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2011 so far

We’re 3/4 through the year and there’s been a hell of a lot of amazing releases this year. It really is an incredible time to be alive as far as music goes. Here are some of my favorite releases from this year so far. For the most part they’re not big name releases like Panda Bear, but they’re records that have really hit me in some way, have played a role in shaping my year in some fashion. No order, just jams.

ShlohmoBad Vibes (Friends of Friends)

Shlohmo has matured a lot as an artist and his debut full lgenth Bad Vibes is a fully developed articulation with a deep musical narrative. This is an album meant to be listened to all the way through as it flows and undulates, creating a wordless narrative of a kind of youthful innocence that undergoes its own Campbellian hero journey. Shlohmo is creating a dialogue with his listener that is intimate and emotional, as he reaches out to our senses and talking about something that is absolutely universal. His use of pretty, light tones, heavy effects of distortion on the guitar, and obscured reverbed vocals are familiar conversation points, but the oblique rhythms and airy textures require the listener to put together Shlohmo’s story. This album has been a favorite listen on early summer mornings, playing a similar role as the sea breeze that creeps in my window, energizing my body in a way only such things can.

OssieSet the Tone (Hyperdub)

This is a favorite at my house and is lately what I reach for when the dancing mood strikes. I love the simplicity of the track – essentially a simple latin shuffle paired with summery synth bass tones. Simple and beautiful. It works great in pretty much any set too, which is nice. The b-side features two great cuts too, espeically with “Moves” being a more elaborate funky house track that is sure to get you stomping. And damn, I love that video – it looks like the best day ever.

BJesus (Nature Sounds)

Simply put, B/Blu has reignited my love for hip hop. His other releases this year (Amnesia & Her Favorite Colour) are great, but it was this low-fi, straight-to-tape sounding record that really resonated with me on a level that was like the first time I heard Common’s Ressurrection or Nas’ Illmatic. This is a completely honest, humble hip hop record that looks back to the times when flow was the main focus on an album. None of these tracks are particularly engineered to make your trunk rattle or to make the dancefloor bounce, but each of the soulful beats accentuate Blu’s thoughtful narrative perfectly. The lyrics are light, playful and fun, but absolutely enrapturing with his complex word play as he drops metaphors, tongue-in-cheek jokes and triple-entendres as if it were second nature. I can’t listen to a single track off this album without a new line jumping out at me – especially love “Let me be blunt/Light up a blunt/Ask you to lunch/OH! You the brunch type?”. This may be my favorite record of the year.

Nicolas JaarSpace is the Only Noise You Can See (Circus Company)

This is one of those records that only improves upon every listen. At first listen it came off as a melodramatic late night record, but I began to understand that Jaar is immaculately creating a cinematic narrative where each song drives this strange story forward in a way that is engrossing and wondrous as a Goddard or Kirosawa film. This is a great late night record, displaying a sense of sophistication while pursuing a subtle sexy tone and gently pulsating rhythms – really the kind of record that demands a little wine, a little hash and dim lights. The hazy house and Satie/Debussy indebted instrumental compositions are thematic explorations that exceed both the confines of genre and contemporary “art music” inclinations. Fifteen, twenty years from now Space is the Only Noise You Can See will not only be considered as a milestone in Jaar’s career, but also a landmark in the evolution of “electronic music” in general.

the WeekndHouse of Balloons (Self-released)

Speaking of late night records, the Weeknd have set a new standard for bedroom R&B with House of Balloons. This record came as a huge surprise to me,¬† as there was just too much hype surrounding it for it to actually be good, right? But as I haven’t been able to stop listening to this record on the daily, I feel that it rightfully deserves a place in the legendary sexy r&b canon along with Al Green’s Lets Stay Together, Marvin Gaye’s I Want You and D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar. The production is hazy and oneiric, loaded with dark layers and super warm bass throbs that vaguely recall some artists such as Burial, SBTRKT or James Blake. Lyrics are clever and often humorous, resembling intoxicated delusional ramblings of sex, drugs and the type of partying that in the morning feels a lot more like a dream than reality. There are moments of reflection of this Dionysian lifestyle that really strike a chord, almost like a wink that threatens to make the whole lyrical narrative seem like a drunken fantasy. Part of the big appeal of the lyrics and whole attitude of the album is a proliferation with this trend of reality-show-as-life celebrity glamor perpetuated by people like Kanye West or Paris Hilton. Regardless, this is the type of record that stimulates, and seduces, edging toward that moment when the bass drops and then, damn, you rewind that shit just to feel the high of the musical foreplay all over again.

the Midnight Eezthe Midnight Eez EP (All City)

Supposedly this is a lost beat tape from 95/96, but the choice of samples and the beautifully warm analog feel of these instrumentals make this seem more like a contemporary homage to the golden age of jazzy, soulful hip hop beats. Not much to say about this record other than it’s absolutely great. No frills beats, just real soul.

ActressGershwin/Harrier Attack (Non Plus+)

Some real headbang house. Just turn “Gershwin” up to 11, kick back and let the rumbling bass and hypnotic synth work itself into your psyche like an spiritual incantation. This song is absolutely amazing. The heavy rhythmic drone of a band like Earth or Isis (or alternately of voodoo drumming) meshed with the bounce of house can only really be done well by a select few and Actress may be the best among them. I wish this song was ten minutes longer, really.

Mono/PolyManifestations (Brainfeeder)

Mono/Poly is doing great things for American bass music, and this record is totally essentially to all lovers of bass. He’s got the west coast funk thing going on similar to cats like Joker, but has this defiant and glorious love for overwhelming and aggressive low end that Low End Theory bass heads flock to like a crackhead to a pookie. Short, digestable and a really fun listen.

WU LYFGo Tell Fire to the Mountain (LYF)

Another record that really surprised me despite the surrounding hype. I don’t listen to a whole lot of “guitar music” anymore, but within minutes I was hooked on this record. It’s got that blissful heaviness that I was addicted to back in my hardcore days, but balanced with a genuine love of melodic singalongs akin to what Hot Water Music circa Fuel for the Hate Game were doing. This is a record put together by young musicians doing exactly what they love and it shows so well. The production on this album is absolutely phenomenal as well – it was recorded in a church which really gives the record a very big, ethereal feel. I feel a little old and nostalgic for loving this record so much, but goddamn, youthful energy is a beautiful thing.

Categories: 2011
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