Sunday, December 18, 2011
1. Royal Headache - Never Again
from Royal Headache (R.I.P. Society/Goner)
Some records are great without making you want to be a part of them, and that's fine. It doesn't make them less great. But some are so exuberant and rich and alive-sounding that they make you want to sing along to every song at every show and be involved and there's something so special about records like that and what I'm saying is that Royal Headache's debut album is like that. There are so many great cuts from the album, but this opening track - Never Again - is extra frenetic and just a perfect introduction to my record of the year.
2. Total Control - One More Tonight
from Henge Beat (Iron Lung)
A couple of reviews of Total Control's Henge Beat have talked about the album's take on retrofuturism, and that approach is certainly one of the most interesting things about the album. Luckily, as well as being interesting, it's also full of great songs that reference enduring classics like Eno, Talking Heads and Joy Division. There's something so intriguing and also unsettling about this song's repeated refrain of "A burst of laughter / introduces your friends"; it's kind of genius.
3. John Maus - Believer
from We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves (Ribbon/Upset The Rhythm)
There was nothing else this year (or any other year, really) that sounded like John Maus's cavernous space-synths & death metal vocals, and this closing track from his record is such an anthem.
4. Ford & Lopatin - Emergency Room
from Channel Pressure (Mexican Summer)
It's such a pleasure to hear a band employ artificial textures so gleefully; everything about Channel Pressure sounds synthesised & mechanical. But even though Ford & Lopatin clearly have so much fun assembling their plastic beats, they never forget to write hooks and beats that stick in your brain, and that's just what Emergency Room does.
5. Kurt Vile - On Tour
from Smoke Ring For My Halo (Matador)
Smoke Ring For My Halo is the sweetest & gentlest release by Kurt Vile so far. Even so, he fits in some terrifically macabre imagery on songs like On Tour, my favourite from the record: "On tour. Lord of the Flies."
6. Ghost Wave - Hippy
from Ghost Wave EP (Arch Hill)
I will never not love New Zealand bands who play Flying Nun-inspired garage punk. All of Ghost Wave's debut EP was great, actually, but Hippy's minimalist guitars and brilliantly unexpected bridge refrain is basically as good as it gets.
7. Panda Bear - Last Night At The Jetty
from Tomboy (Paw Tracks)
Tomboy might not have captured the zeitgeist the way Panda Bear's debut did, but if you're asking me (and I guess you could say that you are, in a way) Last Night At The Jetty is as good a song as he's ever written: sweet, wistful and sad.
8. Twerps - Dreamin'
from Twerps (Chapter/Underwater Peoples)
80s jangle-pop might be the last aesthetic that can possibly be mined from that exhaustively revised decade, but it's kinda surprising that it's taken this long to happen: it's such a listenable sound. On their debut album, Twerps ditched the scrappy milkbar punk that they'd been messing with to write some extra grown-up songs with strings and everything; super impressive stuff.
9. Real Estate - It's Real
from Days (Domino)
It's just so easy to love Days, the second album from Real Estate. It's catchy and melodic and totally sincere, and this song from it features expertly deployed whoa-ohs; everything's there, really.
10. Guerre - Millennium Blues
from Darker My Love (Yes Please)
You could say that 2011 was "the year of new R&B", or whatever, but as with so many microgenres, it only really happened at all because a handful of talented practitioners. Guerre is one of the best.