Thursday, January 19, 2012

best of 2011

Tiny Mix Tapes put together an amazing package of essays and lists for the end of 2011. My own meager contribution was a blurb on Colin Stetson's fantabulous New History Warfare and an attempt at my top 25 records of the year. A paradox: coming up with my own list felt strange, difficult and, at times, totally antithetical to the way I think about music generally: it's not a competition, after all! But by contributing the following necessarily unfinished and provisional effort I played my part in producing a totally amazing resource for anyone interested in some top-class recommendations. Many of the records on the list I'd never heard before. All of them are fantastic.

So here's my own contribution to the collective-list-as-recommendation-making-process. 25 to 1 in roughly ascending order of awesomeness. Audio from a parallel feature on my radio show here.

25 Woebot – Chunks
24 Wild Beasts – Smother
23 Laurel Halo – Hour Logic EP
22 Epic45 – Weathering
21 Grouper – Alien Observer / Dream Loss
20 John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
19 Roommate – Guilty Rainbow
18 Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
17 James Ferraro – Far Side Virtual
16 Rustie – Glass Swords
15 The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond the World
14 Giant Claw – Midnight Murder
13 Seekae – +Dome
12 Jim O’Rourke – Old News #5/6
11 Ford & Lopatin – Channel Pressure
10 Advisory Circle – As The Crow Flies
9 Demdike Stare – Tryptych
8 Various Artists – Bangs & Works Vol 2.
7 Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape / Rainforest EP
6 tUnE yArDs – W H O K I L L
5 Bon Iver – Bon Iver
4 Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica
3 Tim Hecker – Ravedeath 1972 / Dropped Pianos
2 James Blake – James Blake
1 Colin Stetson – New History of Warfare Vol 2: Judges

And here's my blurb on my number one album of 2011:

Colin Stetson
New History Warfare Vol 2: Judges
New History Warfare was the most muscular record released this year, no doubt about it. In terms of sheer sonic brawn, nothing else came close. It’s a masterpiece of exertion: an enormous, pulsing, swirling tempest of sound generated for the most part by just one man and his beast of a saxophone: no loops, no electronics, and mostly in a single take. Not that this sounded like any sax playing you’ve heard before. Stetson pushed both his instrument and his own body right to the limit. And because of the way the microphones had been placed, we heard everything: the clattering of keys, the heaving and sucking of breath, Stetson’s moans and melodic wails. This is what the ‘grain’ sounds like when it’s mic’d up and amplified. The effect may have been bluesless, but it was totally soulful. And, in fact, it was often when Stetson reined himself in most, in the relative calm between storms, that the effect was at its most profound: the wrenching anguish of “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes” with its superb vocal from My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Worden, the mounting drone of album closer “In Love and In Justice.” New History Warfare sounded like nothing else this year. It was totally peerless: powerful, moving, original, an eruption of sheer life-force that quickened our pulses and stirred our souls.

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