releasing an album of this calibre, but we've come to expect so much from these guys that I was just hoping for something really different this time. That said it's still good enough to make my top 10, which maybe says something about how good these guys are.

Gold On The Ceiling

Dead And Gone

Mind Eraser

EP #4
Com Truise

Seth Haley really likes his synths, drum machines, and really likes 80's video games. Probably loves robots too because that's what I think of when I listen to his music. This EP was my first exposure to his weird audiotronic world, and I was impressed. Even though his choice of instrumentation is limited, there is emotion and versatility exposed in a strange robotic kind of way. Even though I was ultimately underwhelmed by his later LP release, this EP is definitely worth checking out.



Beta Eyes

Tomorrow we move deeper into the top 10.

Best of 2011 Part 3

Of course by a couple hours I meant a few? I had to run to the cinema to catch the latest Sherlock Holmes movie. I missed the first one but I heard it was mediocre. After hearing this one was supposedly better and so on, all I could think of after watching it was "meh". Guy Ritchie was the director, and while I loved some of his flicks, there was just too much going on and not enough plot in this one. Lack of substance seems to me a recurring theme in modern entertainment. Let's check out some stuff with a little more of that shall we?

Owiny Sigoma Band
Owiny Sigoma Band

Who? I hadn't heard of them either until Thom Yorke posted one of his little lists on his website. Thankfully those Radiodudes have pretty good taste in music, because what we have here is a lovely little surprise of an album. It's a fusion of traditional Kenyan music with an English style jam band. The result is really cool.

It has all the esoteric percussion bits you'd expect from something out of the African continent, but also lots of funky guitar riffs and some traditional drum kits to even it all out. They wouldn't be out of place at all at a festival, like say Evolve. Actually I think they'd be awesome to see live. After listening to this album, I bet you'd feel the same way.


Doyoi Nyajo Nam

Odera Lwar

Gloss Drop

Ya buddy! Battles returned with their second full length album, four years after their last totally awesome album. This time they were without vocalist Tyondai Braxton who has left to pursue a solo career but the vocals were really secondary anyway so he's hardly missed on this one. The real key to this group is drummer John Stanier, formerly of metal band Helmet, who kicks drum-skin ass like few others.

Thumping drums and pile-driving guitars are trademarks of this band, and this album does not disappoint. It even features some guest vocalists including the magnificent Gary Numan, who is still at his best more than twenty years after the height of his fame. If you want high-octane noise pollution with a hint of direction and the slightest brush of sanity, look no further. These guys are truly a sight to behold live, and this album might suggest it, but really it has to be seen to be believed. Check it.

My Machines



Foo Fighters
Wasting Light

At last! A rock album! It's getting harder and harder to convince everyone, myself included, that rock isn't dead. I mean all we really have left are a half dozen decent old timers like these guys to keep the dream alive. Hopefully somebody new picks up a guitar and learns how to play it like a champion soon, because otherwise we're gonna be stuck with pre-fab pop garbage and run-of-the-mill raison d'etre indie rubbish.

For rocking out alone this album leapfrogs over several possibly more deserving albums, but that doesn't mean this one isn't good. It might not be the best Foos ever, but it's still pretty damn impressive considering their first album came out in 1995! Credit where credit is due, it's a solid record and well worth picking up to drown out the mainstream chorus. And while we're on the topic of ass kicking drummers, who else aside from Taylor Hawkins can sing awesome backup vocals at the same time?


Bridge Burning

Dear Rosemary

EP #5
Parov Stelar
La Fête

If electro-swing was a piece of equipment, then Parov Stelar would be the industry standard. Marcus Füreder is the man behind the music, and he can make you groove like few other. Maybe it's his Austrian roots, maybe he just really likes to swing, whatever it is, he's got it down to a science. This latest EP has more of a tech house feel to it than previous offerings, but it's still swingin' like nobody's business and you should definitely grab the vinyl if you can get your grubby little hands on it. Take caution, though, this kind of music can incite the same kind of scantily clad dancing portrayed in the video below.

Wanna Fête [Wanna Get Remix]


Le Piaf

Back with part 4 tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011 Part 2

Ok, on to part 2, with part 3 coming right after this one. I got an extra pair of underwear as a late Christmas gift, so I'm in a good mood. Anyone know why they call them a pair? There's various stories on the interwebs, and none of them make any sense. I digress. Here's music.

Wagon Christ

Wagon Christ is one of several pseudonyms employed by English producer Luke Vibert, and under which his best stuff has been published. His specialty is lo-fi hip-hop instrumentals, often with a downtempo breakbeat style. Releasing on a bunch of different labels over the years, this one is on the world class Ninja Tune label, and it's easy to see why.

As a straight album front to back it's a little choppy, but that has more to do with the eclectic style of Vibert rather than misplaced track selection. At any given time there is a mashing of muted horns, chirpy vocal samples, and dreamy synth organs. If you're into trippy, mind-expanding beats, this one could be just the ticket.



Ain't He Heavy, He's My Brother

Colin Stetson
New History Warfare Vol. 2

You're heard Colin Stetson before, you just don't know it. He's performed with Tom Waits, LCD Soundsystem, The National, and the Arcade Fire, just to name a few. He's a brilliant musician, and if there is any album off this list that will go down as one of the best in future lists, it's this one. The only reason it doesn't make it higher on this list is because it's not something you can just pop in the tape deck and go for a drive with. It takes serious effort to sit and appreciate the eccentricity and splendor contained in it.

It was shortlisted for the 2011 Polaris prize, and by estimation should have won. In terms of pure musicianship and recording innovation, there is nothing even close. Stetson recorded the whole thing live on his bass sax, in single takes, with no dubs or loops, using twenty-odd microphones to record everything from the clicks of the pads to the vibration of his vocal chords. It is a groundbreaking, landmark recording and truly a triumph of modern music. Two thumbs, way up.


Red Horse (Judges II)

The Righteous Wrath Of An Honorable Man

Hey Rosetta!

Tim Baker and Co. have given us their most accomplished album to date, but paradoxically it is my least favorite so far. I say this because it is unquestionably a graduation of sound and depth from their previous work, but it's not nearly as catchy and it's really moved them from merely a really good nu-folk storytelling sort of band into a fully blown epic rock ensemble. After a few more listens, this album will grow on me even more, and it's highly probable that I will eventually prefer this sound to the one I've become accustomed to.

As is the case in these kinds of albums, the most accessible songs on the album are the least impressive. Songs like "Yer Spring" and "Young Glass" are very good but ultimately well surpassed by the rest. If you were previously into the band, like me, you might not appreciate it for all it is yet, but you will. Just give it time. I'm talking to myself again, aren't I...

Yer Fall


Parson Brown

EP #6
Mux Mool
Drum EP 2

Brian Lindgren operates out of New York these days, but for a while it seemed like he wouldn't be operating out of anywhere. After contemplating quitting the music scene altogether he was convinced to stick it out a little longer, and thank goodness he did because he's put out a killer EP that will surely lead to even better things in the future. Funky instrumental layers of sonic goodness are awaiting all who pick this six song offering up. Go ahead, you won't be disappointed.

Flying Dreams

The Hundred Dollar Beat

Jen And Soda

Time for snack then back with part 3 in a couple hours.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011 Part 1

Well I suppose since we're at the end of the year I should post my top albums of 2011. For those who missed last year's list, check it out here. This year was mostly, by my estimation, one of experimentation and there weren't really a lot of standouts per se, and I doubt many of these albums will put up much fight in any future "best of" lists, but there were some good ones amidst the piles and piles of dross.

The end of the year, in particular, kind of saved this from being a "who can I throw in" list rather than picking the best of a decent group. As usual I include the disclaimer that this is not a definitive list of the best albums of the year, merely a list of those that I found stimulating, unique, and most of all that I enjoyed. I'm sure there are many more good ones that I'll continue to find well into the new year. That said, I'm think there's a pretty good range of styles represented here. With the increasing prevalence of EPs being released rather than full LPs, I'm also going to give you my top 7 of those as well. 

Without further adieu, here's part 1 of my best of 2011. Enjoy.

Spiritual State

This is kind of a sentimental selection, as its creator Jun Seba tragically died in a traffic accident early last year. This album is a collection of songs he had left unpublished, some of which being finished off by collaborators. It's the first full-length Nujabes release since 2005, and it's a fitting end to a truly unique producer.

While it probably isn't quite up to the standards of his earlier work, it's still a very good album and worth getting if you're at all interested in him or lo-fi beats. His signature use of jazz samples are prevalent, and the beats are rock-solid as usual. At the end of the hour you're left wishing for more, but hopefully a new generation of Japanese musicians will be inspired to greatness because of it.

Spiritual State


Far Fowls

The Abandoned Lullaby

Icebird are a sort of part soul, part hip-hop, all groove project duo in the vein of Gnarls Barkley. While not quite of the same level of genius, the combination of producer RJD2 and vocalist Aaron Livingston is probably the next best thing. There's even a hint of Black Keys style blues in there.

With twelve tracks clocking in at around fifty minutes, it's a solid effort for their debut release. The infusion of soulful organs and jazzy pianos are a bit of a departure from RJ's usually percussion-driven tracks, but they're smooth and have a bit of swagger and lack nothing in character. There's not much more to say on this one, how's about we let the music do the talking.

Going And Going And Going

Charmed Life

I'm Green

Round Table Knights
Say What?!

Round Table Knights is the brainchild of the UK's Benjamin Fay (aka Benfay), Christoph Haller, and Marc Hofweber (aka DJ Questionmark). They've been around for a few years now but this is their first full-length LP release and it came with a fair bit of fanfare. At it's heart it's basically a house album, but it's much more than that with a surprising amount of depth that has been a feature of several purely electronic releases this year.

If you're looking for straight-up four-to-the-floor beats, this isn't the album for you. If you want style, sass, jazz, and some attitude, then maybe this is more your flavor. Really this could have been much higher on this list based on the amount I've listened to it, but oh well here it is. The tricky part is going to be picking three songs to give you, because there really isn't a bad song on the album. Highly recommended, whether you're a house fan or not.

Cut To The Top


Say What

EP #7

If you're into dance music of any kind and you haven't heard of Gigamesh by now then you've either been living under a boulder or are just completely oblivious to who's making half of the awesome beats you've been rocking out to in the past twelve months. Matt Masurka has been absolutely killing it in the remix department lately, and he's finally gotten around to releasing something of his own with this cool self-titled four-track EP. No videos as of yet, so just listen to these goodies.

When You're Dancing

It's So Intense

Red Light

Phew... break time! Tomorrow, parts 2 & 3!