in alphabetical order
The Age of ADZ (Sufjan Stevens)
Sufjan Stevens, love him or hate him, has a gift. He has a self indulgent gift. He has a masterful understanding of composition and orchestration, he’s a workaholic perfectionist, he doesn’t apologize, he doesn’t make excuses and he’s not afraid to be talented. More importantly, He takes the responsibility of being an artist very seriously and makes bold risky choices. I wholeheartedly admire and respect him for that.
The Age of ADZ is the result of searching and redefining, it’s delicate, pushy, electric, syncopated, chaotic, and complex – all crafting a very sophisticated articulation of ideas into his redefinition of not only himself but what a song is, should be, could be, must be. Sufjan is original and we need this desperately now more than ever.
Astro Coast (Surfer Blood)
The surprise sneak attack album of the year. No one saw this band from West Palm Beach, FL coming when it hit them. It’s Indie surf rock and cinematic. The amount of frenetic thrash splashing reverb used in “Swim” alone is enough to drown you.
Before Today (Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti)
Ariel Pink is a twerked out lo-fi freak folk funky muthrfukcr. Just out there. I featured him a few months back before seeing him live and solidifying my complete awe for whatever he is. His appearance is a cross between Buster Poindexter and Richard Simmons but his live sound is just as tight as the album and blows away most of this year as one of the best shows/albums out. A must see if you get the chance.
Blooming Summer (Blue Hawaii)
Apparently, this is an EP, so I shouldn’t include it on my list, However, it’s an EP with 8 songs and 8 song EPs aren’t really EPs, Are they?
Forget (Twin Shadow)
Despite the fact that Rolling Stone magazine named Twin Shadow the band of the week back in October, he* still is outstanding and was one of the easiest choices for this list. Produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, Twin Shadow’s Forget is pure dark 80s new-wave honey.
*Twin Shadow is George Lewis Jr. of the Dominican Republic, he was raised in Florida before moving to Brooklyn.
Gemini (Wild Nothing)
Live in Dreams
synthy, shoegazy, swirly, glimmery…haunty
In Evening Air (Future Islands)
A highly addictive breakup and move-on album that involves a load of dirt to rub on the wounds. With a voice that evokes Captain Beefheart drinking rubbing alcohol, it’s place on this list cannot be denied.
This album was also featured a while back. Mines is packed with tiny mind explosions.
Sit Down, Man (Das Racist)
two words – Google Rap. Das Racist raps like a smart phone maps.
The Suburbs (Arcade Fire)
Ready To Start
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Never has an album made me more angry than The Suburbs which is a testament to why it’s on this list. Many of you know how I feel about this recording but for those of you who don’t – Rant…Simply, Whoever* mastered The Suburbs should be fired & publicly humiliated….yes yes yes, I know Markus Dravs has established himself as a great producer, but he royally fucked this album. He or whoever snook into the control booth when no one was looking cranked every level (high, mid & low) up to eleven and essentially flattened the entire album into and unlistenable pancake. Hearing the noise of this god awful mess is akin to driving nine inch icicle nails through the core of your inner ear. I hope I live long enough to hear the 20 year anniversary remaster. By the way, If directors like Ridley Scott are compelled to come out with director’s cuts of their movies to combat poor studio decisions then why can’t bands do the same. I wonder if AF even knows how terrible it sounds with its complete lack of dynamic range. And critics who justify it’s shortcomings as “sonically emulating its subject” must be getting paid under the table to publicly stroke Merges rooster for free tickets to the next show while simultaneously bolstering click traffic for their online fanzine.
However! it easily makes this list… god I love this album despite all of the above. I just wish I could listen to it on my cheap ear bud headphones. It’s just a shame cause it could be so much better.
*UPDATE: the culprit is George Marino and apparently I’m on to something because he was just nominated for a grammy award for his mastering of the album.