albums of the year 2011

February 11, 2012

A final look back at 2011, with a countdown of my ten favourite albums of last year.

#10
Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972

Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#09
Hauschka & Hildur Guðnadóttir: Pan Tone

Hauschka & Hildur Guðnadóttir: Pan Tone (Sonic Pieces)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#08
Emika: Emika

Emika: Emika (Ninja Tune)
Featured on the close to 94 compilation good in 2011

#07
Kangding Ray: Or

Kangding Ray: Or (Raster-Noton)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#06
Chris Watson: El Tren Fantasma

Chris Watson: El Tren Fantasma (Touch)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#05
Kreng: Grimoire

Kreng: Grimoire (Miasmah)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#04
Pinch & Shackleton: Pinch & Shackleton

Pinch & Shackleton: Pinch & Shackleton (Honest Jon’s)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#03
Swod: Drei

Swod: Drei (City Centre Offices)
Featured on the close to 94 compilation good in 2011

#02
Nils Økland & Sigbjørn Apeland: Lysøen: Hommage À Ole Bull

Nils Økland & Sigbjørn Apeland: Lysøen: Hommage À Ole Bull (ECM)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#01
Jacaszek: Glimmer

Jacaszek: Glimmer (Ghostly International)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

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good in 2011

January 25, 2012

2011 was another vintage year for new music – though it must be said a less-than-stellar year for this blog. Time to make a change.

Still, I just about managed to find time to curate my annual CD-sized selection of favourite tracks (not a definitive countdown, please note) from the past 12 months. I’m grateful for my own small mercies.

Click on the Mixcloud embed above to listen. Or, if you’re a VIP, wait patiently for a physical copy to wing its way to you.

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0:00:00 / Swod: “Sans Peau”, from the album Drei
[eMusic] [Boomkat] [iTunes]

Swod is the acronymic name of German duo of Stephan Wöhrmann and Oliver Doerell. Together they crafted one of the most intelligent yet accessible instrumental albums (their third) of the year. “Sans Peau” illustrates its lightly-worn intricacies perfectly.

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0:04:52 / Mina Tindle: “To Carry Many Small Things”, from the EP Mina Tindle
[eMusic] [iTunes]

Nom de plume for Parisian singer-songwriter Pauline De Lassus, Mina Tindle captured critics’ and listeners’ (including this one’s) hearts with her warm, playful chamber pop.

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0:08:32 / Joan As Police Woman: “The Magic”, from the album The Deep Field
[eMusic] [Boomkat] [iTunes]

Another slice of grown-up, contemporary pop from the consistent, generous but sadly not prolific Joan Wasser. This cut, with shades of “Cry Me A River” (a good thing, by the way), adds a touch of soul to her indie sensibility.

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0:12:40 / Metronomy: “She Wants”, from the album The English Riviera
[eMusic] [iTunes]

“She Wants” out-New Waves the New Wave – it sounds so authentic it could have inspired Japan, The Cure and the others over thirty years ago. But it was released in 2011, and sounds fresh too. How do Metronomy do that? Maybe it’s something in the Devon water.

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0:17:33 / Blouse: “Into Black”, from the album Blouse
[eMusic] [Boomkat] [iTunes]

More New Wave reminiscence, this time from elegantly morose Portlanders Blouse. My early enthusiasm for their self-titled debut album has perhaps waned just a touch, but “Into Black” still pulls me into a gratifyingly melancholy dream state.

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0:20:58 / Emika: “Come Catch Me”, from the album Emika
[eMusic] [Boomkat] [iTunes]

Ema Jolly – Berlin-based, Czech-descended, England-born Emika – created possibly most accomplished electronic pop record of 2011. Her debut showcases her already coherent vision: meticulously-programmed techno and dubstep sounds wrapped in immaculate song structures. A real treat.

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0:25:02 / Astrid Williamson: “Pour (Raffertie Remix)”, original from the album Pulse
[eMusic] [iTunes]

I haven’t heard Ms. Williamson’s Brian Eno-inspired album Pulse, but this blend of her breathy, passionate vocals with Raffertie‘s techno theatrics hits the spot.

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0:30:01 / Hecq: “With Angels (Trifonic Remix)”, from the album Avenger
[eMusic]

Shamefully, the only other album from German sound designer Ben Lukas Boysen I’m familiar (intimate, more truthfully) with is 2008’s Night Falls – a cinematic, ambient, exquisitely dark symphony-of-sorts. Avenger, on the other hand, is a satisfying collection of mostly pummelling dubstep. Trifonic’s take on “With Angels” (click for an insight into the production process) is in fact one of its lighter moments.

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0:34:01 / Martyn: “Viper”, from the album Ghost People
[eMusic] [Boomkat] [iTunes]

This track from Dutch producer/DJ Martyn (Deykers) makes the cut simply as a result of its tip-of-the-hat to my 107th favourite track of the last four decades: Front 242’s “Headhunter“. That it’s also a pleasing little techno interlude is just gravy.

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0:36:39 / Rone: “So So So”, from the EP So So So
[eMusic] [Boomkat] [iTunes]

I can’t think of a single way in which this house/techno hybrid could be improved. “So So So” asks little of you but rewards you in spades – a selfless track that only knows how to give. The video is a hand-drawn treasure, and the other two tracks on the EP maintain the quality. Erwan Castex deserved all the plaudits he got in 2011.

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0:43:45 / Gui Boratto: “Soledad”, from the album III
[eMusic] [Boomkat] [iTunes]

Gui Boratto’s 2007 debut Chromophobia remains one of the best dance albums ever released in this blog’s humble opinion. While his third full-length – called, aptly enough, III – doesn’t quite match up, it does have more than a few moments when Boratto’s intuition shines. “Soledad” is one of them.

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0:48:50 / Apparat: “The Soft Voices Die”, from the album The Devil’s Walk
[Boomkat] [iTunes]

Sascha Ring (a.k.a. Apparat) toured with a live band for the first time (photo here, video here) to support The Devil’s Walk, his fourth album blending analogue and digital, club and home, headphones and heart. While he may not appreciate the comparison, Apparat brings to mind Radiohead at their very peak.

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0:53:12 / M83: “Midnight City”, from the album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
[eMusic] [Boomkat] [iTunes]

“Midnight City” was pretty inescapable in the second half of 2011, particularly if you came across E4’s Made In Chelsea or the BBC’s endless Olympic coverage trailers while channel-flipping. I didn’t rate the album as highly as everyone else, but once you hear “Midnight City” its hook remains in your head thereafter. The very definition of catchy.

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0:57:15 / Julia Holter: “Goddess Eyes”, from the album Tragedy
[eMusic] [Boomkat] [iTunes]

The most conventional song on Tragedy, a meditation on the Greek play Hippolytus, “Goddess Eyes” nevertheless belies Holter’s beguiling otherworldliness. The album is captivating, bewitching even – we are Phaedra to Holter’s Hippolytus.

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1:00:39 / Lana Del Rey: “Video Games”, from the album Born To Die
[iTunes]

Possibly the breakthrough act of 2011, “Video Games” single-handedly propelled Lizzy Grant – Lana Del Rey to her audience – from online backwaters to the global chat show circuit almost overnight. A torch song for meaning and happiness, it brings majesty to the mundane. “Hollywood sadcore”, as the woman herself puts it, is the perfect label.

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1:05:19 / I Break Horses: “No Way Outro”, from the album Hearts
[eMusic] [Boomkat] [iTunes]

Swedish neo-shoegaze band I Break Horses’ debut Hearts created a shimmering, beautiful soundworld, though perhaps it lacked just a little light and shade across its 40 minutes. That said, “No Way Outro” does evoke a kind of end-of-innocence feeling that takes a long time to fade after the song does.

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1:09:41 / Deaf Center: “Time Spent”, from the album Owl Splinters
[eMusic] [Boomkat] [iTunes]

Norwegian duo Deaf Center crafted a beautifully haunted album of cello, piano and field recordings in Owl Splinters. I’ve covered the solo work of one member, Erik Skodvin, before. “Time Spent”, however, foregrounds the touch and poise his co-conspirator, pianist Otto Totland.

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1:11:51 / ends

See also: