It Is That Time of Year – WTYF Top Ten
Well what a year it has been. I have discovered a lot of music this year of varying genre and style and it has been a delight indulging in new sounds as well as old ones. For the end of year list I will be presenting my top ten full length releases for the year. I will also present my top 5 EP releases of the year alongside. Following will be my top 5 netlabel releases.
Top Ten Full Length Releases
10. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
A drastically new sound for the secluded-in-a-cabin-for-months-through-the-winter artist. The self-titled record reached the absurd of lyricism, painting unique imagery through colourful wording and meter. Really just a solid record from start to finish.
9. Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
One of the few post-rock albums of 2011 I genuinely enjoyed. It isn’t anything super innovative by the veteran post-rock band but the album was cohesive and thoroughly enjoyable. The quintessential twinkling guitars, thunderous percussion and undercurrent of bass is impeccable throughout. Closing track ‘Let me back in’ is an absolute stunning track.
8. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
The soundtrack to the destruction of sound. An eloquant exploration into sound deconstruction and reconstruction. At times a work of innumerable beauty and at others a harsh and abrasive affair. Hecker produced one of the highlights of the year in the ambient field.
7. Nils Frahm – Felt
Frahm’s album Felt was something I could put on while sitting in the dark pondering questions with no answers. Quiet and subtle piano pieces where you could hear all the inner mechanics of the instrument at work as well as the musician. Extremely intimate and graceful.
6. Giles Corey – Giles Corey
I do not know how to write a little paragraph for this album. It deserves so much more. A concept album based around a real or not real (depending on how skeptical you are) individual who ran a cult in the woods trying to connect with the afterlife. Themes of suicide, apparitions, sorcery and darkness permeate the record. It is one of the most haunting records I have ever listened to and coupled with the short novel that came with it I must say I lost some sleep for a while after reading it.
5. Matana Roberts – COIN COIN Chapter One: Gens de couleur libres
I had not heard such a visceral and intense album as this in a long time. The record was recorded live with a host of musicians in Canada and what resulted was a record of epic proportions. Roberts, on tenor saxophone and spoken word (or should I say screaming bloody murder word) was nothing short of striking. Singing the stories of oppressed and murdered people of the black community throughout history. A masterful jazz record.
4. Shlohmo – Bad Vibes
I have been a fan of this young producer for a long time now, his beats are soaked in oozing thick goo. Lush and slow productions of instrumental hip hop. There was a lot of great stuff coming out this year of similar ilk, but this record had a different take on the sound. It was more personal. The album featured a lot of hummed vocal samples from the artist, but also a lot of progression which could be found on tracks like ‘Trapped in a burning house’ which featured some very unique and ominous sounds.
3. The Dear Hunter – The Color Spectrum, Complete Collection
Technically this was a collection of nine EP’s but I am going to include it here for the sheer ambition it took to create nine EP’s representing each colour of the spectrum. Undoubtedly you know I am a huge fan of Casey Crescenzos work and this release was everything I could have expected and more. With incredible EP’s such as Blue (majestic, soaring beauty), Indigo (Ethereal electronics), Yellow (Sunny pop) there was something for everyone in this collection.
2. Jacaszek – Glimmer
Released in early December this record is just one of those albums where I have to stop what I am doing and just listen. A unique sound was procured from Polish musician Jacaszek who had session musicians record bass and soprano clarinet as well as harpischord, and then process them through various forms of electronics. What resulted was a fantastic mix between sound exploration and baroque classical music. A swelling and utterly brilliant work of art.
James Blake – James Blake
Released well back at the start of the year James Blake’s first full length record departed heavily from his previous single’s and EP’s. This divided fans right down the middle. As a person who enjoys both his approaches to music I found myself returning again and again to this album. It is so complete, so meticulous and courageous. The minimal lyricism, repetition of phrases, manipulation of vocals, outstanding production and balance between electronic music and singer songwriter music struck a chord with me. A sonically unique album and one that lasted all the way through the year. It had to take my number one spot.
Top Five EP Releases
5. City Center – Spring St.
A warm and fuzzy short EP. 4 tracks spread over a lovely clear vinyl with half a screen print of blue and white depicting people at the beach. The EP runs through muddled tape loops, acoustic folk instrumentation and hazy vocals. It is the imperfect soundtrack to a lazy summer.
4. Tokimonsta – Creature Dreams
More beats from the Brainfeeder artist (who put on a slamming show at Cuckoo Bar this year). A solid release with some great vocal appearances which produced some of my favourite tracks this year.
3. Colorlist – The Fastest Way To Become The Ocean
The first installment of Serein Label’s Seasons EP’s. I absolutely adore this EP. Incredible jazz work by the percussion and saxophonist duo.
2. Burial/Massive Attack – Paradise Circus
No words, just get it.
1. KRTS – Hold On
My number one EP spot goes to KRTS of the Project Mooncircle label. A classy left field beat album with some of the tastiest most chill basslines I have heard all year. I will be following this individuals releases from now on with a keen eye.
Top Five Netlabel Releases
5. Lyndsie Alguire – Suspended in Light
Camomile Netlabel had a tremendous year and for that they are going to land two releases in my top five netlabel releases of the year. The first goes to Lyndsie Alguire for her stunning debut record. A creative mix between field recordings, ambience, sound design and piano work. Not to be missed.
4. Niel Wiernik – Broken Strings, Plastic Tubes and Bedside Serenades
One of the longest releases this year but also one of the most captivating. A wonderful stretch of ambience that would not let go of me. One of the releases that I continued to return to late at night when it was dark.
3. Buck UK – Buck UK
Soaking wet sounds of minimal beats leaning towards some house sounds. This release was the first I found from Cut Music and it certainly was not the last I checked out. Both tracks on here (the single and the remix) are pieces of tranquil beauty.
2. Blearmoon – Town of Two Houses
The second release by Camomile label to make it into my top few. This short EP melded field recordings, subtle ambience and classical piano into a beautiful mix. Cinematic in nature and stirring, a high quality release.
1. Julian Winter – Slow Movement
Departing from the ambience and more classical leaning works was this fantastic short release by Julian Winter. I instantly feel in love with its subtle charm and diverse array of sounds. You can find anything from beats, quiet whispering vocals and guitars, pulsating synths and clever use of field recordings. All solidly packaged in a neat 30 minutes.
Well, there you have it. Surely there are things I have missed from my lists, but it honestly was a tremendous year for music. Until next time…