This is a tough list to compile. This year lots or musicians/bands I like released albums and many new acts appeared. I also spent a lot of time listening to some old and familiar music on vinyl instead of going through all the new releases as I simply felt a little overwhelmed by all the new releases and just couldn't keep up.
Nonetheless there were many albums I enjoyed for various reasons. Some of the releases I need to spend more time with and explore a little more in depth. I am not listing these albums in any particular order as they all served as good albums at different times and in different moo
BOARDS OF CANADA / TOMORROW'S HARVEST
This album grew on me quite unexpectedly. I gave it a listen out of curiosity since it had been a few years ago since Boards of Canada released anything, so I figured it might be interesting. I always enjoyed their albums, especially Campfire Headphase, but wasn't a huge fan. At first the album sounded a little too much like background music and didn't make much of an impression.
I found myself revisiting it over and over and eventually realised it had become one of my favourite (an most listened to) albums of the year.
The album is ambient but not in the same way as all the other 'ambient' a.k.a yawn inspiring releases. Its atmospheric but has memorable 'hooks' that make it a genuine and well rounded release.
FAVOURITE SONG: Reach for the dead (4:49)
THE NATIONAL / TROUBLE WILL FIND ME
I guess it is a given that this album is featured on my list. Since I am a hugh The National fan, I was quite nervous that it might be a let down after their highly memorable 2010 release 'High Violet'. Even though Trouble will find me is not as successful as High Violet it is an extremely solid follow up. The album features 13 well crafted songs which are not self-conscious or over the top but consistent and well written.
FAVOURITE SONG: Pink Rabbits (4:38)
EL-P AND KILLER MIKE / RUN THE JEWELS
There's not much to say about this release other than that it is hard hitting and to the point. I enjoy El-P's albums so I thought I'd give this a listen (perhaps the creepy album art also had something to do with it?). At first I found it to be a little bit too 'agressive'. After a few listens I realised that what I at first found to sound a little 'agressive' was just assertive instead. I am not a big fan of Killer Mike, but in collaboration his input becomes more appealing. Other than that this album is good driving music and makes you feel cool, so all areas coverred!
FAVOURITE SONG: Job Well Done (Feat. Until The Ribbon Breaks) (3:00)
TORO Y MOI / ANYTHING IN RETURN
Chaz Bundick is the man! He seems to be into music purely for the fun of it and sees his music career as a side project, seconding his occupation as graphic designer. His release 'Anything in return' can be regarded as an alternative pop album. It's super suave and slick but not sleazy!
FAVOURITE SONG: Rose Quartz (4:45)
BILL CALLAHAN / DREAM RIVER
This is a brilliant album. I always sort of enjoyed whatever Bill Callahan released but was never really an over enthusiastic follower of his releases. When this album came out I thought it would have the same effect on me...A good solid album , but nothing mind blowing.Dream river completely took me by surprise. Not just in terms of the music, but also lyrically. Summer painter's lyrics are what sold it to me! One last thing- who else has managed to use pan flutes in a cool way? No one ever.
FAVOURITE SONG: Summer Painter (6:30)
KURT VILE / WAKIN ON A PRETTY HAZE
Kurt Vile has a way.... Baby's Arms, featured on his previous album is one of the most melancholic but hopeful songs around. A lot of my friends have described his music as 'depressing', but there is an underlying positivity, Kurt knows it's all just fleeting :), and that adds a general air of positivity to his songs.
When the album 'trailor' for 'Wakin on a pretty haze' was released I was even more excited due to Steve Powers' creation of the mural photographed for the album cover. Let's just say the music lives up to ESPO's art and vice versa.
FAVOURITE SONG: Pure pain (5:09)
TIM HECKER / VIRGINS
This is another obvious one for the list!I've been a die hard Hecker backer for the last few years. Tim Hecker always manages to put something mind blowing, next level together. 'Virgins' is dramatic (such as most of Hecker's releases), but it shows great progress and has a new mature spin on it. The cover and songs 'Virginal I' and 'Virginal II' set the tone well! It's amazing how someone who has released so many album manages to not get stuck in a rut, but instead matures within his sound! All around amazing release.
FAVOURITE SONG: Virginal (6:10)
KANYE WEST / YEEZUS
This album is genius! It's an album that is going to withstand the test of time.
Strangely enough it feels more like a rock album rather than a hip hop album to me. The album features integrated samples originating from well known songs, which automatically make the songs more familiar and thus more memorable. Forget all your hate for Kanye and just give this album a listen.
FAVOURITE SONG: Blood on the leaves (5:09)
JAMES BLAKE / OVERGROWN
James Blake got a lot of flack for his previous release. People said he can't write cohesive songs.
Overgrown definitely proves them wrong. The album is gripping and has a definite haunting edge to it. Toward the end it loses its substance a little, but the first half is very memorable and feature well crafted songs!
FAVOURITE SONG: I am sold (4:04)
APPARAT / KRIEG UND FRIEDEN
This year Werner and I went to Berlin. Months before I kept checking if there are any gigs happening that we could attend. I didn't really see anything that we like so I left it. Once we got to Berlin I had another look and saw that Apparat was performing 'Krieg un Frieden' (War and Peace) the next day. We didn't have tickets but thought if we hang round there long enoug we might be able to make a plan. Eventually we got some 'reserve' tickets. The show was phenomenal. It was in a theatre, so it was a sit down thing. There were also projections which accompanied the music. The whole performance made me respect Sasha Ring even more as he is evidently morethan the average musician. The best part was that there were people present from all age groups (10-80).
FAVOURITE SONG: 44 (noise version) (6:47)
MARK KOZELEK & JIMMY LAVALLE / PERILS FROM THE SEA
As the alternate album cover gives away, Jimmy Lavalle is if the Album Leaf and Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon (previously Red House Painters). This is a surprising combination, not because of drastic differences in terms of the music they make, but siply because I previously never associated the two acts with each other. However, this odd collaboration seems very natural once you listen to it. Lavalle and Kozelek sound like they've been writing songs together for decades but have only decided that the rest of us get to listen to it now. The album is somewhat sad or rather melancholic (Kozelek-duh) yet Lavalle's influence also adds a hopefulness to it, which one might say puts a more positive spin on the album. In a nutshell, Mark and Jimmy make good music together!
FAVOURITE SONG: By the time that I awoke (7:26)
NICK CAVE &THE BAD SEEDS / PUSH THE SKY AWAY
I always wanted to really like Nick Cave, but I was never mad about his music. His persona fascinated me more than his music excited me. I enjoyed some of his previous albums enough to keep listening to his releases though. Push the sky away got me. The title track is one of the greatest songs I've heard this year (or in a long time?). The album offers everything that I've always felt was missing in other releases. In general this album just feels rounded off well and has a timeless quality to it.
FAVOURITE SONG: Push the sky away (4:10)
A$AP ROCKY / LONG. LIVE . A$AP
I never cared about hip hop until I heard Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, M.A.A.D City last year. It gave me a different perspective of what hip hop is / can be and made me realise that I was previously clinging on to some stereotypical idea in terms of what hip hop sounds like and is about. I'm thankful for Kendrick as I've since enjoyed a couple of other releases that are solid albums with sincere and well crafted songs such as this release by A$AP ROCKY.
FAVOURITE SONG: Lvl (3:04)
NILS FRAHM / SPACES
Nils Frahm can do no wrong. That's all.
FAVOURITE SONG: For Peter-Toilet Brushes-More (16:49)
A SKYLINE ON FIRE / END GAME
Phenomenal album which demonstrates immense growth and is loaded with surprises.
FAVOURITE SONG: At ease (3:58)
Grab the full and free album here
VAMPIRE 9000 / HONESTY EP
Well crafted songs with subtle yet sincere hooks and a positive and hopeful atmosphere.
FAVOURITE SONG: This place (4:15)
Listen / buy the ep here
GIVAN LöTZ / SNARL (I,II,III,IV) (Unless, Only, Such, Snores)
Haunting, heartfelt and depressing in the best way possible.
FAVOURITE SONG: Andrew (8:19)
Listen / buy the albums here