1. The Field ‘Looping State of Mind’,
2. Balam Acab ‘Wander/Wonder’
3. James Blake ‘James Blake’
4. Burial ‘Street Halo’ EP
5. Pure X ‘Pleasure’
6. Julianna Barwick ‘The Magic Place’
7. Shabazz Palaces – ‘Black Up’
8. Gang Gang Dance ‘Eye Contact’
9. Ganglians – ‘Still Living’
10. Washed Out ‘Within and Without’
11. Kashiwa Daisuke – ’88’
12. Bon Iver – ‘Bon Iver, Bon Iver’
13. Tim Hecker ‘Ravedeath 1972’ / ‘Dropped Pianos’
14. M83 ‘Hurry Up…’
15. Grouper ‘A I A’
16. A Winged Victory for the Sullen ‘A Winged Victory for the Sullen’
17. Zomby ‘Dedication’
18. Tycho ‘Dive’
19. Blanck Mass ‘Blanck Mass’
20. Eleanor Friedberger ‘Last Summer’
21. Com Truise ‘Galactic Melt’
22. Clams Casino ‘Instrumentals’
23. The Caretaker ‘An Empty Bliss Beyond This World’
24. Destroyer ‘Kaputt’
25. Fruit Bats ‘Tripper’
2011 was the year I made peace with the seemingly unavoidable fact that most of the music I listen to is made by people who are my age or younger. I know that at 27 I’m among the younger contributors to POOP, and so for most of you this probably isn’t all that revelatory. But it is for me, at the moment. I’m almost positive each of my top 4 records was made by someone in their twenties, mostly early twenties. This at once shakes me up and deeply impresses me. These four are all stunning and really distinctive, and, not to get all Spin Magazine about it, but I think that — along with Four Tet, Flying Lotus, and yes even Kanye West, who all put out incredible records last year — they represent the vanguard of a really exciting moment in music. There are literally countless others, which is both what’s really cool about new electronic music, but also admittedly kind of overwhelming, too. After putting my list together, I found that most of the stuff on it was stuff like this, electronic music, some of it song-oriented but most of it instrumental and loop-based. As per it’s title, The Field’s record is one of the most inspiring loop-based records I’ve ever heard. It feels like a zenith of sorts. Maybe that’s a bit grandiose, but still.
There were certainly a number of rock records that I really liked: Pure X, Bon Iver (maybe not really a rock record?), Ganglians, Eleanor Friedberger, Fruit Bats. Not all exactly rock in the Lefskian sense, but you get what I mean. Even the M83 sounded much more like a “rock” record to me than anything else. Early press regarding the dude’s affinity for the Pumpkin’s ‘Melon Collie…’ had me hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I had a hunch this album would be fatally overwrought and way too long, and it probably is both of those things, when you get down to it. It took a while, but I really like it, and more and more still each time I listen. Quite unlike the m83 record, the two rock albums I liked best, those from Pure X and Ganglians, seemed underrated to me, but everyone says that about their favorite indie records, so I’m not sure that holds much water.
Probably two of the year’s best arguments for the unique mystical power of the full-album experience came from Bon Iver and Gang Gang Dance. Like a Marquez story that’s vivid and real but also just slightly off, both of these album sound and feel viscerally familiar and yet totally of their own stuff, brand new and ancient all at once. Most importantly, there’s this thing about them — it’s sort of hard to describe without reverting to something cheesy and cliched — but both of the albums feel sort of like, I don’t know, living someplace else for 40 minutes. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
My favorite album cover of the year was on the Washed Out album. Had a big poster of it in my bathroom for a while, but I took it down when my parents visited (too racy!) and never got around to putting it back up. The album’s also really great. The only hip-hop record that I really loved this year was from Shabazz Palaces. They’re the first rap act to sign with Sub Pop, which maybe shouldn’t surprise me as much as it does. The production in particular is totally stunning and unique, spacey and episodic. Some of the songs are sort of suite-like, which you don’t hear a lot in rap, at all. A lot of really weird, against-the-grain moves on ‘Black Up’, almost all of which pay off.
A good deal of the other albums on here (the Hecker records, Barwick, Daisuke, Blank Mass, Grouper, Winged Victory, Caretaker) are more ambient, personal-space oriented albums, so I don’t have a lot to say about them. There are also five (maybe technically 6… or 8?) albums I got into after reading someone else’s Best Of 2011 list but didn’t really have on my radar in 2011 proper, any of which might have made my list had I gotten to them in time. Those are: Sean McCann‘s ‘The Capital’, a really gorgeous drone album; AraabMusick‘s – ‘Electronic Dream’, a surprisingly palatable house record from the MPC-wizard who makes beats for Cam’ron and other rap luminaries; Fabio Orsi ‘Stand Before Me, Oh My Soul’, a noisy guitar and organ record with really sweet, snaky drum loops; Demdike Stare‘s – ‘Tryptych’, an extremely inspiring and pretty hard to describe 3-disc post-dub set that would have made my top 10 or even 5 had I heard it earlier; and Andy Stott‘s two releases, ‘Passed Me By’ and ‘We Stay Together’, which do things on the low end that I’ve never heard or imagined possible.
Okey doke, signing off.
Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose! TW