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  • Top 10 of 2011

    13. Jan. 2012, 21:15

    This year has been... ok. I think there have been a few great albums but I haven't heard anything new which has been outstanding. Best thing that has happened this year music-wise is getting properly into Guided by Voices and listening to 212 by Azealia Banks. Also, I'm pretty sure Scouting for Girls didn't release an album because the number of times I wanted to stab out my own earholes with a serrated knife were minimal. Here are my albums of the year:

    10. Sandro Perri - Impossible Spaces

    Never heard of this guy before this year. Skwonky singer-songwriter folk that reminds me of Andrew Bird in the best possible way.

    9. Washed Out - Within and Without

    Washed Out with higher production values confirms what I suspected: this guy writes great songs with or without the hiss of a cassette. Hazy and sun-drenched, this is the late night summer album of the year. Shame about the live show.

    8. The Advisory Circle - As The Crow Flies

    Just like the other the artists on the Ghost Box label, The Advisory Circle are making some of the best electronica in the UK today. The perfect soundtrack to a late night cemetery walk (if you want to shit yourself).

    7. Low - C'mon

    Low return to their roots without retreading the formulas. A few dodgy lyrics aside ('Witches', I'm looking at you) this is beautiful, potent music and features one of my favourite songs of the year: Nothing but Heart.

    6. Active Child - You Are All I See

    This sounds like if Bon Iver made an album using only the best aspects of bad eighties electronica. It doesn't work on paper but I'll be damned if it doesn't work through speakers.

    5. King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine

    One of the more subtle grower albums of the year this one. John Hopkins' production touches are so slight and yet add so much to King Creosote's melancholy folk. Hopkins understands that the correct way to season a good soup is to compliment, not overpower, the main flavour.

    4. Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo

    Gruff Rhys again proves he can do not wrong (apart from the entirity of the album with the Brazilian TV repairman) with 'Hotel Shampoo'. Has the same sweet melodies and wonderful playful lyricism we've come to expect from Gruff. And I bloody love 'If We Were Words We Would Rhyme'.

    3. Bon Iver - Bon Iver

    Whenever I'm not listening to this album I forget what it sounds like. Which is weird. But then I put it on I realise that it is a fantastic album, it just doesn't have the individual stand-out songs that the self-titled did. Very glad that they avoided the sophomore slump - wasn't sure they'd make it.

    2. Wye Oak - Civilian

    This is a great indie-rock record, jagged around the edges and with a deep sadness running like a bass line through everything. Jenn Wasner, the lead singer, has one of those voices that just reveals so much in the songs. Beautiful stuff.

    1. The Field - Looping State of Mind

    I don't know if this is actually my album of the year or not. It's all very close between my top 3. I think this one just cinches it though, even if purely for the synapse blasting live show. Loopy ambient techno (this is probably the only description which is actually accurate from all of these reviews) for the seasoned bedroom dancer. Take my advice: go and see the live show.
  • Top 5 of 2010

    5. Jan. 2011, 15:34

    5. The Walkmen – Lisbon



    The Walkmen were one of my discoveries of the year. I'd previously dismissed them as "that band that did the The Rat", a song which I love, but which I'd always assumed was by a band that couldn't top it. I was wrong. Lisbon (and You & Me before it) is a solid album by a band who've mastered their own brand of jangly rock music. Great lyrically, great musically, just great throughout!

    4. Sharon Van Etten – Epic



    Before December rolled around I thought I had my Top 5 of 2010 sorted. Then I heard 'Love More' by Sharon Van Etten on the All Songs Considered podcast and I was immediately compelled to seek out the album. Epic is a cathartic, rainy day of an album. Van Etten uses her music as a form of therapy (in the same way a lyricist like Mark Oliver Everett does) so these songs are mostly acoustic tales of heartbreak, bitterness, and regret. It's all fantastic, and at a sweet seven tracks it never outstays its welcome. But most impressive of all is 'Love More'. It's just one of those tracks that reaches down into my soul and makes me feel alive. So good.

    3. Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid



    An r 'n' b/hip hop album set in the future? First time I heard about The ArchAndroid I knew I had to seek it out. I'm a sucker for concept albums when they're done well. This sprawling, schizophrenic album is so ambitious for a debut it beggars belief. There's everything from psychedelic folk to r 'n' b ballads to hip hop on here. The downside of this is that it is a bit bloated and at almost 70 minutes it could certainly lose a track or two (eg. fuck off Kevin Barnes). Can't wait to see what she does next.

    2. The National – High Violet



    High Violet came very close to being my album of the year. Very, very close. I didn't think The National would be able to top Boxer and yet here they are again making some of the best songs of their career ('England' now being my favourite song by them). High Violet is a stunning album with evocative lyrics and restrained, broody tunes. It again cements the fact that The National are one of the best rock bands around, both lyrically and musically (Christ, just listen to the drummer).

    1. Caribou – Swim



    This is the one. With Swim, Caribou have abandoned the 60s psychedelic vibe of their earlier work and decided to venture into darker, electronic territory. I was caught off guard at first, wondering where it had gone wrong and if this meant I had lost one of my favourite current live bands for good. But like all great albums, Swim just grew and grew on me until I was playing it at every available opportunity.

    Taking his cues from house and trance, Dan Snaith has crafted an album which borrows from the old to create something undeniably new. This is how dance music should sound. I want songs which make me uncontrollably nod my head like 'Bowls', or stand up and stare to the heavens like 'Sun'. This is what I want playing in clubs. Now, please.

    Honourable mentions:

    Thee Oh Sees - Warm Slime
    Glasser - Ring
    Baths - Cerulean
    Hot Chip - One Life Stand
    Spoon - Transference
    Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here
  • Top 8 of the decade

    19. Jan. 2010, 23:00

    Here is my top 8 albums of the decade. I tried to do 10 but any two I tried to crowbar in at the end just didn’t quite match up to these ones. I’ve made no attempt to make these reviews “objective” in any way and it’s not in any specific order since I’d find it nearly impossible to choose my number one out of this bunch. But these are the albums which have rocked my universe the most in the last ten years.

    Super Furry Animals - Rings Around the World



    SFA: one of the biggest musical loves of my life and a band with which I developed (and many of my friends can attest to this) an unhealthy obsession. I first came across them supporting Blur at my first ever gig when I was 15. I absolutely hated them. My brain was simply not ready for the sheer level of eclecticism I was witnessing. For clarification's sake: I actually enjoyed the music of Menswear during this period of time. Only a persistent scouser at Uni could convince me to give them a second chance.

    It all started here with Rings Around the World, SFA’s most wild, eclectic, and brilliant album. It’s got everything here: Aphex Twin-style electronic freakouts, upbeat indie-pop, prog, and techno. It is a mess, yes, but what a gloriously coherent mess it is. This album sent me off on a whole new musical adventure, dedicated to finding new bands which displayed this range of styles. And that’s how I discovered Ween. Need I say more?

    Viktor Vaughn - Vaudeville Villain



    MF DOOM is at his absolute best on this album as the cocky, time-travelling emcee Viktor Vaughn. Spitting the most bizarre, quotable, and witty rhymes over dark, electronic beats, DOOM creates - for these ears - the best hiphop album ever (yeah, I said it). Vaudeville Villain keeps on delivering too – the lyricism is so dense I discover new details on every listen. DOOM can rap about one of the oldest gangster rap clichés, a drug deal gone wrong, and still make it sound like he’s the first person ever to broach the subject. He even makes references to Krull and Star Trek sound cool.

    Hymie's Basement - Hymie's Basement



    Yoni Wolf has managed to wrangle himself two spots in my top 8, which is pretty unprecedented. Hymie’s Basement is still my favourite thing that he’s ever done. Teaming up with Fog, they created an album with beautiful off-kilter melodies and lyrics which offer an abstract dissection of life in American suburbia. Most importantly, it manages to deliver a sustained emotional punch all the way through with its combo of melancholic piano and half-rap. It’s a perfect late night album and an underrated little gem that deserves a far wider listenership than it’s been given.

    Quasimoto - The Unseen



    Madlib has managed to channel his quite legendary weed habit into one of the strangest musical alter egos of all time: Quasimoto. The conceit with Quasimoto is that he is some kind of alien cum gangster rapper. This can be a bit off-putting at first, especially as the vocals sound like Madlib got himself a truck full of helium and put it to full use. However, hearing a tweaked alien bragging about his luck with the hoodrats over buttery jazz loops is galaxies away from your everyday MTV Base fodder and, for me, this is key. The Unseen manages to run with this concept over 24 tracks without ever sounding novelty or throwaway. This is pure, unadulterated hiphop for those who enjoy beanbags and late night fast food deliveries.

    Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga



    I honestly didn’t expect an album which I’ve only gotten into so recently to make my top 8, but here it is. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is just indie rock at its absolute best. For my money, this is the album where Spoon really came together and demonstrated everything that makes them one of the best bands currently going. Every track on this album – from the motown-tinged You Got Yr Cherry Bomb to the joyous pop of The Underdog – is fantastic. It’s the one album of recent years that has been in constant rotation since I discovered it.

    Why?Alopecia



    Alopecia totally blew me away from the first listen. I’d been a big fan of cLOUDDEAD but WHY?'s first record, Oaklandazulasylum, had never done anything for me so I’d never bothered following Yoni’s work afterwards. Then one day I read someone on the AtEase forum giving Alopecia high praise so I decided to give it a whirl.

    This album offers the most perfect blend of rap and indie-rock, it’s almost as though someone at Anticon analysed my taste in music and decided to contract out an album based on it. Yoni Wolf offers the best lyrics he’s ever mustered – simultaneously abstract and confessional – and songs that make you want to bop your head and cry under your bedsheets at the same time. The Fall of Mr Fifths is the highlight for me – I’ve tried to grow bored of it but it’s bloody impossible. More of this please.

    WeenQuebec



    Any of my friends reading this will be rolling serious eyeball right now… But Ween are my band of the decade – actually, scratch that – my life.

    Quebec is Ween in the purest sense. It has everything from Motorhead-style metal (It’s Gonna be a Long Night) to Pink Floyd prog (Captain). And, if you know your Ween history, you’ll know that the duo were at their lowest emotional ebb during the recording of this album. The undertones of Quebec are dark, though it may not seem so to the casual listener (see: Hey There, Fancypants). But Ween don’t deal with emotions in the same way most other bands do and so a song like Zoloft doesn’t tackle prescription drug-induced inertia through critique or self-pity, but instead, offers a lethargic, hazy song to reflect the actual feeling of being on said drug. And that’s why I love Ween.

    MadvillainMadvillainy



    Madlib and MF DOOM were always going to be recipe for success. And this album more than delivers on the promise of the collaboration. DOOM spits pure fire with no choruses while Madlib delivers the beats. The album once again showcases DOOM as an emcee at the height of his powers with his trademark dense, quotable lyrics. It even features his alter-ego Viktor Vaughn delivering a diss track against DOOM for stealing his girl: “When you see Tin Head, tell him be ducking down. I'm not rompin around; He better be ready and prepared to be stomped in the ground.”

    Madlib provides the perfect soundtrack to this insanity, with an array of dirty jazz-record loops replete with weird b-movie samples. It’s blunted, leftfield, and completely unique.
  • Music of 2008

    15. Dez. 2008, 23:43

    Ok, so here are my lists from 2008. I've expanded it a bit from what I did last year because it's been a much better year for music in my opinion. There are probably some glaring omissions here. I'm sure the new TV on the Radio album is brilliant but I just haven't given it a good enough listen to warrant including it here.

    TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

    1. Why? - Alopecia *Album of the year*
    Even though I haven't seen you in years, yours is a funeral I'd fly to from anywhere
    About three listens into Alopecia I knew already that it would be my album of the year. I got a major stalker-like obsession with this thing for a few weeks where I just didn't want to listen to anything else at all. I don't really know why I was so surprised by this- the Hymie's Basement album is one of my favourites of all time.

    Everything about this album is great. The lyrics are better as a whole than anything Why?, or indeed Yoni Wolf, has done previously and the music is just altogether more accessible and enjoyable. Christ, listening to 'The Fall of Mr. Fifths' still makes me tingle. That's how you do white-boy rap music. Although I may have slightly exhausted myself on it, this is a keeper.

    2. The Wave Pictures - Instant Coffee Baby
    I often read that The Wave Pictures are destined for greatness. Fuck that, they're already there! Instant Coffee Baby is just a fantastic indie-rock album and in any other year (not 1997, obviously) would probably be number one in this list. I like it more and more every time I listen to it, like with all truly great albums. Dave Tattersall has got to be one of the UK's outstanding lyricists at the moment - who else could get away with a chorus about statues of marmalade without sounding like an insufferable git?

    3. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
    Touching, heartfelt and altogether gorgeous album which has been slightly overshadowed by the fact it was made in a shed when he was bubbling about his ex-girlfriend. Now crap singer-songwriters everywhere are going to become temporary hermits so they can make a decent record. Hmmm.. I think the talent may have already been there in this case. Seriously though, this thing is RAW. It's perfectly sequenced and ends on one of the best songs of the year, 'Re: Stacks'. Here's hoping the follow-up ain't a let down!

    4. Neon Neon - Stainless Style
    Someone needs to try and bottle up whatever it is that keeps Gruff Rhys pumping out pure gold and then sell it to Kings of Leon's manager so we can hear some better songs on the radio. Gruff Rhys should be receiving an artistic appraisal on the same level that Damon Albarn is at the moment for his contribution to life in general. This album has some of the best, most unabashed purest pop tunes I've heard in ages. John DeLorean must be dancing in his grave.

    5. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Lie Down In The Light
    Quite a grower, this, and very understated. So much so that I'm actually struggling to find anything to write about it beyond the fact that, yes, this is Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, and, yes, it is also very good. However, it may not be the best way to start off on Will Oldham's work unless, of course, you're dying to hear a song about him getting a blowjob in public.

    6. Misty's Big Adventure - Television's People
    7. Man Man - Rabbit Habits
    8.Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
    9. Threatmantics - Upbeat Love
    10. Hot Chip - Made in the Dark

    TOP 5 TRACKS OF THE YEAR

    1. The Wave Pictures - Just Like A Drummer
    2. Bon Iver - Re: Stacks
    3. Why? - The Fall of Mr. Fifths
    4. Department of Eagles - No One Does It Like You
    5. Neon Neon - Raquel

    BEST DISCOVERY OF THE YEAR

    This is a dead heat between XTC and Bob Dylan. I had listened to both of them a bit prior to 2008 but fell deeply in love with both of their back catalogues at different points in 2008. Music just doesn't get much better than this. Oh, and a special shout out goes to The Magnetic Fields too.
  • Top 10 of 2007

    26. Dez. 2007, 17:10

    In no particular order:

    Ween - La Cucaracha
    Well, obviously. Doesn't need much explanation. It's definitely one of their most patchy but has some absolute corkers on there in the form of 'Object', 'Your Party', 'Woman and Man' - can't wait for the Europe tour in May.

    Radiohead - In Rainbows
    Definitely a solid record and good enough to make the top 10, but am I the only one a little underwhelmed? Some people I know reckon this rivals their best work but I just can't help feeling that is just wrong.

    Electrelane - No Shouts No Calls
    Excellent discovery and such a shame that they've broken up now. You don't get to hear much modern krautrock these days but this album pulls it off spectacularly.

    Super Furry Animals - Hey Venus
    A return to form after the overblown disappointment that was Love Kraft. I've resigned myself to the fact now that the RATW/Guerrilla period of SFA is gone which is a shame but if they're gonna keep producing tunes like 'Show Your Hand' I really don't care.

    Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond
    A real surprise. Just as good as their earlier stuff and possibly the exception that proves the rule about bands reuniting for a new record. More face-melting solos please J Mascis.

    Misty's Big Adventure - Funny Times
    Not as good as The Black Hole but contains some of the best songs they've created - 'I Can't Bring the Time Back', 'We Do! Do We? We Do!', and 'How Did You Manage To Get Inside My Head?'.

    The National - Boxer
    Not the sort of thing I would normally listen to but after a few spins I was hooked. Broody indie rock over dark, off-kilter lyrics about stalkers and the like. A real grower. Also, 'Fake Empire' is one of the best songs of the year.

    Dan Deacon - Spiderman of the Rings
    Bizarre bedroom electronica which you can shake your ass to.

    Panda Bear - Person Pitch
    Beach Boys' harmonies for the valium generation.

    King Creosote - Bombshell
    The King takes a punt at the mainstream without actually sacrificing the quality of his music. Much rockier than his previous work and another great record from a much underrated UK artist.

    Other notable records this year:

    Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
    Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
    Gruff Rhys - Candylion
    of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
    Soulsavers - It's Not How Far You Fall, It's The Way You Land
    Fog - Ditherer
    LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver