Posts Tagged ‘floating points’

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2015

December 20, 2015

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Here it is, ladies and gentlemen. The long-awaited, seventh annual INAUDIBLE best of 2015 listy list! I hope you enjoy it!

BEST EP’s, SINGLES and 12″s of 2015

(click album cover to sample a track)

Palms Trax - In Gold

Palms Trax – In Gold

Route 8 - This Raw Feeling

Route 8 – This Raw Feeling

 

 

 

 

 

 

Palms Trax and Route 8 are two young producers that have been making huge strides in the techno scene over the last few years thanks to consistently awesome releases on Lobster Theremin, Dekmantel, and Nous Records. Here’s hoping for more of the same in 2016!

Pender Street Steppers

Pender Street Steppers

Jack J - Thirstin'

Jack J – Thirstin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver, BC is having a major moment right now and these two Mood Hut heroes are leading the way with their quality spliffed-out stompers that play just as well on the couch as they do on the dance floor. Check ’em, son.

Junktion- Monologue

Junktion – Monologue

Andrés - Believin'

Andrés – Believin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Junktion is a relative newcomer from the Netherlands, and Andrés is a 20 year veteran from Detroit, but both of them got that deep soulful groove thang on point. These aren’t just club tracks, they’re proper songs to get the party started and keep you in the moment all night…

Art Crime - Obsession

Art Crime – Obsession

Various - Workshop 21

Various – Workshop 21

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although very different, both of these albums pack an emotional wallop. Art Crime makes you wanna lose yourself on a black as pitch dance floor, while Workshop 21 highlights four different artists and four different moods, and in doing so has crafted one of its finest releases. Left of centre house jams!

Green Kingdom - Vapor Sequences

The Green Kingdom

Lnrdcroy - Unthank 008

Lnrdcroy – UNTHANK008

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green Kingdom never fails to disappoint with his take on hushed dub-tinged ambience, while Lnrdcroy returned with three tracks to remind me why I loved Much Less Normal last year. Yet another young and talented Vancouver artist to keep your ears on…

 

Thundercat

Thundercat – The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam

When I first heard Thundercat’s “Them Changes”, I played it six times in a row. It had an Isley Brothers sample that was infectious as hell and a Steely Dan vibe that I just couldn’t resist. It was summer and the sun was shining through the kitchen window and with each listen I turned up the volume a little more.

Yet, when I finally started to focus on the lyrics I realized that although the song was as bright as that July sun, there was something more sombre under the surface. And to be sure, the album is actually about grief and mourning and an attempt at catharsis for Thundercat. The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam actually sounds more like a post-rock record than funk or soul or hip-hop, but all I can say is that it’s Thundercat’s strongest statement to date…

 

HONORABLE AUDIBLES

Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dog – Bush (Columbia Records)

Does Snoop just keep getting smoother and cooler with age? With the help of Pharrell, I’d say the answer is hells to the yes.

Bush was conceived as a tribute to the funk and R&B of the 1970’s that has always inspired Snoop’s music, yet it is so much more than that – it places Snoop back up on the West Coast pedestal he briefly left for his turn as a Lion. And even though he didn’t sound half bad on his Rasta tip, it’s the G-Funk vibe that’s his real wheelhouse.

Bush is a feel good album from start to finish and shows that Snoop and Pharrell can still drop it like it’s hot.

Snoop Dog: “This City

Deerhunter

Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (4AD Records)

Deerhunter returned this autumn with Fading Frontier, a subdued yet more pleasant album than their 2013 effort Monomania. Yet even though it’s the band’s catchiest album to date, with great hooks and choruses, I feel like it falls short of their earlier releases.

Deerhunter have always outdone themselves with each album, and this feels more like a revisiting of Halcyon Digest rather than a reinventing of. That said, I’ve still listened to it tons of times and find Cox and Pundt’s guitar work fantastic, I was just hoping for a little more…

Deerhunter: “Carrion

Bersarin Quartett

Bersarin Quartett – III (Denovali Records)

Thomas Bücker resurfaced this year with the third album under his Bersarin Quartett guise and offers up another collection of rich neo-classical ambience. Bersarin Quartett’s music is minimal but it’s also really emotive, and he’s a natural at exploring textures, mood, and atmosphere in an abstract way. Yet with III we find him at his most cinematic with some of these tracks actually reminding me a bit of J. Swinscoe himself, albeit at his most quiet.

All three Bersarin Quartett releases are excellent and Bücker’s music should be enjoyed by more listeners. Check it.

Bersarin Quartett: “Ver Flossen Ist Das Gold Der Tage

 

INAUDIBLE’S TOP 11 ALBUMS OF 2015

Flo Po - Elaenia

11. Floating Points – Elaenia (Pluto Records)

In my very first end of year list in 2009, I dubbed Sam Shepherd my “Fave New Artist”. Fast forward seven years, and he’s finally released his full-length debut album, Elaenia. And in many respects a debut it is, as it offers up a much different Flo Po than the house boogie hero I was championing back in 2009.

Shepherd flirted with jazz and orchestral arrangements a few years ago with his Floating Points Ensemble project, but now that vision is truly realized, and with Elaenia we have a full-blown production of mature nu-jazz numbers recorded with a live band.

These tracks go from swirling to quiet to jazzy to funk with synths holding the whole thing together – in fact, it’s not until the last track (where a John McEntire-esque drum beat blasts its way through six minutes) that the album really lights up, building to a wild climax and ending right in the middle of it. It’s a jarring way to end the record, but it leaves this listener wanting to hear where he’ll go next…

Floating Points: “Silhouettes (I, II & III)

 

DJ Richard

10. DJ Richard – Grind (Dial Records)

Judging from earlier releases on his White Material label, I figured Grind was going to be a noisy and scrappy affair, yet DJ Richard’s jump to Dial Records for his first full-length shows him turning down the grit a bit for more melody and the results are excellent. Grind is analogue in feel, melancholy in mood, and rough around the edges, yet it’s still elegant.

DJ Richard’s style is all his own, with tracks like “Nighthawk” and “Bane” being great examples of how he can work stuttering drums and several different synth lines at once, and have the effect be both harsh and enveloping, depending on his listener’s mood. Bottom line: he’s definitely one to watch in the years to come.

DJ Richard: “Vampire Dub

 

Jamie XX

9. Jamie xx – In Colour (Young Turks)

“I go to loud places to search for someone to be quiet with…”

That lyric has been drifting in and out of my head since the beginning of summer, when Jamie xx’s long-awaited solo album In Colour dropped to great acclaim. It’s been pretty much lauded by everyone, and even though it took me a few spins, it was Jamie’s skill at tapping into nostalgia that completely won me over. He’s put out some great jams leading up to this, slowly honing his skills as a first-rate producer, and In Colour is the culmination of the last six years, gathering up elements of everything he’s done – moody ballads, floor-filling bangers, and off-kilter collaborations with vocalists – and jamming them all into a tight bright package.

In some respects, even album cover wise, this record reminds me of Caribou’s Our Love from last year, as it mines the same wistful aural territory. And what’s nice is that it offers a couple tracks that might as well be songs by the xx, with Romy singing on “Loud Places” and “See Saw” which are both excellent, and Oliver staying moody and chill on “Stranger in a Room”. And how can I leave out “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”? The smashing yet unlikely collab with Popcaan and Young Thug. That track has gotten me fired up and feeling fine many a time since I first heard it and will continue to do so well into 2016.

In Colour is an album you can play at the height of the party or walking home from work on a Monday evening in the rain, and in both settings it plays out just as smooove.

Big tings still ahead for this bloke!

 

Project Pablo

8. Project Pablo – I Want To Believe (1080p)

Montreal via Vancouver producer, Patrick Holland, makes hazy funky soulful house under the moniker Project Pablo, and like his contemporaries Pender Street Steppers, he stepped up his game in 2015. With the cassette version of “I Want To Believe”, Holland has released a collection of songs that are deep and groovy and filled with an innate sense of fun.

This album was a slow burner and didn’t fully grab me from the start, yet with each successive listen it only continued to sound better and better … and here’s hoping for more of the same in 2016!

Project Pablo: “Movin’ Out

 

Kurt Vile

7. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down… (Matador Records)

Philly’s everyman Kurt Vile is at his most Kurt Vilest with his latest long player b’lieve i’m goin down… showcasing a perfect mix of lo-fi rock and roll and Americana. The beauty has always been in the subtlety and strength of his songwriting, yet here he’s toned down the rock just a bit, showing a little more restraint than on Wakin’ on a Pretty Daze. Vile’s lyrics are dark and lonesome and occasionally funny, delivered in a laconic style that’s all his own. He tends to drag out words or syllables providing the perfect counterpart to his skilled finger-plucking or guitar strums.

The album starts off on a high note with the fantastic “Pretty Pimpin”, in which Vile contemplates his existence in front of the bathroom mirror, however, for me it’s the slower more meditative tracks that highlight his finger-plucking skills that are the big winners for me, like “All in a Daze Work”, which shows him at his most patient – just a dude completely lost in the moment of playing his guitar.

What’s a bit different is that there’s a bit more banjo and a lot more piano on display in these tracks, the best example being “Lost My Head There”, which has a great outro with a vibraphone flourish and the occasional “Wooh!” from KV. Not a huge departure here, but that ain’t a bad thing at all…

 

DJ Koze

6. DJ Koze – DJ Kicks (!K7 Records)

I’m pretty sure DJ Koze and I would get along. I’ve always been a fan of his style both as a music producer and label head, so it makes sense that I’d like a DJ Kicks mix of his as well – I just never thought I’d dig it so much.

It’s definitely more for home listening than the club, but it has a steady trajectory to keep your head bobbing. Koze kicks things off with a Dilla-inspired original “I Haven’t Been Everywhere But It’s On My List” before sliding into some great obscure hip hop tracks and then a slowed down mid-section featuring the classic “Tears In The Typing Pool” from Broadcast and a spoken word piece from William Shatner that is oddly powerful. It isn’t until the last five songs where Koze really heats it up and provides a selection of perfectly mixed house numbers, nailing the vibe with penultimate track, “Surrender” by Portable.

What a beautiful song. What a beautiful playlist. DJ Koze just keeps getting better with time. Check this mix please and thank you.

 

Tame Impala

5. Tame Impala – Currents (Interscope Records)

Kevin Parker has come a long way from down under in the last half decade or so since his band Tame Impala started making waves with the still excellent Innerspeaker. No longer is he just that long-haired barefoot Aussie stoner dude who sounds like John Lennon and riffs like Tony Iommi . . . well I guess he still is, but he’s also become a veritable production artist not unlike George Martin.

The first single to be released off of Currents was the 8-minute psych-rock jam “Let it Happen”, and I dug it upon first listen, however, the first time I listened to the album all the way through, I remember thinking “where’s the fuzz, yo?” And so my initial reaction was that it definitely sounded good but I wasn’t totally feeling it.

Fast forward two or three weeks later and cue up four king cans of beer, a joint, and some headphones. I was typing away on my laptop working on a story when “Eventually” came on, and everything immediately clicked – I stopped typing and stared at the screen like a doe-eyed deer about to get hit by a truck. The production! Holy shit! Everything sounded so crisp and alive! How did I miss this before? And of course, once I had heard it like that, I couldn’t unhear it, and I was officially obsessed and listened to the album on repeat for weeks.

The best part of the songs is the little flourishes Parker is so adept at adding, like the chiming synth line at the end of “Eventually” or the soft Fender Rhodes tinkle in “The Less I Know The Better” or the vocal delay in the chorus of “The Moment” that really make the songs stand out. Great album!

 

Cascade

4. William Basinski – Cascade (Temporary Residence)

The prolific William Basinski has made a career out of decaying audio tape – a fitting foil for our accelerated times and the proliferation of all things digital. And by now I think it’s safe to say his name belongs up there next to Eno and Budd as one of the finest ambient artists ever.

It’s been over fifteen years since The Disintegration Loops, and it’s arguably still his finest piece of music to date. I can put that record on at any time and be immediately lost, an hour can go by in the twitch of an eye, or can feel drawn out like the setting sun on the horizon. It’s timeless.

With “Cascade”, Basinski offers up about twenty seconds of piano and loops it for 40 minutes. That’s it. It sounds too simple to be effective, but as the loop repeats itself endlessly it morphs into something more murky and broken as the tape loop slowly decays, and in doing so creates a feeling of calmness and peace in the listener.

This is my top morning album of the year by far. Sometimes I play it twice in a row and have to stop myself from hitting play again.

Scrolling through the comments section on YouTube, two comments stuck out in between the “Beautifuls!” and “Profounds”. The first was: “It’s so odd to think that these works are simply just tape looping and decaying, with textures added over top, but this seemingly simple art form has the power to bring you to tears and think deeply on the past.”

And the second: “I was listening to this for 10 minutes before I even actually noticed I was listening to it and then I was like HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THIS?” My thoughts indeed, my thoughts indeed.

William Basinski: “Cascade

 

Freddie-Gibbs

3. Freddie Gibbs – Shadow of a Doubt (ESGN Records)

Gangsta Gibbs keeps up the hot streak he started by teaming with Madlib last year for the fantastic Pinata and released three records in 2015. Earlier in the year he put out two EP’s, The Tonight Show and the hot as fire Pronto, before releasing the unexpected full-length Shadow of a Doubt in early November. And since it’s dropped, I’ve listened to it at least once a day. I wake up with the hooks and rhymes in my head and can’t seem to get enough.

Unlike DJ Koze, who I honestly think I could be buds with, I’m not sure the same thing would apply with Freddie Gibbs. I imagine him taking one look at me, smirking, and thinking to himself “who’s this phony silver foxin’ ass nigga?” before turning around and never acknowledging me again. He drops the n-word so many times during Shadow of a Doubt, I figure he would have to use it when he saw me, even though I’m whiter than Marshall Mathers.

But if he’d turn around again, I’d tell him the reason why I’m so drawn to his shit is because he’s a storyteller who just so happens to be a rapper who just so happens to sound like no one else in the game right now. On Shadow of a Doubt, all the songs tell some sort of story, either about his drug-dealing past, a pill habit, or the deepened sense of purpose he’s felt since the birth of his daughter in April. So even though I can’t really relate, I can totally relate, you know what I mean?

He makes his listeners feel his struggle regardless if they’re young kids on the corner in Gary, Indiana, or some white Canadian dude in his mid-thirties bumping Freddie in his kitchen while he and his girlfriend make dinner. They’re ain’t a shadow of a doubt that Freddy Corleone is one of the freshest voices in hip hop in 2015.

Essential tracks: “Fuckin’ Up The Count”, “10 Times” and “Packages

 

To Pimp A Butterfly

2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (Top Dawg)

How do you know if you’ve really made the big time? By getting eleven Grammy nominations for your sophomore record? Or having the President of the United States say that one of your songs is his personal favourite of the year? Or being in the top three of virtually every end of year list being written in 2015 (including even this highly respected blog)?

Yes and oui and si, I’d say.

Kendrick Lamar returned this year trying to outdo the accolades bestowed on his last album good kid, m.A.A.d city, and pretty much blew the roof off of everything with To Pimp A Butterfly. A fusion of old school and new school, funk and soul, R&B and jazz, a swirling collaboration with so many artists from Snoop to Bilal to Fly Lo to Thundercat to Boi-1da, Pharrell, Kamasi Washington, the ghost of 2Pac and more.

At the centre of it all is Kendrick, sounding more determined than ever to highlight what it’s like to be black in 2015 in America. Yet even though he may be on top of his game, it seems like Kendrick still be climbin’, and searching for guidance, trying to figure out where exactly he fits in the world around him, both as music superstar and lil homey from Compton. Unlike Kanye who has called himself “Walt Disney, Shakespeare, Nike and Google”, all in the same breath, there’s a humbleness to Kendrick’s personality that’s refreshing. And while Drake is dancing around, waiting for some girl to call him on his cell phone, Kendrick’s figuring out how to be a better person out in the world and a better rapper in the industry.

During the song “Momma”, Kendrick repeats the line “I know everything”, in between telling us what that everything is: Compton, morality, street shit, wisdom, karma, history, bullshit, highs and lows, loyalty, clothes, hoes, money, generosity, until he goes home and sits at the kitchen table with him Momma and realizes he doesn’t know a goddamn thing.

Earlier on the album, during “Institutionalized”, Kendrick reminds himself of some great advice his Grandma gave him when he was young: “Shit don’t change until you get up and wash yo’ ass, nigga!”

It seems to me like Kendrick knows that real change starts from within and with To Pimp A Butterfly he’s trying his damnedest to promote this idea and act on it and let everyone know that hopefully everything’s gonna be “Alright”.

To Pimp A Butterfly is a challenging listen to be sure but ultimately a very rewarding one.

Kendrick Lamar: “Untitled” (from The Colbert Report)

 

sufjan

1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty)

Stripping away the bells and whistles, the orchestration, the back-up singers, the electronics, the gimmicks, and the technicolor spectacle, Sufjan Stevens returned this year with just his guitar, a piano, and his voice, and released Carrie & Lowell, the best album of his career.

We all know the album’s premise by now, it’s titled after his mother and step-dad. In 2012, Sufjan’s mother died of cancer and although their relationship was strained (she left when he was young), she’s still his family, and this album focuses on how Sufjan coped with the aftermath of those early years, and the emptiness his mother’s death left in him.

In the last two years, I’ve had two friends lose a parent, and I’ve watched them struggle to make sense of life without them. They’ve grieved in their own ways, some healthy some not, and because of their losses, I can’t help but think of my own parents and my girlfriend’s parents and the fact that we ain’t getting any younger … and it’s scary and makes me want to press pause or somehow go back in time, because I don’t want it to ever happen. Carrie & Lowell has a similiarly sobering effect, and by looking inside himself, Sufjan is able to really connect with his listeners.

So as soon as I found out he was touring I immediately bought tickets for the show. I’ve seen him before and knew it would be stupid to miss him. Unfortunately, I didn’t look at the date, only to realize later that the show was on the same weekend we were going to be at a wedding in Yosemite National Park. I was surprised at how upset I was about having to miss the show. But Yosemite … damn, what a special place.

On our last morning there, I had to go pick up some things at the bride’s cottage, which was a 45-minute drive through the Yosemite valley. I put on Carrie & Lowell as I drove through the park, the early morning sun glinting off the Half Dome and El Capitan, and every view worthy of Ansel Adams’ camera.

I barely made it through opening track “Death With Dignity” before the tears came. And there was a lot of them. And I couldn’t stop. But they weren’t sad, they were joyous and oddly powerful. Two tracks later in “All Of Me Wants All Of You”, Sufjan sings “Landscape changed my point of view”, and as he said that I cheered. I put my arm out the window and pumped my fist in the air. I laughed through my tears. I realized it was a perfect spring day. I realized how much I loved the people in my life. I looked around at the dense forest and the giant rocks and shivered …

It was the closest thing to a spiritual experience I have ever had, and so that is why Sufjan Stevens tops my list for 2015.

Carrie & Lowell is an album of memories and stories. It’s covered in the dust of a turbulent family life and how one man, one child, learned to deal with it all. It may well be our first insight into the real Sufjan. It’s heavy, but so very beautiful.

Sufjan Stevens: “Blue Bucket of Gold

yosemite

Yes! I made it to the finish line! Thanks for reading! Have a fantastic 2016, my friends!

Love,

ml

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2009

December 16, 2009

I am happy to present Inaudible’s first annual end of year listy list.

TOP 23 ALBUMS OF 2009

23. Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day (GOOD Music)

Kid Cudi’s proper debut is a solid collection of nu-skoool hip-hop jams and pop anthems – and when it came out a few months back I listened hell out of it for about two weeks straight. Originally, I thought it was going to end up way higher on my list, but in the end, it’s levelling off at the bottom. The main reason for this is that it unfortunately lacks lasting power. I don’t want to listen to it anymore. I feel I’ve exhausted it of all its charms. Still, “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” does have some great tracks, and at its best moments shows Kid Cudi’s potential as a force to be reckoned with in mainstream hip-hop.

But where does the Solo Dolo go from here? I’m afraid his recent gigs with Lady Gaga are showing us exactly where . . . but ya never know, he could still surprise us. Cudi is worth listening to, but so far he ain’t changing the game, he’s just going along with it. At least I discovered Chip Tha Ripper because of this album.


22. Junior Boys – Begone Dull Care (Domino)

The Hamilton, Ontario duo Junior Boys return with their third album and present more of the same lush and textured emo-electro-pop. There’s something about Jeremy Greenspan’s voice that I am absolutely and completely fed up with, but this album gets a nod on the list for its ridiculously smooth production and the number of times I kept returning to it over the year. “Begone Dull Care” is great for dinner parties, morning hangovers on the TTC, and dates with girls who don’t really like electronic music. And that is exactly the Boys’ problem. They are playing it way too safe, veering off into the terrifying world of muzak instead of delving deeper into the world of next-shit electronica. These boys are audiophile nerds to the extreme, which is why their albums sound so goddamn good, but is also why I want them to push their sound further. And I want Greenspan to try something other than his trademark breathy crooning. His voice on Morgan Geist’s “Double Night Time” was a welcome addition, and a nice teaser as we waited for a new Junior Boys release, but he sounds exactly the same in every song. His timbre, tone, emotion, and pitch does not vary one bit from the opening track on “Last Exit” to the last track on “Begone Dull Care”.

Still, I do give the Junior Boys props, they’re an excellent duo, but all I ask is for them to step it up in future releases, especially if they want me to show more than just dull care. (I know it’s a cheesy end but I’m going with it.)

21. Sleeping Me – Lamenter (Phantom Channel)

Sleeping Me is the moniker of guitarist Clayton McEvoy who makes sweeping ambient compositions that are reminiscent of Stars of the Lid, Harold Budd, and Brian Eno. McEvoy uses only guitars and an array of pedals to create his droned out sound. The result is a relaxing and dulcet lull that is perfect for morning coffees or an absorbing book before bed. McEvoy also put out an album entitled “Cradlesongs” earlier this year, but it is hard to find, so I have not heard it in its entirety. However, if “Lamenter” is any indication, it too is sure to be ideal listening for shoegazers, just in the horizontal position.

20. Telefon Tel Aviv – Immolate Yourself (BPitch Control)

In late fall of 2008, I finally saw Telefon Tel Aviv live, and was given a sneak preview of “Immolate Yourself” as they played the album almost in its entirety. Although, I was a tad dismayed at their stripped-down sound, I was still happy to finally see one of my all time favourite electronic duo’s play live. And when this album came out in January, I picked it up immediately. TTA are meticulous producers – their early releases and 2007’s excellent “Remixes Compiled” disc clearly illustrate their amazing attention to the slightest glitch, hiss, and frequency. While still arranged and produced with the same hyper attention to detail, “Immolate Yourself” seems much more restrained and unadorned. Even so, this is dark electro-pop at its moodiest. I think it’s worth owning this album for opening tracks “The Birds” and “M” alone. Fun late night experiment: smoke a joint and try to figure out exactly what Cooper and Eustis are saying over and over in “The Birds”.

Fans of the group will unfortunately know already that just a few days before the album was released Charles Cooper was found dead in Chicago. This was upsetting news, yet ironically helped give the album even more emotional resonance. Telefon Tel Aviv are an ambitious and forward-thinking band and it’s a sad fact the duo won’t be on any more top lists in years to come.

19. Mokira – Persona (Type Records)

Andreas Tilliander returned this year with a beautiful release under his Mokira moniker. Andreas Tilliander has put out some of the finest and most genre-defining electronic releases of this decade: “Ljud” and “Elit” under his own name and “Cliphop” and “Plee” under Mokira. Now a seasoned and respected veteran in the electronic music world, Tilliander’s 2009 release on the lovely Type Records may be his finest album to date. With such strong work backing him up it makes it almost impossible to truly gauge, but suffice to say “Persona” is a brilliant piece of static-warbled and absorbing ambience. Opening track “About Last Step and Scale” begins very much like a Basinski loop, but then after a minute or so, you feel like you’re being pulled downwards, deep below the ‘disentegrated loop’ and into Mokira’s territory. He operates miles below the surface, creating dark bass rumbles, enigmatic rhythms, and low-frequency bleeps and bloops, yet still keeps it melodic at all times. It’s an album I can write to, fall asleep to, but also listen carefully to and get lost within. Andreas Tilliander stole my robot heart years ago and “Persona” reminds me exactly why.

18. The Field – Yesterday and Today (Kompakt)

It took me awhile to get over my initial fears that Axel WIllner’s second album would fail in comparison to “From Here We Go Sublime”. But once I was finally swept into the looped brilliance of “Yesterday and Today” I was hooked, and now think it’s a much more fully realized vision of his musical aesthetic.

The second track “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” slows the tempo down and adds lush vocals in the mix to fantastic effect, and then “Leave It” comes next – a sprawling and emotive track of 4/4 techno bliss – and when the bass hook drops at the 3 minute mark, I am fucking sold. Wooh. One of my fave songs of the year for sure. The title track is also fantastic and features John Stanier from Battles adding some live drums to the mix. Another fine piece of work from The Field and yet another solid release from Kompakt.


17. CYNE – Water For Mars (Hometapes)

Gainsville, Florida’s, CYNE released the fantastic “Water For Mars” this year on Hometapes, and it quickly turned into the most satisfying summer album of the year for me. The production skills of Speck and Enoch are bass-heavy and hip-hop smooove. MC’s Akin and Cise Star play off each other’s rhymes, always trying to compliment each other’s lyrical dexterity. “Pretty Apollo” begins with a Fender Rhodes tinkle and snare pop and quickly builds into one of those hazy summer jams. CYNE’s overall feel is that of next-level hip-hop . . . ain’t no gangsta shit here, just intelligent rhymes, dope production, and positive energy. This was one of my most listened to bike ride albums for sure. I’m such a boombox pimp, pimp, pimp, pimp.

16. Passion Pit – Manners (Frenchkiss)

Passion Pit’s full-length debut fits in with a long line of “dance rock” or “synth rock” bands that I enjoy listening to when a) I want to have a good time, b) I am getting ready to have a good time, or c) I am already in the process of having a good time. Think Hot Chip, Cut Copy, Bloc Party, Phoenix, Hall & Oates et al. It really is quite surprising that a band mixing uber-falsetto lead vocals, a children’s choir, and chipmunk synths, actually sounds this goddamn good. Thanks to the slick production, ridiculously infectious hooks and refrains, and the band’s youthful energy and emotion, “Manners” is a through and through winner of an album, and one I dig a little more with every listen.

Fave track: “Let Your Love Grow Tall”. Lovely.

15. Rameses III – I Could Not Love You More (Type Records)

“I Could Not Love You More” is a soothing and pastoral album full of lush drones and ambient soundscapes. Combining acoustic guitar, lap steel, loops, voice, synths and field recordings of idyllic summer days, the London-based trio have released a relaxing and intimate album reminiscent of Mountains, Helios, The Green Kingdom, and Klimek.

Like all good ambient and modern classical, there’s a sense of weightlessness to Rameses III‘s music, yet there’s still an inherent feeling that a band is playing this music – it’s not overly produced, it’s soft and very organic. Tracks like “The Kindness in Letting Go” and “Cloud Kings” play up the trio’s love for sprawling drone, while tracks “Across The Lake Is Where My Heart Shines” and “No Water, No Moon” are more song-like in composition, where the instruments maintain their sonic shape, rather than morphing into a whirr of sound. Overall, Rameses III has released another fine album and one of my favourite ambient, home listening albums of 2009. C’est tellement beau, le!

14. DJ Sprinkles – Midtown 120 Blues (Mule Musiq)

I have consistently returned to “Midtown 120 Blues” throughout the year and find it one of the smoothest house albums in recent memory. This is house music that conjures up the classic sounds of Chicago and Detroit and is very rewarding after repeated listens. There’s soul here, techno, nostalgia, and rich ambience. The monologues and voice snippets are interesting and introspective and deal with the politics of music and identity. Tracks “Ball’r (Madonna Free Zone)” and “House Music is Controllable Desire You Can Own” are highlights that play just as well in a party setting as they do in a horizontal one. Sexy, sad, deep, smart, and emotional music. Smoooove.

13. Moritz Von Oswald Trio – Vertical Ascent (Honest Jon’s)

One could argue this is electronic music’s answer to rock super group Them Crooked Vultures, because the trio is made up of a) Moritz von Oswald of Basic Channel, Maurizio, and Rhythm & Sound legend, b) Sasu Ripatti, better known as Luomo and Vladislav Delay and Uusitalo and c) lesser known but still prolific, Max Lodenbauer of Sun Electric and NSI fame.

Jesus Christ!

Early releases from Ripatti under his various monikers define some of my finest moments listening to music ever (especially on drugs for Delay and on a dance floor for Luomo), and don’t even get me started on Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound – the definitive forerunners of stripped down minimal techno and dub techno respectively, and also up there as some of my finest listening experiences ever! So suffice to say, I was stoked and intrigued when I found out the trio, being hyped as a live improv jazz meets dub ensemble, were releasing an album.

Each of the four tracks are simply called Pattern and all range around the ten-minute mark, and they do have a jazzy feel to them. The type of stuff a later Miles would have made if he was, ya know, an android. Pattern’s 1 and 3 both keep the pulsating, rolling percussion throughout, while Pattern 4 is the most dub-like in execution, working at a slower more languid clip and builds hazily, ending with a strange burst of synth. Pattern 2 is the most atmospheric of them all, and sounds like robots slowly building other robots in a factory that has absolutely amazing acoustics.

The fact that “Vertical Ascent” is a live album is also something of note. Especially in a genre of music where many “live” shows consist of nothing more than staring at Powerbooks. These three musicians have been innovating for close to twenty years and show no sign of stopping. Brilliant!

12. Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement (Stones Throw)

No other album this year made me smile as much as Mayer Hawthorne’s instant classic “A Strange Arrangement”. This LP is so much fun and infused with the smoothest soul I’ve heard in years. Meshing the sounds of Smokey, Marvin, Curtis, and the Temps, Mayer Hawthorne’s debut plays like a warped 33 from your parents old LP collection, but also manages to sound like the next shit at the same time. Seeing him live was also a great experience, and I hope he continues to refine his throwback sound and innovate a bit more with his next release, but overall when the Mayer’s in town, you know it’s gonna be a good time.

11. Tortoise – Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey)

Post-rock darlings Tortoise release their first album of new material in 5 years and it’s a complete return to form. Sounding like the proper follow-up to 2001’s “Standards”, “Beacons of Ancestorship” truly is a prog album. It is dirty and crisp, sounding like it was recorded underwater and in an air-tight studio at the same time. And as always, their sound is undefinable – dub, post-rock, lo-fi, electronica, dance, spaghetti western, jazz, classic rock, punk, it’s all here in a tight 45-minute set. What more can I really say? Tortoise’s musical influence really knows no bounds. They are one of the best bands in the biz and one of my all time faves. Catch them on their belated North American “Beacons” tour in early 2010. Love it.

10. Memory Tapes – Seek Magic (Rough Trade)

Dayve Hawk took the blogosphere by storm in early 2009 putting up free releases as Weird Tapes and Memory Cassette, and by summer he had wed the best aspects of his two projects to become Memory Tapes. Instead of building tracks with layers of sound, the songs on this album are filled with catchy hooks, choruses and refrains, in proper pop song fashion. Guitar licks reminiscent of New Order, and analogue synths suggestive of Aphex Twin are meshed together to smashing effect in “Green Knight” and “Bicycle”. The choruses of “Stop Talking” and “Graphics” are so infectious and hooky you’ll find yourself singing them for days. Album closer “Run Out” is a perfect come down track, it’s emotional and harmonious, and could easily be stretched out to ten minutes in length and I’d still want to play it over again. Props to Hawk for his musical output this year, and let’s hope 2010 sees him playing some live shows in our respective local areas.

9. Dog Day – Concentration (Outside Music)

It was great to discover an amazing east coast rock band this year, because it’s been many a moon since a group from the Maritimes has really piqued my interest. But in the tradition of bands like Eric’s Trip, Hardship Post, and Elevator to Hell, Dog Day have the lo-fi power pop indie rock thing down to a beautiful science. The vocal interplay is great, and the album is chock full of catchy melodies, smooth synth lines and angular guitars licks. Their live show at The Horseshoe in Toronto was also a great concert and proved the band excels not just in the studio but also on stage. Best band outta the Maritimes since Shotgun and Jaybird for shizz (and they don’t really even count because they orig from the Yukon). Gimme more!

8. Mountains – Choral (Thrill Jockey)

Brooklyn duo Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp have released my favourite ambient/modern classical album of the year. Mountains are up there with Marsen Jules and Loscil for me, because with “Choral” they have crafted a beautiful album that expertly blends the organic with the digital – seamlessly meshing acoustics with electronics to fantastic effect. I have been lulled to sleep by this album more than any other this year, but have also enjoyed it in the early mornings, and while reading and writing. Their live show at The Music Gallery in Toronto was one of my favourite live shows of the year. Using guitars, synths, accordion, melodica, voice, two Powerbooks, and lots of other toys, they created a whitewash of introspective and hypnotizing ambience.

In October, the duo released another album entitled “Etching” that was limited to 1000 copies, and I’ve unfortunately been unable to get a hold of it, but I’m sure it’s just as warm and abstract as the fantastic “Choral”. If you can find it, buy it.

7. The xx – The xx (Young Turks)

Oh youth! In all your angsty, moody, cigarette filled ennui! Let’s write an album so deceptively simple and void of emotion that it will end up being one of the most complex and emotional albums of the year!

Lucky for us, the bloodsuckers behind the “Twilight” travesties weren’t quite hip enough to know about The xx yet, otherwise “Crystalised” would probably be playing during some anti-climactic softcore vampire porn moment in “New Moon”. They already stole Death Cab, Bon Iver and St. Vincent from us, and forever tarnished their musical credence as fodder for vampire-related garbage, and no doubt The xx’s lethargic pseudo-goth sound would have fit right in.

But I digress. The debut album from this young band is a very good one. It’s been hyped to death, and deserves at least most of it. I unfortunately showed up late to their Toronto debut at The Phoenix with Friendly Fires on December 2nd and missed their brief half an hour set. I was upset to have missed them and received mixed reviews from various people at the concert. Perhaps the recent loss of keyboardist Baria Qureshi from the band had something to do with their hasty and as one person said “lackluster” performance. I can’t say for sure, but I think I would have liked their live show. I’ve returned to this album many times since its release and think it’s a melancholic grower worthy of repeat listens.

Fave tracks: “Stars” and “Night Time”

6. Nosaj Thing – Drift (Alpha Pup Records)

Jason Chung aka Nosaj Thing made quite a name for himself in 2009 with the release of his first full-length album “Drift”. While he’s being lumped in with the LA hip-hop scene, “Drift” is far from being simply a hip-hop album. There’s just as much dubstep and leftfield IDM as there is hip-hop. The beats are spastic and crisp, the bass deep, and the synths dark, murky, and atmospheric. This album has continued to surprise me all year with its depth and range. The last half of the album gets a bit more heady, pulling the listener in with its offbeat compositions. Sonically speaking this is one of the best sounding albums of the year with its many layers and intriguing use of samples. I caught his show in Toronto earlier this year and although the turnout was few, Nosaj’s set was great. I look forward to more new music from this young and talented producer.

5. Wax Stag – Wax Stag (People in the Sky Records)

Reminiscent of Solvent, Plaid, Marc Houle, and early Autechre and Aphex, Rob Lee’s debut as Wax Stag is a veritable analogue bubblebath for your ears. Synths, moogs, hand claps, and 8-bit bleeps and bloops help make this album a charming and sonic winner. And for those of us who’ve been listening to IDM and leftfield electronica since before the new millennium, it’ll churn up some serious nostalgia too.

Rob Lee also records music under the moniker Tack Till, a more subdued indietronic solo project, which is really awesome stuff as well. It reminds me of the very first Savath and Savalas album. Check it out and if you haven’t heard Wax Stag yet, please do so.

4. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue (Warp Records)

Stephen Wilkinson aka Bibio released his first album for Warp Records and with it his musical aesthetic expanded twofold. Bibio’s earlier releases “Fi” and “Hand-Cranked” were excellent skewed folktronica, but as he continued to release new music, the sound was getting a bit samey and uninspiring. Definitely not the case with “Ambivalence Avenue” though – Bibio keeps his indie folk roots but tosses soul, hip-hop, and techno in the mix, to create one of the most pleasant surprises of the year, as well as, one of my fave releases. The production is amped, the song writing more structured and deliberate, and the juxtaposition of genres works like a charm.

The remix album “The Apple & The Tooth” also features four new tracks from Bibio, as well as some dynamite remixes by Wax Stag, The Gentleman Losers, Eskmo, and Leatherette, and I find it just as satisying a listen as “Ambivalence Avenue”. A great year for Wilkinson’s musical output, and I look forward to further evolutions of his sound.

3. Lusine – A Certain Distance (Ghostly International)

Jeff McIlwain returned as Lusine this year with “A Certain Distance”. The album is full of Detroit-tinged synths and beats, as well as the addition of vocals from Finnish singer Vilija Larjosto on “Two Dots” and “Twilight”, and Caitlin Sherman on the absorbing “Gravity”. Although, McIlwain doesn’t break any new ground with “A Certain Distance”, the album does an excellent job of straddling the divide between electronica and pop music. The production is smooth and has been tediously tinkered and tweaked with by McIlwain, and in the end it tops my list because it epitomizes that type of melodic techno I like to listen to no matter what mood I happen to be in.

2. POLVO – In Prism (Merge Records)

Chapel Hill, NC post rock legends POLVO returned this year after a twelve year absence and dropped the fantastic “In Prism”. Barely missing a beat in a dozen years, the band (with new drummer Brian Quast) have written my favourite “rock” album of the year. Now, this may partly be because Polvo are one of my all-time favourite bands, and the mere fact that they got back together and put out a new album is enough to warrant them a place on my list. BUT, the album is really fucking good – it’s dark, and moody and off-kilter. However, I do usually skip the first three tracks of the album and start at “City Birds” because the opening tracks sound like a “new” Polvo, all polished and mature, whereas the rest of the album transports me back to the mid-90’s, to halcyon days, to my youth, where things seemed happier. Or better. Or funner. Or I don’t fucking know. More carefree or something.

“Lucia” has some amazing guitar work, with Ash Bowie’s skewed chord progression and Dave Brylawski’s classic rock riffage mixed with Eastern sensibility. The following track “Dream Work/Residue” sounds as if mined from “Exploded Drawing” B-sides and does a good job of churning up the post-rock nostalgia I apparently have become an eternal sap for. Polvo were probably the most influential band for me during my own music making days, with their crooked tunings, fucked-up time signatures, and stoned energy. And so Polvo’s “In Prism” is topping my list for 2009, because like Wax Stag and Tortoise and Lusine, it reminds me of days gone by and the many memories that come with . . .

1. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp Records)

. . . Grizzly Bear‘s “Veckatimest”, on the other hand, reminds me of the future and the past in asynchronous chorus.

Sometimes when a band gets too much hype I will refuse to listen to them. Take Fleet Foxes for example: I just recently began listening to their self-titled debut and now a year after its release I love it. My cousin Chris did the same thing with Burial. While everyone around him was going ape-shit over “Untrue” in the fall of 2007, he staunchly dismissed it, not ready to embrace the dubstep sound that was beginning to inflect electronic music. But a year later, like me and Fleet Foxes, Chris and Burial were having a torrid aural affair…

The way I see it, if a good band puts out a good album, I will eventually get into it, and I don’t care if I’m riding the crest of the hype-wave or not.

Which brings me to Brooklyn based quartet Grizzly Bear. I have never listened to “Yellow House”. Or the “Friend” ep. Or seen them play live. Or really know anything about them. All I do know is that when I finally gave “Veckatimest” a chance, I quickly realized that Grizzly Bear was one of the best young bands composing music in our present day. A throwback to “White Album” era production, elaborate songwriting with many hooks and changes, and amazing vocal work reminiscent of The Beatles, Beach Boys, CSNY, The Guess Who, Bjork and more.

Now this is not to say that they sound like The Beatles, it’s just that the ambition displayed on this album reminds me of the fab-four’s further aspirations for the White Album. Plus, the production value of “Veckatimest” is comparable. The drum toms in “All We Ask” sound like they were stolen from Ringo’s set, and the deep bass slides at the end of “Fine For Now” sound like they must be coming from a Rickenbacher. Yet, Grizzly Bear have appropriated none of Paul’s schmaltz, they’re very much more rooted in John’s sonic textures, rather than Paul’s sentimentality. But enough comparisons to a band it’s stupid to make comparisons to in the first place…

There isn’t a throw away track on “Veckatimest” and it’s subtle infectiousness grows on you slowly but surely. Album opener “Southern Point” starts with a jazzy guitar riff with simple Rhodes chord accompaniment that gets your head bobbing and then builds to a beautiful chorus with strong vocals that remind me of The Guess Who. Second track “Two Weeks” is probably the most accessible track with its sing-along refrain and mid-tempo beat. Standout tracks for me are “Fine For Now”, “Ready, Able”, “While You Wait For the Others” and the beautifully sparse closer “Foreground”.

What an assured, and matured collection of songs, yet, it’s clear the band is still experimenting with their sound(s) and overall aesthetic. No other album this year in any genre has given me a glimpse into the future of music for the next decade like “Veckatimest”, and Grizzly Bear do so by first taking one step backwards into the past and then a strong hop, skip, and jump forward into what’s to come. Fucking awesome. I made it to the end.

BEST NEW ARTIST OF 2009

Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points

Look at that baby face! The fact that he already sounds so goddamn good at the young age of 22 makes me very excited about his future in music. I am already assured of his deftness for sound. Shepherd’s got an ear for sonic composition like Spencer Tunick’s got an eye for the visual. A natural is what I’m calling him.

Everything he’s put out this year has been a warmer, a burner, and a mafuckin’ killer – and still just footnotes to the amazing music he’s going to produce in the next 5 years!

My wish for 2010: A Floating Points full-length please. I imagine it sounding so good it’ll be inaudible.

RIP MJ (1958-2009)

Happy 2010.

Thanks for reading…

ml

Floating Points

September 24, 2009

floating points

Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points is having a good year. Hailing from London, this upstart producer mixes the best of dubstep, Detroit techno, hip-hop and soul into one hell of a pleasant sound. I can’t help but think of him as the Theo Parrish for the 2010’s. Because just like Theo’s music, you cannot help but wanna get up and dance. Shepherd’s track “Love Me Like This” from earlier this summer is one of my favourite mixes of the year. I defy you to listen to it and not shake your ass, ’tis near impossible…

Floating Points’ sound is kinda hard to pin down as he changes and grows with each new release. His newest EP “Vacuum” is spacey soul house with beautiful bass drops that again recall the glory days of Detroit’s renaissance. While his 12 inch “J&W Beat” is a stab at Burial-inflected two step, and both the tracks are dark and heady burners, probably some of my favourite tracks of the genre released this year. Shepherd has skills. Whereas Planet Mu labelmate, Falty DL sounds pedestrian attempting the same thing, Floating Points really sounds fresh and new and deep and groovy. I give him three thumbs up.

2010 could be an even bigger year for him. Full length debut maybe? Floating Points is one to watch out for and one to check out immediately.

Dig it.