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Top 10 Albums of Every Year Since 1960

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1. Joanna Newsom - "YS"

2. Band of Horses - "Everything All the Time"

3. Bob Dylan - "Modern Times



1. The National - "Boxer"

2. Radiohead - "In Rainbows"

3. Bon Iver - "For Emma, Forever Ago"

4. Arcade Fire - "Neon Bible

5. Iron & Wine - "The Shepard's Dog"

6. The Shins - "Wincing the Night Away

7. Wilco - "Sky Blue Sky"

8. MGMT - "Oracular Spectacular"

9. Band of Horses - "Cease to Begin"

10. Susanne Sundfør - s/t


Again, not fantastic knowledge of these years straight off the bat. Might as well remove the rankings as well.

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1. Beach House - Beach House

2. The Eraser - Thom Yorke

3. B'Day - Beyoncé

4. Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not - Arctic Monkeys

5. Corinne Bailey Rae - Corinne Bailey Rae

6. Everything All the Time - Band Of Horses

7. Gulag Orkestar - Beirut

8. Sing The Greys - Frightened Rabbit

9. Empire - Kasabian

10. Ringleader of the Tormentors - Morrissey


2007 :bomb:

1. In Rainbows

2. For Emma, Forever Ago - Bon Iver

3. The Cool - Lupe Fiasco

4. Kala - M.I.A.

5. The Flying Club Cup - Beirut

6. Roots & Echoes - The Coral

7. Graduation - Kanye West

8. Neon Bible - Arcade Fire

9. Oracular Spectacular - MGMT

10. Wincing The Night Away - The Shins

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Way late but a growing list is good, no?





Mínus - Jesus Christ Bobby

(My opinion)

This album is a changer in their discography in that it gave then a more refined sound from their debut album (Hey, Johnny!), adding more complexity, a change in vocals, and a much more enjoyable listen. This is what post-hardcore and noise was made to sound like and Mínus have no reason to stop doing that on this record.

Songs like “Electra Complex” give a rough edge to the bass and conveying gritty chords. “Chimera,” the album’s opener, is a noisy unrelenting blast of guitar and white noise. “Frat Rock” is also a heavy blast of noise but keeps a very fun rhythm and just pure raw emotion. One song that stands as a surprise is “Arctic Exhibition,” which betrays an acoustic song with clear vocals and clearly sets it apart (also is the only song without lyrics in the booklet), a foreshadowing of their drastic (but not bad) change in their sound on the next album.







Copeland - Beneath Medicine Tree

"I only read one review of this album before I heard it, and let me just say that it was dripping with praise. Not like ‘this is great, I totally relate to that song about him breaking up with his girlfriend,’ more like: ‘I am going to get this CD permanently imbedded in my skin.’ I thought they were full of crap. While their statement might be a bit premature and far-reaching, it was (to an extent) true. This album is amazing, and (in time) will be an equal with albums like How It Feels To Be Something On by Sunny Day Real Estate. This album is a champion for the over-loaded and heavily burdened emo genre. In fact it’s so good that it probably shouldn’t even be called emo.

Most of the songs are tragic in nature and focus around hospitals, death or compassion; making the album difficult to listen to at times, but still stunning because of Aaron Marsh’s remarkable vocals. Marsh isn’t the only one that stands out; every member stands out, but not because of extravagant solos. Every piece complements each other and makes something greater than the sum of its parts."








CocoRosie - La maison de mon rêve

"In the small apartment (in the bathroom, to be specific,) they recorded a hip hop debut named 'Word to the Cow.' It was never released. Then, they wrote and recorded their proper debut, La Maison de Mon Rêve, or, literally, The House of My Dream. Intended only for close friends, it was picked up by Touch & Go records and distributed as the proper debut.

La Maison is a strange concoction of an album. It consists only of the two sisters, an acoustic guitar, and multiple toys or devices to create miscellaneous noises (chains, belts, tinker toys, etc.) However, this method creates an intense closeness, and intimacy, so in turn, you feel like you're sitting right outside their bathroom door listening in. It's quite an experience, and best heard on headphones, if I do say so myself."



Efterklang - Tripper

"The album is consistently excellent and best broached as a complete fifty-minute work, given the connecting threads that run throughout. Aside from an overall uniformity of sound, motifs like an Ovalesque rippling pattern (made more memorable by a subtle hiccup) and electric piano sprinkles intermittently re-appear. The group deftly merges digital and organic sounds, with electronics mainly used as a base for natural sounds (vocals, piano, trumpet, strings). Much like a requiem, the mood is mournful, even funereal, and the work includes passages one could label classical and minimalist...

Don’t conclude that derivativeness reduces the album to pastiche: its formidable compositional strengths more than compensate; bearing in mind that it’s the group’s full-length debut, Tripper impresses as a remarkably poised and accomplished work."








Bright Eyes - Wake Up, It's Morning

"After several years of mixing the best bits of folk, lofi indie rock, and plain weirdness, Bright Eyes finally made a cohesive body of work with the release of I'm Wide Awake its Morning.

Leaning heavily on the increasing popularity of the alt country scene, Conor Oberst together with mainstay Mike Mogis and a well chosen cast of friends and legends (including Emmylou Harris) offer up a set of sprightly tunes which live long in the memory. This is by no means a band wagon jumping effort though; the band had written the odd country tinged song in the past, but with some restraint.

From the off the Bright Eyes of old have cast aside their trend of downbeat openers to present us with the jaunty At The Bottom of Everything. Although Conor's lyrics are almost always wilfully obscure you can at least feel the optimism pouring out here, and it continues throughout the album. Even on the sadder tracks such as Lua and Landlocked Blues the delivery is more sorrowful than miserable, the humility always loveable."








Copeland - Eat, Sleep, Repeat

"...If there were to be a soundtrack to this relaxing state of mind, Copeland’s third studio album, Eat, Sleep, Repeat would be a front runner.

Setting the stage for the extremely appropriate lonely, reverie premise is 'Where’s My Head' as it begins with a delicate vibraphone, the eloquent vocals of Aaron Marsh, which are finally followed by two unique distorted drum sounds giving a strong indication of the melancholy that’s soon to come. One of the more noticeable characteristics of Eat, Sleep, Repeat is the drastic change in sound from their previous releases. Both Beneath The Medicine Tree and In Motion prominently displayed a charismatic, uplifting form of pop full of crisp, clean guitars layered with elegant keys and technical drum work, whereas on this release, the band explores a more melodic route filled with a ton of distortion and the reoccurring themes of sleep, heartbreak, and loss."



Honeycut - The Day I Turned to Glass

"Only occasionally do you find a group or album that manages to incorporate diverse influences into a unique sound and still remain absolutely accessible, be it to the casual radio listener or the die-hard record collector. Honeycut is such a group, and their debut, The Day I Turned to Glass, is one such album. Comprised of by-now fixtures in the Bay Area music scene... the band weaves its way through soul, funk, rock, bossa nova, and electronica without ever stopping firmly on one, instead creating something that's very much their own...

The Day I Turned to Glass is the kind of record that's good for almost any situation; it's quick but controlled, welcoming but with a mysterious edge, and, most importantly, always really funky, which makes for something pretty great, and very, very fun."



Superchick - Beauty from Pain

Inpop Records' power-pop fueled garage rock mega act Superchick graces fans yet again with their long awaited album, Beauty From Pain. Ever since their 2001 Inpop Records' debut, Karaoke Superstar, Superchick has grown in musical maturity with their last two releases, Last One Picked in 2002 and Regeneration in 2003...

On the whole, I found the album to be rather exciting for a Superchick record. There were moments that I believed that some songs could have been better without all the over-production (Tricia and Melissa's voices sound metallic at times even) and mixing, but the songs altogether are lyrically and musically composed rather well. Some songs carry quite a serious and heavy mood to them, but that comes along with the aspect of life they're focusing on. In the end, this most definitely is a needed add to your collection. Considering the originality of the band, even if you didn't really like Superchicks' past projects, check this one out."




Beauty from Pain 1.1

"Now, Superchic[k] is poised to reach an even greater listening audience with the mainstream release of Beauty From Pain 1.1 on Inpop/Columbia Records. Featuring all the hit songs from the band’s latest top-selling album, Beauty From Pain, the re-release also breathes fresh life to the disc with remixed versions of the smash radio singles 'We Live', 'Anthem' and 'One Girl Revolution' in addition to the all-new standout track, 'Stand In the Rain.'"

"Overall the changes on Beauty from Pain 1.1 have left a better album than the original, with a better song selection. The music is incredibly solid from the catchy pop/rock tunes to the riveting ballads, but while the messages they send are all positive, there is some shallowness to the lyrics that doesn't just apply to the lack of spirituality."








The Horrorist - Attack Decay

"A reviewer is always happy to come across music that is going to be hard to put in a genre. Attack Decay is pleasing on so many fronts. Eschewing the tropes of so much industrial and EBM, The Horrorist goes right for the jugular with its aggressive industrial, like Nitzer Ebb on crack. Those that grew up with ‘80’s and 90’s industrial in their tape decks, will greet this album with familiarity and surprise. This makes a lot of 'harsh' EBM, sound like a goth kid griping about his allowance. This isn’t music that is going to pack a dance floor, this isn’t going to please a kinder-goth, this is sick and unpleasant industrial. This album recalls the best of what Skinny Puppy did on some of the better songs on the 'Brap' album, with slightly more traditional song structures...

You need to check these songs out, and you need to get these songs spun at clubs. If your thing is Industrial music that is not what every other band seems to be doing, this is an album you must have. If you remember a time when Industrial was not a product, get this album."





(for tomorrow)




Copeland - You Are My Sunshine

"Not often is a band able to release an album that actually inspires deep thought within the mind of a 20 year old. With a slightly more experimental sound than we are used to from these indie/pop rockers,You Are My Sunshine is bound to be a success for Copeland."

"...you might already guess that 'You Are My Sunshine' is a huge grower. This is also the reason why this review didn't surface over two months ago when it was supposed to, because I couldn't quite grasp understand the immense depth of the album fully before only a few weeks ago. But what I do know is that this is Copeland's finest moment, their career-defining album, the record that people will look back on many years from now saying things like 'wow, that album was criminally underrated at the time of release'. Not here, folks."



Caravan Palace - Caravan Palace

"I could go through this review track by track but it wouldn't be worth it, the sound this band makes isn't anything that can be properly put into words. Leave it to say that every track on this album is unique and catchy in its own way.

One of this band's strongest points is its singer Sonia Fernandez Velasco, who's vocal work is not only fundamentally solid, but it has a cute, naughty, sexy tone that teases you from start to finish (see Brotherswing). Her voice is definitely memorable and when she sings, your attention is fully turned to her voice...

If you are going into this album thinking it's going to be house music with a swing inspired twist you might be disappointed. The album is much more a swing album with house influences as opposed to the opposite. Other than that, there isn't much on this album that will disappoint you."




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Special mention for 2007:



Daft Punk - Alive 2007



Timed to perfection, Daft Punk's second live album landed exactly ten years after the first, and provides a fitting complement to Alive 1997, easily the best live non-DJ electronica record ever released. While the original featured only a handful of tracks (but found them transformed and tweaked ad infinitum), Alive 2007 is packed with productions, most of them short and many of them getting a big crowd response (all recorded at one show in Paris in June of 2007). As on their first two classic full-lengths, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo display excellent crowd control, pacing the record well, spacing the hits, and building the mood like the good crowd-pleasers they are. (The visuals included in the regular and deluxe editions reveal quite the stage show as well.) It has the feel of a greatest-hits-live concert, but energized by Daft Punk's talents at weaving songs in and out of each other. Even songs from the comparatively desultory Human After All sound rejuvenated in context, with "Robot Rock" getting the show off to a rousing start. It may not be better or stronger than the original Alive 1997, but it's definitely harder and faster.







Jay Electronica - Act I: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)



Even though the production on each part of Act 1 has no drums, synthesizers, cymbals or bass-lines it doesn't affect the replay value. This is because the looped songs capture the mood of Jay Electronica's words and brings the track full-circle. The message that Jay is trying to get across to the listener is that he's not a "radio" rapper and doesn't rap about the fame, money, cars, or jewelry. He often relays this message through religious metaphors especially in "Eternal Sunshine" and the rest of the first half of the project. The second half of the project, Jay speaks upon and uses samples of newscasters talking about UFO's (Unidentified Flying Objects). He does this because it's a symbol of people not being able to categorize or define the type of rapper that he is.







Various Artists - After Dark



On After Dark, the fledgling imprint assembles mostly vinyl-only or previously unreleased tracks by its current roster, which also includes Farah, Mirage, and Professor Genius. Produced in substantial part by Glass Candy guitarist Johnny Jewel, the comp is practically a Mixed Up in the Hague for present-day Italo, only with the darker ambiance its title implies. Where its precursor could at times play up Italo's proclivity for cheese (once experienced in the U.S. via minor Eurodisco hits by the likes of Falco and Taco), this album wisely eschews ironic winks and kitsch-for-kitsch's sake. Shapiro might find an indie pop romance in Italo, but After Dark lovingly re-imagines the style as retro-futurist noir-- a sleek soundtrack to lives of moral ambiguity in post-urban shadows. The best tracks on the compilation embody that eerie slant on the old Italo throb/pulse without letting an air of minor-key reflection lapse into air quotes. On the extended 12" version of Chromatics' "In the City", the crackle of vinyl, distant synth swoops, skeletal drum patter, and singer Ruth Radelet's narcoticized murmurs about "midnight workers" and a "concrete river" evokes rain hitting sidewalks. Glass Candy's Italo coming-out, "I Always Say Yes", is conspicuously absent, but their hazy "Rolling Down the Hills (Spring Demo)" opens the disc with horns and singer Ida No's deadly cold vocal presence.




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10. M83 – Saturdays = Youth


Like fellow Frenchmen Air and Daft Punk, M83's Anthony Gonzalez has the knack for making sounds others might think of as outdated, or even tacky, into music that feels stylish and fresh. Saturdays=Youth lives up to its evocative title, but the youth it captures is filtered through nostalgia for the unrepentantly fake sounds of the '80s, transforming them into delicate fantasy pop. Synths whoosh like wind tunnels and ping like lasers, guitars are whipped into ethereal froth, the drums are robotic and proud of it, and the production reproduces the cleaner-than-clean, almost brittle style of the era almost too perfectly. The largely instrumental "Couleurs" races through the night on synth and drum swells that haven't been heard since Miami Vice's heyday, while "Skin of the Night" sounds like it borrows Phil Collins' kit from No Jacket Required. Though Saturdays=Youth often plays like a love letter to artists ranging from the Cocteau Twins to Mr. Mister, it never seems like an exercise designed to just re-create those sounds. The cinematic feel of Before the Dawn Heals Us is stronger than ever here, from the 11-minute finale "Midnight Souls Still Remain," which unfolds like closing credits, to the Breakfast Club-meets-fashion shoot album cover, which makes Saturdays=Youth appear to be the soundtrack to the most glamorous film John Hughes never made. This hyper-stylized teen romance and angst drive the album, taking it to the highest highs and the lowest lows. "We Own the Sky" is jubilant, stretching out into a summery haze of airy vocals and synths; "Too Late" contemplates the end in melodramatic, ultra-romantic fashion, ending with a whispered "you, always." Saturdays=Youth also features some of M83's purest pop yet, which provide many of the album's standouts. "Kim & Jessie" heart-racing young love is one of Gonzalez's finest sonic confections, along with "Graveyard Girl" and the Kate Bush-worshiping "Up!," a sci-fi fairy tale that boasts some fittingly unearthly singing by guest vocalist Morgan Kibby. As super-stylized as its sounds and emotions are, Saturdays=Youth always seems genuine, even when it feels like its songs are made from the memories of other songs. For all of its nostalgic haze, it's some of M83's most focused music.







9. Actress – Hazyville


The first point of confusion: How did an artist making music like this settle upon a name like "Actress"? None of the qualities one associates with role-players of either gender are particularly on display. Covered in blur and static — the title Hazyville, at least, is appropriate — and caking synth and drum-machine lines with a layer of virtual tape hiss, this is music that conceals more than it reveals. Even its samples are smeared beyond recognition, their provenance impossible to tease out. So unlike other artists, who might wear their samples as a badge of personal taste, with Actress you have no idea what his record collection looks like, only that he seems to spend his time lurking in its darkened, most obscure corners.







8. Grouper – Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill


Liz Harris' first two Grouper albums, Way Their Crept and Wide, consisted mostly of layers of her pristine vocals blanketed in drones, reverb, and distortion until they blurred into a blissful, and sometimes eerie, haze. That haze lifts ever so slightly on Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill, letting more melody, more structured songs, and even a few phrases emerge from the ether. Fragile acoustic and electric guitars and the occasional keyboard also bring this album more down to earth than Grouper's earlier work, but the music never feels stifled or limited -- if anything, the added structure lets these songs take flight and reach peaks of beauty that Wide and Way Their Crept only glimpsed. Harris' voice is especially spine-tingling on "Stuck," where her gorgeous harmonies only need gentle strumming to support their ebb and flow. Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill's soft, intricate layers have their roots in late-'80s/early-'90s dream pop (and the work of the Cocteau Twins and early His Name Is Alive in particular -- Home Is in Your Head could be this album's great-great-grandmother), but Grouper's take is looser and more organic; there's a reason many of the song titles feature nature imagery ("Heavy Water/I'd Rather Be Sleeping," "Traveling Through a Sea"). Dragging a Dead Deer also shows more musical range than Harris' previous work: "Disengaged," which introduces the album with blasts of static that suggest wind and waves, and the wistful "Invisible" fall closest to Wide and Way Their Crept's drifting approach, while "Fishing Bird (Empty Jutted in the Evening Breeze)" and "A Cover Over" boast distinct verses and choruses as well as the rest of the album's otherworldly atmosphere. This is also Grouper's most emotionally wide-ranging work, covering the electric lullaby "When We Fall" to the slightly ominous shimmer of the title track. Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill offers moments that are just as memorable as the entire album, and all of them are subtly, but stunningly, beautiful.







7. Shed – Shedding the Past


"…calling it Shedding the Past seemed to be a mere paradox… it feels so much the emotion, the feeling of the intensity and purity of club and rave in the early days, without resembling those gone moments…." In a fuzzy transmission floating between the seventh and eighth track of Shedding the Past, we get this commentary straight from the horse's mouth. Shed's English is awkward and broken, but his description is right on the money: Shedding is an album that harkens back to its influences for the sake of progress rather than nostalgia. Over the course of these eleven tracks, Shed paints a stark landscape, glistening with steely hues of early techno and forming something sleek, jagged and as he puts it, "full of energy and vigor." Shedding is austere and avant-garde, but its inspired rhythms and unified variety make it as compelling as it is provocative.







6. Hercules & Love Affair – Hercules & Love Affair


Disco DNA can be found in any current pop chart, and there are underground groups and producers who owe as much to the Chic Organization and the Prelude label as a garage band owes to the Stooges and the Rolling Stones, but few treat disco as a living and breathing art form, as opposed to something in need of a revival and the uniqueness-eliminating reverence that often goes with it, like Hercules & Love Affair. Led by Andrew Butler, a songwriter, producer, keyboardist, and vocalist, the group is fleshed out with production and programming from the DFA's Tim Goldsworthy, a trio of disparate but complementary vocalists (Antony, Nomi, Kim Ann Foxman), and several instrumentalists who are skilled and knowledgeable enough about club music from the mid-'70s through the present to not retrace too many of anyone's steps. Apart from their name, which resembles the more rock-oriented Heloise & the Savoir Faire and can be interpreted as a play on the names of both house producer Adonis and disco units like Pam Todd & Love Exchange, they aren't likely to trigger many concrete flashbacks. Instead, they present an evolved version of disco, one that contains certain trademark elements of the past while sounding brand new. Wordless vocal samples, synthetic cowbells, prancing keyboard taps, and heartbroken lyrics over a four-four rhythm, as heard on "You Belong," don't make for an original set of components, but the manner in which they are put together, constantly twisting into different shapes and sealed inside radiant production, make it practically otherworldly (and it is, by a long distance, the least singular track on the album). The other tracks that put the dancefloor first, whether small or grand in scope, are generous in delights, supplying supple basslines, beaming keyboard patterns, and singing horns, all of which are arranged in ways that serve the body and the mind, simultaneously muscular and musical. What really puts the album over the top as something else is not just its ideas-stuffed brevity (46 minutes in its original form), but its material not made explicitly for the club. The back-to-back pair of "Iris" and "Easy" are gorgeous, slow-shifting, electronics-driven songs with lyrics that read as platitudes yet are truly heartfelt and deeply touching, obviously written not just for the sake of vocal accompaniment.







5. DJ Sprinkles – Midtown 120 Blues


To wit, Midtown 120 Blues does not wear its critique on its dancing shoes. This is house music that's not so much deconstructed as recontextualized. All the exquisite details of the genuine article -- driving four-on-the-floor kick drums, shuffling rhythms, warm, enveloping chords, insistent hi-hats, snippets of flute and horn -- co-exist to create a sound that's very much of a piece with the production style of early-‘90s deep house (labels like Nu Groove, Strictly Rhythm, Prescription). And it's underneath those seemingly bog-standard 120 BPM grooves that a slightly more sinister and far less uplifting subtext appears, revealed in snatches of field recordings -- spoken word accounts of police beatings, leering drag queens, disembodied diva vocals. While there is a palpable undercurrent of sadness that serves as the album's thematic binder, humor is also broached on "Sisters, I Don't Know What This World is Coming To," a track that cleverly reconfigures a vocal sample from the Watt Stax concert album (made famous by Public Enemy on their song "Rebel Without a Pause"). But the album's most evocative track is "Grand Central, Pt. II (72 Hrs. By Rail from Missouri)," a beat-less eight-minute ambient piece that drapes a fog of synth drones over crackling vinyl noises, rail sounds, and drifting piano notes, finally invoking a haunting sample of Chuck Roberts' quintessential sermon to the House Music Nation, "In the Beginning There Was Jack."







4. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes


Borrowing from ageless folk and classic rock (and nicking some of the best bits from prog and soft rock along the way), on their self-titled debut album Fleet Foxes don't just master the art of taking familiar influences and making them sound fresh again, they give a striking sense of who they are and what their world is like. Their song titles reference the Blue Ridge Mountains -- never mind that they're actually from Seattle -- but it's the ease and skill with which they mix and match British and American folk and rock from the far and not too distant past that makes the band's music so refreshing. While this mix could be contrived or indulgent, Fleet Foxes use restraint, structuring their flourishes into three- and four-minute pop songs full of chiming melodies and harmonies that sound like they've been summoned from centuries of traditional songs and are full of vivid, universal imagery: mountains, birds, family, death. Despite drawing from so many sources, there's a striking purity to Fleet Foxes' sound. Robin Pecknold's voice is warm and sweet, with just enough grit to make phrases like "premonition of my death" sound genuine, and the band's harmonies sound natural, and stunning, whether they're on their own or supported by acoustic guitars or the full, plugged-in band. "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" and "Meadowlarks" show just how much the Foxes do with the simplest elements of their music, but Fleet Foxes' best songs marry that purity with twists that open their sound much wider. As good as the Sun Giant EP was, Fleet Foxes saved many of their best songs for this album. "White Winter Hymnal" is remarkably beautiful, building from a vocal round into glorious jangle pop with big, booming drums that lend a sense of adventure as the spine-tingling melody lightens some of the lyrics' darkness ("Michael you would fall and turn the white snow red as strawberries in summertime"). The suite-like "Ragged Wood" moves from a galloping beat to sparkling acoustic picking, then takes a trippy detour before returning to a more thoughtful version of its main theme. "Quiet Houses" and "He Doesn't Know Why"'s driving pianos show off the band's flair for drama. Dazzling songs like these are surrounded by a few songs that find the band leaning a little more heavily on its influences. "Your Protector" nods to Zeppelin's misty, mournful side, and "Blue Ridge Mountains" is the kind of earthy yet sophisticated song CSNY would have been proud to call their own. But, even when the songs aren't as brilliant as Fleet Foxes' highlights, the band still sounds alluring, as on the lush interlude "Heard Them Stirring." Throughout the album, the band sounds wise beyond its years, so it's not really that surprising that Fleet Foxes is such a satisfying, self-assured debut.







3. Flying Lotus – Los Angeles


Before he started experimenting with left-field hip-hop beats and electronic samples, Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, experienced a moment of enlightenment. While filming a documentary about his great aunt/spiritual advisor Alice Coltrane and his cousin Ravi Coltrane, their cab driver asked if they were musicians. Alice responded that, in fact, the three of them were, except Steven didn't know it yet. It was a turning point, and soon after, when he viewed an ad challenging aspiring beat-makers to send in music to be used for Cartoon Network's Adult Swim bumpers, he took a chance on a whim, sent out a demo, and landed himself a paid position pumping out silky tracks for promos of his favorite shows. As an avid gamer, it was only natural that he would create downtempo Boards of Canada beats sauced with retro 8-bit bleeps and chimes, and these were a perfect fit for the Nintendo generation fan base of Adult Swim. Lotus' second full-length, Los Angeles, expands on fractured Zelda grooves, muddy bass stamps, and glitched drum loops to stir up nonintrusive computer chillout music modeled for a hip graphic designer's headphones. It could be considered headphone candy, but with the beats as liquefied and squishy as they are, headphone Slushee is more appropriate. "Golden Diva" rides the line between cold and sugary, crackling and popping like melting ice as carbonated hiss rotates in and out of the void behind unintelligible syllables diced together from stray vocal bits. In the same fashion, "GNG BNG" flips a Middle Eastern sitar groove into a mangled keyboard line slithering over a distorted rototom beat, before dropping down into "Auntie's Lock" to end the album in a quiet hush with breathy whispers over electronic piano loops. Like 2006's 1983, the patterns are subtly atmospheric and individual grooves feel tailored for the attention deficient, never lingering for very long before switching into a new tapestry.







2. Deerhunter – Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.


Whereas Cryptograms’ closer, “Heatherwood,” acted as the meditative comedown to a spectacularly angst-ridden trip, Microcastle opens with the giant sighs of “Cover Me (Slowly)” -- big, post-climax chords that brim with passive ecstasy and act as a celestial bridge between the two albums. Then, as the metronomic melody of “Agoraphobia” and “Never Stops” briskly passes by, the mood starts getting a little hazy as static skies hang over the final minutes of “Little Kids.” A pensive meditation occurs and anger arises as the record reveals itself as Cryptograms in reverse: a deluge of post-traumatic relief that slowly mutates into a snapshot of noisy sexual and personal frustration found in the whirlwind guitars of “Neither of Us, Uncertainly” and the towering crash of the finale of album closer “Twilight at Carbon Lake”.







1. Portishead – Third


Surprises are inextricably intertwined throughout Portishead. There are jarring juxtapositions and transitions, as how the barbershop doo wop of "Deep Water" sits between those twin towers of tension of "We Carry On" and "Machine Gun," the former riding an unbearably relentless two-chord drone while the latter collapses on the backs of warring drum machines. Echoes of Krautrock and electronica can be heard on these two tracks, but that very description suggests that Third is conventionally experimental, spitting out the same hipster references that have been recycled since 1994, if not longer. These influences are surely present, but they're deployed unexpectedly, as are such Portishead signatures as tremulous string samples and Utley's trembling guitar. Out of these familiar fragments from the past, Portishead have created authentically new music that defies almost every convention in its writing and arrangement. As thrilling as it is to hear the past and present collide when "Plastic" is torn asunder by cascading waves of noise, Third doesn't linger in these clattering corners, as such cacophony is countered by the crawling jazz of "Hunter" and the sad, delicate folk of "The Rip," but a marvelous thing about the album is that there's no balance. There is a flow, but Portishead purposely keep things unsettled, to the extent that the tonal shifts still surprise after several listens.









Honorable Mentions:




Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours


In Ghost Colours announces itself, calmly but majestically, with a wash of hazy voices and fluttering keyboards giving way to crystal-clear acoustic strums, languid indie pop vocals, a sturdy dance-rock groove, pulsating electro-disco synths, swirling Caribou-style psychedelics, and an ethereal, vocoded chorus melody. Squeezing all of that into one song -- the effervescent "Feel the Love" -- is an ambitious move: in most hands it would come out sounding like a bewildering mess but Cut Copy manage to keep it light, breezy, and utterly ebullient. Even more impressive is that they're able to replicate the trick repeatedly across this remarkably assured sophomore album. Colours boasts at least a half-dozen potential summer anthems for dancefloors and headphones alike, seamlessly strung together with subdued interstitial mood pieces that help make it more of a nuanced work than a straightforward collection of relentlessly upbeat dance jams. Undeniably, though, the dance jams are at the heart of the album, from the unstoppably glittery opening trio (leading up to the anthemic slow-burn disco of single "Lights and Music") to the rough-edged rock drive of "So Haunted" to the pure synth pop bliss of "Far Away." Indeed, this is in many ways a perfect summation of the dynamic, multifaceted, hipster-associated independent dance music of the 2000s, a motley interweaving of pop, rock, and electronic dance elements into a kaleidoscopic array of interconnected styles, some strands of which have been summarily, imprecisely tagged ("disco-punk," "electro-house," "new rave,") but which as a whole remain resolutely, gloriously nebulous and undefined.







Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak


In various spots across 808s & Heartbreak, the constant flutter of West's processed voice, along with a seldom interrupted sluggish march of aching sounds, is enlivened by the disarming manner in which despair and dejection are conveyed. When, in "Welcome to Heartbreak," he dispassionately recounts sitting alone on a flight, ahead of a laughing family, he makes first class sound like Siberia; he'd swap lives with the father in an instant. The majority of the lyrics, however, are directed at an ex who evidently did some damage; in "RoboCop" alone, she gets compared to the antagonist in Misery and is called a "spoiled little L.A. girl." Earlier in the album, the number she did on him is called "the coldest story ever told," yet he admits he still fantasizes about her. All the blocky drums, dragging strings, droning synths, and joyless pianos lead to a bleak set of productions -- even the synthetic calliope in "Heartless" is unnerved, and the relative pep of "Paranoid" provides no respite, its bitter lyrics subverting a boisterous beat. Several tracks have almost as much in common with irrefutably bleak post-punk albums, such as New Order's Movement and the Cure's Pornography, as contemporary rap and R&B. ("Coldest Winter," where West longs for his departed mother, samples the most desolate song from the first Tears for Fears album.) For anyone sifting through a broken relationship and self-letdown, this could all be therapeutic.







No Age – Nouns


Divorced from all the talk about the return of the lo-fi sound, the scene revolving around the band's home base in L.A. (the Smell), and the group's rep as no-nonsense noise punks, you have the music of No Age. All that stuff is just background -- what matters is the sound coming down the wires as Nouns clatters and hisses on through to your ears. The duo of Dean Spunt (drums and vocals) and Randy Randall (guitar) are proudly noisy, drawing influence from early-'90s lo-fi acts like Eric's Trip as well as the New Zealand sound of that decade. They make no attempt to clean up their sound (though it does seem slightly more professionally recorded than the singles that made up their first release, Weirdo Rippers) as amps hum, drums clatter like garbage cans, and voices shout and holler. It's an arresting amount of noise and it may put you off initially. If you stick with it past the first wave of fuzz, though, you'll be captured by the songs, because No Age aren't about noise alone. Below that less than pristine (to be kind) sound there are songs. There are rollicking freak-outs ("Here Should Be My Home"), folk songs tossed about by waves of fuzz ("Eraser"), and careening rockers with hooky choruses ("Cappo"). Take them out and scrub them up a bit, and they would be as shiny and clean as things you might actually hear on the radio. After a polish it's not hard to imagine "Teen Creeps," for example, playing in the background of a teen movie. "Sleeper Hold," too, could be the theme song for any manner of triumphant scene; the chorus has the kind of hook you'll be singing all day. Choosing to bathe the songs in noise adds an extra layer of sound, sure, but also creates an epic battle between melody and noise, between beauty and grunge, that gives the album a real sense of drama. Also adding to the sense that something is at stake on Nouns are the lyrics. There are no simple love songs here -- mostly twisted fragments of isolation and ruin with the (very) occasional bit of tender hope thrown in to keep you from throwing in the towel. In the final count, melody and beauty, fractured as they may be, win the day. Like fellow noise poppers Times New Viking did on their awesome album Rip It Off, No Age turn noise into gold on Nouns.







TV on the Radio – Dear Science


As Dear Science, unfolds, it becomes clear that it isn't so much a radical change for TV on the Radio as it is a slight but significant shift in approach. "Stork and Owl," an inspired mix of hypnotically looping samples and flowing, real-time soulfulness, and "Love Dog," which boasts some of Adepimbe's most affecting singing since "Staring at the Sun," could have fit easily on earlier albums with a few sonic tweaks. And, like Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes and Return to Cookie Mountain, Dear Science, begins with an epic statement of purpose -- although "Halfway Home" is as sleek as it is grand, sprinting towards its end with streaking guitars -- and ends in an embrace with "Lover's Day," a duet with Celebration's Katrina Ford that turns "I wanna break your back" from a threat to a come-on. Tackling love and war, often within the same song, is all in a day's work for TV on the Radio. However, the band's take on these themes is subtly but notably more optimistic here, as though lightening their sound lightened their mood as well. "DLZ" broods over "the long-winded blues of the never," but on the brilliantly funky "Golden Age," Adepimbe sings "there's a golden age coming 'round" without a trace of irony. Malone's "Crying" calls out the wrongs of the world but ends up just as hopeful as it is angry, while the pun in "Dancing Choose"'s title is pointed enough that the song almost doesn't need to prove that dancing on your troubles is powerfully therapeutic as thoroughly as it does, but that's just another example of this album's rare balance between craft and passion. That comma at the title's end seems naggingly open-ended at first, but it's actually a perfect fit for Dear Science,'s openness to possibilities and positivity.







Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend



With the Internet able to build up or tear down artists almost as soon as they start practicing, the advance word and intense scrutiny doesn't always do a band any favors. By the time they've got a full-length album ready to go, the trend-spotters are already several Hot New Bands past them. Vampire Weekend started generating buzz in 2006 -- not long after they formed -- but their self-titled debut album didn't arrive until early 2008. Vampire Weekend also has just a handful of songs that haven't been floating around the 'Net, which may disappoint the kind of people who like to post "First!" on message boards. This doesn't make those songs any less charming, however -- in fact, the band has spent the last year and a half making them even more charming, perfecting the culture collision of indie-, chamber-, and Afro-pop they call "Upper West Side Soweto" by making that unique hybrid of sounds feel completely effortless. So, Vampire Weekend ends up being a more or less official validation of the long-building buzz around the band, served up in packaging that uses the Futura typeface almost as stylishly as Wes Anderson. At times, the album sounds like someone trying to turn a Wes Anderson movie back into music (it's no surprise that the band's keyboardist also writes film scores); there's a similarly precious yet adventurous feel here, as well as a kindred eye and ear for detail. Everything is concise, concentrated, distilled, vivid; Vampire Weekend's world is extremely specific and meticulously crafted, and Vampire Weekend often feels like a concept album about preppy guys who grew up with classical music and recently got really into world music. Amazingly, instead of being alienating, the band's quirks are utterly winning. Scholarly grammar ("Oxford Comma") and architecture ("Mansard Roof") are springboards for songs with impulsive melodies, tricky rhythms, and syncopated basslines. Strings and harpsichords brush up against African-inspired chants on "M79," and lilting Afro-pop guitars and a skanking beat give way to Mellotrons on "A-Punk." It's a given that a band that's this high concept has hyper-literate lyrics: the singer's name is the very writerly Ezra Koenig, and you almost expect to see footnotes in the album's liner notes. Once again, though, Vampire Weekend's words are evocative instead of gimmicky. The irresistible "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" rhymes "Louis Vuitton" with "reggaeton" and "Benneton" and name-drops Peter Gabriel(though it's clear the band spent more time with Paul Simon's Graceland) without feeling contrived. "Campus" is another standout, with lines like "I see you walking across the campus...how am I supposed to pretend I never want to see you again?" throwing listeners into college life no matter what their age. Koenig has a boyish, hopeful quality to his voice that completes Vampire Weekend, especially on bittersweet but irrepressible songs like "I Stand Corrected" and album closer "The Kids Don't Stand a Chance." Fully realized debut albums like Vampire Weekend come along once in a great while, and these songs show that this band is smart, but not too smart for their own good.





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Special mention for 2008:




Air France - No Way Down



Partially excerpted from "No Excuses," the EP's most lyrically and rhythmically prominent cut, it's an apt epigraph for the duo's music, which seems to evade conventional structures both compositional and taxonomic, while evoking the sense of openness, endless possibility, and detachment from reality that can come in moments of transition and in-betweenness. Evocation is more or less Air France's primary mode of functioning -- their defining characteristic is how much more difficult (and, seemingly, less relevant) it is to describe what they actually sound like than to list the images they so dreamily conjure up: beach parties, sea foam, airiness, swaying palm trees, endless summer, indescribable bliss. At 23 minutes, No Way Down comes close to doubling the length of its predecessor (at this rate, the group should have a full album's worth of material by at least 2010), but its contents follow similar, utterly distinctive paths of lush, hazy, atmospheric pop/techno/faux-worldbeat/psychedelia. "Maundy Thursday" and "Windmill Wedding" are the cinematic, near-ambient book-ending tracks -- one stately and enigmatic, the other gracefully meandering -- while the four pieces that form the EP's core are slightly longer groove-based excursions that feel simultaneously exultant and wistful. Sonically, almost nothing is off limits as long as it's swathed in a sufficient amount of reverb -- "June Evenings" alone encompasses birdsongs; basslines; trumpets; strings; marimbas (real or synthesized); countless layers of synths and breathy, indecipherable vocals; off-tuned guitar strums; and sampled shouts of "bombaclat!" Expanding and improving upon their already striking debut, No Way Down is a stunning accomplishment on so many levels: the amount of care and attention to detail that so clearly went into its creation; its stylistic uniqueness (the Avalanches' Since I Left You is a ready and resonant point of comparison in spirit and tone, as is some of the work by their associates and fellow Swedes the Tough Alliance and Studio, but you'd be hard-pressed to find much out there that truly sounds like this); and its sheer, subjective beauty. Clearly aware of their own strengths, Air France are somehow too earnest and endearing even to come off as cocky for alluding to them, as they do, subtly, in a dialogue snippet looped intermittently throughout "Collapsing at Your Doorstep," which more or less sums it all up: "Sorta like a dream, isn't it?" "No: better."




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10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It’s Blitz!


The album's first three songs are a blitz of bliss, especially "Zero," which kicks things off with blatantly fake beats, revved-up synth arpeggios, and O's command to "get your leather on." Radiating joy and confidence, she and the rest of the band couldn't be further from Show Your Bones' introspection as the song climbs to ecstatic heights. "Heads Will Roll" shows just how ably the Yeah Yeah Yeahs blend their rock firepower with dance surroundings, as Zinner's prickly guitars get equal time with spooky synth strings and O makes "you are chrome" sound like the coolest compliment ever. Meanwhile, "Soft Shock"'s dreamy, almost naïve-sounding electronics make O's vocals -- which are much less affected than ever before -- feel even more natural and vulnerable. Elsewhere, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and producers David Sitek and Nick Launay find other ways to shake things up, from the disco kiss chase of "Dragon Queen," which features Sitek's fellow TV on the Radio member Tunde Adebimpe on backing vocals, to "Shame and Fortune," which pares down the band's tough, sexy rock to its most vital essence and provides Chase and Zinner with a showcase not found anywhere else on the album.







9. Girls – Album


In their brand of lo-fi, they opt to go against the momentary trend of recording to the red, and instead use an earthy approach, with clean Ariel Pink guitar twang and Spiritualized psychedelic plate reverbs. White plays the producer role, acting as a fly on the wall at times, and at others layering shoegaze swells to fill the backdrop of Owens' minimalistic, squeaky-voiced guitar ballads. Simplicity is Girls' ally, as is the duo's knack for keen Beach Boys melodies. It's not anything that hasn't been tried before, but the two 29-year-olds have chemistry, and they deliver a consistent batch of songs that sound at once warm and familiar. As a whole, everything's relaxed and dreamy, perfectly matching the '70s aesthetic of their videos: washed out with overexposed sun streaks and a Crayola watercolor palette.







8. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca


Dirty Projectors' mastermind David Longstreth appears to be attracted to sounds that will simultaneously draw in and confound the average listener; he has a clear, sweet voice and a gift for well-crafted harmonies and melodies that bring out the innate beauty of his music, but he often weds them to fractured time signatures that cause the songs to shift gear at the least expected moments, and he tosses in sudden bursts of atonal skronk that are either bracing or puzzling, depending on your point of view. 2009's Bitte Orca certainly follows in this tradition, and there's enough aural shapeshifting on this set to keep anyone guessing on first listen. Despite that, in many respects, Bitte Orca is one of Dirty Projectors' most accessible efforts to date; the slinky "Stillness Is the Move" could almost pass for mainstream R&B with its potent groove, lush harmonies by Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian, and elegant string coda, though with Longstreth's wiry juju guitar leads floating over the top, this ain't quite Beyoncé, and the placid semi-folkie grace of "Two Doves" (which bears a certain melodic resemblance to a-ha's MTV-driven hit "Take on Me") is truly lovely even when the dramatic dynamics of the string section seem intent on calling attention to some darker undercurrents. On the other side of the coin, there's "Useful Chamber," which combines bent vocal samples, wheezing synthesizers, steadily chugging beatboxes, and sudden blasts of overdriven electric guitar to form a pocket concerto of beauty and noise, and "The Bride," where Longstreth's guitar hops back and forth between polite acoustic strum, bluesy slide work, and shards of noise while the rhythm section ties to keep up and the vocals drift past the foreground like a cloud. Bitte Orca's nine tracks all seem to be bursting with ideas that they can barely contain, but despite the sometimes fractured synapses of this music, the songs are at once surefooted and agile, and "Remade Horizon" and "No Intention" are joyous and funky in their own curious way, and you can dance to them if you're in the right frame of mind.







7. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport


Hung and Power drafted Andrew Weatherall, who remixed Street Horrrsing's "Sweet Love for Planet Earth," to produce Tarot Sport; while the album is more overtly electronic than Fuck Buttons' previous music, Weatherall's influence is felt more in Tarot Sport's precision. Laser-guided beats and drones propel these songs on linear trajectories, most strikingly on the opening track "Surf Solar," which shoots listeners into space with a sleekly pumping four-on-the-floor beat and sparkling electronics that give the impression of stars streaking by. The track is so aerodynamic that it doesn't get truly combustive until two-thirds of the way through -- an approach Tarot Sport repeats often, and a markedly different one from the duo's debut. Not knowing when or whether Fuck Buttons were going to drape listeners' ears with celestial drones or assault them with demonic, Wolf Eyes-style shrieks was a significant part of Street Horrrsing's thrill. While it was probably a smart move on Hung and Power's part to not try to recapture that tension, occasionally it's missed. However, Tarot Sport may actually succeed the most when Fuck Buttons make the biggest departures from their debut's territory. "Olympians"' euphoric loops have a heady, heavenly quality all their own, while "The Lisbon Maru" is the musical equivalent of a wide plain: vast and majestic, even if the scenery doesn't change much. When Fuck Buttons revisit their dark side, they make it count, and they make it fit the rest of Tarot Sport's aesthetic. "Rough Steez" turns their first album's evil drum circles into something metallic and automatic, with pistons and pinions pumping and creaking. "Phantom Limb"'s writhing layers of dripping electronics don't just sound like music for aliens, they sound like music for Aliens. Hung and Power unite the album's often polarized sounds on the finale "Flight of the Feathered Serpent," which balances its elongated organ drones with flashy drums worthy of Carnaval. A more hypnotic and lulling ride overall, Tarot Sport may lack some of Street Horrrsing's pure visceral impact, but it's just as satisfying on its own terms, as well as an impressive step forward for Fuck Buttons.







6. The Antlers – Hospice


On Hospice, Brooklyn’s the Antlers deliver a heartbreaking concept album from the perspective of two central characters: an abusive bone cancer patient on her hospital death bed and a committed nurse who becomes attached and falls deeply in love, despite impending tragedy. Written over the course of two years by core member Peter Silberman and then enhanced with additional tracks by Darby Cicci, Michael Lerner, Justin Stivers, and Sharon Van Etten, it’s a woe-heavy record that could easily be crushed by its own weight, except for the fact that it’s delivered with such ease. The narrative (completely written out in the liners) is gripping -- full of novelesque prose, reminiscent of Lou Reed’s Berlin -- and the musical accompaniment complements Silberman’s lyrics perfectly. Music box melodies are sung in a wobbly falsetto over acoustic guitar and piano, as tinges of Radiohead (Amnesiac era) electro production add accent, waiting until the perfect moment to swell up to monumental crescendos full of keyboards, accordions, harmonicas, harps, and trumpets. Arcade Fire are an overt touchstone, as are Neutral Milk Hotel and Cloud Cult, but Silberman’s new composite proves itself a standout group among the many other lo-fi artists and chamber poppers. As a songwriter, he has matured into an artist with a masterful sense of dynamics, and he ebbs and flows from one chorus to the next as he multi-tracks sparse sections into grandiose ones. In the same balancing act, Silberman tones down the album's deep personal sense of love and loss with occasional bits of dry humor.







5. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest


Grizzly Bear are most comfortable when they're challenging themselves, and Veckatimest delivers everything that Yellow House did and more. Just as that album blew off the dust and noise that covered Horn of Plenty's lo-fi sketches, this album's production clears away any remaining cobwebs, revealing these songs in all their intricate detail. That detail includes string quartet and choral arrangements by composer and conductor Nico Muhly on some tracks, but all of Veckatimest has a more rarefied air than any of Grizzly Bear's previous work. The band hints at the just how big the album's scope is with its first two tracks: "Southern Point"'s psychedelic folk-jazz throws listeners into its bustling acoustic guitars, piles of vocal harmonies, swishy drums, and various sparkling sounds, making it a disorienting and dazzling opening salvo. The gorgeous "Two Weeks," by contrast, is the album's most immediate moment, its "Would you always? Maybe sometimes? Make it easy? Take your time" chorus teetering elegantly between pleading and reassuring as it's buoyed by backing vocals courtesy of Beach House's Victoria LeGrand. From there, Veckatimest ranges from Yellow House-like rambles such as "Hold Still" and "Dory" -- which plays like a kissing cousin to "Little Brother" -- to elaborate, quicksilver suites like "I Live with You," which builds from the Brooklyn Youth Choir's vocals into skyward-climbing chamber pop, to "While You Wait for the Others" and "Cheerleader"'s deceptively simple pop. At the heart of all these songs are negotiations with someone close, as on "All We Ask"'s admission "I can't get out of what I'm into with you." Though the sheer heft of songs such as "Fine for Now" could easily topple the album's balance between ambition and intimacy, Grizzly Bear knows when to come in for close-focus moments like "About Face" and the final track, "Foreground" which, with its plaintive vocals and simple piano melody, is one of the band's most beautiful ballads yet. It's clear that Veckatimest was made for a lot of listening. Nearly every song feels like the musical equivalent of a big meal: there's lots to digest, and coming back for second (and thirds, and more) is necessary.







4. Fever Ray – Fever Ray


Initially, the album's dark, frosty atmosphere feels like a continuation of the Knife's brilliant Silent Shout, and the oddly bouncy rhythms on songs like "Triangle Walks" and "Coconut" recall the duo's exotic-yet-frozen Nordic/Caribbean fusion. Eventually, though, Fever Ray reveals itself as far darker and more intimate than anything by the Knife. the Knife's spooky impulses are usually tempered by vivid pop instincts that Fever Ray replaces with a consistently eerie mood, particularly on "Concrete Walls," which feels like an even grimmer cousin of Silent Shout's "From Off to On." However, Fever Ray's mix of confessional lyrics and chilly, blatantly synthetic and often harsh sounds make this album as successful an electronic singer/songwriter album as Björk's Homogenic. These are some of the most alluring and disturbing songs Dreijer has been involved in making: the excellent album opener "If I Had a Heart" explores possibly inhuman need with a churning, almost subliminal synth and murky bass driving Dreijer's pitch-shifted vocals (which sound more like a different part of her psyche than a different character in the song); when her untreated voice comes in, keening "will I ever ever reach the floor?" she sounds even more frail and desperate by comparison. The rest of Fever Ray follows suit, offering fragile portraits and sketches that walk the fine line between intimate and insular. Dreijer further expands on the storytelling skills she developed on Silent Shout: the characters in her songs feel even more resonant and unique, especially on "When I Grow Up," which is as fascinatingly fragmented as a child's train of thought, skipping from sentiments like "I'm very good with plants" to "I've never liked that sad look by someone who wants to be loved by you." She also has an eye for unusual details, as on "Seven"'s "November smoke/And your toes go numb." It all comes together on the haunting "Now's the Only Time I Know," where the low end of Dreijer's voice sounds especially vulnerable and the lyrics fill in just enough to be tantalizing. At times, Fever Ray threatens to become a little too mysterious, but it never sounds less than intriguing, from the layers of claps and castanets that make up the beat on "I'm Not Done" to "Keep the Streets Empty for Me"'s almost imperceptible guitars. With almost tangible textures and a striking mood of isolation and singularity, Fever Ray is a truly strange but riveting album.







3. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amaedeus Phoenix


Realigned with Philippe Zdar, the half of Cassius who mixed United, Phoenix make adjustments on the polarizing characteristics of their second and third albums -- the pokey and occasionally listless Alphabetical, the jagged and tune-deficient It's Never Been Like That -- with some of the most direct and enjoyable songs they've made to date. The two opening songs, the bopping "Lisztomania" and the buzzing "1901," are so immediate and prone to habitual play that the remainder of the album is bound to be neglected. There is plenty to like beyond that point, including "Lasso," which niftily alternates between a tangled rhythm and tight-spiral riffing, and the labyrinthine "Pt. 1" of "Love Like a Sunset," which serves the same purpose as the extended instrumental passages on Roxy Music's Avalon, at least until its rousing conclusion and shift into "Pt. 2." Beyond containing the band's best, most efficient songwriting, the album also stands apart from the first three studio albums by projecting a cool punch that is unforced. Vocalist Thomas Mars, more bright-eyed and youthful than ever, also sounds more a part of these songs, rather than coming across as a protruding element that clashes against the instruments.







2. The xx – xx


Debuts as fully formed and confident as the xx's self-titled first album are rare, but then, there is very little that is typical about this band or their music. Their influences are wide-ranging -- traces of post-punk, dream pop, dubstep, indie pop, and R&B pop up at any given moment -- but are focused into songs that are as simple as they are unique and mysterious. These tracks are so sleek, they're practically sculptural, and they boast impeccably groomed arrangements. The beats pulse rather than crash; the guitars are artfully picked and plucked; and the vocals rarely rise above a wistful sigh. This restraint and sophistication make the fact that the xx's members were barely in their twenties when they recorded the album all the more impressive; artists twice their age would be proud to call the maturity and confidence that flow seemingly effortlessly through the xx their own. Even their song titles are the perfect mix of concise and evocative: "Stars," "Shelter," "Night Time" (actually, all of their songs could be named this -- they're that intimate and sleepily cool). The moody, monochromatic sound the xx sets forth on "Intro" is lovely enough, but it's how the band subtly shifts and tweaks it on each track that makes the album truly special. "VCR"'s innocent guitars hint at the band's fondness for Young Marble Giants' radically simple indie pop, while "Infinity" leans more heavily on their post-punk roots, and "Heart Skips a Beat" underscores its name with wittily fractured rhythms. And while singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim sound good on their solo turns (Sim particularly shines on the spacious "Fantasy"), together they're truly inspired -- the aloof sensuality they generate makes romantic intrigue actually intriguing again. "Crystalised" might be one of the more intense songs here, but it still carries the confessional quality of a conversation between lovers, reaffirming what "heart-to-heart" really means. The standout "Basic Space" takes Croft and Sim's push-pull chemistry in an even more pop direction, but it's still awash in subtly fascinating details like its exotically rolling beat and Durutti Column-esque guitars. While the band's subtlety and consistency threaten to work against them at times, XX is still a remarkable debut that rewards repeated listens and leaves listeners wanting more.







1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion


Animal Collective have brought the celestial down to earth with each record, but they've never sounded simultaneously otherworldly and approachable quite like they do on Merriweather Post Pavilion. Their eighth studio LP, it finds them at their best -- straining farther away from conventional song structure and accompaniment, even while doubling back to reach lyrical themes and modes of singing at their most basic or child-like. Where before AC expertly inserted experimental snippets into relatively straight-ahead songs, Merriweather Post Pavilion sees them reach some kind of denouement where pop music ends and pure sonic experience begins -- the sound is the only structure. Dismantling the framework of a pop song almost entirely (but using recurring passages in a very poppy way), the group offer a series of overlapping circular elements, all of which occasionally come together for a chorus but then break apart just as quickly. The music itself, at least what's describable about it, consists of deep bass pulses and art-damaged guitars with overlapping vocal harmonies that rise in a holy chorus. This may sound much like previous Animal Collective highlights, but where those records seemed like a series of accidental masterpieces -- the type of work that sounds brilliant only because it's been culled from hundreds of hours of tape -- Merriweather Post Pavilion is a perfectly organized record, not a note out of place, not a second wasted. It has the excitement and energy of Sung Tongs, the ragged sonic glory of Feels, and Strawberry Jam's ability to make separate parts come together in a glorious whole. Like the best experimental rockers surging toward nirvana -- from the Beach Boys to Mercury Rev -- Animal Collective have not only created a private soundworld like none other, they've also made it an inviting place to visit.









Honorable Mentions:




Atlas Sound – Logos


These songs barely sound like each other, yet they all sound like Cox. Logos comes into focus slowly with its first three songs. "The Light That Failed"'s hazy atmospheres slip effortlessly into "An Orchid"'s spectral recall of Microcastle's psych-pop, but it's "Walkabout," Cox's irresistibly sunny collaboration with Animal Collective and Panda Bear's Noah Lennox, that announces that the album has truly arrived -- it's as sudden, and satisfying, as tuning in a perfect pop song from radio static. From there, the album hops from sound to sound, ranging from acoustic rambles like "Criminals" to glitchy confections like the kaleidoscopic "Washington School." However, Logos' most striking moment is "Quick Canal."Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier lends her instantly recognizable vocals, which pile atop spiralling electronics that stretch for nine minutes, yet somehow feel much shorter than that. And while the album is more abstract than most of Cox's work with Deerhunter, it still favors his subversive pop side far more than his first Atlas Sound album, the insular laptop collages of Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel. The sugary innocence of '50s and '60s pop remains a major influence here, especially on "Sheila," which boasts a chorus ("we'll die alone together") that is equally sweet and unsettling. Even though Logos isn't as polished sounding as some of Cox's other releases, it's still captivating in its relatively raw state. These songs are nearly as wide-ranging and comprehensive as an actual atlas, but Cox keeps charting new territory.







Bat For Lashes – Two Suns


Two Suns revolves around Khan's "desert-born spiritual self" and her "destructive, self-absorbed, blonde femme fatale" alter ego Pearl as it covers "the philosophy of the self and duality, examining the need for both chaos and balance, for both love and pain, in addition to touching on metaphysical ideas concerning the connections between all existence." That's a lot to pack into just 11 songs, and it's not always entirely clear just what they're about, despite motifs like "blue dreams" that run through them. Some songs are just plain overdone: "Traveling Woman" and "Peace of Mind," with its tribal rhythms and gospel choir, aim for majesty but end up dragging. Others use the album's posh polish to make an impact, like "Glass" -- on which Khan hits some amazing high notes -- and "Daniel," which nods to the poppier side of her music. The directness that made Fur and Gold's modern-day fairy tales so enchanting and moving is often missing, and nothing on Two Suns is as musically or emotionally immediate as "What's a Girl to Do?" or "Sad Eyes." However, the subtler spells Khan casts with hypnotic tracks like "Sleep Alone" and "Moon and Moon" eventually reveal their beauty. And as Two Suns unfolds, it gradually shifts from overt attempts to dazzle listeners to focusing on Bat for Lashes' greatest strengths: Khan's voice and her considerable skills at telling a story and setting a mood. Pearl may be the album's dark side, but she's responsible for some of its best songs. "Siren Song" sets her seductive false promises to dramatic pianos, while "Pearl"'s Dream," with its battles and kingdoms, is classic Bat for Lashes. "Good Love" reaffirms Khan's way with bruised ballads, and "Two Planets"' pummeling beats and swirling voices make the mystical power the rest of the album reached for crystal-clear.







Bill Callahan – Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle


When Bill Callahan left behind his long held Smog moniker, he gave longtime fans of his lo-fi, mopey, sometimes angry aesthetic some real cause for worry: there was not only the name change, but the reliance on more technology that began with the Diamond Dancer EP and the outright lush production (compared to his past work) on Woke on a Whaleheart. Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle should give them some cause for relief, though the growth on the previous two offerings cannot be erased. There is no grand statement on Eagle; it's merely the record that comes after Woke on a Whaleheart, but it feels more like a Smog record though it doesn't sound like one. This is the darkest, moodiest set he's issued since Supper in 2003, but it's also easily his most accessible musically and sonically. We don't hear much more than Callahan's idiosyncratic misanthropy offering itself speaking and breathing room on most of these tunes; his baritone is right up front and rarely gets stretched. His themes seem to center on flight and return, and are no better illustrated than on the opening cut, "Jim Cain," where, along a gently shuffling snare and kick drum, his nylon-string acoustic and electric guitars, and a cheap but effective keyboard, his ruminations are guided. They caress that voice out of its hiding place: "...Well I used to be darker/Then I got lighter, then I got dark again/Somethin' to be seen, was passing over/And over me/Well it seemed like a routine case at first/With the death of the shadow, came the lightness of births/In the darkest of nights, the truth still dazzled/And I work myself, until I'm frazzled/I ended up in search of ordinary things..." It's a cause célèbre for the album.







The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart


The New York indie pop quartet the Pains of Being Pure at Heart built up a pretty rabid fan base in the indie pop community prior to the release of their self-titled debut record in early 2009. For this, they could thank a string of excellent singles and EPs that began in 2007 (songs from which appear on the album) but more than that they can put it down to the fact that their sound melds together the trademarked sounds of many beloved indie and noise pop bands into one shiny ball of sound and melancholy. Mixed in skillfully are the sonic assaults of early My Bloody Valentine, the hazy sweetness of Ride, the introspective and usually morose lyrical approach perfected by the Field Mice, the sensitive and tender vocals purveyed by most Sarah records bands, and the rhythmic drive of early-'90s Amer-Indie bands the likes of which more often than not found themselves on Slumberland (Lilys, the Ropers, Velocity Girl -- whose Archie Moore ably mixes the album). It all could come off like a pastiche with little more than nostalgic value but the band acts as if it were the first time anyone ever captured this kind of sound, never sitting back and aping the past but instead giving it a healthy boost. Plus, they write some very good songs. "Come Saturday," "This Love Is Fucking Right!" (their answer to the Field Mice's "This Love Is Not Wrong"), or "Young Adult Friction" all would have been in serious rotation on a hip college radio station in 1992. Best of all is the amazingly hooky "Everything with You," which stands as the equal of anything the shoegaze poppers or pop losers cranked out back in the day. If you had gone out and bought the 7," after one play you would have tacked the sleeve up on your wall and played the record until the grooves wore out. It's that good.







Wild Beasts – Two Dancers



Limbo, Panto was a particularly apt title for the band's first album: its songs were nearly as disjointed -- often fascinatingly so -- as they were theatrical. That can't be said of Two Dancers, which sounds far more inviting; it sighs and caresses where Limbo, Panto stomped and snarled. "The Fun Powder Plot" signals the Wild Beasts' big changes right away: guitars chime over intricate percussion and keyboards, and Hayden Thorpe's falsetto, once the most divisive instrument in the band's arsenal, is smooth instead of raging. The song is actually pretty, a word that rarely described Limbo, Panto's hyperactive cabaret experiments. The rest of Two Dancers follows the lead of its opening track, and at first, the band's more abrasive side is missed -- listeners almost expect to be bombarded with a challenge after the debut's stunts. Instead, the Wild Beasts' previously only hinted-at pop leanings come to the fore. "Hooting & Howling" manages to sound accessible and very little like any other bands at the same time (though Antony and the Johnsons and early Suede still feel like kindred spirits). Even the Wild Beasts' philosophy seems clearer here -- while Two Dancers isn't a concept album (though Thorpe described it as "a collection of scenes"), there is a definite arc in how the songs relate to each other. Desire and sensual pleasures fuel these stories about eating, dreaming, stealing, and carousing, from "All the King's Men"'s flirtations to the libertine exploits of "We Still Got the Taste Dancin' on Our Tongues," a spooky, spaghetti Western-tinged track with lyrics like "Trousers and blouses make excellent sheets." However, hedonism's violent side and its consequences aren't forgotten amidst all the romance, and the album gets darker and more brooding as it unfolds. With Two Dancers, the Wild Beasts move from fascinating to accomplished, and that they did so just over a year after releasing Limbo, Panto makes that achievement all the more impressive.





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#1 Albums from 2000s at a Glance:


2000: Radiohead - Kid A


2001: Daft Punk – Discovery


2002: William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops


2003: Ricardo Villalobos – Alcachofa


2004: Madvillain – Madvillainy


2005: M.I.A. – Arular


2006: J Dilla - Donuts


2007: Burial – Untrue


2008: Portishead – Third


2009: Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion

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10. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy


As fatiguing as it is invigorating, as cold-blooded as it is heart-rending, as haphazardly splattered as it is meticulously sculpted, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is an extraordinarily complex 70-minute set of songs. Listening to it, much like saying or typing its title, is a laborious process. In some ways, it’s the culmination of Kanye West's first four albums, but it does not merely draw characteristics from each one of them. The 13 tracks, eight of which are between five and nine minutes in length, sometimes fuse them together simultaneously. Consequently, the sonic and emotional layers are often difficult to pry apart and enumerate. Nothing exemplifies its contrasting elements and maniacal extravagance as much as “All of the Lights.” Rattling, raw, synthetic toms are embellished with brass, woodwinds, and strings. It’s a celebration of fame (“Fast cars, shooting stars”) and a lament of its consequences (“Restraining order/Can’t see my daughter”). Its making involved 42 people, including not one but two French horn players and over a dozen high-profile vocalists, only some of which are perceptible. At once, the song features one of the year’s most rugged beats while supplying enough opulent detail to make Late Registration collaborator Jon Brion's head spin. “Blame Game” chills more than anything off 808s & Heartbreak. Sullen solo-piano Aphex Twin plays beneath morose cello; with a chorus from John Legend, a dejected, embittered West -- whose voice toggles between naturally clear-sounding and ominously pitched-down as it pans back and forth -- tempers wistfully-written, maliciously-delivered lines like “Been a long time since I spoke to you in a bathroom, ripping you up, fuckin’ and chokin’ you” with untreated and distinctively pained confessions like “I can’t love you this much.” The contrast in “Devil in a New Dress,” featuring Rick Ross, is of a different sort; a throwback soul production provided by the Smokey Robinson-sampling Bink, it’s as gorgeous as any of West’s own early work, yet it’s marred by an aimless instrumental stretch, roughly 90 seconds in length, that involves some incongruent electric guitar flame-out. Even less explicable is the last third of the nine-minute “Runaway,” when West blows into a device and comes out sounding something like a muffled, bristly version of Robert Fripp's guitar. The only thing that remains unchanged is West’s lyrical accuracy; for every rhyme that stuns, there’s one deserving of mockery from any given contestant off the The White Rapper Show. As the ego and ambition swells, so does the appeal, the repulsiveness, and -- most importantly -- the ingenuity. Whether loved or loathed, fully enjoyed or merely admired, this album should be regarded as a deeply fascinating accomplishment.







9. Four Tet – There Is Love in You


Kieran Hebden's first Four Tet full-length in four years comes after a parade of collaboration albums, DJ dates, remixes, and one EP that sounded strikingly like John Carpenter soundtracking the original Halloween film. Appropriately, There Is Love in You is a reset album, one where Hebden pares his music down to the essentials. (Sorry, no dubstep workouts or pastoral ballads to be found here.) It's the most natural he's sounded on record in years, much more assured than Everything Ecstatic, which bore the brunt of Hebden's wish to snip the folktronica tag by floating an array of (somewhat) iconoclastic tracks. Here, the music consists of little more than soft tones, muted beats, and overlaid music-box melodies. Perhaps not a recipe for greatness, but in keeping with the axiom that a great artist can always shine no matter the materials or medium, There Is Love in You is an accomplished, beautiful record (despite the lack of shiny bits). Vocals, where they appear, are wordless and textural; the few samples are glitchy but warm and hypnotic. The nine-minute single "Love Cry" sounds like Carl Craig's Innerzone Orchestra making an epic children's record. Overall, There Is Love in You has the spartan precision of Phillip Glass but also, surprisingly, the warmth and vitality of classic Cluster as well. From his debut, Hebden has always made the more alien side of electronic music sound warm and inviting; this not only accomplishes that, but ranks with his best.







8. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest


Inspired by the flyer culture of punk and college rock bands of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Deerhunter introduced Halcyon Digest with an “interactive Xerox art project” in which fans photocopied an old-school flyer made by Bradford Cox, pasted it around their towns, photographed it and sent the results back to the band. Besides being a clever viral strategy to drum up interest for the album, it speaks to the way Deerhunter approaches how fleeting and important memories can be on these songs. Given how prolific Cox and crew have been together -- and separately, with his Atlas Sound project and Lockett Pundt's Lotus Plaza -- since 2007’s Cryptograms, it’s not surprising that they took this opportunity to look back. Halcyon Digest reveals a quieter, sometimes gentler Deerhunter than expected, and while Cox doesn’t exactly sound tired, there’s an occasional rasp in his voice that wasn’t there before. Instead of emphasizing sonics that spiral out into the stratosphere as they did on Microcastle or Rainwater Cassette Exchange, the band emphasizes the dream part of their dream-pop roots. Halcyon Digest gets off to a sleepy start with “Earthquake,” where sluggish beats, looping guitars and reminiscences of “waking up on a dirty couch” feel like being awoken from a dream, or maybe going deeper into one; “Sailing” is a reverie on a pier, so whispered and intimate that it sounds like it belongs on a Cox solo album. Despite its delicacy, Halcyon Digest is some of Deerhunter's most down-to-earth music, and offers some of the band’s most thoughtful songwriting. Cox is more interested in playing with layers of nostalgia than layers of sound, expressing his yearning by channeling the music of youth and rebellion of decades past. “Don’t Cry” and “Basement Scene” evoke the eternally teenage sound of the Everly Brothers, filtered through a fever dream; the excellent “Memory Boy” cherishes “the smell of loose-leaf joints on jeans” with sparkling Anglophilic ‘60s pop. This may also be Deerhunter’s most emotionally varied album, spanning the jubilant sax on the oddly Strokes-like “Coronado” to “Helicopter”'s heartbreaking chamber-pop, which embodies lonely side of memories. The band saves just enough room for two quintessentially Deerhunter tracks: Pundt's gorgeous “Desire Lines” is a standout, taking flight halfway through into a glorious guitar excursion, while the transporting final track “He Would Have Laughed” is all the more poignant for its dedication to Jay Reatard. It’s not as immediate as previous Deerhunter albums, but Halcyon Digest has an appeal all its own: It’s as difficult to grasp -- and as hard to shake -- as a memory lingering at the back of your brain.







7. Actress – Splazsh


Sharper, sprawling, and more bent in comparison to 2008’s Hazyville -- Darren Cunningham's first Actress album --Splazsh is a brilliantly malformed collision of dubstep, IDM, garage, and experimental techno. Even if each one of these tracks didn’t sound like it was coated in silt, there would be friction to spare. “Lost” is grounded in sub-bass tones that are washed out by fragile, disembodied vocal samples, streaks of agitated hi-hats, and a decaying twinkle of a keyboard vamp. “Purrple Splazsh,” a clipped groove that begins as abruptly as it ends, is less post-dubstep than alien new wave funk. “Senorita” swings like one of Kenny Dixon, Jr.’s early deep-house productions for Norma Jean Bell, yet it’s so muffled that you might as well be listening to it through speakers draped with blankets. “Bubble Butts and Equations” evokes nothing of the sort -- it’s more like a radioactive lagoon of diseased, lancing synthesizer notes from which rusted widgets emerge. Not really coherent (and, evidently, not the least bit concerned about it), Splazsh nonetheless keeps ears perked and astounded.







6. Beach House – Teen Dream


The duo's mix of retro electronics and chiming guitars is still as dreamlike and distinctive as ever -- if anything, the tinny taps and hisses of their drum machine are even more present in Teen Dream's pristine settings, making the contrast between them and the molten slide guitars and rippling keyboards on “Norway” even more vivid. The songwriting is also more focused, using Devotion songs such as “You Came to Me” and “Heart of Chambers” as templates for the album's elegant longing. Like Teen Dream's title, these songs are wry and wise enough to know better about idealizing love, and romantic enough to still believe in it. “Zebra” positively swoons, while “Walk in the Park,” with its graceful coda and chorus lament “In a matter of time/it will slip from my mind/In and out of my life/you would slip from my mind,” makes losing sound beautiful, even if it's anything but a walk in the park. Despite the wintry sorrow that dominates Teen Dream and songs like “Used to Be” and “Better Times," in particular, Beach House lets a little hope into the album before it closes with “10 Mile Stereo” and “Real Love.” Though it's not as eclectic and whimsical as their earlier work, Teen Dream is some of their most beautiful music, and reaffirms that they're the among the best purveyors of languidly lovelorn songs since Mazzy Star.







5. Scuba – Triangulation


As his moniker suggests, Scuba has always had a somewhat aquatic sound. Indeed, "Minerals" even begins with the noise of dripping water and sonar bleeps. But what really makes Scuba feel so submerged is the feeling of pressure here, bending the different styles into strange new mutations like alien-looking fish who feed at the bottom of the oceans. "Heavy Machinery" has a house beat anchored by a grinding dubstep bassline, while "Three Sided Shape"'s two-step rhythms are awash with electronic flotsam and drowned vocals. It can definitely get dark down there, but Triangulation never sinks in misery, the closing "Lights Out" has the same warm house undercurrents and rhythmic invention as Joy Orbison. He also remembers to come up for air—"Before" and "So You Think You're Special" both boast the kind of soulful phased vocal effects Instra:mental have made their trademark, an influence Rose might well have developed working with them and D-Bridge for Autonomic recently. That elder drum & bass heads like Instra:mental and D-Bridge are actively looking to the younger dubsteppers for inspiration confirms that dubstep has come of age, a fact that an album as mature and well-rounded as Triangulation makes even clearer.







4. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty


It’s one of the loosest, most varied, and entertaining albums of its time. Big Boi is in top form, rattling off agile, head-spinning, and frequently irreverent tongue twisters like “Witness the n*gga that spit that vicious pitbull attack shit when it comes to this rap shit” and “When she’s liquored up I’m leaving my fingerprints on her butt.” The variety of beats, most of which Big Boi co-produced, are even more mystifying, slathered in ideas yet robust in foundation. What’s most prominent in “Tangerine” is the knocking/snapping rhythm, but it enters with what could have developed into a grunge dirge and incorporates booming bass, a synthesizer vamp filtered through a large plastic tube, electro zaps, scorching guitar flameout, and some piano fit for a power ballad’s coda. It’s an eloquently crude strip-club anthem (of course). The superbly bombastic “General Patton” is a melee of triumphant horns, a blasting opera choir, and rallying rhymes like “Pick on somebody your own size and fuck around, get kilt/But not like the kilt above the knees/BB will plant you n*ggas like seeds, or fertilizer for the trees.” Anchored in whomping bass and rattlesnake hi-hats, the battle anthem is capped by Big Rube's fathoms-deep-toned recitation of the slayed’s last rites. Bullfrog electro that quotes the System and Soul II Soul, a victory lap aided by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and loads of low-slung Southern funk -- not to mention what sounds like a warm, bittersweet spin on Diddy’s “Last Night” -- are also pulled off to equally excellent effect. Sir Lucious Left Foot lacks something as universally appealing and tidy as “The Way You Move,” but that is not a problem -- not when Big Boi casually conveys that he is as much an imaginative artist as his other half in OutKast.







3. Caribou – Swim


The album previous to 2010’s Swim, Andorra, won him the most praise he had seen to date with a richly layered sound that added elements of 1960s British psych and folk to some tightly structured and memorable songs. Swim takes the seemingly illogical step of stripping away most of the layers, stretching the songs out, and leaving the stuffy '60s sitting room for a glittering, pulsating dancefloor. Not that he’s completely left behind the Andorra sound; there are moments, like on the chorus of "Kaili," where it is obvious you are listening to a record by someone who has a deep knowledge of Wimple Winch B-sides. What becomes clear after the first listen or two though is that Swim combines all the elements of Caribou’s past (the left-field IDM of Start Breaking My Heart, the shimmering neo-shoegaze of Up in Flames, the spare Krautrock on Milk of Human Kindness, and the songcraft of Andorra) into a compelling batch of songs that sound good over headphones and might even work better in a club full of discerning dancers. The arrangements are predictably inventive and suitably thoughtful, with plenty of odd sounds and an interesting juxtaposition of instruments, but there’s a slinky groove underpinning the bulk of the record that will get feet moving. The funky, late-night groover "Odessa" could be a hit too in some magical land where dance music fans reward sincerely weird songs with chart success. So could "Leave House," a super-catchy dance-pop track that sounds like a classic Hot Chip jam, all rubbery bass and surprisingly forceful pop-soul vocals. The rest of the album is filled with quietly stunning songs that are dazzling on the surface but also reward close listening.







2. Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid


Any misgivings about Janelle Monáe's Bad Boy deal are nullified by the briefest contact with this, an extravagant 70-minute album involving more imagination, conceptual detail, and stylistic turnabouts than most gatefold prog rock epics. Credit Bad Boy's Diddy for allowing Monáe to fully explore the singularity on display through Metropolis, Suite I: The Chase, and work with her Wondaland crew on a bigger budget. The ArchAndroid not only picks up where The Chase let off, but contains both the second and third Metropolis suites in one shot with no discernible “let’s make some hits now” intervention. The packaging alone -- the elaborate crown, the inspiration listed beside each song, etc. -- provides much to process. Liner notes from the vice-chancellor of the arts asylum at the Palace of the Dogs, Monáe’s residence, outline the (possible) situation fleshed out in the songs. In short, Monáe was genoraped in the 28th century, sent back to the 21st century, and had her organic compounds cloned and re-purposed for the existence of ArchAndroid Cindi Mayweather, whose directive is to liberate Metropolis from a secret society of oppressors. Understanding all this stuff enhances the enjoyment of the album, but it is not required. A few tracks merely push the album along, and a gaudy Of Montreal collaboration is disruptive, but there are numerous highlights that are vastly dissimilar from one another. “Tightrope,” the biggest standout, is funky soul, all locomotive percussion and lyrical prancing to match: “I tip on alligators, and little rattlesnakers/But I’m another flavor, something like a Terminator.” Just beneath that is the burbling synth pop of “Wondaland,” as playful and rhythmically juicy as Tom Tom Club (“So inspired, you touch my wires”); the haunted space-folk of “57821” (titled after Monáe’s patient number); and the conjoined “Faster” and “Locked Inside,” packing bristling energy with a new-wave bounce that morphs into a churning type of desperation worthy of Michael Jackson.







1. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma


For 26-year-old Steve Ellison's deservedly hyped third album, Flying Lotus loosened the reins and set out to make Cosmogramma, which his label, Warp, promoted as a space opera of sorts. More of a long-playing, cohesive listen than the prior year’s excellent Los Angeles, which felt like a collection of insular, Dilla-inspired beats, Flying Lotus evolved into a forerunner of his own personal genre. On this, his most far-out release to date, he incorporates a thicker amount of live instrumentation (horns, strings, bass, guitar, and even harp) with his laptop manipulations, and branches away from hip-hop. Call it futuristic fusion, if you will, but the result is much more ahead of the curve than, say, Herbie Hancock'sFuture 2 Future (though it shares some similarities) and more on par with a Jaga Jazzist or a Four Tet release. That is, it's left of center. Free jazz plays a huge part, and Flylo draws deeply from his Coltrane lineage, but he also dips into past-prime electronic and dance styles. Techno, house, and drum'n'bass all take shape alongside IDM blips, dubstep, and disco strings or blaxploitation soundtrack orchestration, courtesy of OutKast and Erykah Badu arranger Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. As a mass of shape-shifting layers, the album mutates constantly throughout the tracks, in a dense soundscape that sometimes feels palpable and at other times becomes liquid, rife with bottomless possibilities. Cosmogramma is an instrumental genre-jumping journey for head-bopping intellectuals, and the meditative melodies by vocalists Thundercat, Laura Darlington, and Thom Yorke only add to the experience.









Honorable Mentions:




Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today


While this is the first of his albums to sound like it was recorded in a proper studio, there’s still a film coating his music; Pink's surroundings are just polished enough to make Before Today's lush harmonies and synths sound like they’re on a cassette that’s been dubbed over only a few times and left in a glove box for a couple of years instead of a couple of decades. If anything, this higher fidelity just underscores how weird Pink's music is. He sings about getting a disease in a hot tub in the clammy, sleazy album opener, “Hot Body Rub,” grunting like a bad James Brown impersonator while saxophones drone. It’s also hard to imagine many others who would open a blue-eyed soul song with a car chase (“Beverly Kills”) or mix lysergic verses with pop-metal choruses and call it “Butt House Blondies”; the way Pink mixes and matches sounds with abandon and tops them with goofy, surreal lyrics suggests Ween as an influence, or hints that they’ve been under the same influences. Elsewhere, Pink works from a wider palette of genres to mash: the frothy instrumental “Reminiscences” is the world’s coolest and campiest elevator music, while “Revolution’s a Lie” closes the album with driving post-punk. And while songs like “L’Estat” are almost too dense and busy to keep up with, Pink’s pop finesse shines on his cover of the Rockin' Ramrods' “Bright Lit Blue Skies,” the equally breezy and creepy “Fright Night,” and the album’s single, “Round and Round,” which suggests Synchronicity-era Police. But even when the music calms down, he can’t resist some head-scratching wordplay, as on “Can’t Hear My Eyes”' just-off-the-yacht soft rock, where Pink sighs, “I want a lady as beautiful as the sunset on a strip,” or on the gender-blurring “Menopause Man,” where he sings, “You’re trying too hard to be yourself.” He doesn’t have that problem on Before Today -- even with some of the smoke and mirrors removed, Ariel Pink is still a singular talent.







The-Dream – Love King


Once again, his way with a melody, an outrageous line, and an exquisitely adroit rhythm, all components in his immense crazy-quilt song cycle -- full of recurring lyrical themes and sonic flourishes -- transcend the flaws. Though this is the least collaborative Dream album, with McKinney and Stewart absent on six of the dozen songs, its layer upon layer of synthetic opulence and greater range of lushly detailed arrangements sometimes make the first two sound spindly and small-scoped in comparison. The drawback is that snappy singles aren’t as common, but the album is an absolute embarrassment of riches for those in love with the indulgent artist side of the-Dream. That’s not to say that those who prefer the hitmaking side are shut out. “Make Up Bag,” all boom and snap filled with swirling fluff, gives the object a second meaning with a hook worthy of a double dutch chant: “If you ever make your girlfriend mad, don’t let your good girl go bad/Drop five stacks on the makeup bag.” “Yamaha,” roaring and ecstatic, is an upgrade of “Fast Car” and his most energizing song to date. At the other end, or the bottom, is “Abyss,” an elegiac mini-epic several shades darker than anything off Love vs Money: “Bitch, I could give a damn how harsh this may seem/But I’m here to put your heart in its place/Chained up at the bottom of the lake.” “Turnt Out,” set on the slow-spin cycle, is one of many songs in which Nash broadens his range as a singer. He has sung in falsetto before, but never with such softness; it’s a charmingly imperfect guide vocal for one of his female collaborators.







Gorillaz – Plastic Beach


Delivered five years after the delicate whimsical melancholy of 2005’s Demon Days, Plastic Beach is an explicit sequel to its predecessor, its story line roughly picking up in the dystopian future where the last album left off, its music offering a grand, big-budget expansion of Demon Days, spinning off its cameo-crammed blueprint. Traces of Albarn’s Monkey opera can be heard, particularly in the hypnotic Mideastern pulse of “White Flag,” but Damon’s painstaking pancultural pop junk-mining no longer surprises -- when hip-hop juts up against Brit-pop, it’s expected -- yet it still has the capacity to delight no matter which direction the Gorillaz may swing. Lou Reed’s crotchety croak on “Some Kind of Nature” has the same kind of gravitational pull as Mos Def leading the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble through the intensely circling “Sweepstakes,” while the group reaches new heights of sparkling pop on “Superfast Jellyfish,” aided by the return of De La Soul -- the rappers who propelled “Feel Good Inc.” -- and an appearance from Gruff Rhys, the Super Furry Animals frontman who is an ideal fit for Gorillaz (possibly because SFA’s genre-bending pop and Pete Fowler artwork clearly paved the way for Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s collaboration). A common thread among all these tracks is that they find Albarn ceding the spotlight to his fellow musicians, preferring to be the puppetmaster behind the curtain, and Plastic Beach works best when he’s the composer and producer, finding hidden strengths within his guests -- having Mick Jones and Paul Simonon for the elastic title track, coaxing some powerful performances out of Bobby Womack -- but often when Albarn takes center stage his laconic drawl lets the air out of the balloon. Curiously, much of this arrives toward the beginning of the album, the record gaining momentum as it unspools, working toward its climax, but the overall album accentuates moody texture over pop hooks. This emphasis means Plastic Beach is the first Gorillaz album to play like a soundtrack to a cartoon -- which isn’t entirely a bad thing, because as Albarn grows as a composer, he’s a master of subtly shifting moods and intricately threaded allusions, often creating richly detailed collages that are miniature marvels.







John Roberts – Glass Eights


Though certainly grounded in mournful or melancholy overtones, Roberts' best cuts exude a kind of blissful sadness, a contentment to linger in sorrow that owes a lot to the emotional release of genres like blues and jazz. Those touchstones can be heard more explicitly on Glass Eights, which folds jazzy grand piano runs, violins, upright bass and funky organs into Roberts' complex candlelit house. Melded together from various samples and live instrumentation, the first thing one notes about Glass Eights is its fluidity. If perhaps it won't lead to any singles as strong as, say, "Blame," the gain here is in how nimbly Roberts constructs an evocative narrative across the album's ten tracks. As such, Glass Eights is, first and foremost, an album lover's delight. Though Roberts' music can sometimes seem kind of chilly from the surface—almost stately and academic in tone—that's a quality undermined by how comforting it becomes when lived in for a while.







Robyn – Body Talk



Robyn's prolific 2010 culminated with Body Talk, the full-length album that featured songs from the Body Talk, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 EPs, plus enough new songs to make up a third EP. Releasing that much new music within six months was a feat in and of itself, but the fact that each part of Body Talk was so consistent made the whole project even more impressive. And, by revealing bits and pieces of what went into the final album -- as well as parts that didn’t -- Robyn offered her fans a window into her process, allowing glimpses of the moods and approaches that go into making an album and letting listeners get to know these songs in different contexts. Of course, Body Talk's appeal isn’t just experimental: by picking the best of the project’s songs, it feels like a greatest-hits collection and brand new album rolled into one. Familiarity suits these songs well, whether it’s the tight, bright “Fembot,” the aching “Dancing on My Own,” or “Hang with Me,” which swoons with arpeggios that sound like falling recklessly in love, even though that’s just what Robyn warns against. Hearing the songs from the EPs on Body Talk makes Body Talk, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 feel like deluxe singles from the album, as well as its building blocks. However, different versions of these tracks, like the more anthemic take on “In My Eyes,” ensure that the album doesn’t feel cobbled together. Some songs sound even better here than they did on the EPs: “Love Kills” and “None of Dem”'s playful dancehall function more clearly as bridges to other tracks than they did before. Body Talk’s new songs also make good on the EPs’ gradual shift from fierce independence to togetherness, particularly on “Call Your Girlfriend,” a thoughtful twist on a love triangle that finds Robyn enjoying new love while being concerned for someone hurt by it, and “Stars 4-Ever,” which gives a fizzy, Euro-dance tinged happy ending to the Body Talk project. After the EPs’ conciseness, the album feels downright roomy, and maybe slightly too long; obviously, Robyn had a lot of songs to work with. Overall, though, Body Talk is more focused than Robyn, and just as bold in the intimacy it creates with listeners.





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1. Fleet Foxes - "Fleet Foxes"

2. Elbow - "The Seldom Seen Kid

3. Frightened Rabbit - "The Midnight Organ Fight"

4. Vampire Weekend - "Vampire Weekend"

5. e.s.t. - "Leucocyte"




1. Lightning Dust - "Infinite Light"

2. Dirty Projectors - "Bitte Orca"

3. Animal Collective - "Merriweather Post Pavillion"

4. Local Natives - "Gorilla Manor"

5. Bill Callahan - "Sometimes I Wish we Were an Eagle"




1. The National - "High Violet"

2. Joanna Newsom - "Have One on Me"

3. Susanne Sundfør - "The Brothel"

4. Broken Bells - "Broken Bells"

5. Arcade Fire - "The Suburbs"

6. Titus Andronicus - "The Monitor"

7. Massive Attack - "Heligoland"

8. Vampire Weekend - "Contra"

9. LCD Soundsystem - "This is Happening"

10. Anaïs Mitchell - "Hadestown"

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Special mention(s) for 2010:




Balam Acab - See Birds



Sturdy as these songs are, what's really impressive about Koone's music is how he's able to play with contrast and draw out emotion. Tension seems to be the key. On the eastern-tinged "Regret Mistakes", some very light, angelic verses pull the song upward, but when the beat comes in, all gritty and mangled, it yanks you right back to earth. And for digital music, it can be especially evocative. In "Big Boy", which incorporates 80s synths and watery Animal Collective textures, he makes a sampled kids' chorus feel weirdly somber. Next to big, threatening beats, the children sound too young to be at this adult party, and it gives a sense of innocence lost. The EP is only five tracks long, and around the fourth, Koone starts to nudge the sounds in a brighter direction. "Dream Out" and the closer, an alternate mix of the title track, are the two most optimistic-sounding things here. Though they lack some of the earlier cuts' weight, they support the idea that Koone has more to him than spooky. Sparkly sounds populate these tracks, and the overall feeling is more dream-pop than "witch house."







Forest Swords - Dagger Paths



Forest Swords is one man, The Wirral’s Matt Barnes. With his dubwise predilection for gauzy textures and sensual fuzzy gasps, Burial and Fennesz are immediate reference points, but the more you live with the record, the more a distinctive, brutally minimalist aesthetic comes to the fore. The way Barnes arranges his sounds and rolls out his beats betrays his love of jagged R&B and hip-hop, but that pop sensibility is distended by his penchant for distant, anguished vocals, punishing drones and martial percussion sourced from the devil’s own dancehall. Listening to Dagger Paths is like bearing witness to some very private act of catharsis. It’s an overwhelmingly sad record, but it’s incredibly beautiful too, and out of that beauty a cautious hopefulness emerges.







Girl Unit - Wut



It feels a bit pointless to write about a release that was being proclaimed single of the year by some of the most influential figures in bass music before it was even released, but the eighth release on Night Slugs fully deserves any extraneous, unnecessary further praise it can greedily gobble up. After already making quite a splash with ‘I.R.L’, London’s Girl Unit drops an atomic bomb with ‘Wut’ that incinerates his already high standards and sweeps the ashes away in forceful gusts. ‘Wut’ is the kind of uber-anthem bound to induce the kind of awestruck stupefaction as exemplified in its vocal refrain. Put simply, ‘Wut’ is massive, euphoric, a tune, big, banging, thrashing, whatever adjective you might want to throw at it; it satisfies every and all criteria. Queasy drum machines stumble over pseudo-trance pads and dramatic hi-NRG-on-speed synths that would be shrill if they weren’t so catchy. But when the vocals hit, all bets are off. Sure, every UK producer worth his weight in acetate has been slicing vocals to unrecognizable extremes this year, but the samples on ‘Wut’ carry a kind of formidable gravity, their utter seriousness contradicted only by how ridiculous they sound. Helium voices stampede and disperse, making way for the unforgettable “What! What!” exclamation that brings forth a cascade of ear-candy so sweet it’s nearly sickening. It’s the equivalent of a drag queen snapping her fingers in your face; do you laugh, play along, or do you run?







How to Dress Well - Love Remains



Despite the abundance of lo-fi acts and artists revisiting the sounds of their childhood in 2010, How to Dress Well remained unique. Tom Krell’s fractured background, which included loving late-‘80s R&B as a little boy, playing in bands throughout high school, and recording drone music in college and beyond, came together as something organic in Love Remains. Krell released many of these songs in a prolific burst of free EPs in late 2009 and early 2010, garnering buzz from critics who treated them like aural Rorschach blots, hearing Panda Bear, Michael Jackson, dubstep, Shai, and Bon Iver in Krell’s dense, soulful songs. Though it’s perfect fodder for analyzing, Love Remains doesn’t sound calculated -- often, it sounds like it was recorded by accident. The album is so lo-fi that it hisses, clips, and goes into the red regularly, but Krell makes the most of this, evoking the power of memories, dreams, and impressions. These songs weren’t meant to be heard clearly -- tracks such as “You Hold the Water” sound like they’re seeping through walls, or like they’re half-remembered, with memories and emotions circling in a feedback loop that would overload any recording equipment. Krell reworks the R&B of his childhood just as deftly as he repurposes Love Remains’ conventionally bad recording techniques. The fluidity of the melodies and the spare beats are rooted in late-‘80s/early-‘90s R&B -- it’s no coincidence that one of How to Dress Well’s definitive songs, “Ready for the World,” shares its name with the ‘80s R&B group. However, Krell isn’t aping this style so much as transforming it into an expression of what it means to him; on “My Body,” he croons, “I was hopin’ for the rain, I was hopin’ for you,” surrounded by blissful and desolate electronics before the track cuts off abruptly, like someone turned off the radio. Krell’s vocals, which range from angelic sighs to piercing falsettos, are the conduit for Love Remains’ emotions, channeling regret on “Suicide Dream 2” and getting lost in the moment on “Can’t See My Own Face.” At times things approach soundtrack-like abstraction, particularly on “Walking This Dumb,” a live recording that sounds like it was captured about 500 yards away from the club. However, as Love Remains progresses, the songs get closer to Krell's influences, and while “Lover’s Start” and “Decisions” might be a hair less intriguing than the album’s more damaged cuts, they show that How to Dress Well doesn’t need to be tampered with to have impact. Were they recorded and produced more cleanly, they could be hits, but that’s not the point of Krell’s music: its unfinished, imperfect quality makes it an intimate experience for listeners, letting them connect the dots in their own ways. Love Remains is a striking debut, one that speaks to how we listen to and remember music we love, and the impact it makes on everything else we hear.







James Blake - CMYK



Funny that James Blake's samples Timbaland: The CMYK EP sounds like a logical conclusion of the hip-hop mogul's most innovative productions. Blake, part of the fertile post-dubstep/IDM community along with Mount Kimbie, takes bits and pieces from plenty of sources and arranges them into twitchy glitchy 140 BPM-compatible tunes. They lack the pop sense of Timbaland—hence the IDM mention—but they're just as emotionally affecting, squeezing pathos out a single line from Kelis and warm, deep chords. Blake underpins nearly everything here with those comfortable blankets, wrapping you up while he makes you consider dancing. It's a wonderful trick, but it's one he uses over and over again throughout CMYK. Blake's fascinating arrangements, however, keep each track distinct: "CMYK" is the busy banger, "Footnotes" pairs gospel chords with a vocoder, "I'll Stay" is similarly hymnal but this time goes call-and-response against twittering synths and "Postpone" starts as lumbering requiem before transforming into lumbering exultation. The tools are the same throughout: Stops. Starts. Stutters. Hints. Feints. And Blake never goes for the jugular ala his ecstatic Untold remix. But this young producer has seemingly taken more from Timbaland than just musical inspiration: He clearly also knows that a little bit of subtlety can go a long way.




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1. Devotion - Beach House

2. Insides - Jon Hopkins

3. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

4. The Midnight Organ Fight - Frightened Rabbit

5. Alas I Cannot Swim - Laura Marling

6. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

7. Forth - The Verve

8. This Is For The White In Your Eyes - Choir Of Young Believers

9. Sunshine OST - John Murphy

10. Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust - Sigur Rós


March of the Zapotec & Realpeople: Holland - Beirut

Dear John - Loney, Dear

s/t - James Devane





1. Moon OST - Clint Mansell

2. Riceboy Sleeps - Jónsi & Alex

3. xx - The XX

4. Miike Snow - Miike Snow

5. No more stories Are told today I'm sorry... - Mew

6. Contra - Vampire Weekend

7. Lungs - Florence + the Machine

8. I Am... Sasha Fierce - Beyoncé

9. Beam Me Up Scotty - Nicki Minaj

10. Years Of Refusal - Morrissey


Conditions - The Temper Trap

West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum - Kasabian





1. Go - Jónsi

2. The Fool - Warpaint

3. Broken Bells - Broken Bells

4. Teen Dream - Beach House

5. Total Life Forever - Foals

6. The ArchAndroid - Janelle Monáe

7. The Family Jewels - Marina & the Diamonds

8. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West

9. The Winter Of Mixed Drinks - Frightened Rabbit

10. Inception OST - Hans Zimmer


Heligoland - Massive Attack

Summer Heart - Blackbird Blackbird

...And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness - Ólafur Arnalds

We Are Here - Apparatjik


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  • 2 months later...
all time top 50/100[/url][/b]? (Parrot or anyone else?)


Definitely! For example, I had forgotten how great A Tribe Called Quest is. I would probably include them in my top 100 if I were to do it again. That's the funny thing about music - your opinions about albums and bands and songs are constantly changing!


No 2011 today... Hm...


Thought it was too soon to post the top albums of 2011 - it hasn't even been two years yet! Not enough time to really analyze nor appreciate the albums. Not to mention it's incredibly difficult - if not impossible - to appraise the albums in regards to the context of the ever-changing musical landscape.


That being said, I've had some time recently to revisit some 2011 & 2012 records and I'll be posting the lists soon. It was definitely interesting to see how my opinions had changed - some albums that I really loved have completely dropped off the list altogether and vice versa!


For the record, these were my picks for top albums of 2011 and 2012.

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10. The Caretaker - An Empty Bliss Beyond This World


Leyland Kirby's work under The Caretaker has always been a sort of paradox, his simplest but most challenging music. Simple in that it's often lightly touched samples of old ballroom recordings, and challenging in well... that it's sometimes only those things. His latest album, An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, is almost overbearingly depressive despite the dry wit of its spiritually defeated song titles. The album, conceptual as ever, explores the triggering of memories through song as filtered through the experiences of Alzheimer's patients who can retain recordings longer than many other aspects of their memories. It's this theme that runs a current of almost sinister, creeping dread through the otherwise unassuming music.Things start off "All You're Going to Want to Do Is Get Back There," a soothing waltz all resonant frequencies and squawking horns, and the cyclical vinyl crackle sounds like waves lapping at the shore. The device lends the album a curious "island getaway" setting, adding to the rustic pastoralism but also resembling the sort of unreachable oasis these recordings signify for their imagined target audience. The album continues in this vein for most of its duration, dipping into periods of quieter near-silence. On the free-floating "I Feel As If I Might Be Vanishing," with each hypnotic loop a layer of sound is evaporated until it leaves no trace behind. When the album returns to its melodic overtures, they're grand, little glints of hope that are tragically cut off by the halting endings Kirby slices through these recordings. Again it's a simplistic device, but one so horrifyingly effective it's hard to feel anything but awestruck.







9. Clams Casino – Instrumentals


Clams Casino productions generally bring together conventional hip-hop drums, a sensitive ear for off-to-the-side melodies, and an overdose of oddly moving atmosphere. "Motivation" begins with a buzz of in-the-red static and a moaning vocal sample, and then suddenly the beat drops and the vocal sample begins eerily humming along. Later on, blasts of bass rumble through, and animal noises arrive instead of a breakdown. When the beat drops the next time around, it's accompanied by some rainy, Blade Runner-style keyboards. The bird squawks and the keyboard melody are wrapped up in the beat, and it repeats, riding-out for a bit, before abruptly ending with a patch of industrial drone. But it's Clams' attention to hip-hop structure that makes these beats so emotionally devastating. The desperate melodrama comes through in the hesitant build-up and explosive arrival of the drums. And the lingering sense of sadness is communicated when those drums sneak away and all that's left is a layer of whimpering electronic haze.







8. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972


A title like Ravedeath, 1972 is great because of all the possible associations it calls up. A time-traveling techno explosion, a John Brunner novel title, a 1960s Frug winding down in a horrible dry gulch? Whatever all the possible associations, when Tim Hecker begins the album with the at-once shuddering feedback glitch and distant soothing bliss of "The Piano Drop," the Canadian composer does seem to thrive in an intersection of possibilities from multiple sources. If the principle of plundering the past to create the future is well established, Hecker engagingly demonstrates how the many possibilities it offers remains open. Split into three multi-part pieces and several stand-alone compositions -- some with titles continuing the titular approach, such as "Analog Paralysis, 1978" -- the overall effect of Ravedeath, 1972 is a balance between sheer sonic wooziness and a focused sense of construction; nothing seems wholly random in each song's development even as the feeling can be increasingly disorienting. Of the multi-part pieces, the first, "In the Fog," lives up to the name -- instead of enveloping obscurity, however, it's more like a serene float in darkness, with the organ tone loop running throughout the second and third parts providing a bed that whirs and arcing grinds rise and fall on, an underscoring of violence that melds and contrasts with the otherwise calm progression. The concluding "In the Air" almost inverts this, with the feedback tones and growls stabbing out more directly in the first part while the second increasingly brings in the otherwise half-sensed piano. "Hatred of Music," meanwhile, doesn't sound like a radical change from the other parts in terms of overall feel or in matching with the title's sentiment, but the low rhythmic rumble of the second part, a steady progression punctuated by soft piano additions and what sounds like a howling, looming threat in the distance, is pure atmosphere at its best. Then there's "No Drums," which finds in its own calm way the kind of beautiful, dark-toned ambience that has informed the best work in the field of disturbing but never aggressive electronic music.







7. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up


Compared to former albums by Digable Planets, Cherrywine, Camp Lo (Butler guested on some of their tracks), or even on the prior Shabazz Palaces EPs (which were pretty dark to begin with), Black Up is a much harder-edged album. There are no obvious singles, and the beats are murky, splintered, and synthesized, reminiscent of the space-age rap of acts like Deltron 3030, Kool Keith, and Dälek. In a year when minimal production is on the upswing -- a trend highlighted by the enormous buzz surrounding Odd Future and Tyler, the Creator's bare-boned productions -- Shabazz Palaces seems perfectly in tune with a modern underground movement that embraces the most ominous and difficult aspects of hip-hop. As the mainstream becomes more and more predictable, Shabazz Palaces’ inscrutability is a welcome change. Because the beats are so abstract, roots take precedent, and a strong presence on the microphone becomes the most important aspect. Butler fills this role with ease. His smooth, sparkling rhymes glue Knife Knights' watery environment together to create a provocative listen from start to finish.







6. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake


PJ Harvey followed her ghostly collection of ballads, White Chalk, with Let England Shake, a set of songs strikingly different from what came before it except in its Englishness. White Chalk's haunted piano ballads seemed to emanate from an isolated manse on a moor, but here Harvey chronicles her relationship with her homeland through songs revolving around war. Throughout the album, she subverts the concept of the anthem -- a love song to one’s country -- exploring the forces that shape nations and people. This isn’t the first time Harvey has been inspired by a place, or even by England: she sang the praises of New York City and her home county of Dorset on Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Harvey recorded this album in Dorset, so the setting couldn’t be more personal, or more English. Yet she and her longtime collaborators John Parish, Mick Harvey, and Flood travel to the Turkish battleground of Gallipoli for several of Let England Shake's songs, touching on the disastrous World War I naval strike that left more than 30,000 English soldiers dead. Her musical allusions are just as fascinating and pointed: the title track sets seemingly cavalier lyrics like “Let’s head out to the fountain of death and splash about” to a xylophone melody borrowed from the Four Lads’ “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” a mischievous echo of the questions of national identity Harvey sets forth in the rest of the album (that she debuted the song by performing it on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show for then-Prime Minster Gordon Brown just adds to its mischief). “The Words That Maketh Murder” culminates its grisly playground/battleground chant with a nod to Eddie Cochran's anthem for disenfranchised ‘50s teens “Summertime Blues,” while “Written on the Forehead” samples Niney's “Blood and Fire” to equally sorrowful and joyful effect. As conceptually and contextually bold as Let England Shake is, it features some of Harvey's softest-sounding music. She continues to sing in the upper register that made White Chalk so divisive for her fans, but it’s tempered by airy production and eclectic arrangements -- fittingly for such a martial album, brass is a major motif -- that sometimes disguise how angry and mournful many of these songs are. “The Last Living Rose” recalls Harvey's Dry-era sound in its simplicity and finds weary beauty even in her homeland’s “grey, damp filthiness of ages,” but on “England,” she wails, “You leave a taste/A bitter one.” In its own way, Let England Shake may be even more singular and unsettling than White Chalk was, and its complexities make it one of Harvey’s most cleverly crafted works.







5. Danny Brown – XXX


XXX is a bloated album; 19-track albums are a thing of the early millennium past. But this bloat is a gluttonous glory. Danny Brown is not a retread or nostalgia-pandering schmub. XXX -- named for his gutter-filthy mouth and his 30th birthday -- is an accomplishment. Where else would one correlate coitus with Stacey Lattisaw? Danny is one of his generation's most on-the-edge champions. Every song is telling: "XXX" is his ode to suicide; on "Die Like a Rockstar" he name-checks every star's downward spiral, including Chris Farley, Heath Ledger, and Belushi. XXX's greatest tone is Danny's out-of-control, nasal "Young Zee" snarl -- it's when he's at his nastiest ("How about me and your girlfriend, you with it?") and delusional ("Make Sarah Palin deep throat 'til she hiccup"), but most musical ("Bruiser Brigade" is about a sociopath crew, ready to set it off with cheap brew). For the last third of the album, Danny raps in a normal tenor -- it's startling. The production is dark, schizo, halting, and Detroit mechanical.







4. The Weeknd – House of Balloons


Debauchery is obviously nothing new in R&B, but this takes it a step further-- the drugs are harder, the come-ons feel predatory and lecherous, and the general feeling is self-hating rather than celebratory. On opener "High for This", Tesfaye handholds a partner through some strange sex act, singing, "Trust me, girl, you wanna be high for this." "Glass Table Girls" is pretty clearly about doing coke. Because we don't know these guys, it's hard to say whether these are real-life tales or imaginative storytelling-- you want to think the latter, but ultimately the anonymity makes it seem more disturbing. What makes this whole thing work in an album context is that all the thematic and sonic pieces fit together-- these weird, morning-after tales of lust, hurt, and over-indulgence ("Bring the drugs, baby, I can bring my pain," goes one refrain) are matched by this incredibly lush, downcast music. It's hard to think of a record since probably the xx's debut(definitely a touchstone here) that so fully embodies such a specific nocturnal quality. And even though the image of nightlife painted by the Weeknd isn't a place you'd ever want to live, it's one that's frankly very hard to stop listening to.







3. Rustie – Glass Swords


Since his 2007 debut, this young Glaswegian producer’s peak-time club spin on mainstream R&B and rap has, in an intrepid fashion, grown increasingly hyperactive, thrill-oriented, and indulgent. On Glass Swords, Rustie continues to integrate the currently hip and terminally unhip -- garish probes of ‘80s synth rock, beaten-to-a-pulp dance-pop, ‘90s rave, and bass music, to name four of several drawing points -- all for the sake of a rush. Integrate is a light way of putting it, though; the method is more like slathering, layer after layer, with no concern for restraint or tastefulness, though each track is shaped into a songlike structure. Any questions as to whether Rustie would use the album format as a way to refine his sound are answered within a minute of “Flash Back,” the first full-blown track, when a synthetic thumb-style bassline enters to anchor swarms of wistful synthesizers and ricocheting drums. The whole thing is designed for instant pleasure (or immediate repulsion), even when the titles evoke treacherous levels of a fantasy video game.







2. Machinedrum – Room(s)


Travis Stewart is far from a fresh face, a veteran of New York's electronic scene with over a decade of experience and at least six albums of rather hard-edged IDM and harshly abstracted hip-hop to his name, yet his debut for Planet Mu can't help but feel like somewhat of a rebirth. Room(s) is a stunning statement of purpose: Stewart takes the flatlined jackhammer of footwork and loads it on the back of jungle's freewheeling adrenaline flights, and when that fidgety, energy-overload style meets with Travis' sugary-sweet samples and candy-coated melodies, the product feels incomparably giddy. "Sacred Frequency," for instance, is a blindingly vivid track that mixes day-glo hysterics and unforgivingly frenetic rhythms into a framework that sounds like it's daintily tip-toeing even at its most slamming. "Frequency" takes the elegant melodies of Stewart's recent work with Sepalcure and bunches them up into compressed packets of sound, coiled arpeggios and orchestral flashpoints unwinding at ridiculous speeds. It's the imperative sound on Room(s), but it's one with such depth and surprising room for variation that this kaleidoscopic feeling extends itself to the album's breadth, with each track running off on its own tangent, like the rushing piano house of "Come1," the cyclone dervish of hand percussion on "Youniverse" or the DJ Spinn-esque vocal gymnastics of "GBYE." Even through Room(s) trades in complex and elaborate percussive science, it's a pop album at heart. Instead of the usual melange of chopped samples, Stewart delivers catchphrases and choruses pleasantly autotuned in a way that recalls modern West African pop music in its bubbly effervescence. It's a formula with countless applications; on "U Don't Survive" Stewart creates a tense track driven by a catchy vocal hook, half dancehall and half highlife, and on "Lay Me Down" he fashions a silky and tender ballad out of vocal moans, flattening out those same soft landings into swathes of R&B-worthy drama.







1. The Beach Boys – The SMiLE Sessions


It all started with SMiLE's closing statement Good Vibrations, a 1966 number one and mini-masterpiece that reputedly took Wilson a year to complete as he experimented with ‘modular’ recording. Despite the sheer ball-ache, the modular method – the recording of individual elements that could be grafted together at a later date – was to inform the creation of this entire album, a move that put session musicians through ridiculous paces and tried the patience of Capitol Records and the other Beach Boys to such a degree that something had to give. That something was the actual release of the record. That's one take, anyway. Memories are fuzzy, but the music now it's here is pure and gorgeous, the familiar mesh of brotherly voices exquisite as ever. Its glittering peaks are singles Good Vibrations and Heroes and Villains, along with Surf's Up (a different recording from the finale of its 1971 album), harmonic jewel Our Prayer and Wonderful (far prettier and fuller than its cousin on Smiley Smile); but Wilson and Parks had envisaged SMiLE as a song cycle, a "cartoon consciousness" in Parks' own words, that would be naturally symbiotic, the songs hanging together as one. All the sadder, then, that it was shelved and then filleted for ensuing albums.









Honorable Mentions:




Cliff Martinez - Drive [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]



The soundtrack for Danish crime thriller Drive, composed and compiled by ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers and Captain Beefheart drummer Cliff Martinez (Sex, Lies & Videotape, Solaris), skillfully blends icy, Krautrock-inspired electronica with retro-'80s synth pop. Opening with “Nightcall,” a moody, scene-chewing slab of Air and Röyksopp-induced electro-pop from French DJ Vincent Belorgay (aka Kavinsky), Drive rolls along on the strength of Martinez's spooky, Blade Runner-esque score, and cruises along effortlessly on a foundation of clock-like percussion, swooning synths worthy of an M83 album, and an independent spirit that tips its hat to nostalgia while careening over the guardrail into the future.







Destroyer - Kaputt


Shape-shifting Canadian pop craftsman Daniel Bejar's ninth studio album under the Destroyermoniker added a whole lot of Bryan Ferry to a pot already boiling over with copious amounts of Bowie,Dylan, and T. Rex. Bejar's predilection for pairing Oscar Wilde-inspired, semi-apocalyptic witticisms with glam-kissed, minor-seventh retro pop remained intact, but where previous outings like This Nightand Streethawk: A Seduction mined the '70s for inspiration, 2011's Kaputt utilizes '80s sophisti-pop, New Romantic, Northern soul, and straight-up adult contemporary to deliver a flawed but fascinating record. Like Goldfrapp's divisive, 2010 retro dance-pop tribute Head First, Kaputt is fully committed to its cause, wrapping everything up in a pristine, immaculately produced biosphere that’s filled to the brim with twinkling synths, soft rock drums, and enough wailing trumpets and saxophones to out-mellow Kenny G, David Sanborn, and Dave Koz combined. Ever the well-read, secretly pleased malcontent (“I write poetry for myself”), Bejar sounds more comfortable in this new disguise than he does on his more troubadour-oriented projects, as if producing the soundtrack for a discotheque with a capacity of one was his intention all along. His epic 11-minute, 2009 single “Bay of Pigs,” which he described at the time as “ambient disco,” could hardly serve as a more fitting conclusion to Kaputt, as it more than lives up to its creator’s boast. “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker,” “Song for America,” “Chinatown,” all of which skillfully tread water between the urbane intellectualism of Donald Fagan orMomus and the quiet, technical nihilism of Talk Talk, differ very little from the remaining six cuts, which may cause fans of his more adventurous work some fits, but there’s no denying their icy, coke-fueled 2:00 A.M. elegance.







Grouper – A I A: Alien Observer / A I A: Dream Loss


The tools Liz Harris uses to make music as Grouper tend to be pretty basic: piano, guitar, synths, drones, hiss, and lots of reverb. If you've been following along with the twists and turns of noisy ambient music these last few years, this collection of elements may sound familiar, possibly bordering on cliché. But it's all in how you fit the pieces together. Despite sharing characteristics with a lot of other current music, Harris' has a distinctive sound that she pretty much owns. These short LPs, released at the same time and that share an overall aesthetic, sound beamed in from another realm, and they also sound like they could have come from no one else. Part of the distinctiveness can be traced to Harris' voice, which floats above the music and can sound delicate and shrouded and mist and can also evince an approachable earthiness. Particularly on Alien Observer, she layers her voice in a way that occasionally brings to mind Julianna Barwick, but Harris sounds comparatively distant and less immersive. Her voice haunts these songs instead of leading them; it's a presence and not a personality, and the voice and instruments are in balance, serving each other without any one element becoming more prominent. The other aspect that sets Grouper apart is an approach to sound that feels somehow both cruder and more sophisticated than the majority of the lo-fi crop. It's crude in the sense that it seems to hearken back to the dark, home-recorded songs of an earlier era. David Pearce's music as Flying Saucer Attack, recorded mostly during the 1990s, was often referred to as "rural psychedelia," and that description would fit this pair of records. This music feels both spacey and expansive and also oddly intimate and grounded, the work of someone who has mastered her tools and knows how to get the most out of them. The sophistication comes from the care in presentation. This music doesn't sound like it was built from mistakes or thrown together, it seems precisely ordered and arranged even while it's often muffled and warbly and distorted. Every sound exists for a reason.









Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise


Space Is Only Noise is the first full-length effort by Nicolas Jaar, a Chilean-American producer whose work is deeply influenced by Ricardo Villalobos, jazz pianists like Dave Brubeck and Keith Jarrett, and Leonard Cohen. Early singles "Russian Dolls" and "Time for Us" were more dancefloor-friendly than the album, which layers multiple acoustic instruments, most notably Jaar's own jazz-inflected piano, sampled vocals, and even a drum solo (the 23-second "Trace") into a melancholy, pensive 45-minute journey. Jaar assembled the disc from several years' worth of recordings -- he's relentlessly productive -- but it has a conceptual unity that makes it feel like the product of a single burst of inspiration. This music is spiritual, psychedelic at times, and always rooted in a strong core concept that goes beyond "intelligent dance music" toward the idea that electronics are merely a tool, and do not themselves demand loyalty to any particular aesthetic. In some ways, the music on Space Is Only Noise is reminiscent of pianist Matthew Shipp's early-2000s albums like Equilibrium and Harmony and Abyss, with sampled vocals and occasional singing to bring it closer to pop. Indeed, had he not chosen to release it on his own label, Jaar could well have found a home as part of Thirsty Ear's Blue Series.









The prevalent dubstep sound may still be in its infancy, but it's already produced more essential albums than the 2-step garage scene it originated from, with 2011 U.K. Top Ten efforts from Magnetic Man, Katy B and James Blake joining underground classics from Burial and Skream in the genre's increasingly impressive portfolio. London-based enigma Aaron Jerome, aka the tribal mask-wearing producer/DJ SBTRKT (pronounced subtract), is the latest act to make the leap from FWD club staple to serious album artist with his self-titled debut, whose blend of warbling basslines and syncopated rhythms -- with influences from the world of R&B, Chicago house, old-school garage, and synth pop -- has provided what is, perhaps, dubstep's most genre-straddling effort to date. Signed to the XX's former label, Young Turks, and previously a remixer for the likes of M.I.A., the man of mystery may have some pretty indie credentials, but he's not afraid to embrace his more commercial side, particularly on two of the three female-fronted tracks, "Wildfire," which sees Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano playfully purr over a backdrop of Radio 1-friendly squelchy synths and languid beats, and the unashamedly retro "Pharaohs," whose chopped up acid-house riffs perfectly complement emerging vocalist Roses Gabor's breathless tones. But it's in his more nocturnal offerings that the album is more in keeping with his maverick persona, as he effortlessly glides from twinkling electro to soulful skittering garage and back again on the angelic melodies of "Sanctuary." He soundtracks the end of the night with the woozy synths and spacious rhythms of "Trails of the Past," and reveals a refreshing vulnerability on the Chinese temple blocks, glockenspiels, and ambient electronica of "Hold On," all of which are lavished with the plaintive, honey-layered vocals of Sampha. With such a sense of invention, a few hit-and-miss affairs, such as the self-indulgent knob-twiddling of "Ready Set Loop" and the early noughties Craig David remix feel of "Never Never," are inevitable, but they're the only misfires on a record brimming with energy, vibrancy, and soul. SBTRKT's downtempo, mellow nature means it's a dance album that's unlikely to ever be played in a club, but showing James Blake that sparse, minimal dubstep and well-crafted pop melodies aren't mutually exclusive, it's a daring debut which lives up to the masked man's "next big thing" label.





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Special mention(s) for 2011:




Andy Stott - Passed Me By / We Stay Together



Andy Stott entered a compelling new phase of evolution on 'Passed Me By', inverting the energy of his Juke and Technoid hardcore excursions into something more brooding and subtly visceral. Folding in a wider palette of influences from Kassem Mosse to Arthur Russell, to Actress and James Ferraro, 'New Ground' opens the set proper and we're dominated by bone crushing bass weight, pinned under relentless waves of subbass whilst shards of hypnagogic exhalations struggle for air in his autoerotic pressure system. That slow, vice-turning intensity is breathlessly transferred to the aquatic swing jack of 'North To South', before the gasping Linn drums and glazed boogie licks of 'Intermittent' offer halfway resolution. Their pent up tension is released in 'Dark Details', suggesting a lonely silhouette left in the warehouse after the crowd has gone, dancing like the Moving Shadow logo come to life before the screwed zombie swagger of 'Execution' and that staggering title track slowly shuts down your system with shark-eyed intent. 'We Stay Together' followed some months later, amping the pressure to throttling degrees. Entering the digital compression chamber of 'Submission' you become a willing participant, before the lights are cut and you're forced to adjust to the humid atmosphere and bruising, muscle-contracting darkroom throb of 'Posers'. Suitably initiated, the EP's fearless centrepiece 'Bad Wires' plunges into full on mud-party mode, dropping the tempo while intensifying the kinaesthetic funk with slow, clusterf*cked syncopation until you're drowning in crushed-glass textures. Fully submerged by 'We Stay Together (Part One)' time becomes elasticated like worn VHS tape, calling to mind Jamal Moss soundtracking a rave in a sodden, flooded sauna, before inescapably tumbling into the sheer black hole of 'Cherry Eye' and left to the slompy jack of 'Cracked'.











A$AP Rocky - LiveLoveA$AP



The notion that hip-hop has, over time, become an old man’s game is only partially true. While many veteran MCs remain some of the most prominent figures in rap music, internet trends have quickly devolved much of the spotlight to newer generations. For a considerable stretch of time, New York hip-hop in particular had been devoid of a significant commercial force under the age of 30, so it’s no coincidence that a 23-year-old wunderkind from Harlem, New York named after hip-hop deity Rakim would be next up to bat. But while A$AP Rocky insists on pronouncing his allegiance to his hometown roots, his debut album, Live Love A$AP is sonically out of place, recasting the feel of East Coast hip-hop into a quintessential, albeit progressive southern aesthetic with its country funk and cosmic, syrupy backdrops. The intricate lyrical concepts that evoke intense listening and the undeniable slang definitive of traditional East Coast rap music are noticeably displaced. What’s left is A$AP's sedate charisma and mannerisms leaning toward UGK-inspired bravado. The grandiose opening track, “Palace” sets the tone for the rest of the album, as A$AP makes his claim to fame -- "influenced by Houston/hear it in my music” -- over slow handclaps and bone-chilling choral progressions. Thus, disappointment ensues for those expecting to hear a derivative of A$AP's Harlem compatriots the Diplomats et al -- save for the apparent melodic stylings of Max B (even those are more indebted to Bone Thugs-N-Harmony). The elegantly produced tracks are A$AP's playground, as rhymes swiftly roll off his tongue and occasionally switch from a nonchalant delivery to striking double-time. From the the woozy “Keep It G” with its seductive sax riffs, to the twinkling synth-ridden “Pe$o” to the buoyant “Trilla,” with its twangy guitar riffs, A$AP maneuvers through these soundscapes with keen agility. For the saints, Live Love A$AP is nothing short of a guilty pleasure; the antithesis of conscious rap. Subject matter boasts the very elements of commercial hip-hop that are often stigmatized -- misogyny, glorified promiscuity among males, and excessive drug use. But for the aesthetically inclined, Live Love A$AP is a marvel of contemporary rap music, despite its abounding moral decay.







Burial – Street Halo



On a micro level, the four-to-the-floor bounce of the title track is the furthest removed from the music that has preceded it. "Street Halo" is (naturally) baked with static and melancholy, although the rolling synthesis around the bassline and momentary pause for impact prior to the kick's introduction suggests dancefloor considerations. "NYC" on the other hand, could have stood tall among the most pensive numbers on Burial and Untrue, its mass of swirling strings and patient garage beat evoking longing in London. "Stolen Dog" splits the difference by introducing a lick of synth melody and sharpening up the drums. Perhaps Burial's most heavily reproduced production attribute—pitch-bent vocals—feature often, chiming in around the upper octaves and conversing in their own indecipherable tongue.







Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra.



Frank Ocean co-wrote songs for John Legend ("Quickly") and Brandy ("1st & Love"), signed to Def Jam, and connected with rap group Odd Future, but his career as a solo artist did not gain traction until he linked to an upload of this, his first mixtape, on his Tumblr blog in early 2011. Compared to most releases of its kind, Nostalgia, Ultra is plotted with care, not slapped together with haste. It shifts between original material -- produced by Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, MIDI Mafia, Happy Perez, and James Fauntleroy II -- and anti-pigeonhole re-voicings of songs by Coldplay, Mr. Hudson, Eagles, and MGMT. Ocean also weaves clever threads, like mentioning Stanley Kubrick one moment and sampling dialogue from the director's Eyes Wide Shut during another. Ocean's uniqueness doesn't lie in the productions he uses -- they're neither exceptional nor particularly left of center here -- or his range of inspirations and references. It's all in his wistful, often self-effacing perspective and numbed, restrained delivery, heard at full power in "Songs for Women," where he tries to arrange an after-school rendezvous in his dad's empty house and brags about "harmonizing to Otis, Isley, Marvin" but eventually laments that his woman doesn't listen to him or his music: "It's like she never heard of me." Much of the material indeed carries a longing for the past -- strange since Ocean is still in his early twenties. When he's not looking back, he's still living in his head. "Swim Good," a grim escape fantasy, has the singer driving his car to the shore, his trunk “bleeding” with “broken hearts”: “I woulda put tints on my windows, but what’s the difference?/I feel like a ghost, no Swayze, ever since I lost my baby." "Nature Feels" is a Garden of Eden fantasy over the swirling neo-disco of MGMT's "Electric Feel." And then there's "Novacane," a dreamlike midtempo tale filled with drugs, conquests, and anxiety. Oddly (or fittingly) enough, it's one of the most realistic, down-to-earth songs on the set.




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10. Jessie Ware – Devotion


A handful of collaborations released during 2010 and 2011 hinted at Jessie Ware's range and potential. The singer outclassed her fellow vocalists on SBTRKT's SBTRKT and Joker's The Vision; she displayed exquisite restraint on the former's "Right Thing to Do," while she had her way with the latter's lancing title track. Along with the two low-key 2011 singles, "Valentine" and "Strangest Feeling," there were indications that Ware was capable of making something like Devotion -- an album of uncommon depth, a sophisticated but stimulating hybrid of pop, soul, and adult contemporary. Ware works extensively with Dave Okumu, Julio Bashmore, and Kid Harpoon, but it's Okumu -- a member of the Invisible, as well as an affiliate of Bugz in the Attic and Matthew Herbert -- who is most responsible for helping Ware prance across the tightrope that comes with making subtle, sophisticated music. Ware's voice is an instant draw. Her whispers are as powerful as her wails. Whenever the lyrics read like they're aiming for the profound but appear hollow, she rescues them with elegance and power impressive enough to astound any of the elders to whom she has been compared -- Alison Moyet, Annie Lennox, Sade Adu, and Lisa Stansfield included. Take the weakest link, "No to Love"; the repeated exasperation "Who says no to love?" seems utterly ridiculous, but the delivery fits into the all-consuming heartache that is alternately concealed and exposed throughout the set's duration. If this isn't the album of the year, it's at least the art-pop album of the year, or the neo-sophisti-pop album of the year, or -- beside Frank Ocean's Channel Orange -- the alternative R&B album of the year. As far as "proper music" from the U.K. is considered, it belongs in a class with Roxy Music's Avalon, Sade's Diamond Life, the Blue Nile's Hats, and Caron Wheeler's UK Blak.







9. Vessel – Order of Noise


How far off of the grid can you stretch techno and still call it techno? That's the question Bristolian producer Vessel has been gradually working towards since he emerged last year. Seb Gainsborough's productions—haunted and permanently skewed—have descended into an abyss consumed by post-punk and noise flourishes. On his debut album Order of Noise, Gainsborough presents an entire world rendered in black and dull chrome. Much like Actress' R.I.P., on first impression Order of Noise is an intermittently dazzling array of fragments that don't quite piece together. But also like R.I.P., when you listen carefully, the album's faint and barely-there heartbeat begins to emerge.Order of Noise is a sewer trawl through the repressed neuroses of techno, what's left after the drug-fueled vestiges of "the party" have left—an exploration of the sinister undertones of collectives like Sandwell District, unleashed and unfettered. Order of Noise also illuminates an unsurprising preoccupation with dub music, a twisted-metal take on the genre that brings to mind modern primitivists like Ekoplekz. We get harsh meditations like "Stillborn Dub," underpinned by wheezing machines, or the fascinating "2 Moon Dub," which detonates an Augustus Pablo-calibre bassline into digital detritus.







8. Scott Walker - Bish Bosch


Bish Bosch is, according to Scott Walker, the final recording in the trilogy that began with 1995’s Tilt and continued in 2006’s The Drift. Its title combines urban slang for the word "bitch" and the last name of Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Like its predecessors, Bish Bosch is not an easy listen initially. It's utterly strange, yet alluring. Musically, Walker is as rangy and cagey as ever. His players have worked with him since Tilt; they know exactly what he wants and how to get it. A string orchestra arranged and conducted by keyboardist Mark Warman, and a full symphony on three cuts are also employed. The lyrics on Bish Bosch are full of obscure historical, philosophical, medical, geographical and cultural allusions. For instance, subatomic science, a dwarf jester in Attila the Hun’s court, St. Simeon, and an early 20th century fad all appear in "SDSS14+3B (Zircon, A Flagpole Sitter)." Elsewhere, Nicolai Ceausescu, Nikita Khrushchev, the Ku Klux Klan, and God himself show up. While Bish Bosch is another exercise in artful pretension, it is the most accessible entry in this trilogy and well worth the effort to get at it. Themes of decay are woven throughout these songs -- of empire, of the body, of language and religion -- yet they are often complemented and illustrated by wry, pun-like, and even scatological humor. Walker's pessismism is akin to Samuel Beckett's and like the author, he holds space for a sliver of hope. On "Corps de Blah," a chorus of farts answers an a cappella lullaby whose lyrics are grotesque. Before it's over, Walker reaches operatic heights vocally, singing about bodily functions, surgery ("Nothing clears out a room/like removing a brain"), speculative philosophy, and romantic betrayal, all while accompanied by thrumming, wailing strings, metallic guitar riffs, a flailing drum kit, and layers of electronics and ambience. "Epizootics!" uses a “tubax” -- part baritone sax, part tuba -- that introduces an infectious, fingerpopping drum chant before Walker employs bop-era vocal phrasing to climb to a careening crescendo before his version of a Hawaiian folk song closes it. "Tar’s" power electronics shriek is brought to earth by a rhythmic strategy that involves machetes frantically clashing against one another. Despite its 21-plus-minute monolithic length, "SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)" is almost welcoming. Layered ambient and looped textures, bombastic rock dynamics, metal guitars, soundtrack effects, and Walker's signature theatrical baritone allow the listener inside the maelstrom of his soundworld. Here, as in many other places on Bish Bosch, traces, hints, and suggestions of melody are given small but pronounced spaces that momentarily relieve the listener's sense of dislocation and tension before building them up again. His voice too, is freer to float and engage something approaching lyricism. With Bish Bosch, Walker creates a kind of Möbius Strip: by virtue of creating a less physically demanding sonic landscape, he provides a way into his iconic trilogy on his way out of it.







7. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!



A few short weeks before its release, GY!BE announced 'Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend, their first new album in a decade. Now expanded to a nine-piece, the album features four tracks. There are two longer ones clocking in at 20 minutes each, and a pair at around six-and-a-half. Fans will be familiar with the longer tunes, "Mladic" and "We Drift Like Worried Fire" have been in the band's live set since 2002. That said, they have been thoroughly re-imagined and expanded for this larger ensemble. "Mladic" commences with the now-trademark sampled, obscure vocal tracks. It opens in a simulated Middle Eastern mode played by a treated violin, sounding like a ney. The distorted guitars and bass commence as a drone, as a detuned slide carries dissonance into it that gradually gives way to a wall of churning guitars in alternate tunings, wailing strings, and deep thudding drums. Its orchestral changes in the last third are GY!BE at their most aggressive. By contrast, the other long work, "We Drift Like Worried Fire," is almost a suite. Low bass drones, plucked guitars, and strings that suggest an Eastern European folk melody introduce it, answered by guitars; some playing distorted, restrained sonics, while others offer plucked, repetitive lines. The result is a languid, yet lovely, melodic series of repetitions. The strings enter to create a second, minimalist lyric line. Drums, feedback, and bass gradually quicken the pace until it gels into an intense, gorgeously melodic, and thunderous epic that soars. It disintegrates midway to assert another part of the journey, more minimal and tense. The musical dialogue is by turns contrapuntal, sinister, and elegiac before rising once more to a dramatic peak before feedbacking to close.







6. Tame Impala - Lonerism


This shift from the guitar-heavy sound of the debut to a more synthed-out approach gives the album a more expansive feeling, allowing Parker to explore new textures through layer after layer of melody. As with Innerspeaker, sonic architect Dave Fridmann handles the mixing, and though he wasn't involved in the recording process, Lonerism definitely shares the producer's knack for using the space as an instrument in and of itself. This layering of not just sounds, but environments, creates a serene and lonely patchwork of sound, texture, and atmosphere that's a pleasure to explore, offering something different with every journey into its swirling haze of classic pop melody and modern, more experimental, construction. Most importantly, the partnership allows Fridmann to help shape Tame Impala's wild, starry-eyed ambition into something enveloping and accessible, a trick he's performed for the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev again and again.







5. Death Grips – The Money Store


A confusing band from the get-go, Death Grips' first release, Exmilitary, was maybe a mixtape, maybe a debut, or maybe both, but there's little doubt that the freely downloadable monster was a headline release in the underground hip-hop renaissance of 2011. From Lil B to Shabazz Palaces, it was a great time to right click, but the 2012 season often involved entering credit card information -- not just to some file-hosting service but to an old-school record label, which in the case of the game-changing The Money Store, is shockingly the Sony-owned Epic. That this restless blast of paranoid avant-rap was released by an imprint that was also committed to signing the winner of the X-Factor recalls a time when you could follow Throbbing Gristle releases all the way up to Warner Bros, but none of this would matter if the music wasn't amazing itself, and it is. Here, the opening “Get Got” combines glitch, African rhythms, and a swirling keyboard riff right out of dream pop, all while MC Stefan Burnett offers hood incantations that fall somewhere between Gang Starr's Guru and Can's Malcolm Mooney. Remarkably, rock-solid hooks reveal themselves after repeated listens as the true stomper “The Fever (Aye Aye)” hides its Run-DMC love under a Nine Inch Nails-like blast, and while the lean, winding snake called “I've Seen the Footage” is all No Wave, severe compression, and conspiracy theories up front, it's really just a tambourine shake away from becoming a possible Outkast track. Burnett would rather follow the music than front it, sensibly acting as one-third of the group when most MCs would choose to be either a focal point or an accessory in these surroundings. The dense bed of edgy grind that he's working with is crafted by producers Andy Morin and Zach Hill (the latter being the man taking the genre-free attitude of Zorn and Laswell into the age of mixtapes), and it isn't without mercy or melody, even though it is, decidedly, an onslaught. All these elements are glued together by a Bad Brains-sized sense of purpose, which makes Death Grips sound alive and hungry in spite of their name, and while it is interesting that this dark ball of hip-hop anti-matter was released by a major, what sticks is the music. The Money Store is an important record that's also compelling, loaded with kinetic blows against the empire and fully stuffed with that attractive maverick spirit.







4. Jam City - Classical Curves


Classical Curves is a dance music album in name only, and more accurately termed as simply an electronic one. Its palette sounds a bit like a modern update of Trevor Horn's Art Of Noise. That group was basically a hugely expensive experiment designed to uncover new sounds; nearly 30 years later, Latham's music sounds like it's using shiny, new software to create old ones. There are hints of the human: A voice saying various fashion-related commands on "Her," sneakers squeaking on wax on "The Courts." But they're always disembodied in such a way that things like broken glass and synthesized saxophones become comforting. There are plenty of artists working within this space who go fully experimental ala James Ferraro, whose voluminous catalogue is full of hit-and-miss affairs. And there is the 100% Silk camp who make dance music, but don't make it with enough bite to fit naturally into the sets of DJs that might be inclined to play them. (Another discussion, another time.) Latham's aesthetic concerns are similar to both, but he cuts a middle path where he can have his cake and Ben UFO will play his shit too. That's what elevates Classical Curves above both. In the way that John Maus uses pop against itself, Latham has figured out how to do the same with house, techno, UK bass and some other stuff as well.







3. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d. city


Here, Kendrick is living his life like status and cash were extra credit. It is what makes this kid so "good" as he navigates his "mad" city (Compton) with experience and wisdom beyond his years (25). He's shamelessly bold about the allure of the trap, contrasting the sickness of his city with the universal feeling of getting homesick, and carrying a Springsteen-sized love for the home team. Course, in his gang-ruled city, N.W.A. was the home team, but as the truly beautiful, steeped-in-soul, biographic key track "The Art of Peer Pressure" finds a reluctant young Kendrick and his friends feeding off the life-force of Young Jeezy's debut album, it's something Clash, Public Enemy, and all other rebel music fans can relate to. Still, when he realizes that hero Jeezy must have risen above the game -- because the real playas are damned and never show their faces -- it spawns a kind of elevated gangsta rap that's as pimp-connectable as the most vicious Eazy-E, and yet poignant enough to blow the dust off any cracked soul. Equally heavy is the cautionary tale of drank dubbed "Swimming Pools," yet that highlight is as hooky and hallucinatory as most Houston drank anthems, and breaks off into one of the chilling, cassette-quality interludes that connect the album, adding to the documentary or eavesdropping quality of it all. Soul children will experience déjà vu when "Poetic Justice" slides by with its Janet Jackson sample -- sounding like it came off his Aunt's VHS copy of the movie it's named after -- while the closing "Compton" is an anthem sure to make the Game jealous, featuring Dre in beast mode, acting pre-Chronic and pre-Death Row. This journey through the concrete jungle of Compton is worth taking because of the artistic richness within, plus the attraction of a whip-smart rapper flying high during his rookie season. Any hesitation about the horror of it all is quickly wiped away by Kendrick's mix of true talk, open heart, open mind, and extended hand. Add it all up and even without the hype, this one is still potent and smart enough to rise to the top of the pile.







2. Actress – R.I.P


Whereas previous albums Splazsh and Hazyville were primarily oriented around beat-driven tracks that you might classify as techno or electro, R.I.P. looks deeply inward into a withdrawn universe, inhabiting some imagined catacombs between the rhythms of established genres. It's a pseudo-concept album about "gardens, serpents and mythological caves," and it has the careful sequencing of one too. Actress records have always been a bit of a journey, but it's never felt as literal as on R.I.P., which stumbles and fumbles through the dark, finding occasional pockets of light and life. The record is ordered with remarkable care, starting off slow with the more ambient title track and "Ascending" before coalescing into something recognizably alive with "Marble Plexus." Burying a synth beneath blasts of fuzz-bass and shimmering hall-of-mirrors lightworks, its melody seems to squirm and convulse almost at random. "Plexus" makes for a reflection of the organic composition process of R.I.P, one that forewent software synthesizers and plugins in favour of a more hands-on approach. It's a tactile process that results in an album that feels like it's being improvised live, separate even from previous Actress work which could still feel quantized despite its short-circuiting wires and digitized shrieks.







1. Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE


The album doesn't have as many slyly powerful hooks as Nostalgia, Ultra, but Ocean's descriptive and subtle storytelling is taken to a higher level. He's up there with Bilal. As easy as it is to listen to Ocean's voice in long stretches -- he's casually expressive -- the number of deep ruminations over slow tempos requires some patience. Even the lone song that could be termed a banger is a ten-minute suite that takes 90 seconds to get on the floor; the song with the widest and most creative scope as well, "Pyramid" shifts from "my black Queen Cleopatra" and ancient Egypt (over swift synth funk) to "Your love ain't free no more" and a strip club (over booming, low-profile slickness). The lighter moments, such as the loose and bright "Sweet Life" and the relatively exuberant "Monks," both of which would be standouts on any N.E.R.D. album, offer more than bright coating, dealing in surrealism and sharp observations that are equally penetrating. On the other end, the most personal song is "Bad Religion," a phenomenal brokenhearted ballad consisting of organ, piano, strings, and handclaps: "This unrequited love/To me it's nothing but a one-man cult/And cyanide in my Styrofoam cup." Everything that falls between, counting the rumbling drug dependency tale "Crack Rock," the snapping/swooning "Pilot Jones," and the longing falsetto shuffle "Thinkin Bout You," is vivid and worthy of complete immersion.









Honorable Mentions:




Chromatics - Kill For Love


Anyone familiar with Night Drive or the other Italians Do It Better-associated projects of Chromatics' prime aesthetic mover Johnny Jewel (Glass Candy, Desire, Symmetry) can probably intuit what's in store here: atmospheric, deeply stylish aural landscapes in pop song silhouettes, and darkly glistening electronic "pop" infused with post-punk's steely, nihilistic ennui. Kill for Love feels in many ways like an ultimate, quintessential expression of this aesthetic, in part because it creates a properly expansive context, and also because not a minute is wasted -- it maintains an impressively high level of quality and and emotional resonance throughout -- but particularly in how it blurs the distinction between "proper" songs and the sort of moody, cinematic instrumental (or nearly instrumental) pieces which form the bulk of the album's latter half almost to the point of irrelevance. One corollary to this is that the more overtly pop moments, clustered in the first third, here don't quite "pop" like they could -- with slightly different production choices, songs like "Lady" and the title track might be instant synth pop earworms; here, draped in haze and analog crackle, they're shyer to reveal their charms, though Ruth Radelet's hushed, mournful melodies do seep in and grow addictive with repeated listens. Contrasting Radelet's glassy-eyed clarity, a heavily processed male voice takes over on the brooding "Streets Will Never Look the Same" and "Running from the Sun," recalling the bleary, washed-out vibe of Sweden's Radio Dept. Once again, Chromatics use a cover song in a pivotal role here, opening the record with a stripped-down, deadpan take on Neil Young's "Hey Hey My My," dubbed "Into the Black" (although it's closer in tone to Young's more somber "Out of the Blue" acoustic version) -- it's a strange, almost anti-hip choice, and somewhat inscrutable as an opener, but as with just about everything else here, it is inarguably effective, and starkly beautiful in its simplicity.







Grimes - Visions


On Visions, Claire Boucher develops the unmistakable sound she forged on Geidi Primes and Halfaxa, where her songs hovered in space one moment and hit the dancefloor in the next. The baby-ghost vocalizing that was so distinctive and divisive there is here as well, and Boucher sounds especially like an alien pop princess on sparkly tracks like "Infinite Love Without Fulfillment," "Genesis," and "Eight," where she's shadowed by robotic backing vocals. While Visions' songs are still largely free from obvious structures -- "Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U)" segues into a minor-key passage like a dream turning dark -- Boucher has learned the values of space and control, and gives more focus to her ethereal whimsy. While the glowing, sensuous "Skin" and "Know the Way" are fine examples of 2010s dream pop, unlike many of her contemporaries, Grimes' most danceable songs are her most unique, and allow her to draw on many different influences and sounds. "Be a Body" boasts a surprisingly funky bassline, and on "Circumambient," the song's shadowy R&B leanings are only heightened when Boucher busts out a super-soprano trill that would do Syreeta or Minnie Riperton proud. Similarly, her nods to '80s pop never feel too slavishly indebted to that decade, even when she uses stiff synth string stabs on "Oblivion" or frosty Casios on "Vowels = Space and Time," or lets "Colour of Moonlight (Antiochus)" ride on a beat that sounds borrowed from "When Doves Cry." Instead, these retro winks end up bringing out the darkly rhapsodic, kinetic heart of Grimes' music as much as the Asian-tinged melodies, harps, and operatic samples she uses elsewhere. Fresh and surprisingly accessible despite its quirks, Visions is bewitching.







Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music



Steeped in tradition but always looking for a better tomorrow, rapper Killer Mike already had an incredibly strong discography before R.A.P. Music landed, but here he hits harder than any of his fans could have hoped. The album was released by the Adult Swim-associated label Williams Street and was produced by the dirty beatmaker and underground favorite El-P and even if these bullet points are interesting and exciting, they are not the reason this is a vital piece of work. El-P plays a major part, as his funky, murky work has obviously inspired the stone-cold Killer -- and the shout-out that begins "Jojo's Chillin'" sounds like pure pride in his producer -- but those initials stand for Rebellious African People Music, and Mike seeks to honor "every music that's been born on this continent from a group of people that were brought here in chains." Heavy words, and yet Mike delivers, not by giving a genre history lesson or delivering a linear concept album, but by joining a cause that stretches from Ellington to Nas, where pride isn't squandered and the struggles of your ancestors are always respected. As such, old friends T.I. and Bun B are brought back (remember the "Re-Akshon" remix from 2003?) for the opening monster dubbed "Big Beast" ("we some money hungry wolves and we're down to eat the rich") while "Go!" worships the West Coast and its legacy, all while kicking off with a startling sample that will welcome old-school heads. "Reagan" is pure politics, rallying against the President's legacy, while "Anywhere But Here" loves rolling through Atlanta and Harlem, but the memories there are the extreme definition of bittersweet as Mike relays the sights passing by the window (that's where I grew up, that's where Sean Bell got shot). While the strange, winding siren of "Untitled" is classic, prime El-P, for the rapper, the track is a new, insightful, intelligent high point, plus the first time (John) Gotti and (Salvador) Dali have been rhymed successfully. That last bit can't be stressed enough, and while R.A.P. Music is filled with all the heartbreak, pain, anger, and earnestness praised above, it's also an incredibly fly and fun record, filled with that prime MC/producer chemistry while striking that perfect balance of persuasive and powerful. Revolutionary stuff and absolutely no fluff, R.A.P. Music is outstanding.







Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream



It leads with "Adorn," the singer's second solo number one R&B/Hip-Hop single; there's some atmospheric, mechanical/organic likeness to Marvin Gaye's 1982 ballad "Sexual Healing," but it trades lust for soul-baring affection and carries some of the era's sweetest backgrounds and a knockout falsetto howl over probing but unobtrusive bass. That song and most of the others stay true to the album's title and maintain an illusory atmosphere. This sense is intensified by some unexpected touches, like an interlude where Miguel softly croons part of the Zombies' "Time of the Season" over synthesizer goo, and the hovering title track, which incorporates the bassline from Labi Siffre's "I Got The" (in a manner heavier than Eminem's "My Name Is") and some "Strawberry Letter 23"-like guitar swirls. There are instances where the lyrical content edges too close to "artsy" teenage erotic poetry, but no song is without an attractive quality, whether it's a heavenly melody, a riveting rhythm, or a boggling production nuance. The set is cunningly sequenced, too. The loose "Where's the Fun in Forever" -- atmospheric yet mostly drums and bass, with some cool and casual background vocals from Alicia Keys -- melts into ADC highlight "Arch & Point," which is something like a skeletal power pop number slowed to a seductively squalid prowl. In its new context, the back half of that combination sounds fresh. Miguel is listed first in the songwriting credits of each song, and he's involved with much of the production, but he gets valuable support from earlier associates Salaam Remi and Happy Perez, as well as the likes of Warren "Oak" Felder, Andrew "Pop" Wansel, Steve "Ace" Mostyn, and J*Davey's Brook D'Leau, whose baleful keyboards on the closing "Candles in the Rain" flirt with evil.







Voices from the Lake - Voices from the Lake



This level of complexity wouldn't be possible in most producers' hands. As an art form, techno often strives to make something emotionally engrossing without using conventional stimuli like melody or lyrics. Dozzy and Neel have clearly nailed this part of their craft. Most of the sounds on Voices from the Lake have no reference point in the material world (no pianos, strings, hi-hats, snares, rim shots, etc.), but somehow they still manage to be incredibly expressive: one beat sounds uneasy, while others seem determined, weary, contemplative, optimistic and so on. The album has a strong visual element as well. Dozzy and Neel have an incredible ear for sound design (Neel has also mastered many of Dozzy's past records, including his album K, along with numerous other releases on Prologue), and this allows them to give each moment of the album a vivid foreground, middleground and background, each with countless details to pick apart. The mind's eye has a lot to work with, though it's never clear exactly what. At times the scene could be lush and organic, most notably on "Circe," which is loaded with distant wails and chirps that conjure up a teeming rain forest (call me crazy but I hear a cricket on every off-beat). Other parts of the album are colder, more metallic, with sonar beeps and vague industrial imagery. The album weaves between the two seamlessly, and often paints a landscape that's somewhere in the middle.







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No I won't, I'll start with 1970!




David Bowie - The Man Who Sold The World


Suggested tracks: [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6x5OubSeb-U]The Man Who Sold The World - David Bowie - YouTube[/ame]


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2hObZArBAg]David Bowie - Black Country Rock - YouTube[/ame]


FULL ALBUM: [ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YFCmFvlJpK0]David Bowie- The Man Who Sold The World (Full Album) - YouTube[/ame]



The Kinks - Lola Versus Powerman And The Money Go Round, Part One


Suggested tracks:

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVXmMMSo47s]"Lola"- The Kinks - YouTube[/ame]



[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0oQqa39pjk]John Lennon Imagine Full Album - YouTube[/ame]


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David Bowie - Hunky Dory


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5P63qGTm_g]David Bowie - Queen Bitch - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP2SS8ggLtU]David Bowie - Quicksand - YouTube[/ame]



[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQTENuQYgjM]David Bowie - Hunky Dory (full album HQ) - YouTube[/ame]



John Lennon - Imagine


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orz9-85Fr14]Gimme Some Truth - John Lennon (Remastered 2010) - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNjTPZW7GCU]How Do You Sleep? (original album) / John Lennon - YouTube[/ame]



[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0oQqa39pjk]John Lennon Imagine Full Album - YouTube[/ame]


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Lou Reed - Transformer


[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO5reyuzXis]Lou Reed - Satellite Of Love (HQ) - YouTube[/ame]

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TFb03PmScY]Lou Reed Make Up (HQ) - YouTube[/ame]



[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGng-pbfUN0]Lou Reed - Album: Transformer -1972 - YouTube[/ame]


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