There’s something special not only about making music, but coming up with a selection of songs to go together and packaging them up as a distinct entity in and of itself. Taking a look back at the year in music is always an interesting thing to do. Sometimes there are albums I believed were brilliant after initially giving them my undivided attention, but if I never wanted to listen to them again, well, how much does that really matter? So, when it came to compiling my best albums list for 2015, I decided to aim not just at brilliance, but albums that continued to be loved all year long. These are those holy grails that soundtracked 2015, and will continue to do so for years to come.
1. Lanterns on the Lake: Beings – (on iTunes). This fierce four-piece group from Newcastle-upon-tyne, UK, served up the most devastastingly sad and beautiful album of the year. It’s exquisitely heart breaking from beginning to end. Darkly and poetically doomed, these songs for the lost and losing obstinate are my album of the year.
2. Bomba Estéreo: Amanecer – (on iTunes). Bomba Estéreo is a Colombian band that hit the nail on the head this year so hard that I still marvel at some of their transitions every time I listen. Amanecer transcends geographic and musical boundaries too with elements of pure pop along the way. Infectious booty shaking hooks and grooves galore.
3. Conchita Wurst: Conchita – (on iTunes). After winning the Eurovision song contest last year for Austria with “Rise Like a Phoenix”, the gender bender chanteuse’s first album was much anticipated. Premium pop music is hard to deliver and I can honestly say Conchita delivered the pop album of the year. These diva-riffic and at times cliche’d desserts were served with the emotional conviction and fervor to sell them all.
4. SOAK: Before We Forgot How To Dream – (on iTunes). SOAK, aka 19-year-old Bridie Monds-Watson, is wise beyond her years. Whenever she really sings with her very Irish and at times child like voice, it’s like you can’t help but stop what you’re doing, pay attention and feel. Her debut album sounds like a home recorded mix tape that somehow went lush and grand and the end result is intimate and mesmerizing.
5. Benjamin Clementine: At Least For Now – (on iTunes). The Mercury Prize winning British-French poet, pianist, composer and musician, dubbed as the future sound of London, is inventing his own dramatic and innovative musical territory. He’s a captivating original.
6. Handful of Snowdrops: III – (on Bandcamp). A favorite band of the early 1990’s returned 20 years later with their third album simply entitled III. Jean-Pierre and Michel Mercier delivered their finest French Canadian darkwave synthpop melodrama to date too. Smart, complex and enchanting. It’s their masterpiece.
7. Wolf Alice: My Love Is Cool – (on iTunes). Wolf Alice are Ellie Rowsell, Theo Ellis, Joff Oddie and Joel Amey. To put it plain and simple, these London rockers debut album rocks. It’s ambitious and commanding, hits hard in all the right spots when and where you want it to. Softens up when you need it to. Crank it up and enjoy.
8. Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell – (on iTunes). American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens returned to the shimmering folk we fell in love with on his latest release. It’s his best album to date too. Carrie is his bipolar, drug addicted and schizophrenic mother who abandoned him. She died of cancer in 2012. Lowell Brams is the stepfather who was married to Carrie for five years when Sufjan was a child – and who currently runs Stevens’ music label.
9. Damian Lazarus & the Ancient Moons: Message From the Other Side – (on iTunes). DJ Damian Lazarus brought an international gang of musical visionaries to the Yucatan peninsula to record this eclectic and very international house music masterpiece. Qawwali singers, African drummers and assorted collaborators all lend their part in creating the ultimate psychedelic desert sunrise soundtrack. Originally from London, he lives in Los Angeles.
10. Father John Misty: I Love You, Hunnybear – (on iTunes). American singer, songwriter, guitarist and drummer Father John Misty, aka Josh Tillman, delivers a cynical and at times hilarious album that turns what sounds like classic song standards into anything but. It’s satirical, seemingly heart felt, rather fucked up and often beautiful.
11. Grimes: Art Angels – (on iTunes). Canadian Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, took a big step up with her 4th album to produce a record that is on point from start to finish. Her mastery is really in the overall production here too. There’s a world of work poured into these tracks that may borrow from everything, only to be molded into something new. Repeated listens reveal more and more buried treasure.
12. Petite Noir: La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful – (on iTunes). South African singer-songwriter Yannick Ilunga, aka Petite Noir, reminds us that La Vie Est Belle / Life Is Beautiful. Half-Congolese, half-Angolan, he spins up a brand of his own that he calls “noirwave”. I think it sounds like he grew up in Africa listening to a lot of 1980’s gothic new wave. There’s definitely moments that sound like Tears For Fears with much more complex rhythms.
13. Chorusgirl: Chorusgirl – (on iTunes). Watch: My Silver Lining on YouTube. London based Chorusgirl makes noisepop, blending the sounds of Lush, the Cure and The Breeders into a swirling & shimmering mix of loss and anger layered beneath happy fizz.
14. Julie Thompson: Eye of the Storm – (on iTunes). Julie’s delivered her soul-soaring vocals on a wide range of electronic hits from producers ranging from Tiesto to Super8 & Tab. Her solo album serves 11 tracks she started writing after hitting rock bottom in her personal life. It’s an album of transition on many levels that starts with trance trademark anthems before venturing into downtempo, dubstep, breakbeat & electro.
15. Blond:ish: Welcome to the Present – (on iTunes). The Blond:ish ladies depart from the dance floor to masterfully craft a fully intoxicating and experimental soundscape of electronic moods, field recordings and traditional instruments. Played loud you can get lost in the loops and rhythms while hooping or dancing. Played soft it’s a most interesting and oddly comforting ambient psychedelic spiritual soundtrack that perfectly concludes with “It Starts Now”.
I never would’ve imagined I’d ever have the opportunity to see and hear Rome live, at least here in Los Angeles, so the fact that Jerome Reuter made his way from Luxembourg to a tiny club in Glendale tonight, and that Roman and I were there to witness it, well, it felt pretty miraculous. I have been such a huge fan for years.
Delighted to have spent all night dancing at an underground warehouse party to the wondrous sounds of Dubtribe Sound System again. It was just what my soul needed and brought back a lot of good memories too. Great seeing my friend Sunshine Jones and Moonbeam together again too. It warms the heart even if it was just for this. Thank you!
Several years ago Japanese spammers stole my domain right out from under me, but I’m finally back having won the war and to celebrate I thought I’d kick things off with a post that was always a popular one back in the day – my best albums list of the year. They’re listed in alphabetical order and presented with links to watch or listen and get yours.
1. Basement Jaxx: Junto – It’s the Basement Jaxx record I’ve been waiting for with all the Basement Jaxx trademarks, without such a need to push the envelope so hard. What’s left is put a smile on your face, feel good, booty shakin, let’s dance music. And there’s First Nations powwow singers, power divas, ufos, funky basslines, garage, house, hip-hop, disco, flamenco – even some jungle-seasoned trap (on iTunes). Watch: Never Say Never on YouTube.
2. Bear In Heaven: Time Is Over One Day Old – I’m a big fan of these guys and their fourth album took their dance rock sound and made it even more sonic, atmospheric, experimental, something to really get lost in. It’s a catchy, well-produced record with beautiful rock soundscapes, glossy synths, soaring vocals. I played this a lot over the year and it still continues to grow on me with every listen (on iTunes). Watch: Time Between on YouTube.
3. Broken Bells: After The Disco – Danger Mouse and James Mercer’s sophomore release together is sleek, world-weary, full of modern spins on 1970’s flavors, and it even has chorale moments and a few Bee Gees harmonies. It came out early in 2014 and I kept reaching for it again and again all year long, making it my first and most obvious choice when I started making this list (on iTunes). Watch: After The Disco on YouTube.
4. First Aid Kit: Stay Gold – These Swedish folk rock sisters have been making music for years and if you haven’t heard of them, you will. They’re going to be huge. Their third album “Stay Gold” is golden indeed from start to finish. Luscious harmonies, thoughtful lyrics, unbridled emotions, big sing along choruses. There’s something very Simon & Garfunkel or Crosby Stills Nash & Young about it all, but it’s so much more than that too (on iTunes). Watch: My Silver Lining on YouTube.
5. Frànçois & the Atlas Mountains: Piano Ombre – Pianos, slow moving rattles, violins, Francois’s breathless voice, they can grip tightly and instill a deep, unshakeable obsession with the sweetness contained within. Uninhibited, straight forward, charming, even the synthesizers sound organically-derived somehow. The end result is so well-conceived throughout, making Piano Ombre a profoundly touching and beautiful album in any language (on iTunes). Watch: La Fille Aux Cheveux de Soie on YouTube.
6. Mr Twin Sister: Mr Twin Sister – Andrea Estella is surrounded by the crisp, luminescent glow of neon, streelamps, fluorescents, and anything but natural sunlight. For 37 minutes, Mr Twin Sister pay tribute to the way night allows people to discover who they are and who they want to be. A first listen might lead you to believe this is much simpler than it really is. Don’t be fooled. There’s a whole lot going on here and there’s an expert hand guiding it all along the way (on iTunes). Watch: Out of the Dark on YouTube.
7. Owen Pallett: In Conflict – In Conflict is a mournfully restrained and excruciatingly personal record that really digs deep into his own internal landscape, making the most inconsequential life events somehow turn into magic along the way. He thrives on processes and structures, angles. His tales of sexual need, spiritual exhaustion, mortality and more were fined tuned by Brian Eno and the end result is heady, weighty, meaty and a delight. (on iTunes). Watch: In Conflict on YouTube.
8. The Preatures: Blue Planet Eyes – On “Business, Yeah” singer Isabella Manfredi says, “Maybe it was 1987, maybe it was 1979” And listening to Blue Planet Eyes you’re apt to do a lot of that, trying to place the time and place for what you’re hearing. The Preatures evoke a sense of nostalgia without getting lost in it. Is that Prince? Divinyls? Altered Images? Katrina and the Waves, only better? Whatever it is, there’s no band out there that sounds exactly like the Preatures and this Australian ten-song blast is a joy from start to finish (on iTunes). Watch: Is This How You Feel on YouTube.
9. Principe Valiente: Choirs of Blessed Youth – With shades of 80’s goth rock, these tales of heartbreak and unfettered resolve from Sweden’s Post-Punk and Dreampop masters are phenomenal. While there are distinct nods to the likes of Joy Division, early sounds by The Cure and The Chameleons, Choirs of Blessed Youth is imbued with renewed energy, taking us on a epic journey of emotional highs and lows in one fantastic album, one of the best I’ve heard of it’s genre in a very long time (on iTunes). Listen: The Fighting on YouTube.
10. Ralf Gum: In My City – This went straight to number one in South Africa on the day of it’s release for a reason. His latest collection of soulful house deliciousness brings in the likes of Hugh Masekela, Omar, Dele Sosimi, Monique Bingham and many more, serving up tastes of disco, funk, samba, afrobeat. It’s easily the best house music album of the year with some of the finest tracks this planet has to offer (on iTunes). Watch: The Pap on YouTube.
11. Rome: A Passage to Rhodesia – Yes, I’m in love with Jerome Reuter. That aside, the neo-folk Luxembourg artist has always approached accounts of 20th Century conflict as a historian and a storyteller. It’s actually not surprising to see him create an album about the Rhodesian Bush War knowing that eralier release “Flowers to Exile” was a tribute to the Spanish Civil War, and “Nos Chants Perdus” was a tribute to the French Resistance. He loves exploring tragedy, the human cost of war and greed, and does so here with even more intricately constructed combinations of acoustic folk, martial percussion, orchestrations and digital textures. Nobody else could have done this and it’s another triumph of his uniquely musical genius. Listen:The Ballad of the Red Flame Lily on YouTube.
12. SOHN: Tremors – The first full-length album from hoodie-loving singer-songwriter-producer Sohn, a.k.a. Toph Taylor, is rather timeless, while still being as current as it gets. With shades of post-dubstep production that are probably better than James Blake, Sohn takes us deeper into his spirit, his broken heart and his thoughtful mind. At times brooding and mournful, each song inevitably ends up sounding so smart that we’re all better for it (on iTunes). Watch: Lessons on YouTube.
13. Young Magic: Breathing Statues – Isaac Emmanuel and Melati Malay recorded these songs while on tour in Morocco, France, and Australia, which may explain how distant and exotic it all sounds. Dirty synth bass lines with sitars, Asian-tinged chromatic percussion, a rhythm section that leans toward dubstep. The lyrics are dreamy, dense and intricate, ultimately mysterious. It’s subversive, alluring, drawing in listeners who appreciate complexity and music that can mesmerize (on iTunes).Watch: Holographic on YouTube.
I present the 21 best albums of 2010, simply because I like to think that my opinion on such matters is important to you. Of course what makes music “best” is really just a matter of personal taste and my taste runs all over the place. The point is, something here is bound to speak to you, maybe something unexpected, and I’m listing them in alphabetical order for the sake of keeping it simple on my part.
1. Bassnectar: Wildstyle
While some weren’t in love with Bassnectar’s new seven track “Wildstyle” release cause it didn’t deliver his more tried and true formula, given that Mr. Lorin has been ahead of the game from the beginning, I found it refreshing that he was putting new spins on things and taking listeners places that weren’t as expected. And whether it’s spaced out or whomped out, when it comes to Wildstyle it’s great hoop dance music. There’s just something about his delivery of bass that goes directly to the spine. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
2. Bear In Heaven: Beast Rest Forth Mouth
These guys end up on the year end list not only because this is a great record, but because their appearance at the Troubadour was my favorite live show of 2010. There were so many moments that gave me chills listening to them live that Beast Rest Forth Mouth was possibly taken to a whole other level. While defying simple categorization, one of the things I love about these guys is that you don’t have to go bombastic to still deliver something huge and important. It’s like music in IMAX and it’s chock full of sounds you want to feel, plus the iTunes release includes so many remixes taking things in different directions that are also incredibly delicious. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
3. Beats Antique: Blind Threshold
I have to admit that while I’m a huge fan of these guys, Blind Threshold didn’t grab me right from the start like some of their other works. Instead it was a record that slowly seduced me over time until ultimately I was just as in love with it as the rest of their catalog. You should probably know that Beats Antique started as a soundtrack project for band member Zoe Jakes’ unique style of belly dancing. So expect some Middle Eastern flavor fused with other sound stylings that are sure to get your hips moving. It’s the perfect soundtrack for getting that Burning Man “life on the playa” feeling, even when you’re back at home in the safety of your dust-storm free bedroom. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
4. Bilal: Airtight’s Revenge
People toss around the term “neo-soul” too much, especially when a lot of what is supposedly new soul sounds pretty much like the old, not that that’s a bad thing. And then there’s Bilal’s “Airtight’s Revenge” which borrows as much from psychedelic rock and the glitch underground as Otis Redding, delivering something truly fresh and funky. Ultimately this record is all about texture and honesty and those who have called it “confusing” or “too complex” or “too deep” need to quite frankly shut the fuck up and stop trying to make such talent fit into some marketing team’s small-minded square hole. Airtight’s Revenge is art that can hit you in the heart that you appreciate more with every listen. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
5. Efterklang: Magic Chairs
Would you ever marry a band and move to another country? If it were Efterklang I’d seriously consider it. I’ve been in love with these guys from the beginning and after a few albums I can’t help but wonder if they can do any wrong – and how is it that they can blow me away and then continue to just keep getting better? Perhaps the sounds and textures speak to my Scandinavian genetic code or something, although the few I’ve turned on to these guys without ancestors from the northern lands have wound up singing their praises too. Efterklang is from Denmark just in case you were wondering and Magic Chairs, their first album for the 4AD label, finds the band clearer and more focused than ever, more accessible, all the while maintaining that sound and vision that makes my soul sing. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
6. Gayngs: Relayted
I think I’ve listend to “Relayted” more than any other record this year. Perhaps it is because I’m a night owl and it’s such a great soundtrack for the later night life hours, cause it’s really all about atmosphere. Once I learned that they were inspired by 70’s pop rock icons 10cc, it all made sense – right down to their cover of 10cc’s “Cry” – which they do reasonably well, but probably should have left alone. Admittedly the second half of the record isn’t nearly as strong as the first, but the first is so good and there’s no way Relayted wasn’t making the list when “The Gaudy Side of Town” is without question my favorite song of 2010. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
7. The Glimmers: Whomp That Sucker!
This isn’t dubstep boys and girls. At no point will the bass rise up to kick your ass, but trust me, your ass will be movin’ and a groovin’. Why? Cause this is disco baby. Simple, pure, straight-up disco for a new generation electronic style. And let’s face the facts, shall we? Disco never sucked. Several years of straight top ten singles that had everyone on the entire planet dancing and every artist in the world from The Beach Boys to Frank Sinatra to Kiss trying to get a slice of it – no boys and girls, disco never sucked. Given that I’m often distracted by shiny objects it’s no surprise The Glimmers caught my attention, especially now that they signed to Gomma Records. I love that the lyrics are mindless and sung with the same kind of detached elegance you’d have expected twenty years ago. Perhaps they are samples? I’m not sure, but one thing is clear – it’s time to dance. More cowbell! (Listen/Download on iTunes).
8. The Legendary Pink Dots: Seconds Late For the Brighton Line
Having seen these guys many times over the years, it was a treat to catch them live at the Echo recently, on their 30th Anniversary tour no less. With more than 40 albums to their credit it’s a wonder more people haven’t heard of them. After all, their apocalyptic psychedelic experimental goth rock has been, at times at least, somewhat inviting. I often find great humor in their doom and gloom. So why aren’t they more famous? It seems to me that every time the public starts catching on, the Dots’ release a new record that is rather inaccessible, so much so that many haven’t stayed on the train for more than a stop or two. But with “Seconds Late For the Brighton Line” you’re in luck! It’s rather upbeat, for them I mean, so get on board. I doubt there’ll be a warmer invitation to enjoy the most beautiful, ironic and tragic soundtracks for the end of days. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
9. Lisa Gerrard & Marcello De Francisci: Departum
Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance fame teamed up with Marcello De Francisci on the soundtrack for the film “Tears of Gaza.” The two hit it off and felt so good working together they decided to do another project on their own terms. The result is “Departum” and it’s probably the best work Lisa has done since Dead Can Dance dissolved. Soundscapes, echoing chasms, haunting vocals, eastern tribal influences, it’s all the stuff that made Dead Can Dance work with a bit of a different flavor. Quietly spiritual, yet not new agey, the record nonetheless feels like a healing. Lisa’s voice is as amazing as ever. I think this record proves she does better when she’s collaborating with someone. Now if only Brendan Perry would figure that out. His new album “Ark” truly needed another set of eyes and ears. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
10. Loscil: Endless Falls
Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest I find something very comforting about the sound of rain. Loscil (Scott Morgan from Vancouver, British Columbia) was inspired by the ever ongoing downpour up there on “Endless Falls” and he includes field recordings of rainfall from his home to bookend the album, as well as weave into other tracks. It all works beautifully with the cover art – photographed by his four year old daughter Sadie from the backseat of the family car. Loscil delivers ambient soundscapes for quiet nights, rainy or otherwise, that are at times hypnotic, melancholic, reflective and thoughtful. Looped drones, subliminal melodies, modulated bass notes, all of it quietly gorgeous. The final track “The Making of Grief Point” features a long, intimate spoken word piece by Daniel Bejar that is brilliant and a little disturbing and the quiet thoughts and pulsing tones play off one another beautifully for the finale. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
11. Marconi Union: A Lost Connection
Having loved everything that Marconi Union has released previously, I listened to “A Lost Connection” for the first time with great anticipation and wasn’t disappointed. It’s their strongest set to date. The duo from Manchester, England, deliver minimal, introspective electronica that exists somewhere between post-rock and ambient music. Whatever it is, it’s deeply chilled and beautiful and the seven compositions here migrate between gentle twilight harmony and late night cold. Everything they do is about airtight production with haunting beauty, working the loveliest night light into every track. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
12. Matthew Dear: Black City
Matthew Dear’s Black City is brilliantly produced and executed, but then Dear is the force behind Ghostly International, one of my favorite record labels. Black City conceptualizes a futuristic metropolis that never sleeps. Dear says, “Well, there’s a kind of timelessness to it in the sense that I don’t want things to run on a 24-hour clock. It seems like a city that’s always awake, maybe always dialled in electronically, and cannot be turned off. It’s this imaginary weird never-sleeping town. But yeah it’s full of lust, and love, and dark shadows. Weird things around the corner.” It sounds like that and “Little People (Black City” is one of my favorite dance tracks this year. These grooves are a dirty good time and the closing track “Gem” might just be the crown jewel in Black City’s crown. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
13. Midlake: The Courage of Others
Uhm, why isn’t Midlake selling out stadiums? I for one can totally see the masses smoking a doobie in the open air amphitheater, singing along with every freakin word, or maybe that’s just because they bring that old America 70’s rock sound back so beautifully that you can’t help but see it all come back with it. The musicianship, the harmonies, you just want to crank it up that early morning AM car radio and drive that Ventura Highway. Their new album expands on their rather somber, subtlely-layered, folk-infused Fleetwood Mac-y album rock sound. The lyrics, filled with vivid medieval imagery, are as cerebral as ever. The songs get better with repeated listens. The production is exquisitely warm with layers of acoustic guitar, vocal harmony, violin, and woodwind all coming through clear. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
14. Mimosa: Psychedelic Stereo
I know, it’s only a four song EP – but it’s all Mimosa released this year and every track puts such a big smile on my face that we’re going to ignore that fact, cause after all – this is west coast sound. He goes deeper into varied tempos and leads the way with strong synth sounds and melodies before clunking you upside the head. It’s a psychedelic stereo space age urban bittersweet journey of ecstasy and the only thing wrong is that it’s not long enough. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
15. The National: High Violet
There’s something incredible about Matt Berninger’s lyrics and the baritone he gives us that sells the lines in such a way that you can’t help but buy every word. While The National had more fireworks on their earlier releases, as they mellow out somewhat here, as it were, they’re even more phenomenal. There are so many strengths in the subtleties, which is testament to the control in their chaos that even the cover displays so well. It’s a gorgeously arranged and performed set of songs of strength and grace with a finger resting on some uncomfortably relevant truths about life and ourselves. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
16. Pretty Lights: Glowing in the Darkest Night
Pretty Lights released a total three EPs this year for whatever you want to donate on their website and all of them are most excellent, but for me personally “Glowing in the Darkest Night” stands up just a little higher than the others, but had it not been shared with the world, well, either of the other two would have easily taken it’s place. Derek Vincent Smith is a master DJ producer weaving different styles and often contradictory ideas into his “electro hip-hop soul” songs can defy even that description. I mean wait a minute, now he’s got me wanting to rock out. I’m often amazed by the beats and texture and tapestries of this true artist. (It’s on their website).
17. Rome: Nos Chants Perdus
Rome, the performing name of Jerome Reuter from the tiny country of Luxembourg, has been doing this military-esque goth folk music since 2005 and quite frankly I’ve loved it all. On Nos Chants Perdus, however, he opened the doors further, dropping some of the overall weight, and the result was even more intimate. It made sense with his progression as an artist in recent years giving up his solo-ness and joining forces with Patrick Damiani in 2008. And in 2009 violin player Nikos Mavridis officially joined what had then become a band – and the trio began leaning more towards the traditions of (French) Chanson and (American) Folk. In fact they referred to their unique sound as “Chanson Noir”. Whatever it is, I love his music and especially this record. Jerome’s vision guides the glockenspiel, the distant sound of weeping strings, the warmth of his voice casting spells. And then came the announcement that he was done. I mean check it out. He closed his YouTube and removed all his videos too. I’m not sure what happened, but there has always been fragility in his strength. I sincerely hope we hear more from him in the future. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
18. Samantha James: Subconscious
I must admit I was a little surprised when this album became the official soundtrack of my relocation to Los Angeles this year. It makes sense in retrospect, given that it’s chock full of light. Feeling the sun on your skin, the warm breeze off the Pacific tossling your hair, playing at the park with new friends with giant smiles – life is good, life is hopeful, life is delicious and dreamy so let’s savor the miracle of it. When Samantha sings “Free the burdens from your soul, watching the world fall at your feet as you let go” she not only means it, she wants you to. I know I’ve softened living in Los Angeles and my heart is bigger and brighter – and Samantha James gets a piece of the credit. Have you ever cried from joy? It’s something that comes from the Subconscious, but first you have to be open to it. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
19. School of Seven Bells: Disconnect From Desire
Disconnect From Desire is a windstorm, a tornado that’ll pick your house up and drop it on a witch that nobody wanted around anyway. Twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza spin up harmonies that call on ancient musical forms, while the guitar pop and driving beats take us somewhere weren’t not entirely used to electronically that twirls everything into a bleary wide-eyed dream state. Can something so dense really be this bright? The answer is yet, and mysterious. “Dust Devil” is one of my favorite songs of the year and while the band’s debut last year was incredible, the band seemed at times confused about where they wanted to go exactly. Their sophomore release on Ghostly International, however, has that figured out and the result is spellbinding. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
20. Scuba: Triangulation
We descend below the surface. Are you ready to dive? Paul “Scuba” Rose’s shapeshifting electronic tracks are in a class of their own, triangulating dark house, dubstep and drum n bass. Triangulation convulses with jittery breakbeats, while its downtempo moments remain abundant with subterranean atmospheric nuances. Remember, we’ve gone below and even when we tunnel into techno, all of Scuba’s micro samples rarely allow for a clear stretch of beats – and then the bass rolls in to steal the spotlight. Scuba’s step into the caverns has elements of the past, but it’s clearly a step forward. (Listen/Download on iTunes).
21. Underworld: Barking
Who expected Underworld to deliver an album with several straight-up feel-good dance tracks? I certainly didn’t, but with the departure of Darren Emerson from Underworld, UK duo Karl Hyde and Rick Smith decided to collaborate with seven different electronic music producers from different genres and the result is “Barking”. And so long Emerson, we won’t be missing you. All the different influences somehow come together as even more distinctly Underworld with greater cohesiveness, and greater appeal. When Hyde sings “Heaven” I start to believe they’ve found it and I’m climbing on board to join them. Oddly enough Paul Van Dyk’s contribution “Moon in Water” is easily the weakest because we don’t get to hear Hyde sing, but it does set the tone for a Louisiana lullaby ending. (Barking – Underworld)