By: Taylor Morton
Well…Its that time of the year (or rather it was that time of the year about a month ago). Before undertaking this task, I initially thought that 2011 was not the best of years. I will be the first to admit that I was a little, shall I say, disgruntled? Not only did James Murphy announce the end of LCD Soundsystem (a favorite among favorites for JJMT), but both Broken Social Scene and Wolf Parade announced that each would be taking an indefinite hiatus. On a sadder note, TV on the Radio founding member and bassist, Gerard Smith, passed away from lung cancer. Needless to say, as I looked back on the world of music throughout the last year, the words disappointed, bitter, sad, and heartbroken come to mind. However, upon further reflection I realized that from the ashes of some of my favorites, there were definitely more than a few hidden gems. So without further ado, I present to you some of my favorite albums released in the last 365 days (not in any particular order).
St Vincent – Strange Mercy
I will be the first to admit that my fandom of Annie Clark’s Solo act St. Vincent is in its infancy. So for those of you who have yet to get on board, its definitely not too late. While some may find it a little difficult to get over the relatively dark lyrics, which Clark calls her “loneliness experiment”, I think that Strange Mercy offers a little something for everyone, dabbling in a number of genres from chamber pop to experimental rock, using a wide array of instruments including the saxophone, violin, keyboard, clarinet, and flute (in addition to your standard guitar, drums, and bass). Choice tracks include “Year of the Tiger”, “Surgeon”, and “Northern Lights”.
Interested in seeing St. Vincent live? Annie Clark landed sub-headliner sets at both Coachella and Sasquatch
Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
I don’t want to waste any more time trying to provide more reason’s why this album is a mind-blowing and spiritual experience, or why your life will remain meaningless until you listen to it…For a full account of this album, see my full review.
Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape
If I were to give out an award for best debut album, Instrumental Mixtape would be the winner, hands down. From start to finish, this album sends chills up my spine. It is hard to classify this musical experiment into one genre. For each track, Mike Volpe samples, slows down, speeds up, muffles, mashes, loops, and contorts so many sounds, its hard to tell exactly what you are listening to. Nonetheless, Volpe does this with such skill and swag, and the end of each song leads into the one following it with such fluidity that Instrumental feels like one 41 minute track. All you have to do is play the opening track, “Motivation”, and you’ll be hooked.
TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
Its funny to think that the first time I heard a track off this album was playing Fifa 2012. However, don’t let this give you the wrong impression. While the track “Will Do” is deservedly a hit (albeit, overplayed), this album is far from a one trick pony. What ultimately landed this album on my favorites list were tracks like “Killer Crane”, a slow tempoed yet lyrically brilliant song telling the story of a jealous and restless man transforming into a bolder and fearless version of his former self, and “Caffeinated Consciousness”, a song has a strange resemblance to the Jack White’s collaboration band, The Raconteurs. While some claim that is low on the totem pole in relation to other albums on TV on the Radio’s discography, I have still found a number of tracks from this album that are among my go-to tracks when I listen to this band.
Washed Out – Within and Without
While Ernest Greene has been putting out EP’s for the last few years, it is great to finally have a full length, especially one with such appeal as this. Before going any further, I should add that this album is not the sort of music you throw on as background music to a friday night party, or pump up music right before you go out, but rather is geared more towards a laid back, third after four, getting home and unwinding from a long day at the office, type of audience. Throughout most of this album, it teeters between electropop and chillwave, where Greene makes use of simple, yet psychedelic melodies, loops, and synthesizers. After listening to tracks like “Echoes” and “Soft”, one can’t help but notice that what this music lacks in complexity, it more than makes up for in its ability to mesmerize and put you into a trance.
Additional albums I believe deserve recognition include:
Panda Bear – Tomboy
Youth Lagoon – Self Titled
M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues