jóhann jóhannsson – she loves to ride the port ferry when it rains
cuushe – do you know the way to sleep (slow magic remix)
chvrches – the mother we share
sylvain chauveau – des plumes dans la tête
sky ferreira – everything is embarrassing
lusine – another tomorrow
mirroring – mirror of our sleeping
nyolfen – req_l (edit)
young galaxy – pretty boy (peaking lights remix)
autre ne veut – play by play
pye corner audio – nostalgia pills
daphni – long
tim hecker & daniel lopatin – intrusions
andy stott – luxury problems
christian gleinser – coming around again
summer heart – hit me up again
teen daze – garden 2
deep arcing across the sky deeply moving vapor trails here. definitely seek this one out.
1. M83 – “Midnight City”
Ever since I heard “Run Into Flowers” eight years ago, I’ve been fully subcribed to M83′s stargazing, towering synth landscapes. And they are landscapes – fast moving hills and cities and clouds glimpsed from the passenger side of a car moving to an unknown destination, awaiting wordless promises and terrors. “Midnight City” is an appropriate title, then. It’s a song that feels like a progression of everything that’s gone before – “Run Into Flowers,” “Don’t Save Us From the Flames,” “Kim and Jessie”, and now “Midnight City” are all part of a building narrative that’s as cohesive and inspiring as anything in music right now. The sax solo at the end is the perfect culmination of that narrative, and I believe it stands as one of the best solos of the past decade. We’re at the point now where it feels wrong to say that it’s “80′s-inspired” or “retro”, because something else is going on in the way we’re using the past to create the future. Like this song suggests, something is building as we wait and listen. It feels obscene to even put it into words.
2. Julia Holter – “Tragedy Finale”
Julia Holter’s Tragedy struck me like a bolt from heaven – I lived and breathed inside of it like few other records I heard this year. A friend said last night that it reminded him of Expressionist German cinema from the 20′s and 30′s, and I can see how that makes sense – there’s a sort of poetic severity to much of it, an off-kilter use of jarring silences and angular, jutting edges, and a sense of pointing to modernity rather than postmodernity in its conceit and ambitions. I’ll still need many listens before I can say more, but let’s not forget the most important aspect of this work – its emotional arc. This final act from the record is a parting, aching sigh from Goddess Phaedra in her last moments, as she commits suicide out of guilt and heartbreak:
And prop my head straighter?
What I most want–what I have spoken aloud–is eating me alive.”
One of the most devastating things I’ve heard this year and any year.
3. Colin Stetson – “The Stars In His Head (Dark Lights Remix)”
This selection should just be read as “the whole Judges record” because there’s no way I could rightfully choose one song to represent it. This just happens to be the one that best showcases the blinding virtuosity on display. Keep in mind while you listen, this is essentially a live solo record – one man and his bass saxophone, no loopers, no overdubs. His technique is such a pleasure and a SHOCK to hear – there are sometimes 3 or 4 different harmonies and percussive taps pulsating through this lungs and voice and fingers, turning the instrument into a dazzling polyphonic whirlwind. He shouts through the instrument while playing, and his voice seems to come through in an otherwordly caterwaul on top of everything else. It all bounces off the walls in the studio, captured by several well-placed microphones, and listening with headphones we can hear different parts panning and swirling in the mix. Judges is a vision of hell and transcendence, and taken as a whole it’s the most singular and powerful work of the year. I’ve heard it said that Stetson’s unusual technique is doing a serious number on his body and stamina – who knows how much longer he’ll be able to keep up such exertion. Enjoy it now while you can. I plan to do whatever it takes to see him live.
4. Tim Hecker – “In The Fog”
The three parts of “In The Fog” stand as the glorious, moving centerpiece of Ravedeath 1972. Tim Hecker places us at the center of a massive glacial block of sound, built from chiming church organs, fed through leslie speakers and analog delay and distortion and acres of reverb, moving slowly and surely as the bass notes go directly to the heart. It builds with a grandiosity that Hecker’s always been reaching for and finally hits perfectly here. It grows and becomes frightening, uncomfortably cosmic, moving outside of sense and time. But there’s always a sense of pulse and movement underlying everything.
5. Dirty Beaches – “Lord Knows Best”
First, there’s that Francoise Hardy piano loop, possibly the single best sample of the year. Then there’s the thick atmosphere of Lynch, the wide open spaces of Badlands, the dark reimagining of Americana and the sound of road movie nightmares. Love-murder ballads dreaming of the underbelly of the 50′s.
6. Liturgy – “High Gold”
Whatever your opinion of Hunter Hunt-Hendrix’s asshole status – I happen to agree with his theories of where black metal should be headed, but still think he needs to give it a rest and let the music speak for itself – Liturgy’s Aesthetica is an undeniable force. The variation on blast beat that he calls “burst beat” is vital and insane and always, well, bursting forth with new surprises and unusual time changes; splintering the song into tiny little shards of glass over and over again. LIturgy stands with Krallice and a few others who are doing really inspiring things with the black metal form and creating music that sounds like a visceral ego obliteration straight out of Holy Mountain.
7. Grouper – “Alien Observer”
I don’t even want to cheapen this song by talking about it it does some things to me and that’s all I want to say
8. John Maus – “Believer”
I was never clear on how this record is a big political or anti-fascist statement or whatever. I just really appreciate that propulsive drumbeat and the stacks and stacks of foggy synths and that buried baritone sitting perfectly underneath. Clouds of ecstatic major chords 4ever please I’m a believer.
9. Balam Acab – “Apart”
Listen to this with some good subwoofers and feel that bassline in your ribcage. And those sincere, love-struck vocals that are pitched to the stratosphere. Wander/Wonder is hermetic, womb-like, dazed pop with more layers than anyone can grasp on first or even tenth listen. Deep stuff in every sense of the word.
10. Craft Spells – “After the Moment”
Maybe this should be ranked higher for catchiness and the sheer amount of times I listened to it. There were a lot of tries, but no one got the New Order vibe better this year than Craft Spells. Idle Labor is an underrated masterpiece and every song is a shining pop gem, but this one in particular keeps giving. Should be played at every prom in the country.
And that’s it, I guess! I hope you enjoyed my top 100 and discovered one or two new songs that rocked yr world.
11. Cold Cave – “Confetti”
At one point the Cold Cave record was possibly my favorite of the year. It just got so many things right at the perfect time: we were due for a reexamination of 90′s wide-eyed teenage apocalyptic romanticism via some kind of self-conscious, unsubtle goth/industrial/synthpop revival. Heavy monosynth moongazing that’s simultaneously tongue-in-cheek hilarious and dead-fucking-serious. I’m not sure everyone got the high-wire act that Cold Cave was going for here.
12. Purity Ring – “Lofticries”
This is the track that introduced all of us to Purity Ring, I’m pretty sure. For some reason this strikes me as both totally modern and a nod to 90′s trip-hop via “6 Underground”. Whatever it’s totally fucking hot. That production is unparalleled.
13. Gang Gang Dance – “Mindkilla”
I’ll be honest, I couldn’t stand this song when I first heard it. The intro was kind of embarrassing. But like the best of GGD, it realigned the patterns in my brain. Got me thinking along some Global Psych Dabke Bhangra via Brooklyn Noise-Trance Ecstacy vibes. Futuristic World Jamz.
14. Destroyer – “Kaputt”
Adult-contemporary / yacht rock deconstructed into fragmented looking glass weirdo drunko poetry. Best use of sax all year. MUSIC FOR DRINKING AND THINKING ABOUT YOUR LIFE IN A BUZZED DAZE. SONGZ 4 AMERICA
15. Julianna Barwick – “Envelop”
YOU STOP TALKING AND JUST LISTEN TO THIS IN SILENCE
16. Korallreven – “As Young As Yesterday”
Radio Dept. guy and some other guy make totally blissed joyous music inspired by spending time in Samoa and it’s every bit as good as you’d expect and makes you want to nod out forever the end
17. St. Vincent – “Surgeon” – youtube
Yes we’re all aware of St. Vincent but do you know-
18. Wye Oak – “Civilian”
- I still keep my baby teeth
in the bedside table
with my jewelry.
You still sleep in the bed with me,
and my baby teeth -
19. Kate Bush – “Wild Man” – youtube
-Kate Bush came out of nowhere this year with music every bit as good as anything else she’s done? And that there’s some weird love-story arc involving the Abominable Snowman? I’m not sure about all that but few other musicians today could turn this into a catchy chorus: “From the Sherpas of Annapurna / to the Rinpoche of Qinghai / Shephards from Mount Kailash to Himachal Pradesh / found footprints in the snow.”
20. Blanck Mass – “Land Disasters” – youtube
21. Timber Timbre – “Lonesome Hunter”
Epic soundtrack to Lynch/”Badlands”-era Malick/whatever alternate-universe-Elvis so damn good and yes very creepy, but oh so right. Those quivering tremolo strings.
22. Kavinsky – “Nightcall”
I was in love with this before Drive came out, as evidenced by a few mixtapes I made this year, but hearing it over the opening credits of that movie really cemented it as top grade 80′s lucid dreaming for the disturbed millenial generation.
23. Cut Copy – “Take Me Over” – youtube
Yes we’re all aware by now of how good Cut Copy is. Not as good in 2011 as In Ghost Colours but still better than anyone else doing this kind of thing.
24. When Saints Go Machine – “Church And Law”
The synth-pop falsetto Kate Bush/Antony-influenced band you didn’t hear about this year and that’s a damn shame because listen to how all three of the movements of this song could stand on their own as individual amazing things whatever just listen
25. Odonis Odonis – “Seedgazer” – youtube
You didn’t hear about this either and I’m not sure why because it’s like some kind of unearthed shoegaze/noise/lo-fi mystic artifact.
26. Yuck – “Get Away”
Yes re: comparisons to Dinosaur Jr. and many other 90′s alt-rock staples but maybe that’s what we need right now. And I love how this band is too young to have experienced their influences first-hand.
27. Dirty Beaches – “True Blue”
28. Belong – “Come See”
Monochrome droning shoegaze greyed out no-wave ecstatic aesthetic that very few people got in 2011. Fuck the pitchfork review; like a jet taking off forever.
29. Hooray For Earth – “True Loves”
30. Little Majorette – “Never Be The Same”
Pick any Swedish band, literally at random (that’s how I discovered these guys) and it will probably be amazing. What’s in the water there?
31. Wild Flag – “Future Crimes”
Few straight-on rock acts forced me to pay attention this year like Wild Flag (which features Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney.) This track in particular summons up the urgency & ferocity of the best of that legendary band.
32. Teen Daze – “The Harvest” – youtube
This is from Teen Daze’s 2011 concept album based on C.S. Lewis’s Out Of The Silent Planet, and is also inspired by the time that Teen Daze “spent seven weeks studying philosophy in a somewhat remote village in the Swiss Alps.” I’ve never read the novel, but the latter inspiration comes through crystal-clear in the stillness and beauty on display here.
33. Real Estate – “All the Same” – mp3
I admit I didn’t warm up to this album on first listen, but now it’s sunk its teeth into me (and, well, everyone else.) This last track is my favorite. The first few minutes are solid, but wait until the vocals drop out and the guitar strips down to a classic rock riff and the groove builds and builds in the best and most organic way.
34. Oneohtrix Point Never – “Replica” – youtube
Plenty of lofty things have been written about why this album is profound and masterful; I’d prefer to just let this track speak for itself.
35. Moon Duo – “Mazes”
It’s 2011 and motorik isn’t dead.
36. Shabazz Palaces – “Are You… Can You… Were You? (Felt)”
When I saw them live I was slightly off-put by how hippie/”new age” they came across, what with the bongos and talk of channeling interdimensional energies. But the record is a swirling headphone masterpiece of psych-hop, one of the most exciting hip-hop releases of the year. (You’ll note the absence of OFWGKTA/Tyler on this list, which is entirely intentional; I just don’t want to give those guys any more attention.)
37. Girls – “Vomit”
Along with “Lust For Life” and “Laura”, this needs to go down as one of the classic rock songs of the past few years. The “come into my heart” chord shift ending with organ and gospel choir sends shivers down my spine every time.
38. Cold Cave – “Villains of the Moon” – youtube
Romantically doomed, self-aware goth-pop dreaming while the earth dies. Worlds away from the previous Cold Cave record and way underrated. Songs for adults who remember being sad teenagers.
39. Two Bicycles – “Moon Colors”
A project of bedroom producer Teen Daze, who had the best year for gently evocative, layered guitar meditations.
40. Purity Ring – “Belispeak” – youtube
Purity Ring only released, what – three songs? And each one was an instant classic jam, simultaneously mysterious and maximal. “Drill little holes into my eyelids / that I might see you, that I might see you when I sleep.”
41. Phantogram – “Don’t Move” – youtube
I’m shocked this wasn’t a huge charting hit. I guess people were too into “Pumped Up Kicks”?
42. Gangpol & Mit – “The 1000 People Band (Part 3)” – youtube
Max Tundra-ish MIDI pop symphony from charmingly weird Frenchmen.
43. Washed Out – “Amor Fati”
44. Youth Lagoon – “Montana”
45. Active Child – “Hanging On” – youtube
Harp + sad falsetto + beats really, really shouldn’t work as well as it does here.
46. Sleep ∞ Over – “Romantic Streams” – youtube
The band name is an easy punchline, but I can forgive it for something this good.
47. Blondes – “Lover”
Extended tribal hypnotic dance groove of the year.
48. Wolves In the Throne Room – “Thuja Magus Imperium” – youtube
49. Coma Cinema – “Blue Suicide”
I’m really glad Coma Cinema didn’t call it quits this year, because he’s one of the new artists I’m most excited about. Depression in widescreen.
50. Puro Instinct – “Silky Eyes” – vimeo
I suspect we’re just getting started with bands worshipping late 80′s / early 90′s minor-key dream pop, for better or for worse. Well, this is how it should be done.
51. Gem Club – “Breakers”
Stunning beautiful, simple piano piece. I can feel the whole world slowing down around me.
52. M83 – “New Map – vimeo
Along with “Midnight City” and “Steve McQueen”, this track got played a whole hell of a lot this year. While the album as a whole had some weak spots (I’ve found very few double LPs that wouldn’t benefit from a shorter length), the high points were very high. This song stays with the basic formula from “Don’t Save Us From the Flames” and a few others, but points to Anthony Gonzalez for sticking with a good thing when it works.
53. Jamie XX and Gil Scott-Heron – “I’ll Take Care Of U”
Gil Scott-Heron passing away was one of the great losses of the year. I can’t think of a much better way for his creative life to end than with this Jamie XX reworking of the song from I’m New Here; along with Gil’s wisened voice, that ghostly guitar line says it all.
54. Yelle – “Que Veux-Tu” – youtube
Not sure what she’s saying, but it doesn’t matter. Catchy and sexy as hell.
55. Benoit Pioulard – “Autochoral” – youtube
One of the great drifts I’ve heard this year. Mesmerizing and pulsating.
56. Danger Mouse – “Black (feat. Norah Jones)” – youtube
Kinda perfect choice re: this playing at the end of the Breaking Bad season finale.
57. Motion Sickness of Time Travel – “Day Glow”
58. Julia Holter – “Try To Make Yourself A Work Of Art”
This was a record I felt like I could live inside. BRILLIANCE. There’s so much going on in these 5 minutes. (And how about that video!)
59. Purple & Green – “Human Nature”
Another leftfield project from psych-ambient guru Adam Forkner – who knew this guy had some deep electro-soul/r&b jams in him??
60. Ford & Lopatin – “Emergency Room” – youtube
Gary Numan meets Sonic the Hedgehog?
61. Fucked Up – “Turn the Season” – youtube
MORE GUITARS FOREVER. AND MORE PINK EYES FOREVER.
62. Seapony – “Sailing” – youtube
The sonic opposite of #61. Sunday morning music.
63. Dirty Gold – “California Sunrise”
This was the perfect song to come out at the start of summer. Just… imagine it’s summer when you listen to it.
64. Colin Stetson – “The Righteous Wrath Of an Honorable Man”
Pure virtuosity. Nothing else sounds like this.
65. Jai Paul – “BTSTU” – youtube
66. Dum Dum Girls – “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out”
Their original tracks were great too, but this is one of the greatest Smiths covers I’ve ever heard.
67. Real Estate – “It’s Real”
68. Lana Del Rey – “Video Games” – youtube
Holy shit, this was the dumbest controversy of the year. Who cares that she got plastic surgery or that she used to be Lizzy Grant or whatever the fuck? Good music is good music. I agree with what Coma Cinema said on twitter: this is a song that goes right to the heart of my useless generation.
69. Neon Indian – “Polish Girl” – youtube
70. Eleanor Friedberger – “My Mistakes” – youtube
I basically hear this as a catchier, friendlier Fiery Furnaces song, which is okay with me.