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  • The Top 25 Albums of 2013: The Grand Return

    22 jan. 2014, 4h43m


    The Top 25 Albums of 2013
    The Grand Return

    Following a 3-year hiatus, I am finally back with another list. As usual, this was no easy task. Relistening to each album, choosing the right songs as samples, and writing up unrepetitive blurbs took up a good chunk of my free time over the past few weeks. But it had to be done. After listening to over 100 albums released in 2013, I was surprised to go back and see how brilliant music has been this year. Hard evidence for the fact that music can never die and it will grow and progress for the rest of our lives.


    25
    The FieldCupid’s Head

    The Field has a gift. Alex Willner can start a beat, a loop, repeat it ad infinitum with slight variation and occasional shifts, then 10 minutes later you say… damn that was TEN minutes?! In the good way, of course. Three great albums have led to this one and it’s exactly what I expected and desired. Willner has got his niche (?) locked down and I don’t expect anyone to dethrone him anytime soon. Cupid’s Head is a novel batch of hypnotizing patterns and rhythms. Multiple listens are a must in order to deconstruct the rich detail and layering.

    Tracks to sample: No. No..., A Guided Tour

    24
    StarfuckerMiracle Mile

    Starfucker brings us another album full of fun pop-infused electronic rock songs. These guys stick to their jams that they’ve been doing so well since their debut. So what if they don’t breach into experimental territory? I’m one for innovation but if you can consistently deliver jumpy and enjoyable tracks, I’m not complaining. Be prepared for some earworms as well as a few victorious climaxes.

    Tracks to sample: Beach Monster, Leave It All Behind

    23
    BibioSilver Wilkinson

    Bibio’s another one of those genre-hoppers that switches between , , , , , - and that’s only on this album. Compared to his other work, Silver Wilkinson tends towards the full, reverb-heavy, poignant electronic and guitar sounds. Definitely turn this on if you’re feeling in a nostalgic mood or to complement the pitter-patter of the rain outside.

    Tracks to sample: The First Daffodils, You

    22
    Blood OrangeCupid Deluxe

    Blood Orange channels some remarkable indie-tinged R&B, , and on Cupid Deluxe. Those genres are not typically my favorites so that must say something about the quality of this record - easy to love with his funky grooves, resonating vocals, and on-point production.

    Tracks to sample: You’re Not Good Enough, Chosen

    21
    DeerhunterMonomania

    Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest was my #1 album of 2010 so it’s no surprise that Deerhunter have made the list again. This time around, the haunting ambience of their last album is smashed to bits by Monomania’s opening numbers, which dive headfirst into loud, noisy rock. The trend continues, albeit less intensely, through the album, so don’t let the Neon Junkyard and the Leather Jacket II scare you off. Luckily, their talent for painstakingly crafting songs is not gone. They are Deerhunter, recognizable as ever, but with an added ability to screech with high-pitched riffs and abrasive vocals. And while Monomania is not my #1 this time around, Deerhunter’s expansion into new territory is wholly successful.

    Tracks to sample: Monomania, Back to the Middle

    20
    Wild NothingEmpty Estate

    Wild Nothing is an indie rock/pop band that would fit right in the ‘. A combination of , 80s new age synths, , and catchy riffs. Lead singer Jack Tatum writes and records all of the music himself, and he takes his masterful work one step further on Empty Estate than last year’s wonderful Nocturne.

    Tracks to sample: Ocean Repeating (Big-eyed Girl), A Dancing Shell

    19
    Kurt VileWakin On A Pretty Daze

    Kurt Vile’s newest album delivers smooth-sailing jams for the summer or winter. In the vein of Real Estate’s recent feel-good triumphs, Kurt’s voice and guitarwork sound as laidback and effortless as can be. Make no mistake though, Kurt is a superb songwriter and his less-than-perfect vocals are uniquely charming. If you take the time to listen in to what he has to say, you won’t be disappointed. His half-conversational, half-poetic speech is peaceful and pretty in its own right. And when he feels like it, Kurt shreds his way into your heart.

    Tracks to sample: Wakin On A Pretty Day, Girl Called Alex

    18
    The DodosCarrier

    The Dodos have some come a long way since singer-guitarist Meric Long bestowed us with his first gem – the Dodo Bird EP. What began as a folky solo project complete with virtuosic acoustic guitars and unquestionably powerful melodies and lyrics, has transformed into a full-fledged project featuring impressive original drumming, rocking electric guitars, marimbas, horns and the occasional string quartet. Of course, Meric’s acoustic and his lovely style of playing has remained an essential component throughout the years. On Carrier, The Dodos don’t reach the peaks of their classic, Visiter, but manage to bring something fresh to the table while maintaining their unique sound. The electric guitar is more prominent, the rhythms are as groovy as ever, and both Meric and drummer Logan Kroeber are still making me jealous with their skills. Damn, that outro on Substance is a thing of beauty.

    Tracks to sample: Transformer, Family

    17
    ClassixxHanging Gardens

    Classixx delivered a surprisingly banging album this year with Hanging Gardens. This is straight up dance done right and it’s bursting with life and groove. Dance music has been oversaturated with dullness and predictability the past few years and this is one of those few albums that gives me some hope. Can we fill up the clubs with this please?

    Tracks to sample: Hanging Gardens, Dominoes

    16
    Teen DazeGlacier

    Teen Daze has been genre-hopping for a while now and on Glacier, he has landed in an ethereal realm of slow-moving, evocative pieces. Reverb-laden guitars fit in the cracks of his even more reverby synths. If the name Glacier or the track titles themselves weren’t enough of a hint, the tracks on this album are ideal for a day out trekking through gently-falling snow.

    Tracks to sample: Ice on the Windowsill, Forest at Dawn

    15
    !!!Thri!!!ER

    !!!’s music is as awesome as their name. THRI!!!ER contains more of their dancey, groove-to-the-MAX rock/pop/punk. There’s a sense of feel-good urgency that is hard not to ignore. A continuous rocky jam makes way for a stuck-in-your-head chorus makes way for a four-to-the-floor banging beat. This album is a complete party package and, yeah, that means there’s a sax solo.

    Tracks to sample: One Girl / One Boy, Slyd

    14
    PhantogramPhantogram

    Phantogram, man. Their dancey is SO infectious and they sound just as badass as they did when they debuted Eyelid Movies. Hard-hitting otherworldly beats, deep bass, beautiful singing, and catchy indie guitar riffs to boot. NOT to miss if they’re playing at a venue near (or far) from you. This release is regrettably only a four-song EP but their next full-length is out soon!

    Tracks to sample: Black Out Days, The Day You Died

    13
    Jim GuthrieTakes Time

    It’s been a very long time since Jim Guthrie released a solo album (not to be confused with Woody Guthrie), and considering his last one, Now, More Than Ever, is one of my favorites, I was particularly excited for this one. Jim is an impeccably good songwriter and his songs usually feature his light acoustic guitar playing along with a wide range of instruments as accompaniment – the usual drums and bass as well as violins/strings, harmonicas, harps, horns, piano, synths, you name it. While he sticks to making lovely floating pieces, there’s just an undeniable professionalism in everything he does, keeping each second interesting like a true composer.

    Tracks to sample: The Rest Is Yet To Come, Wish I Were You

    12
    Feed MeCalamari Tuesday

    Ah, finally an EDM artist that can fit right into the club scene with something that is actually compelling. If there’s one dance album to listen to this year while you’re pre-gaming or actually gaming, it’s this one. Calamari Tuesday features an eclectic mix of , , , , , … it’s hard to classify really, as even individual songs draw influence from many sources. Regardless, this guy knows what he’s doing and manages to combine the best aspects of these genres into something fantastic. Unsurprisingly, the tracks I chose as samples won’t give you an all-encompassing view of the album - there’s something for everyone!

    Tracks to sample: Short Skirt, Love is All I Got (ft. Crystal Fighters)

    11
    GoldroomEmbrace

    Embrace is the breeze of the seas, the beats of the clouds, the groove of the sounds of love on the dance floor. Goldroom’s fabulous EP makes me dream of modern discoes filled with charm and style, people looking for deep connections and avoiding shallow debauchery.

    Tracks to sample: Only You Can Show Me, Fifteen

    10
    Daft PunkRandom Access Memories

    Everyone was expecting a sick dance album from Daft Punk when they finally returned, because why wouldn’t you? Instead, they went all-out, spending years meticulously crafting this ode to the disco dance era. It’s decidedly less dance floor-ready than expected, instead offering a star-studded all-live instrument / rock and pop bonanza that is truly epic in scope and execution. Music production just doesn’t get much better than this.

    Track to sample: Lose Yourself To Dance, Instant Crush

    9
    DarksidePsychic

    It’s like music of the future in a faraway land. It’s like an unreal fusion of rock, , and beats. It’s a journey through the atmosphere looking down after the sunset. This album is in its own sector, a black hole for your ears and a force field against unoriginality. What more can I say?

    Tracks to sample: Golden Arrow, Paper Trails

    8
    PhoenixBankrupt!

    Ever since Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix came out, Phoenix has gained many supporters from both the mainstream and indie crowds, and for good reason. They successfully incorporated their brand of indie rock with the super catchy dance elements people love. Personally, I wasn’t sold on them until I saw them live. Then it all clicked. Bankrupt! is the logical progression from their last album and it features more synths along with their pounding rocky hooks. I can’t help but move and sing-along to pretty much every song on this album.

    Tracks to sample: Trying to Be Cool, Chloroform

    7
    BonoboThe North Borders

    What happens when one of the illest / producers recruits an orchestra to supplement his already immaculate sampling skills? Beauty and grace in finely-tuned expressive spaces. The clacking beats against the composed sounds of nature. This isn’t the first time Bonobo has bestowed us with such a deep listening experience. Close your eyes and let the sounds take you away.

    Tracks to sample: Cirrus, Antenna

    6
    Trophy WifeTrophy Wife

    You know, Foals used to write great songs one after another. Trophy Wife noticed that Foals had lost that spark so they justifiably stole their torch. Ironically, Foals still exists and Trophy Wife is already gone. They drew influences from , dance, and hip-hop and crafted an indie rock record that is unexpectedly fresh and impressive. Layers of fantastic rhythms combine flawlessly with wonderful melodies that could easily score wider appeal had they stuck together as a band. It’s sad to see them go. If you want more, they’ve also released an EP and an entire second version of this album.

    Tracks to sample: Microlite, High Windows

    5
    The Octopus ProjectFever Forms

    I haven’t been extremely impressed by The Octopus Project since One Ten Hundred Thousand Million, but Fever Forms succeeds in taking them to the next level. As soon as The Falls blasts open the album, the relentless ride begins. Except for one or two tracks in the past, The Octopus Project has been an instrumental group, however they throw that all behind this time around, and who knew they had such great voices? These guys are masters but can rock the roof straight off the place whenever they want. More than anything, this album is full of color and energy and I hope there is more to come. Don’t miss the deluxe bonus track edition!
    P.S. This band features a professional theremin player (see: Perhap).

    Tracks to sample: The Falls, Whitby

    4
    GoldfishThree Second Memory

    Goldfish was one of my favorite discoveries this year; fortunately they also happened to release a new album allowing me to include them here. Combining dance, electronica, jazz, rock, , and more, Goldfish blew me away and they better be making their hometown South Africa damn proud. Many of the songs are cheerful funky jams so it’s hard not to shimmy and smile. And when they tone it down for the more emotional numbers… simply sublime. This is one of the few albums this year to give me chills on multiple occasions. Those vocals!

    Tracks to sample: Followers Of The Beat, Moonwalk Away

    3
    My Bloody Valentinem b v

    OH yes, the kings of . My Bloody Valentine is back, 21 years after releasing their legendary album Loveless, and they’re better than ever. Yes, the ungodly amount of hype and dangling hope has led to this freakish anomaly – a reunion album two decades in the making that actually sounds amazing and picks up right where the band previously left off. M b v features the familiar high-pitched background (always background) vocals of Kevin Shields and Blinda Butcher along with their defining, stunning wall-of-sound distorted, reverby guitar tones. It’s a bit clearer than Loveless, and a few of the songs definitely lay down the groove. However, they make absolutely no concessions to whatever changes were expected of them to fit in with the rest of the 2010s lot. Mix this album in with My Bloody Valentine’s discography, claim it was released in 1994, and no one would think you were lying. M b v is an unreal swirling expanse of quick-sand fuzz and dreamscapes. There’s nothing more you can do than bask in it.

    Tracks to sample: If I Am, New You

    2
    Arcade FireReflektor

    I’ve come to expect no less of Arcade Fire. They succumb to the dance trend of the past few years, but impressively own it anyway. For once, they tone down the overly emotional crooning of the past, the string section steps behind the curtain, and Win Butler pens his songs on sunnier days, making way for the band’s unused synths and dance beats, ultimately allowing uncharacteristically catchy melodies and rhythms to shine through. The songs that don’t seem immediately accessible really have a way of breaking through the surface upon further listening.

    Tracks to sample: Reflektor, We Exist

    1
    DucktailsThe Flower Lane

    I don’t know how I’m going to explain this one. On the surface, the newest record from Real Estate’s guitarist Matt Mondanile is a simple indie rock record, bringing to mind the perfect vibes of Real Estate and Ducktail’s previous reverby bedroom jams. There isn’t much more than guitar, bass drums, and keyboard on this album, coupled with the occasional horns/strings as well as Matt’s imperfect vocals. But there’s just something there, something that takes some digging to discover. There’s a magical sense of genuineness, of honesty. The guitar tones are just right. Rocking solos, lovely riffs, propulsive grooves, unassuming tunes, and a love for music.

    Tracks to sample: Ivy Covered House, Under Cover
    P.S. Check out Wish Hotel, an EP that was also released by Ducktails this year and is just as good.

    'Til next time..

    Looking back at my 2010 and 2009 lists, I would definitely rearrange and add/remove many of the albums, especially for 2009, but here they are for completion.
    Top albums of 2010
    Top albums of 2009


    written by Val Bess
  • The Top 25 Albums of 2013: The Grand Return

    22 jan. 2014, 4h37m


    The Top 25 Albums of 2013
    The Grand Return

    Following a 3-year hiatus, I am finally back with another list. As usual, this was no easy task. Relistening to each album, choosing the right songs as samples, and writing up unrepetitive blurbs took up a good chunk of my free time over the past few weeks. But it had to be done. After listening to over 100 albums released in 2013, I was surprised to go back and see how brilliant music has been this year. Hard evidence for the fact that music can never die and it will grow and progress for the rest of our lives.


    25
    The FieldCupid’s Head

    The Field has a gift. Alex Willner can start a beat, a loop, repeat it ad infinitum with slight variation and occasional shifts, then 10 minutes later you say… damn that was TEN minutes?! In the good way, of course. Three great albums have led to this one and it’s exactly what I expected and desired. Willner has got his niche (?) locked down and I don’t expect anyone to dethrone him anytime soon. Cupid’s Head is a novel batch of hypnotizing patterns and rhythms. Multiple listens are a must in order to deconstruct the rich detail and layering.

    Tracks to sample: No. No…, A Guided Tour

    24
    StarfuckerMiracle Mile

    Starfucker brings us another album full of fun pop-infused electronic rock songs. These guys stick to their jams that they’ve been doing so well since their debut. So what if they don’t breach into experimental territory? I’m one for innovation but if you can consistently deliver jumpy and enjoyable tracks, I’m not complaining. Be prepared for some earworms as well as a few victorious climaxes.

    Tracks to sample: Beach Monster, Leave It All Behind

    23
    BibioSilver Wilkinson

    Bibio’s another one of those genre-hoppers that switches between , , , , , - and that’s only on this album. Compared to his other work, Silver Wilkinson tends towards the full, reverb-heavy, poignant electronic and guitar sounds. Definitely turn this on if you’re feeling in a nostalgic mood or to complement the pitter-patter of the rain outside.

    Tracks to sample: The First Daffodils, You

    22
    Blood OrangeCupid Deluxe

    Blood Orange channels some remarkable indie-tinged R&B, , and on Cupid Deluxe. Those genres are not typically my favorites so that must say something about the quality of this record - easy to love with his funky grooves, resonating vocals, and on-point production.

    Tracks to sample: You’re Not Good Enough, Chosen

    21
    DeerhunterMonomania

    Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest was my #1 album of 2010 so it’s no surprise that Deerhunter have made the list again. This time around, the haunting ambience of their last album is smashed to bits by Monomania’s opening numbers, which dive headfirst into loud, noisy rock. The trend continues, albeit less intensely, through the album, so don’t let the Neon Junkyard and the Leather Jacket II scare you off. Luckily, their talent for painstakingly crafting songs is not gone. They are Deerhunter, recognizable as ever, but with an added ability to screech with high-pitched riffs and abrasive vocals. And while Monomania is not my #1 this time around, Deerhunter’s expansion into new territory is wholly successful.

    Tracks to sample: Monomania, Back to the Middle

    20
    Wild NothingEmpty Estate

    Wild Nothing is an indie rock/pop band that would fit right in the ‘. A combination of , 80s new age synths, , and catchy riffs. Lead singer Jack Tatum writes and records all of the music himself, and he takes his masterful work one step further on Empty Estate than last year’s wonderful Nocturne.

    Tracks to sample: Ocean Repeating (Big-eyed Girl), A Dancing Shell

    19
    Kurt VileWakin On A Pretty Daze

    Kurt Vile’s newest album delivers smooth-sailing jams for the summer or winter. In the vein of Real Estate’s recent feel-good triumphs, Kurt’s voice and guitarwork sound as laidback and effortless as can be. Make no mistake though, Kurt is a superb songwriter and his less-than-perfect vocals are uniquely charming. If you take the time to listen in to what he has to say, you won’t be disappointed. His half-conversational, half-poetic speech is peaceful and pretty in its own right. And when he feels like it, Kurt shreds his way into your heart.

    Tracks to sample: Wakin On A Pretty Day, Girl Called Alex

    18
    The DodosCarrier

    The Dodos have some come a long way since singer-guitarist Meric Long bestowed us with his first gem – the Dodo Bird EP. What began as a folky solo project complete with virtuosic acoustic guitars and unquestionably powerful melodies and lyrics, has transformed into a full-fledged project featuring impressive original drumming, rocking electric guitars, marimbas, horns and the occasional string quartet. Of course, Meric’s acoustic and his lovely style of playing has remained an essential component throughout the years. On Carrier, The Dodos don’t reach the peaks of their classic, Visiter, but manage to bring something fresh to the table while maintaining their unique sound. The electric guitar is more prominent, the rhythms are as groovy as ever, and both Meric and drummer Logan Kroeber are still making me jealous with their skills. Damn, that outro on Substance is a thing of beauty.

    Tracks to sample: Transformer, Family

    17
    ClassixxHanging Gardens

    Classixx delivered a surprisingly banging album this year with Hanging Gardens. This is straight up dance done right and it’s bursting with life and groove. Dance music has been oversaturated with dullness and predictability the past few years and this is one of those few albums that gives me some hope. Can we fill up the clubs with this please?

    Tracks to sample: Hanging Gardens, Dominoes

    16
    Teen DazeGlacier

    Teen Daze has been genre-hopping for a while now and on Glacier, he has landed in an ethereal realm of slow-moving, evocative pieces. Reverb-laden guitars fit in the cracks of his even more reverby synths. If the name Glacier or the track titles themselves weren’t enough of a hint, the tracks on this album are ideal for a day out trekking through gently-falling snow.

    Tracks to sample: Ice on the Windowsill, Forest at Dawn

    15
    !!!Thri!!!ER

    !!!’s music is as awesome as their name. THRI!!!ER contains more of their dancey, groove-to-the-MAX rock/pop/punk. There’s a sense of feel-good urgency that is hard not to ignore. A continuous rocky jam makes way for a stuck-in-your-head chorus makes way for a four-to-the-floor banging beat. This album is a complete party package and, yeah, that means there’s a sax solo.

    Tracks to sample: One Girl / One Boy, Slyd

    14
    PhantogramPhantogram

    Phantogram, man. Their dancey is SO infectious and they sound just as badass as they did when they debuted Eyelid Movies. Hard-hitting otherworldly beats, deep bass, beautiful singing, and catchy indie guitar riffs to boot. NOT to miss if they’re playing at a venue near (or far) from you. This release is regrettably only a four-song EP but their next full-length is out soon!

    Tracks to sample: Black Out Days, The Day You Died

    13
    Jim GuthrieTakes Time

    It’s been a very long time since Jim Guthrie released a solo album (not to be confused with Woody Guthrie), and considering his last one, Now, More Than Ever, is one of my favorites, I was particularly excited for this one. Jim is an impeccably good songwriter and his songs usually feature his light acoustic guitar playing along with a wide range of instruments as accompaniment – the usual drums and bass as well as violins/strings, harmonicas, harps, horns, piano, synths, you name it. While he sticks to making lovely floating pieces, there’s just an undeniable professionalism in everything he does, keeping each second interesting like a true composer.

    Tracks to sample: The Rest Is Yet To Come, Wish I Were You

    12
    Feed MeCalamari Tuesday

    Ah, finally an EDM artist that can fit right into the club scene with something that is actually compelling. If there’s one dance album to listen to this year while you’re pre-gaming or (indent) gaming, it’s this one. Calamari Tuesday features an eclectic mix of , , , , , … it’s hard to classify really, as even individual songs draw influence from many sources. Regardless, this guy knows what he’s doing and manages to combine the best aspects of these genres into something fantastic. Unsurprisingly, the tracks I chose as samples won’t give you an all-encompassing view of the album - there’s something for everyone!

    Tracks to sample: Short Skirt, Love is All I Got (ft. Crystal Fighters)

    11
    GoldroomEmbrace

    Embrace is the breeze of the seas, the beats of the clouds, the groove of the sounds of love on the dance floor. Goldroom’s fabulous EP makes me dream of modern discoes filled with charm and style, people looking for deep connections and avoiding shallow debauchery.

    Tracks to sample: Only You Can Show Me, Fifteen

    10
    Daft PunkRandom Access Memories

    Everyone was expecting a sick dance album from Daft Punk when they finally returned, because why wouldn’t you? Instead, they went all-out, spending years meticulously crafting this ode to the disco dance era. It’s decidedly less dance floor-ready than expected, instead offering a star-studded all-live instrument / rock and pop bonanza that is truly epic in scope and execution. Music production just doesn’t get much better than this.

    Track to sample: Lose Yourself To Dance, Instant Crush

    9
    DarksidePsychic

    It’s like music of the future in a faraway land. It’s like an unreal fusion of rock, , and beats. It’s a journey through the atmosphere looking down after the sunset. This album is in its own sector, a black hole for your ears and a force field against unoriginality. What more can I say?

    Tracks to sample: Golden Arrow, Paper Trails

    8
    PhoenixBankrupt!

    Ever since Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix came out, Phoenix has gained many supporters from both the mainstream and indie crowds, and for good reason. They successfully incorporated their brand of indie rock with the super catchy dance elements people love. Personally, I wasn’t sold on them until I saw them live. Then it all clicked. Bankrupt! is the logical progression from their last album and it features more synths along with their pounding rocky hooks. I can’t help but move and sing-along to pretty much every song on this album.

    Tracks to sample: Trying to Be Cool, Chloroform

    7
    BonoboThe North Borders

    What happens when one of the illest / producers recruits an orchestra to supplement his already immaculate sampling skills? Beauty and grace in finely-tuned expressive spaces. The clacking beats against the composed sounds of nature. This isn’t the first time Bonobo has bestowed us with such a deep listening experience. Close your eyes and let the sounds take you away.

    Tracks to sample: Cirrus, Antenna

    6
    Trophy WifeTrophy Wife

    You know, Foals used to write great songs one after another. Trophy Wife noticed that Foals had lost that spark so they justifiably stole their torch. Ironically, Foals still exists and Trophy Wife is already gone. They drew influences from , dance, and hip-hop and crafted an indie rock record that is unexpectedly fresh and impressive. Layers of fantastic rhythms combine flawlessly with wonderful melodies that could easily score wider appeal had they stuck together as a band. It’s sad to see them go. If you want more, they’ve also released an EP and an entire second version of this album.

    Tracks to sample: Microlite, High Windows

    5
    The Octopus ProjectFever Forms

    I haven’t been extremely impressed by The Octopus Project since One Ten Hundred Thousand Million, but Fever Forms succeeds in taking them to the next level. As soon as The Falls blasts open the album, the relentless ride begins. Except for one or two tracks in the past, The Octopus Project has been an instrumental group, however they throw that all behind this time around, and who knew they had such great voices? These guys are masters but can rock the roof straight off the place whenever they want. More than anything, this album is full of color and energy and I hope there is more to come. Don’t miss the deluxe bonus track edition!
    P.S. This band features a professional theremin player (see: Perhap).

    Tracks to sample: The Falls, Whitby

    4
    GoldfishThree Second Memory

    Goldfish was one of my favorite discoveries this year; fortunately they also happened to release a new album allowing me to include them here. Combining dance, electronica, jazz, rock, , and more, Goldfish blew me away and they better be making their hometown South Africa damn proud. Many of the songs are cheerful funky jams so it’s hard not to shimmy and smile. And when they tone it down for the more emotional numbers… simply sublime. This is one of the few albums this year to give me chills on multiple occasions. Those vocals!

    Tracks to sample: Followers Of The Beat, Moonwalk Away

    3
    My Bloody Valentinem b v

    OH yes, the kings of . My Bloody Valentine is back, 21 years after releasing their legendary album Loveless, and they’re better than ever. Yes, the ungodly amount of hype and dangling hope has led to this freakish anomaly – a reunion album two decades in the making that actually sounds amazing and picks up right where the band previously left off. M b v features the familiar high-pitched background (always background) vocals of Kevin Shields and Blinda Butcher along with their defining, stunning wall-of-sound distorted, reverby guitar tones. It’s a bit clearer than Loveless, and a few of the songs definitely lay down the groove. However, they make absolutely no concessions to whatever changes were expected of them to fit in with the rest of the 2010s lot. Mix this album in with My Bloody Valentine’s discography, claim it was released in 1994, and no one would think you were lying. M b v is an unreal swirling expanse of quick-sand fuzz and dreamscapes. There’s nothing more you can do than bask in it.

    Tracks to sample: If I Am, New You

    2
    Arcade FireReflektor

    I’ve come to expect no less of Arcade Fire. They succumb to the dance trend of the past few years, but impressively own it anyway. For once, they tone down the overly emotional crooning of the past, the string section steps behind the curtain, and Win Butler pens his songs on sunnier days, making way for the band’s unused synths and dance beats, ultimately allowing uncharacteristically catchy melodies and rhythms to shine through. The songs that don’t seem immediately accessible really have a way of breaking through the surface upon further listening.

    Tracks to sample: Reflektor, We Exist

    1
    DucktailsThe Flower Lane

    I don’t know how I’m going to explain this one. On the surface, the newest record from Real Estate’s guitarist Matt Mondanile is a simple indie rock record, bringing to mind the perfect vibes of Real Estate and Ducktail’s previous reverby bedroom jams. There isn’t much more than guitar, bass drums, and keyboard on this album, coupled with the occasional horns/strings as well as Matt’s imperfect vocals. But there’s just something there, something that takes some digging to discover. There’s a magical sense of genuineness, of honesty. The guitar tones are just right. Rocking solos, lovely riffs, propulsive grooves, unassuming tunes, and a love for music.

    Tracks to sample: Ivy Covered House, Under Cover
    P.S. Check out Wish Hotel, an EP that was also released by Ducktails this year and is just as good.

    'Til next time..

    Looking back at my 2010 and 2009 lists, I would definitely rearrange and add/remove many of the albums, especially for 2009, but here they are for completion.
    Top albums of 2010
    Top albums of 2009


    written by Val Bess
  • The Top 25 Albums of 2013: The Grand Return

    22 jan. 2014, 4h36m


    The Top 25 Albums of 2013
    The Grand Return

    Following a 3-year hiatus, I am finally back with another list. As usual, this was no easy task. Relistening to each album, choosing the right songs as samples, and writing up unrepetitive blurbs took up a good chunk of my free time over the past few weeks. But it had to be done. After listening to over 100 albums released in 2013, I was surprised to go back and see how brilliant music has been this year. Hard evidence for the fact that music can never die and it will grow and progress for the rest of our lives.


    25
    The FieldCupid’s Head

    The Field has a gift. Alex Willner can start a beat, a loop, repeat it ad infinitum with slight variation and occasional shifts, then 10 minutes later you say… damn that was TEN minutes?! In the good way, of course. Three great albums have led to this one and it’s exactly what I expected and desired. Willner has got his niche (?) locked down and I don’t expect anyone to dethrone him anytime soon. Cupid’s Head is a novel batch of hypnotizing patterns and rhythms. Multiple listens are a must in order to deconstruct the rich detail and layering.

    Tracks to sample: No. No…, A Guided Tour

    24
    StarfuckerMiracle Mile

    Starfucker brings us another album full of fun pop-infused electronic rock songs. These guys stick to their jams that they’ve been doing so well since their debut. So what if they don’t breach into experimental territory? I’m one for innovation but if you can consistently deliver jumpy and enjoyable tracks, I’m not complaining. Be prepared for some earworms as well as a few victorious climaxes.

    Tracks to sample: Beach Monster, Leave It All Behind

    23
    BibioSilver Wilkinson

    Bibio’s another one of those genre-hoppers that switches between , , , , , - and that’s only on this album. Compared to his other work, Silver Wilkinson tends towards the full, reverb-heavy, poignant electronic and guitar sounds. Definitely turn this on if you’re feeling in a nostalgic mood or to complement the pitter-patter of the rain outside.

    Tracks to sample: The First Daffodils, You

    22
    Blood OrangeCupid Deluxe

    Blood Orange channels some remarkable indie-tinged R&B, , and on Cupid Deluxe. Those genres are not typically my favorites so that must say something about the quality of this record - easy to love with his funky grooves, resonating vocals, and on-point production.

    Tracks to sample: You’re Not Good Enough, Chosen

    21
    DeerhunterMonomania

    Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest was my #1 album of 2010 so it’s no surprise that Deerhunter have made the list again. This time around, the haunting ambience of their last album is smashed to bits by Monomania’s opening numbers, which dive headfirst into loud, noisy rock. The trend continues, albeit less intensely, through the album, so don’t let the Neon Junkyard and the Leather Jacket II scare you off. Luckily, their talent for painstakingly crafting songs is not gone. They are Deerhunter, recognizable as ever, but with an added ability to screech with high-pitched riffs and abrasive vocals. And while Monomania is not my #1 this time around, Deerhunter’s expansion into new territory is wholly successful.

    Tracks to sample: Monomania, Back to the Middle

    20
    Wild NothingEmpty Estate

    Wild Nothing is an indie rock/pop band that would fit right in the ‘. A combination of , 80s new age synths, , and catchy riffs. Lead singer Jack Tatum writes and records all of the music himself, and he takes his masterful work one step further on Empty Estate than last year’s wonderful Nocturne.

    Tracks to sample: Ocean Repeating (Big-eyed Girl), A Dancing Shell

    19
    Kurt VileWakin On A Pretty Daze

    Kurt Vile’s newest album delivers smooth-sailing jams for the summer or winter. In the vein of Real Estate’s recent feel-good triumphs, Kurt’s voice and guitarwork sound as laidback and effortless as can be. Make no mistake though, Kurt is a superb songwriter and his less-than-perfect vocals are uniquely charming. If you take the time to listen in to what he has to say, you won’t be disappointed. His half-conversational, half-poetic speech is peaceful and pretty in its own right. And when he feels like it, Kurt shreds his way into your heart.

    Tracks to sample: Wakin On A Pretty Day, Girl Called Alex

    18
    The DodosCarrier

    The Dodos have some come a long way since singer-guitarist Meric Long bestowed us with his first gem – the Dodo Bird EP. What began as a folky solo project complete with virtuosic acoustic guitars and unquestionably powerful melodies and lyrics, has transformed into a full-fledged project featuring impressive original drumming, rocking electric guitars, marimbas, horns and the occasional string quartet. Of course, Meric’s acoustic and his lovely style of playing has remained an essential component throughout the years. On Carrier, The Dodos don’t reach the peaks of their classic, Visiter, but manage to bring something fresh to the table while maintaining their unique sound. The electric guitar is more prominent, the rhythms are as groovy as ever, and both Meric and drummer Logan Kroeber are still making me jealous with their skills. Damn, that outro on Substance is a thing of beauty.

    Tracks to sample: Transformer, Family

    17
    ClassixxHanging Gardens

    Classixx delivered a surprisingly banging album this year with Hanging Gardens. This is straight up dance done right and it’s bursting with life and groove. Dance music has been oversaturated with dullness and predictability the past few years and this is one of those few albums that gives me some hope. Can we fill up the clubs with this please?

    Tracks to sample: Hanging Gardens, Dominoes

    16
    Teen DazeGlacier

    Teen Daze has been genre-hopping for a while now and on Glacier, he has landed in an ethereal realm of slow-moving, evocative pieces. Reverb-laden guitars fit in the cracks of his even more reverby synths. If the name Glacier or the track titles themselves weren’t enough of a hint, the tracks on this album are ideal for a day out trekking through gently-falling snow.

    Tracks to sample: Ice on the Windowsill, Forest at Dawn

    15
    !!!Thri!!!ER

    !!!’s music is as awesome as their name. THRI!!!ER contains more of their dancey, groove-to-the-MAX rock/pop/punk. There’s a sense of feel-good urgency that is hard not to ignore. A continuous rocky jam makes way for a stuck-in-your-head chorus makes way for a four-to-the-floor banging beat. This album is a complete party package and, yeah, that means there’s a sax solo.

    Tracks to sample: One Girl / One Boy, Slyd

    14
    PhantogramPhantogram

    Phantogram, man. Their dancey is SO infectious and they sound just as badass as they did when they debuted Eyelid Movies. Hard-hitting otherworldly beats, deep bass, beautiful singing, and catchy indie guitar riffs to boot. NOT to miss if they’re playing at a venue near (or far) from you. This release is regrettably only a four-song EP but their next full-length is out soon!

    Tracks to sample: Black Out Days, The Day You Died

    13
    Jim GuthrieTakes Time

    It’s been a very long time since Jim Guthrie released a solo album (not to be confused with Woody Guthrie), and considering his last one, Now, More Than Ever, is one of my favorites, I was particularly excited for this one. Jim is an impeccably good songwriter and his songs usually feature his light acoustic guitar playing along with a wide range of instruments as accompaniment – the usual drums and bass as well as violins/strings, harmonicas, harps, horns, piano, synths, you name it. While he sticks to making lovely floating pieces, there’s just an undeniable professionalism in everything he does, keeping each second interesting like a true composer.

    Tracks to sample: The Rest Is Yet To Come, Wish I Were You

    12
    Feed MeCalamari Tuesday

    Ah, finally an EDM artist that can fit right into the club scene with something that is actually compelling. If there’s one dance album to listen to this year while you’re pre-gaming or (indent) gaming, it’s this one. Calamari Tuesday features an eclectic mix of , , , , , … it’s hard to classify really, as even individual songs draw influence from many sources. Regardless, this guy knows what he’s doing and manages to combine the best aspects of these genres into something fantastic. Unsurprisingly, the tracks I chose as samples won’t give you an all-encompassing view of the album - there’s something for everyone!

    Tracks to sample: Short Skirt, Love is All I Got (ft. Crystal Fighters)

    11
    GoldroomEmbrace

    Embrace is the breeze of the seas, the beats of the clouds, the groove of the sounds of love on the dance floor. Goldroom’s fabulous EP makes me dream of modern discoes filled with charm and style, people looking for deep connections and avoiding shallow debauchery.

    Tracks to sample: Only You Can Show Me, Fifteen

    10
    Daft PunkRandom Access Memories

    Everyone was expecting a sick dance album from Daft Punk when they finally returned, because why wouldn’t you? Instead, they went all-out, spending years meticulously crafting this ode to the disco dance era. It’s decidedly less dance floor-ready than expected, instead offering a star-studded all-live instrument / rock and pop bonanza that is truly epic in scope and execution. Music production just doesn’t get much better than this.

    Track to sample: Lose Yourself To Dance, Instant Crush

    9
    DarksidePsychic

    It’s like music of the future in a faraway land. It’s like an unreal fusion of rock, , and beats. It’s a journey through the atmosphere looking down after the sunset. This album is in its own sector, a black hole for your ears and a force field against unoriginality. What more can I say?

    Tracks to sample: Golden Arrow, Paper Trails

    8
    PhoenixBankrupt!

    Ever since Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix came out, Phoenix has gained many supporters from both the mainstream and indie crowds, and for good reason. They successfully incorporated their brand of indie rock with the super catchy dance elements people love. Personally, I wasn’t sold on them until I saw them live. Then it all clicked. Bankrupt! is the logical progression from their last album and it features more synths along with their pounding rocky hooks. I can’t help but move and sing-along to pretty much every song on this album.

    Tracks to sample: Trying to Be Cool, Chloroform

    7
    BonoboThe North Borders

    What happens when one of the illest / producers recruits an orchestra to supplement his already immaculate sampling skills? Beauty and grace in finely-tuned expressive spaces. The clacking beats against the composed sounds of nature. This isn’t the first time Bonobo has bestowed us with such a deep listening experience. Close your eyes and let the sounds take you away.

    Tracks to sample: Cirrus, Antenna

    6
    Trophy WifeTrophy Wife

    You know, Foals used to write great songs one after another. Trophy Wife noticed that Foals had lost that spark so they justifiably stole their torch. Ironically, Foals still exists and Trophy Wife is already gone. They drew influences from , dance, and hip-hop and crafted an indie rock record that is unexpectedly fresh and impressive. Layers of fantastic rhythms combine flawlessly with wonderful melodies that could easily score wider appeal had they stuck together as a band. It’s sad to see them go. If you want more, they’ve also released an EP and an entire second version of this album.

    Tracks to sample: Microlite, High Windows

    5
    The Octopus ProjectFever Forms

    I haven’t been extremely impressed by The Octopus Project since One Ten Hundred Thousand Million, but Fever Forms succeeds in taking them to the next level. As soon as The Falls blasts open the album, the relentless ride begins. Except for one or two tracks in the past, The Octopus Project has been an instrumental group, however they throw that all behind this time around, and who knew they had such great voices? These guys are masters but can rock the roof straight off the place whenever they want. More than anything, this album is full of color and energy and I hope there is more to come. Don’t miss the deluxe bonus track edition!
    P.S. This band features a professional theremin player (see: Perhap).

    Tracks to sample: The Falls, Whitby

    4
    GoldfishThree Second Memory

    Goldfish was one of my favorite discoveries this year; fortunately they also happened to release a new album allowing me to include them here. Combining dance, electronica, jazz, rock, , and more, Goldfish blew me away and they better be making their hometown South Africa damn proud. Many of the songs are cheerful funky jams so it’s hard not to shimmy and smile. And when they tone it down for the more emotional numbers… simply sublime. This is one of the few albums this year to give me chills on multiple occasions. Those vocals!

    Tracks to sample: Followers Of The Beat, Moonwalk Away

    3
    My Bloody Valentinem b v

    OH yes, the kings of . My Bloody Valentine is back, 21 years after releasing their legendary album Loveless, and they’re better than ever. Yes, the ungodly amount of hype and dangling hope has led to this freakish anomaly – a reunion album two decades in the making that actually sounds amazing and picks up right where the band previously left off. M b v features the familiar high-pitched background (always background) vocals of Kevin Shields and Blinda Butcher along with their defining, stunning wall-of-sound distorted, reverby guitar tones. It’s a bit clearer than Loveless, and a few of the songs definitely lay down the groove. However, they make absolutely no concessions to whatever changes were expected of them to fit in with the rest of the 2010s lot. Mix this album in with My Bloody Valentine’s discography, claim it was released in 1994, and no one would think you were lying. M b v is an unreal swirling expanse of quick-sand fuzz and dreamscapes. There’s nothing more you can do than bask in it.

    Tracks to sample: If I Am, New You

    2
    Arcade FireReflektor

    I’ve come to expect no less of Arcade Fire. They succumb to the dance trend of the past few years, but impressively own it anyway. For once, they tone down the overly emotional crooning of the past, the string section steps behind the curtain, and Win Butler pens his songs on sunnier days, making way for the band’s unused synths and dance beats, ultimately allowing uncharacteristically catchy melodies and rhythms to shine through. The songs that don’t seem immediately accessible really have a way of breaking through the surface upon further listening.

    Tracks to sample: Reflektor, We Exist

    1
    DucktailsThe Flower Lane

    I don’t know how I’m going to explain this one. On the surface, the newest record from Real Estate’s guitarist Matt Mondanile is a simple indie rock record, bringing to mind the perfect vibes of Real Estate and Ducktail’s previous reverby bedroom jams. There isn’t much more than guitar, bass drums, and keyboard on this album, coupled with the occasional horns/strings as well as Matt’s imperfect vocals. But there’s just something there, something that takes some digging to discover. There’s a magical sense of genuineness, of honesty. The guitar tones are just right. Rocking solos, lovely riffs, propulsive grooves, unassuming tunes, and a love for music.

    Tracks to sample: Ivy Covered House, Under Cover
    P.S. Check out Wish Hotel, an EP that was also released by Ducktails this year and is just as good.

    'Til next time..

    Looking back at my 2010 and 2009 lists, I would definitely rearrange and add/remove many of the albums, especially for 2009, but here they are for completion.
    Top albums of 2010
    Top albums of 2009


    written by Val Bess
  • Super Comprehensive Top 25 Best of 2010 (5k words!)

    13 jan. 2011, 7h09m


    The Best Albums of 2010
    plus honorable mentions and let-downs
    2010 was an amazing year of music, in my opinion. I had to listen/re-listen to a lot of albums to get a comprehensive and true-to-my-thoughts list compiled. The album descriptions and reviews are written in a simple style, due to the fact that I get really pissed when I read music reviews that give me extremely obscure information, imply knowledge of at least 6 other unrelated albums, and use adjectives that normal humans would never use to describe anything. On top of that, those kinds of reviews usually don’t even give me a good idea of what the album sounds like, and I would probably spend less time listening to the album than trying to figure out what each sentence means.
    Anyway, after hours and hours of work, I present to you my year-end music list!

    Let-Downs

    MGMTCongratulations

    MGMT released an insanely catchy, wide-appeal collection of songs a few years ago on Oracular Spectacular. I mean, who doesn’t fucking like Kids? So, of course their next album was going to be wanted like no other. And then what happened? They released Congratulations. And everyone turned it on with baited breath. It’s Working…Song for Dan Treacy…Someone’s Missing… wait what the hell is going on? The songs were boring, and weird. Instead of hooky beats and lovely synths, the songs were noticeably more psychedelic. What MGMT had done was respectable. They decided, fuck it, we’re not going to appeal to the masses and make a shitload of catchy songs that will be endlessly remixed at clubs around the world. They went into an “experimental” state-of-mind and made what they wanted to make. Some people think Congratulations is boring, others love it. Bottom line is, MGMT made a much less accessible album than Oracular Spectacular and personally, I couldn’t access it.

    Tracks that are pretty good: Flash Delirium, I Found a Whistle

    KeleThe Boxer

    Kele! That’s the guy from Bloc Party! If you disliked Intimacy, which I’m sure you did, then there’s a high chance that you’ll dislike this album. Kele ditched Bloc Party for at least a little while to continue his recently actualized dance-music-making tendencies and serves up this group of songs. Unfortunately, his desire to make dance music doesn’t match up with his actual skill in making dance music. His vocals, almost identical to his Bloc Party style of delivery, don’t really fit with the electronic feel of the songs. On top of that, the songs are generally unmemorable and don’t make me want to move around, save a few.

    Good tracks on the album: Tenderoni, The Other Side

    Honorable Mentions

    Vampire WeekendContra

    Bah, Vampire Weekend. Those damn preppy Ivy League kids. Why do they make such… wait for it, stereotypical hipster-bashing adjective eminent… pretentious music? In December drinking Horchata, I look psychotic in my balaklava? Seriously? Fuck.

    But seriously, these guys make poppy, minimalist, catchy songs with lots of keyboard, lots of clean guitar, and lots of cello, which all together will make you want to sing along, move your arms, and shake your legs, but definitely not dance. There’s also a tiny bit of autotune, and even though I hate autotune, the song in which they use it (California English) is, like, the best song ever. Contra is a step down from their debut, Vampire Weekend, but they haven’t changed their style one bit and that’s a good thing.

    Tracks to sample: Horchata, California English

    BalmorheaConstellations

    Balmorhea are quite an amazing group. Their first couple of albums, Balmorhea and Rivers Arms, featured the most beautiful acoustic guitar and piano work I had ever heard combined. Entirely instrumental (some recorded voices in a certain song or two as far as I remember), their songs were incredibly moving and absolutely perfect for life-contemplation. Their third album, All Is Wild, All Is Silent, which was on my 2009 list, saw the band expanding from a duo into a sextet and their music became epic. It was now noticeably post-rock in its style, with violins, guitars, banjos, pianos, cellos, drums and even vocals all exploding with energy, greatly expanding the beauty of their stirring instrumental style. Constellations came just a year later and it’s evident why. Balmorhea went backwards to their sparse, quiet style of the first two albums. I’d go as far as to list “silence” as one of their instruments. The thing is, if they had made an album like the first two, this would be much better. But they didn’t. Instead, this album is a bit too boring. However, there are plenty of gorgeous moments where the best possible pitch exits your headphones and hits your eardrum just right, which helps keep this album at “great” status.

    Tracks to sample: Bowsprit, On The Weight of Night

    LCD SoundsystemThis Is Happening

    James Murphy (the guy behind LCD Soundsystem) is a great producer who knows a lot about music. That is probably why he can successfully make such strange dance/electronic music and make it pleasant. 10 minute songs that are actually really repetitive, don’t sound that way, and I just don’t know how he does it. On This is Happening, that’s what you’ll find, plus some post-punk along the way (like The Strokes). There is less ranting than on previous albums but you’ll still hear his signature not-even-trying singing/speaking, which is not a bad thing.

    Tracks to sample: Drunk Girls, You Wanted a Hit

    Best CoastCrazy for You

    If you’ve heard of Wavves, you’ve probably heard of Best Coast (and vice-versa). The lead of Wavves and the lead of Best Coast are going out, they both make summer, stoner rock and they’re obsessed with a cat named Snacks (see: Wavves’ album further on in this list). Best Coast is the one led by the chick though and Best Coast’s music is like what a cool, rock-loving girl would make if she had a small, crappy distortion amp and a busted-up guitar and tried to make pop songs in her garage. That’s probably what she did anyway, after getting a drummer from across the street to play with her. The lyrics are shallow, but damn it if they’re not sincere. It’s a happy-go-lucky album that would be perfect for a day at the beach. And of course with an album like this, quite a few songs will be stuck in your head.

    Tracks to sample: Boyfriend, When I’m With You

    The Black KeysBrothers

    After listening to Brothers, there was one idea that I took away from the album. The Black Keys finally stopped making the same song over-and-over again. I’ve always enjoyed my dirty, garage, blues rock and The Black Keys provided a LOT of it. And I enjoyed their albums, even though they sounded very similar. When Brothers was released, I was hesitant about downloading it because I had enough of the Black Keys; I didn’t need a 64th version of Set You Free. I’m obviously busting their balls, but still, I hope some of you BK fans can understand. Anyway, I then saw the album cover and was intrigued. The Black Keys did not seem like a band that would pull some stupid joke like that. So, I listened, and was happy. The songs on Brothers are crisper, funkier, and dripping with the blues rock that I love. The album is also more accessible than their previous releases, and I applaud them for keeping their great style while opening it up for a wider audience.

    Tracks to sample: Everlasting Light, Ten Cent Pistol

    Top 25

    25
    The Octopus ProjectHexadecagon


    Hexadecagon is an album of deep sound exploration. The Octopus Project can make catchy electronic music as well as build-to-intense-drum-explosion masterpieces. On this album, they put those skills on the backburner for a bit (for the most part) and decide to see how they fare composing emotion-evoking pieces. With any such undertaking, it usually takes repeated listens to absorb everything that’s played. To be sure, this album is a grower, but even on an initial listen, there’s lots of great stuff to experience. Pianos, synths, pounding drums, theremins (alright, singular) resound in my head after finishing the album.

    Tracks to sample: Fuguefat, Hallucinists

    24
    God Is An AstronautAge of the Fifth Sun

    Post-rock bands usually never change their style, and if they start off good, that’s a great thing. God is an Astronaut is one of those bands, with their debut The End of the Beginning, they laid out their epic rock instrumental cards and cemented their names in the top of the ranks of post-rockdom. All of their albums are similar in style, lots of clean guitar melodies, occasionally distorted guitar riffs, reverb, ambience, pulsing bass, fitting drumlines, keyboard, and effect-obliterated “ahh”s, all working together to build up audio skyscrapers and then demolish them with unreal explosive breakdowns. Age of the Fifth Sun is another album to add to their discography that offers relentless God is an Astronaut-style post-rock.

    Tracks to sample: Golden Sky, Shining Through

    23
    Holy FuckLatin

    Holy Fuck is a fitting name for Holy Fuck. It isn’t death metal or hardcore though, it’s just electronic music done right. The songs utilize the standard rock band ensemble and mix in a bunch of synths and effects, and delicious drum machines. No need for breakdowns here, the music is always active and any extra-energetic parts occur from vast layering that hits you when you want it the most. They make all of their music without using pre-recorded tracks, so all of it they can do live from scratch, which makes it seem even more impressive. Simply listening to Latin won’t make you scream “Holy Fuck” at the top of your lungs, but it is a guaranteed room-shaker if played loud.

    Tracks to sample: Stay Lit, Red Lights

    22
    Surfer BloodAstro Coast

    Surfer Blood makes surf-rock, kindof. It’s rockier than surf-rock but it definitely still has the same vibe. Wait until it gets warm, jump into your convertible, invite a bunch of your closest friends, and drive down a road with a view of the ocean/beach, blasting this record. Yes, your convertible. Alternatively, just go to the beach with a beat-up over-sized boombox and blast this. Yes, your beat-up over-sized boombox.

    Tracks to sample: Take It Easy, Floating Vibes

    21
    WavvesKing Of The Beach

    Accessible stoner noise punk? I feel like if I label anything like Wavves as punk, people who know what punk actually is will scold me. Power chords, simple lyrics, and mosh-pit forming songs are what permeate this album. Plus, it succeeds at being a summer album (hence the “Beach” in the title), somehow. In one sentence, King of the Beach will make you rock out in front of your mirror. And hell, I’ve been singing the ending of Baby Say Goodbye out loud since I’ve heard it.

    Tracks to sample: Post Acid, Mickey Mouse

    20
    Marnie SternMarnie Stern

    Marnie Stern is an impressive chick guitarist. She plays pretty hard rock filled with glorious distortion guitar, tapping included. Her newest album is her best yet, with more accessible tracks, more melody, and unbelievable drumming by Zach Hill. Some of her songs are chaotic rock explosions, bordering on metal, while others are subdued and exhibit her remarkable guitar-work. She has a breathy soprano voice that some might not like, but she is by no means a bad singer (she hits all her notes right), and she definitely isn’t anywhere near polarizing with her voice like Joanna Newsom is, for example. Regardless, if you enjoy superb instrumentation, this is a great album to investigate, and there are definitely a lot of notes to process on this one.

    Tracks to sample: Transparency Is the New Mystery, Gimme

    19
    The NationalHigh Violet

    The National are wonderful musicians that make wonderful music. On High Violet, you’ll hear adventurous, emotional rock: clean guitars, reverb (as if reverb is an instrument), piano, impressive drums, perfect background synthiness, all the good stuff. The only problem is I’m one of the few people who just doesn’t get Matt Berninger’s voice (the lead singer). He’s a baritone, which is fine, but it sounds like he has no emotion when he sings, his vocals come off as almost monotonous in every song (with very rare exceptions). If there was a different vocalist on this album, one that I did get, this album would probably be in my top 5. However, this is my opinion, and since I find the music (besides the vocals) to be spectacular, I highly recommend the album, just in case you do enjoy Matt’s voice.

    Tracks to sample: Afraid of Everyone, Conversation 16

    18
    ClogsThe Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton

    Clogs consist of a viola, a bassoon, an acoustic guitar, and a vibraphone. Very unique combination of instruments, right? Their previous albums were variable in quality, with Lullaby for Sue consisting of experimental, usually atonal music, Thom's Night Out showcasing their gift for making melodious classic-sounding instrumental compositions, Stick Music, which delved into a minimalistic style, and Lantern, consisting of a more structured set of songs with Clogs’s impeccable pleasant melodies making a return. The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton arrived four years later and features beautiful instrumental sections that are better-than-ever, a tighter structure, and vocal lines from various guest singers. These include Matt Berninger from The National, Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond, and even Sufjan Stevens. (note: Bryce Dessner, who is also from The National, is in Clogs. The album also features his brother and The National member Aaron Dessner. The National and Sufjan Stevens are both elsewhere on this list.) This album, in a nutshell, is classical music done in modern song form with impressive vocal accompaniment, truly peaceful.

    Tracks to sample: I Used to Do, Last Song

    17
    FoalsTotal Life Forever

    The album begins with a calm rendition by Fleet Foxes. Not really, but they fooled you didn’t they? Foals’s second album doesn’t stray far from their original style: riff-based rock with flourishes of math rock and electronic goodness. It isn’t as strong as their debut, Antidotes, but at least they haven’t lost what made them good. The vocals are noticeably Brit-soaked, which isn’t a bad thing, in fact, they’re wonderful singers. The guitar tones are wonderful throughout the album and, coupled with the vocals and the impressive drumming, makes for an extremely harmonious album with minimal/no experimental/atonal fiddling (always a good thing).

    Tracks to sample: Miami, Spanish Sahara

    16
    Jenny and JohnnyI'm Having Fun Now

    Jenny is 34. Johnny is 27. They’re going out. They also made a pretty wicked album together. It’s rock-rock-folk-rock-pop-pop-rock-folk. But a little bit more rock-folk-pop. This is definitely a lovely summer album, and a lovely “couple” album. It’s very straightforward but there are plenty of catchy songs along the way and, personally, I’ve had Big Wave stuck in my head for weeks.

    Tracks to sample: Big Wave, Animal

    15
    JavelinNo Mas

    Javelin reach far out into many genres on No Mas. Hip-hop, dance, electronic, pop, even a slight lounge feel on certain songs. You might hear drum machines, light guitar, and clear singing, or you might hear an intense 80s pop beat with winding synths and hardly recognizable vocals. One song is a full-on guitar, drum, horn, action-detective movie blip that lasts less than two minutes (The Merkin Jerk). It’s a mish-mash that delivers a taste of a lot of different things, keeping each song a fresh experience, separate from the last, all the while bringing a recognizable Javelin style. Like a few other albums on this list, No Mas is simply groovy and that’s what makes it so enjoyable.

    Tracks to sample: Vibrationz, Oh! Centra

    14
    Ariel Pink's Haunted GraffitiBefore Today

    Ariel Pink is a crazy dude, but I won’t get into that. He makes rock, pop, 80s-style, you know, unclassifiable music. The main point is that it’s lo-fi (the quality is intentionally less-than-stellar) and, at times, really strange. However, there’s just something about his unique style that resonates with the human brain and makes his music not only listenable, but pretty damn enjoyable. Before Today covers a wide spectrum of sounds and a lot of the songs have incredible make-you-smile-from-how-good-it-was-that-the-song-just-broke-out-into-a-beautifully-groovy-segment moments (this sentence is not sponsored by the American Grammar Association). In two words, this album is fucking groovy.

    Tracks to sample: Butt-House Blondies, Round and Round

    13
    JapandroidsNo Singles

    Ah, Japandroids. I don’t think they can ever make a bad sounding song. And that’s because all they do is turn the volume up to 12, plug in 10 distortion pedals, play chords, bang drums like they’re going out of style, and sing loudly. In every song. And it’s damn amazing. This is My Bloody Valentine if they were angst-punkers. Maybe they were, but I didn’t understand what they were saying (who did?). Anyway, No Singles is a collection of previously EP-released Japandroids songs, and is generally as good, if not better, than their debut Post-Nothing. So get to your nearest surround-sound stereo, put this album on, and mosh by yourself until you break every breakable object you can reach.

    Tracks to sample: Lovers/Strangers, Press Corps

    12
    Owen PallettHeartland

    Owen Pallett used to be in Arcade Fire. Then he decided, “Fuck it, there’s like 394 people in this band,” and went solo as Final Fantasy. He released a couple of fairly good albums which were of the “chamber pop” or “baroque pop” variety. Basically, it’s what pop would sound like in the fucking 17th century. The main instrument is violin, and damn it, Owen Pallett is godly at violin. He’s also a pretty great singer. Before releasing Heartland, he thought, “Why the fuck is my name Final Fantasy?” and released it as Owen Pallett. Anyway, Heartland is Owen Pallett’s pretty good chamber pop kicked up 100 levels. Now it’s a damn Broadway production. Seriously, sounds like Owen Pallett improved his songwriting tenfold and turned into an orchestra.

    Tracks to sample: Lewis Takes Off His Shirt, The Great Elsewhere (the ending of this song is one of my favorite moments in all of music)

    11
    Crystal CastlesCrystal Castles (II)

    note: Make sure you’re listening to the right “Crystal Castles,” as two of their albums are self-titled.
    Crystal Castles return with an album of dance delights. There’s nothing more satisfying to hear on a dance floor than intense, jarring electroblips framed with distorted-beyond-belief female screams. And I’m being serious. The entire album isn’t as I just described, but it is really hooky and usually body-busting electro-dance with a tinge of chiptune (!). Plus you might hear some Jónsi along the way (see: Year of Silence. Not to mention, Empathy is pretty much the JAM of 2010.

    Tracks to sample: Empathy, Baptism

    10
    The Blue VanLove Shot

    The Blue Van are tragically unknown. One of their songs, There Goes My Love, from their incredible album Man Up, was featured in the very first iPad commercial, which I thought would get them popular for sure, but, unfortunately, not so (I tried putting as many commas as possible in that last sentence). So I remained one of the few people who greatly anticipated their next release, and oh, it came. The Blue Van are a blues rock band with style. Listen to one of their songs, and you won’t understand why they’re not popular in the US. They’ve got a crisp, professional, extremely catchy rock style. On Love Shot, I KNEW they would incorporate some electronic elements to their songs, which was the logical progression that a band like theirs would and should take. Love Shot, as well as their previous albums, incorporates the usual rock ensemble of instruments: distortion guitar, drums, and bass, with a blues organ and an unbelievably great range of vocals (at least two of their members sing extremely well together produce some amazing vocal harmonies). And yes, you’ll hear a bunch of guitar solos.

    Tracks to sample: Love Shot, Loser Takes It All

    9
    Broken Social SceneForgiveness Rock Record

    For one reason or another, it seemed like Broken Social Scene was done with making albums that would be on year-end lists like this one (You Forgot It In People was one of those albums). At least, it seemed that way before Forgiveness Rock Record was released. Just so you know, Broken Social Scene is made up of 25+ members (seriously), most of them being in other bands, some popular, some not as much. In any case, wow. Forgiveness Rock Record is a lot to process. There’s a lot going on, and all of it is good. You’ll hear a lot of different instruments of course, but more importantly, this band knows how to craft their songs. Style-wise, there’s not much to say except that if you asked me 4 years ago, I would say that they define the indie rock sound that so many bands have embraced. Nowadays, that means nothing. Still, the difference is that they’re among the few bands that do it best.

    Tracks to sample: World Sick, Forced to Love

    8
    The Dead WeatherSea of Cowards

    Jack White won’t be making another album for The White Stripes for a long while, if ever. Meanwhile, he’s making even better albums with The Dead Weather, as a drummer. The Dead Weather’s Horehound was my favorite album of 2009 so I was excited to learn that they would be releasing another album so soon. Sea of Cowards continues their dirty garage rock onslaught. Killer riffs from Queens of the Stone Age’s Dean Fertita, killer bass lines from The Raconteurs’s Jack Lawrence, incredible, sexy singing and shrieking from The Kills’s Alison Mosshart, and surprisingly great drumming, and occasional vocals and guitar, from Mr. Jack White. Sea of Cowards is more intense than Horehound, which is pretty crazy. All in all, The Dead Weather isn’t just a side-project, it’s a super group (seewatididthere?).

    Tracks to sample: Blue Blood Blues, Die by the Drop

    7
    Sufjan StevensThe Age of Adz

    Sufjan Stevens is one of the best songwriters of our time. All of his albums and EPs are just filled with sound. Ordered complexity is Sufjan’s forte, but at the same time, he can write an acoustic guitar song that would make you cry. On The Age of Adz, Sufjan shows that he knows how to write electronic songs as well and ends up making huge, epic songs filled with synths, guitars, horns, pianos, drums, strings, choirs, and a billion other things. Plus, he puts a bunch of effects on anything he sees fit (including autotune!). All in all, it’s a massive exploration of sound coupled with superb songwriting that might take you about 4000 listens to fully process.

    Tracks to sample: Get Real Get Right, I Want To Be Well

    6
    PhantogramEyelid Movies

    Phantogram, a truly unique band that have graced us with Eyelid Movies. I describe it as a mix of ambient, psychedelic, trip-hop, and electronic goodness. Sounds interesting right? Phantogram is a duo, a guy and a girl, who both sing over incredibly sick beats, with lots of clean, reverby guitar, among other instruments (mostly synths), and ambient sounds overlaying everything. Eyelid Movies is a very beautiful, think-about-life album that will make you bob your head.

    Tracks to sample: Mouthful of Diamonds, When I’m Small

    5
    YeasayerOdd Blood

    In 2007, Yeasayer released All Hour Cymbals, an album that was filled with great folk and rock jams, brimming with sing-a-longs, and occasional psychedelic passages that made it seem like Yeasayer were some sort of Native American or Middle Eastern collective infused with modern American folk (incidentally, the primary singer is Native American). I did not expect them to change their sound so greatly on their second album, Odd Blood, but that is exactly what they did. The folk influences were still prevalent, but it was obvious they tried to make a freaky, strangely infectious brand of psychedelic, experimental pop or dance music. It totally worked. It isn’t as accessible as their first album, for obvious reasons, but if you can really get into the groove of the unique beats and unusual effects and melodies, you will not be disappointed.

    Tracks to sample: Madder Red, Mondegreen

    4
    Beach HouseTeen Dream

    Alright, what can I say about Teen Dream? One of the best singers I’ve ever heard (it’s a she) coupled with not only beautiful, but catchy melodies. The creative minds behind this album just hit it right. Despite the name, this isn’t a summer/beach album, it’s a “dream pop” album. In fact, I’ve heard a wave of dream pop albums lately, and just in case this genre really becomes widely recognized, no doubt Beach House is the best at it. In short, some albums are just all-around pleasing to the ears, and I’d bet laying in a comfy bed, doing nothing but listening to Teen Dream would be a memorable, and, of course, an enjoyable experience.

    Tracks to sample: Zebra, Silver Soul

    3
    WarpaintThe Fool

    I’ve been waiting for this album since Warpaint’s incredible Exquisite Corpse EP (which you should definitely listen to if you haven’t already). Warpaint is an all-girl quartet that plays laidback, chill, ferocious, epic music. Yes. I doubt their tempo ever goes above 120 bpm. However, perfect guitar tone, beautiful melodies, reverb-to-the-max, smooth bass, intense drumming, and gorgeous singing transforms something that might have been boring (if done by someone else) into a deeply pleasing jam-rock album.
    note: By the band’s own volition, this album is designed with stoners in mind.

    Tracks to sample: Set Your Arms Down, Warpaint (yes they named a song after themselves)

    2
    Arcade FireThe Suburbs

    Arcade Fire can do no wrong. Three years after the release of Neon Bible, they’ve returned with a lengthy album about…well, the suburbs. This time around, I couldn’t help but feel like this was a perfectly American sounding album (despite their Canadian/French roots). Regardless, Arcade Fire have not lost the ability to make grand, detailed, and moving music. They’re also one of the few bands that can successfully craft songs with a thousand different instruments and not overload their listeners, an impressive feat. Even then, there are quite a few simple, yet still ambitious, songs on this album. After multiple listens, the only negative feeling I get is that I’m going to have to wait another three years for new Arcade Fire tunes.

    Tracks to sample: The Suburbs, Empty Room

    1
    DeerhunterHalcyon Digest

    Ethereal and ruthless, Halcyon Digest is an adventure. Most albums put together a bunch of songs that a band has written since their last album, or since the band was created, while a select few really make you feel like you’re traveling along some new and exciting path as you hear the songs one after another. Deerhunter hasn’t made anything like that until now. In terms of style, they’ve got an ambient-garage rock sound going on with “experimental” bits and lovely buzziness scattered throughout. The vocals are reserved, yet penetrating. At times, the music on this album feels like it flows in waves, like I’m on a cartoon sailboat in a storm (note: there is a song called Sailing on the album). But fuck, this description does not do this album justice. It’s god damn beautiful and haunting and gorgeous and epic and…amazing. Halcyon Digest is a new life, so enjoy. Oh, and it’s okay to cry.

    Tracks to sample: Desire Lines, Helicopter

    Here, we reach the end of list. I hope you enjoyed reading, and found at least a few good albums that you haven’t heard of before. There are some great albums that I’ve heard that are slated to be released in 2011. These include:
    BraidsNative Speaker
    Delicate SteveWondervisions (digital version has been out since 2009)
    The LuyasToo Beautiful to Work
    StarfuckerReptilians

    I am also really anticipating a few albums. These include:
    The DodosNo Color
    The KillsBlood Pressures
    Red Hot Chili Peppers – TBA
    and some others…that I cannot think of at the moment.
    Word count: 5,050 (including last.fm markup)
    Microsoft Word pages: 16

    Writted by Val Bess
  • My top 25 of 2009 (+honorable mentions and let-downs)

    31 déc. 2009, 6h56m

    First up, a handful of albums that didn't make the list (in no particular order)...
    Honorable Mentions

    The Mars Volta - Octahedron


    The Mars Volta has progressively made less coherent albums since releasing De-Loused in the Comatorium, their debut album. This culminated in the release of Bedlam In Goliath last year, where they kind of went batshit insane. I was expecting Octahedron to be:


    Instead, Octahedron was boring. BORING?! Yes, boring. It's as if Bedlam in Goliath was an orgasm (a not-that-great one) and Octahedron was the afterglow. Don't get me wrong, The Mars Volta is still crazy in their musicianship, with pounding drums, an amazing guitarist, and a unique vocalist. It's just that this is so tame compared to the rest of their work that I don't even want to listen to it. I'd say this is a good introduction to them, but only that. However, it is still worth listening to.

    Track(s) to sample: Desperate Graves


    Julian Plenti - Julian Plenti... Is Skyscraper


    Ah, Interpol is back! Wait, no this isn't Interpol, this is Paul Banks (the lead singer/guitarist of Interpol). Eh, whatever, sounds like Interpol.

    But seriously, this is a pretty good album that is also worth a listen. His voice is great and it's your run-of-the-mill semi-loud indie rock. Some of the tracks are really beautiful and this is the next-best-thing as we wait for a new Interpol record.

    Track(s) to sample: Skyscraper


    Brendan Benson - My Old, Familiar Friend


    So, Brendan Benson is that guitarist from The Raconteurs, you know Jack White's other band. Benson's releases are generally pretty boring (in a good way) with a few gems scattered throughout, and this is no exception. If you need a tame (not The Mars Volta tame, but calm), bluesy album with some nice-ass tracks mixed in, this is for you.

    Track(s) to sample:
    Feel Like Taking You Home

    Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix



    Hmmmmmm... Alright this is pretty catchy and generally a good album. But highly overrated. If you've heard this mentioned anywhere before, that's exactly what I'm saying, you SHOULDN'T HAVE. It's basic, "alternative," bass, guitar, synth, drums. Listen to this only to get what all the hype is about. Once again, there are some great catchy tunes here..

    Track(s) to sample: THE SUPER ACCLAIMED YET NOT THAT GOOD
    1901 (listen to Jim Guthrie's 1901, it's much better); Love Like a Sunset Part I


    Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest


    Another extremely overrated album. However, this is much better than Phoenix's album. This is your basic indie rock, but with very nice sounds coming from strings, and such things. The singing is also generally very good. This is something you SHOULD listen to.

    Track(s) to sample: Two Weeks


    Coconut Records - Davy


    Coconut Records! Remember that guy? He made that song West Coast! His first album, Nighttiming was very good and if he released something like it this year he'd probably get into the top 25. But sadly, he released this.

    Nonono, it's pretty good. It's very minimal and acoustic and still poppy and somewhat catchy. But it's extremely short, and half the album consists of "alternate versions" of the songs you just heard. This is an album worth listening to but not something you SHOULD listen to.

    Track(s) to sample: Drummer



    Blakroc - Blakroc



    Alright this is pretty cool and definitely worth a listen. This is a collaboration between The Black Keys, a blues rock band, and bunch of hip-hop artists. Among them, Ludacris, RZA, Raekwon, Mos Def, Jim Jones, Q-Tip, Nicole Wray, and a few others. It's basically a damn blues rock/hip-hop mashup album that sounds sick.

    Track(s) to sample (lol): Dollaz and Sense


    And now, before getting to the actual top 25...

    The biggest let-downs of 2009

    The Killers - Day & Age


    This album blows. The Killer's last two albums were great, the first (Hot Fuss) was poppy, super catchy, and just awesome to blast. The second was all message-filled and a great concept album with some great songs (although some throwaways as well). This one was all bad, not one song caught my attention. It got really synthy too, but not catchy-synthy. Just shitty-synthy.

    Track(s) to sample: None. Please don't.



    Volcano Choir - Unmap


    I had high expectations for this one. It's got Justin Vernon on it (the guy behind Bon Iver - MAD GOOD). Instead, I got a snoozefest. This is probably the most boring album on this entire list (including top 25, honorable mentions). Listen to this if you want to go to sleep, but only because you want to escape from it's horribleness.

    Track(s) to sample: Island, IS - this is the track that "promoted" the album. Listen to it and then tell me if you wanna hear the album. If yes, don't.



    AND NOW..................

    Top 2009 of 25... I mean Top 25 of 2009

    25. Omar-Rodriguez Lopez - Xenophanes


    This is the guitarist from The Mars Volta (which I mentioned above). He makes a shitload of albums apart from The Mars Volta and they're basically Volta-ish, just better. This album is what Octahedron should have been. It's coherent, it's a bit crazy, it's got amazing guitarwork on it, it's got a bunch of Spanish, and it's pretty sexy.

    Track(s) to sample: Oremos

    24. Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk



    Alright so this is an indie supergroup. Of a bunch of folk guys. They make some amazing acoustic rock and this is probably the best folk you'll hear all year. And for those of you that don't listen to modern folk, it's not what you think it is. This is just very good acoustic guitar stuff mixed with rock. Very pretty.

    Track(s) to Sample:
    Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)


    23. Japandroids - Post-Nothing


    Ohhh boy. This is like the modern version of My Bloody Valentine. Alright kindof, the drums are fucking crazy and you can actually hear the vocals. BUT... The entire album is just super distortion guitar in your fucking face. But not the rough kind. It's just a wall of sound that doesn't tackle you. You probably won't like it after the first listen, but listen again and you will.

    Let me underline, the entire album is a WALL OF DISTORTION GUITAR. it's awesome.

    Track(s) to sample: The Boys Are Leaving Town


    22. The Flaming Lips & Stardeath and White Dwarfs & Henry Rollins & Peaches - The Dark Side of The Moon



    This is a remake of Dark Side of the Moon (BY PINK FLOYD OF COURSE). This is a damn good cover album, let me just say. It's basically transforming DSotM into a modern indie rock version but keeping the psychedelic nature of it. Which is off the hook, I might add. The drums are extremely nice on this album and you'll hear a lot of great sounds coming from who knows what. The only downfall of this album is the remake of Money - it sucks.

    Track(s) to sample: Speak to Me / Breathe; On The Run; Brain Damage -> Eclipse (together). Really, any song will do (except Money of course).

    21. Stardeath and White Dwarfs - The Birth


    Intense album cover.

    Well, this is one of the bands that was on that DSoTM remake I just mentioned. This is their debut album and it's great stuff. Psychedelic, a bit experimental (but it works), and everything just comes together so nicely. Modern Pink Floyd right here, no wonder they made a cover of DSoTM.

    Track(s) to sample: I Can't Get Away

    20. Flashy Python - Skin and Bones


    This is Alec Ounsworth's solo album. He's the guy from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Now, honestly, I haven't listened to much of the band, but this is a solid album. His voice is so drony and whiny and bad that it's amazing. I doubt any of the songs on this album will get stuck in your head even though they're indie-poppy but you'll definitely come back to this multiple times.

    Track(s) to sample: Ichiban Blues; Avalon's Snake Breath

    19. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!


    The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are back with their third album. It's more polished and layered than their previous efforts but still not their best. Songs like Heads Will Roll will get stuck in your head for a year. This is a dance record as much as it is a rock record, but not the cringe-worthy dance either.

    Remember, dance and smile!

    Track(s) to sample: Zero; Heads Will Roll

    18. Modest Mouse - No One's First, And You're Next


    WOO! Oh yeah, Modest Mouse you're back! Kind of. After their last album, We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, I had lost all hope for Modest Mouse. It was pretty damn shitty, it felt like their record label took them by the balls and told them to make an album of "Float On"s. That they did, except I still like Float On more than I do any song on that record.

    Anyway, this is an EP of previously unreleased songs from the past few years. Quite a few songs are completely amazing (check tracks to sample below), like what Modest Mouse would have made if they didn't have a contract (I guess that's why these were unreleased before). Banjos, horns, synth, violin, clean/distorted guitar, sweet bass, great drums, you name it, it all comes together.... in some of the songs. Once again, a FEW of the songs are completely amazing, the rest of them bring this album all the way to #18 on this list.

    Highlights: The Whale Song solo...unlike anything I've ever heard before.

    Track(s) to sample: King Rat; The Whale Song

    17. Metric - Fantasies


    Once again, another artist on this list with a new album that isn't as good as the rest of its releases. This is extremely good though and I'll name this the SWEET album of this list. Emily Haines's (lead singer) voice is jaw-droppingly amazing; a beautiful soprano surrounded by altrock. There's less pretty and exotic instruments on this one, it's more guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard than anything. But the voice makes this great.

    Track(s) to sample: Help I'm Alive; Stadium Love

    16. Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another


    Finally something new on this list. I got tired of talking about basic indie rock that I couldn't really comment on.

    Let me just say, this is fucking sick. Super distorted guitar, super distorted (usually) bass, and pounding drums. A touch of keyboard here and there and a bit of acoustic guitar.

    Oh but you don't understand, this is noise rock at its finest. The singer is always yelling (not like a piece-of-shit screamo loser though), otherwise he says everything forcefully. There's not too much melody on this, just intensity. You will want to rip your left arm off and hit yourself over the head with it. In the good way.

    Please, listen to this.

    Track(s) to sample: Arming Eritrea; You Need Satan More Than He Needs You

    15. Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg


    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Wolfmother is fucking back! It's been a while since we've all headbanged (headbung?) to Woman. Now, Andrew Stockdale (the lead guitarist/singer) was such a big douche (apparently) that everyone in his band left, so this album features all new people, except him of course.
    But he was the genius anyway. Here you have modern classical rock. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The White Stripes, you'll hear all of them on this record (not literally). The guitar is shrediriffic (OH SHIT shred and riff in one word), the riffs are really great (most of them), and there's a few epic songs on this as well.

    If you're gonna get this album, make sure to get the deluxe version where there are like 3-5 extra tracks mixed in. One of them, Cosmonaut is excellent and can't be missed.

    Track(s) to sample: California Queen; Violence of the Sun

    14. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion


    This album has been hyped and overrated to the point of blah. This is so great but definitely not the BEST ALBUM OF 2009 OMGGGGGGGG.

    Regardless, this is perfect "experimental" music. It's accessible, catchy, easy-on-the-ears and composed very, very well. It's got lots of weird sounds on it that come together and make it amazing. If you want to be a hipster, listen to this album. If you don't want to be a hipster, listen to this album.

    Track(s) to sample: My Girls; Summertime Clothes

    13. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast


    Andrew Bird is beautiful. He's a violinist with a great voice and he whistles like a real fucking bird. I can't decide whether this is his best album so far, but this shows what a great composer he is. Nono, this isn't classical, this is more of the indie crap that I've been recommending.

    Beautiful violins, great guitar work, and everything else is interesting, groovy, and makes this an unforgettable release. Plus, Noble Beast (this album) comes with an instrumental album called Useless Creatures that shows more of Andrew Bird's great compositional skill.

    Track(s) to sample: Effigy; Not A Robot, But A Ghost

    12. Islands - Vapours


    Ah, Islands, such a great band. I've loved Islands ever since their first album, Return To Sea came out, which was kindof a continuation of The Unicorns with a lot more layers, violin, and Jim Guthrie (a god)! Then, they released Arm's Way which sounded like a poppier version of Arcade Fire (my favorite band), so I was even happier.

    Then, Nick Thorburn (lead singer of both The Unicorns and Islands) decided to kick everyone out of the band and get a bunch of new guys (including the drummer of The Unicorns) and record a completely new sounding album. This is a pop album. There's not too much rock on this, I must admit. There are no more violins, no more epic guitars, no more crazy drums, no more Jim Guthrie (although he wasn't on Arm's Way either). But it's the closest Nick Thorburn has ever gotten to The Unicorns sound that he helped create. There's even a song with auto-tune on this record (despite Nick's perfectly good voice).

    Highlights: The last few seconds of Tender Torture.

    Track(s) to sample: Vapours; Tender Torture

    11. Silversun Pickups - Swoon


    Silversun Pickups freakin' ROCK! Alright, I sound like a fan boy.

    Everyone says they sound exactly like The Smashing Pumpkins but they really don't. I mean, yeah the voice is almost identical. And the guitar tones are kinda the same. And the songs kinda sound... FINE. SILVERSUN PICKUPS = THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. But really, who cares? It's not like they plagiarized anything.

    This is a great group of both pretty and rocking songs. If you asked me what indie rock was, I'd give you Silversun Pickups. The bass lines are good, the synth and violins are good.

    BUT THE GUITAR IS AMAZING.

    but wait...there's more.......
    THE DRUMS ARE THE FUCKING BEST.

    Seriously, this drummer, Chris Guanlao, is a beast. If you're not interested in The Smashing Pumpkins' newest album (this), then listen to this only to hear the amazing Travis Barker-whooping drums.

    Track(s) to sample: Panic Switch; There's No Secrets This Year

    10. The Dodos - Time To Die


    Time to Die is The Dodos' next album after their super awesomely great album Visiter. But this is not as good, sadly. HOWEVER, all of The Dodos' albums are awesome and this is no exception. Imagine the best acoustic guitar player in the world (technically he plays a semi-hollow, semi-acoustic pretty sure), backed by a glockenspielist and sick African-style drums (as in pounding toms and snares and hardly any cymbals). That's The Dodos. This isn't as tribal and folksy as I make it out to be. Just give it a listen, you won't regret it.

    Track(s) to sample: Two Medicines; Fables

    9. Clues - Clues


    Lookee here, it's another post-Unicorns band (see: Islands ^ up there). This is Alden Penner's band (he was the OTHER guy in The Unicorns) and I must say this is a holy-shit-amazing debut. I said I'd give you Silversun Pickups if you asked me what indie rock was but if I felt like you already knew what indie rock was and needed indie-indie rock, I'd give you this. Alright, I'm pulling shit out of my ass because this is just your basic guitar, bass, drums, nice synth, and great piano and there's not much more to say about the actual instrumentation. It's not too heavy, a lot of the songs are epic on a smaller scale and there's not one song on here that's bad.

    Highlights: The Ledmonton NAAAAANANANANNANANAs.

    Track(s) to sample: Remember Severed Head; Ledmonton

    8. Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free


    I regret saying that Monsters of Folk was the best folk album this year. If you consider this folk, then THIS is the best folk album. This is folk with some balls. You will jump up and down and then dream of forests when/after you hear this. This has got all the weird folk instruments you can think of but still manages to throw in regular rock stuff and make it legit.

    Highlights: Everyone is Guilty - the entire middle part

    Track(s) to sample: Everyone Is Guilty, Set 'Em Free

    7. The Fiery Furnaces - I'm Going Away


    The Fiery Furnaces are probably the most unique band on this list because they can make the weirdest, experimental, craziest sounding sounds, put them all together and it sounds mind-blowing. They usually start a song in one key, one tempo, and change both the KEY and the tempo like 5 times before the song is over. And it's fucking cool.

    Now this album is a bit more accessible and less experimental than their other albums (try Blueberry Boat or Bitter Tea for craziness). It's still got the weird sounds and LOTS of piano (which is great). Listen to this album a few times, it's a super grower, and you might just fall in love with The Fiery Furnaces.

    Track(s) to sample:
    Drive to Dallas; Even in the Rain

    6. Bell Orchestre - As Seen Through Windows AND iTunes Live in Montreal


    Bell Orchestre features two members of Arcade Fire (Richard Reed Parry and Sarah Neufeld) and this is kindof like Arcade Fire and it's equally as good. This, however, is all instrumental. Hardly any guitar, if any, just a big double-bass, beautiful violins, french horns, trumpets, some xylophones, bells, music boxes, and, once again, sick drums. It really is an amazing album that shows the finest in non-classical orchestration.

    I would also recommend listening to their "Live in Montreal" album which has a bunch of songs from As Seen Through Windows as well as some songs from their other albums, but so much more epic because you can feel the extreme energy of the live performance (which I have seen myself).

    Track(s) to sample: Elephants; Air Lines/Land Lines

    5. Karen O and the Kids - Where The Wild Things Are


    Oh man. This record kind of makes me cry. There's not much to say except you should watch Where the Wild Things (the movie) before listening to this album to get the full experience. If you're a super movie buff, you'll probably think the movie sucks and then hate this but fuck you then. Acoustic guitars, Karen O's stringy voice (she's the singer from Yeah Yeah Yeahs), piano, pretty minimal but extremely beautiful and sort-of nostalgic. Even the album cover makes me tear up.

    Track(s) to sample: All Is Love; Food is Still Hot

    4. Balmorhea - All Is Wild, All Is Silent


    Here it is, the most beautiful album on this list. This is simply beautiful, no other way to put it. Acoustic guitars, pianos, violins, just all natural instruments interweaving into sound waves that will pluck your damn emotions. Go to sleep or just watch the falling snow while listening to this (hopefully it snows when you listen to this), you'll be in heaven. HEAVENNNNNN.

    Oh and I forgot to mention, sometimes the beauty that you think is just all smooth, and soft and caressing your eardrums, some fucking drums just come in and now you're listening to an epic journey of a song. So yeah, listen please.

    Track(s) to sample: Harm and Boon; Remembrance

    3. Dan Deacon - Bromst


    OH GOD. This is the best electronic album I've ever heard. This is all synth right here and it will blow your fucking mind and you'll have to sweep up your brains with your own spinal cord. No, seriously. ARGH, how did Dan Deacon do this? This is the most epic electronic music ever, I WANT to have seizures when I listen to this. When you finish this album (or perhaps a certain song on the album), you will take off your headphones silently and slap yourself and realize you are still in reality.

    Highlights: all of Snookered and the epic second half of Red F... hence:

    Track(s) to sample: Red F; Snookered

    2. John Frusciante - The Empyrean


    John Frusciante is a god (he even refers to himself in one of the song titles on this album - God). He's the guitarist from Red Hot Chili Peppers by the way, if you didn't know (well, WAS the guitarist, he just quit and was replaced by Josh Klinghoffer, who helped John a lot on this album.)

    Epic cannot describe this album (it's beyond that). From the beginning, well the first track is Before the Beginning incidentally, you hear what John Frusciante is great at - emotional fucking solos that's what, and you get 9 straight minutes of that. Then a beautiful, heart-wrenching vocal solo basically (with great ambient sounds in the back). Then epicness for a few songs, then the best song ever made, then more epicness. All while he's telling a crazy, philosophical journey/dialogue, oh my god I don't even know. If you've never heard John Frusciante before (his solo albums), don't listen to this first, because you need to prepare yourself. Listen to Shadows Collide With People and perhaps a little bit of A Sphere In The Heart Of Silence. Then, you can gladly turn this album on, dim the lights, turn it on full volume and sink yourself into this journey.

    By the way, Flea (from RHCP) also plays on this album.

    Track(s) to sample: Unreachable; Song To The Siren; I would recommend Central but seeing as how it's an incredible masterpiece in modern music, you should probably hold off on it until you listen to the album as a whole.

    1. The Dead Weather - Horehound


    What??? Who can possibly beat John Frusciante for the top spot? The Dead Weather??? WHAT???

    YES! THE DEAD FUCKING WEATHER! Let me just begin by saying, YES Jack White (from The White Stripes) is in this band, and yes he writes a couple of songs, and YES he plays DRUMS on this (except for guitar in one song), but he is NOT the reason this band is so great. Alison Mosshart (from The Kills) is the lead singer (see: album cover) and she's incredible. Jack Lawrence (from The Raconteurs) is on bass, he's incredible. Dean Fertita (from Queens of the Stone Age) is holy-shit good. Together, they form probably the best supergroup I have ever heard.

    Their debut is ferocious, blues/garage straight-up ROCKKKKKKKKKKKKKK. This is what you headbang to, this is what you mosh to. Wolfmother is good but cmon. Listen to these monstrous songs. I just can't get over this album. It even beat out my favorite artist (see: number 2) for the number one spot.

    If you don't listen to anything on this list, you must punch yourself and listen to this damn album, you won't regret it. I won't even write anymore, just go and get this album whichever way you can and listen to it.

    Highlights: The part right after M-A-N-I-P-U-LATE and AM I TOO......LATE, and the guitar goes insane. *jizz*

    Track(s) to sample: 60 Feet Tall; Treat Me Like Your Mother


    2009 was an amazing year for music, 2010 should be great too with another The Dead Weather album coming out, a new Arcade Fire album, and a new Vampire Weekend (those are my top anticipated).

    See you in 2010!