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Will Miller - Tiny Engines/Beartrap PR(No Tiny Engines releases allowed on my list)
- Banquets “Top Button, Bottom Shelf” (Black Numbers)
- Des Ark “Don’t Rock The Boat, Sink The Fucker” (Lovitt)
- Knesset “Coming of Age” (& Records)
- Mogwai “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” (Sub Pop)
- Pygmy Lush “Old Friends” (Lovitt)
- Samiam “Trips” (Hopeless)
- Shores “To Volstead” (No Idea)
- Tin Armor “Life of Abundance” (Self-Released)
- True Widow “As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth” (Kemado)
- Wye Oak “Civilian” (Merge)
Max Stern - Signals Midwest
- Restorations - S/T
- Saintseneca - Last
- Bomb the Music Industry! - Vacation
- The French Exit - French 3xit EP
- Joyce Manor - S/T
- Reverse the Curse - Hither & Yon
- Big Kids - Phone Home
- Tin Armor - Life of Abundance
- Spraynard - Funtitled
- Worship This! - Demo
Loren Shumaker - Signals Midwest
- Reverse The Curse - Hither & Yon
- Joyce Manor - S/T
- Laura Stevenson & The Cans - Sit Resist
- Bridge & Tunnel - Rebuilding Year
- Fucked Up - David Comes To Life
- Restorations - S/T
- Dikembe - Chicago Bowls
- Title Fight - Shed
- Worship This! - Demo
- Red City Radio - The Dangers of Standing Still
Jon Loudon - Restorations
- Bill Callahan - Apocalypse
- Young Widows - In and Out of Youth and Lightness
- Horseback - The Gorgon Tongue: Impale Golden Horn + Forbidden Planet
- The Men - Leave Home
- Six Organs of Admittance - Asleep on the Floodplain
- A Winged Victory For The Sullen - S/T
- War On Drugs - Future Weather
- David Bazan - Strange Negotiations
- True Widow - As High As the Highest Heavens and from the Center to the
- Circumference of the Earth
- The 10,000 songs Self Defense Family released this year
Steven Gray - Dikembe/Wavelets
- Weatherbox- Follow the Rattle of the Afghan Guitar
- Mansions- Dig Up the Dead
- Dads- Brush Your Teeth Again ;)
- Drake- Take Care
- You'll Live- Things Would Change If You Heard This
- Empire Empire- On Time Spent Waiting
- Algernon Cadwallader- Parrot Flies
- Senders- Lucidity/Lividity
- Little League- 2011 Tour Demo
- Penpal- Postscript
Luke Moses - Wavelets
- Ampere – Like Shadows
- The Appleseed Cast – Middle States
- Beau Navire – Hours
- Björk – Biophilia
- Bon Iver – Bon Iver
- Caravels – S/T 7"
- Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
- Pianos Become the Teeth – The Lack Long After
- Prawn – You Can Just Leave It All
- Weatherbox – Follow the Rattle of the Afghan Guitar
Brendan McHugh - Everyone Everywhere
- Destroyer – Kaputt
Everything else on the list is sort of arbitrarily ranked. I knew this was going to be my favorite album of the year when I listened to it last January. Since then, Kaputt's weekly number of plays has been consistent for me regardless of season, time of day, or my mood. This album somehow transcends external forces. Kaputt stands out for its clean production and instrumentation and meandering song structures. The instruments and sounds seem to come from musical eras past, yet this album, unlike many of its peers, doesn’t drip with nostalgia or retrospection. The influences aren’t obnoxiously overt. The songwriting is engaging; the individual sections of songs typically feature repeating vocal lines, helping to make these songs really catchy. But there is rarely a repeated part. I don’t know if I can point out a verse/chorus/verse section anywhere on the record. The seemingly effortless flow of the album’s two longest songs, Suicide Demo for Kara Walker and Bay of Pigs, are, for me, high-water marks and perfect examples of how flowing Dan Behar’s songwriting can be, as these songs reach beyond the 8 and 11 minute marks, respectively, yet feel succinct. I could go on and on about this record. #1 of the year. I may be so bold as to say possibly my #1 of the decade.
- Pure X – Pleasure
I just found this album and it is good. It reminds me of Real Estate at times but it is a lot more ambient and “out there.” I like that. The vocals are cool. I haven’t had a chance to listen to Pleasure all that much, it was just recommended to me by a friend this week, so my thoughts on it aren’t well formed. I do know that it hit me pretty strongly on first listen, which is more than I can say for pretty much every other album I’ve heard this year. Also, Pleasure reminds me of the Youth Lagoon’s Year of Hibernation, which I didn’t care for at all. I’m not entirely sure what Pure X has done so much better than Youth Lagoon, I think I might have some sort of weird personal problem with YL, but if you liked Year of Hibernation, maybe you’ll like this.
- Sandro Perri - Impossible Spaces
Sandro Perri’s songwriting is fantastic too. Weird instruments are lurking around every corner and jump out at the perfect moments, shifting a song’s dynamic and snapping you back to attention. These songs are light, airy, and laid back. And I dig that. Sometimes you need a nice flute trill to pick you up when you’re feeling down.
- Real Estate – Days
This is good. I really liked their first album but wanted it to be more, well, like this album, I guess. It has some more structure and direction but isn’t necessarily more direct. That makes sense right? Great. I got a migraine the day I was supposed to see them recently and I’m bummed about that. Though I’m not sure seeing them live would be particularly “transplendent” or anything.
- Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972
I don’t know how to talk about ambient music other than to say this album has really great textures and sounds and I enjoy listening to it. It’s very good and it’s at the top of the ambient heap.
- The Drums – Portamento
Portamento sort of goes the other way from what I was saying about Destroyer feeling familiar but not nostalgic. The Drums are obviously trying to do a thing based on another thing. But I like the way they do it. The guitars on Portamento have zero sustain and when I listen to the album I can’t stop thinking about how annoying it would be to play a guitar with that sort of tone. It’s a perfect sound for this album though, and I thank The Drums for doing it.
- Grouper - A I A : Alien Observer / A I A : Dream Loss
Grouper’s 2009 album Dragging a Dead Deer… was one of my favorites from 2008, though I didn’t find it until 2010 and didn’t listen to it a ton until 2011. Enjoying that album so much and being so late on my discovery, I was excited to find this pair of releases from Grouper only a few months after they were released. This release is different, and not as good as Dragging… but still good. The songs are decidedly less poppy and structured than Dragging…, which is sort of a bummer, but taken as more of an ambient album it’s still really good and Liz Harris’s vocals are, as always, wonderfully spectral.
- Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica
This was a late entry into my ear holes and it could have easily been higher on the list had I found it sooner. Replica’s title track was the first I heard, and it still stands out as this album’s best. I don’t know anything about this band, I’ve only had time to listen to the album and no time to do any research, so I don’t know where they’re coming from or what they’ve released prior to this. This sort of sparse, sample based stuff is right up my alley and will suit me perfectly on a day when I am feeling depressed and aimlessly wandering about the city in the dead of winter. There are Boards of Canada-esque synths gliding around minimal piano lines and enough space to climb inside of these songs and build some sort of small town or something. Yes. That’s a perfect explanation. Replica is an excellent album and I’m excited to hear more and learn more about this band.
- The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient
While I will acknowledge that Slave Ambient is somewhat dull and one-note, I will also acknowledge that I have listened to it over 20 times and not really gotten tired of it. The individual songs aren’t especially compelling, but as a whole this is a set of tunes that rock just right when I’m trying to get over a hump at work or just make it to the end of the day. It’s not groundbreaking or especially original, but it does something for me. Cool.
- Neon Indian - Era Extrana
I wasn’t too into Neon Indian’s Psychic Chasms, so I didn’t bother listening to this for a long while. After recently hearing Fallout, the sixth track on Era Extrana, I immediately sought the rest of the songs and listened to the whole thing from start to finish a few times. I liked what I found. These songs are good and you’d be remiss to write this off as just another chillwave album.
Hurry - Hurry: These songs are good and you should check them out. Ira Kaplan-y guitar solos and laid back, dreamy, simple songs. Maybe even a rainforest sample on one song? See for yourself. You may like it.