Posts Tagged ‘tame impala’

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

Tame Impala at Metropolis in Montreal

March 17, 2013

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11 march 2013

Australian rockers Tame Impala returned to Montreal and played a sold out crowd at Metropolis on Monday night. Even though it was a school night and a work night it didn’t stop teens and aging scenesters alike to cram the venue in droves. Showcasing tracks from their critically lauded 2012 release Lonerism and their equally awesome debut Innerspeaker, Kevin Parker and company revealed why they’re one of the most revered bands currently rocking in the “indie” world – because they sound both authentically throwback in the classic rock sense yet also very much of the right fucking now. We all agree Parker sounds like John Lennon and monster jam “Elephant” sounds like Sabbath, and that the band is indebted to 60’s American psychedelica and decades of British rock, yet with the release of Lonerism last year, they truly began carving out their own sonic niche and are happy to reveal this to their fans as they blast it out night after night on their massive 2013 world tour.

I saw the band play last year at Osheaga, but was still excited to see them in an indoor venue as I thought the sound would translate better indoors, and my suspicions were correct: their sound was bigger, louder, trippier, and more bad ass. What was also great is that they weren’t afraid to tweak their songs live, adding flourishes and time changes, extended riffs and solos, groovy intros and codas … in short, the show was awesome. Wafts of weed floated in the air for the duration of the show, and I completely zoned out in the vibe, staring up at the simple pulsing visuals behind them. The visuals weren’t much to look at (in fact they seemed laughably outdated), but were hooked up to the soundboard and worked in sync with Parker’s guitar and Nick Allbrook’s keys during quieter moments. Also of note is that Parker spoke en français in between many of the songs to the delight of the francophones in the crowd. All in all, it was an impressively tight set and refreshing to see a young band rocking out so earnestly. Great show.

SETLIST
Solitude Is Bliss
Apocalypse Dreams
Be Above It
Endors Toi
Music To Walk Home By
Elephant
Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?
Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Keep On Lying
Mind Mischief
Alter Ego
It Is Not Meant To Be
Half Full Glass Of Wine
Encore:
Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control

tameimpala

*pics by Jacquelyn Taylor

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2012

December 24, 2012

INAUDIBLE is thrilled to present his 4th annual end of year listy list!

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Holy shit, here we are again! As the year quickly comes to a close, I gaze out my window and watch the first winter storm of the season hit Montreal. Wistfully, I shuffle through the year in my mind, flashing back to a busy but amazing spring and the golden days of summer – of bike rides and park hangs, tennis matches and hot knives, cold beers on rooftops and falling in love. So nice. And with these memories comes snippets of sound, the summer jams I played way too loud and way too late and pissed off the neighbours. The songs that soundtracked my days and nights. With autumn came the return of the grind, the job that gets in the way of the work I really want to do, but keeps me young in the process. But there was also those crisp evening jogs, with music always pushing me, propelling me to run farther and faster. So good. And now l’hiver returns, encouraging ambient and electronic swirls and quiet guitars to join me on my weekly slog to work.

Life changes, music remains. All that to say, without further ado, let us go then, you and I…

TOP 15 ALBUMS OF 2012

beach house

15. Beach House – Bloom (Sub Pop Records)

Baltimore duo, Beach House make me feel like an adult. And for the six people who read this blog, you may have noticed over the last four years that this whole “adult thing” is something I’ve slowly been stepping into … lento, lentement, I’ve been testing the waters, and shedding away the ideals of youth I’d been stubbornly latching onto and have instead begun to embrace life as a real-live adult, and no other band plays a better soundtrack to this than Beach House.

Having a dinner party with friends who have children and own homes and drink wine instead of can beer? Play ’em some Beach House! Parents stopping by to meet your new boyfriend or girlfriend? Pop on some Bloom! I actually gave a copy of this album to my dentist to put on while he’s drilling holes deep into some unfortunate’s maw, and guess what? The good doctor loves this shit. “Nice stuff that Beach House. It really grew on me,” he said with a grin, right before he jammed the cold needle into my jaw.

This is no way to discredit the music found on Bloom, because it showcases the duo’s finest songwriting to date. The leaps and bounds they made from Devotion to Teen Dream are now solid strides. They make being a grown-up look easy. The whole record flows smooth from appetizer to dessert, but it’s also an album that can accompany you just as nicely during a nightcap with a loved one and the snuggling that happens after…

Top Tracks: “Lazuli” and “Other People

Dirty Projectors

14. Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan (Domino Records)

I first saw Dirty Projectors play in 2009 when they opened for TV on the Radio. At the time, Bitte Orca had just been released and the indie world was a-buzz with grandiose statements about how incredible they were. The show was in Toronto’s worst venue (The Sound Academy) and I was only able to enjoy their set in a cursory way, because I was waiting for friends to show up and could not venture close to the stage. And somehow along the way after that, they ended up getting lumped in with a long list of bands that everyone says are awesome and I just haven’t listened to them: Animal Collective, Vampire Weekend, The Shins et al. Bands that seem too academic or cerebral, in the sense that they play with their minds first instead of their guts. I don’t doubt these bands aren’t great, they just didn’t appeal to my musical sensibilities at the time…

Anyway, fast forward to this summer, and my friend Mateusz is blasting “About to Die” in my kitchen on a sunny morning during Osheaga weekend and it clicked. I was swept into Dave Longstreth’s eccentric compositions, with their subtle evocation of White Album-era production. Swing Lo Magellan is all sorts of things: quirky, technical, gentle, sparse, and oddly moving. Critics have said that this is arguably the band’s most “listenable” record to date, and if so, I hope they continue in this vein rather than attempt to further complicate their sound, and as I said, play with their gut.

Top tracks: “Gun Has No Trigger” and “Dance For You

lotus plaza

13. Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action at a Distance (Kranky Records)

The other guitarist in Deerhunter, ya know, the shy guy who gets engulfed by the larger than life Bradford Cox? The one who just stands there and quietly rocks out? Well, his name’s Lockett Pundt, and he modestly stepped into the spotlight this year, releasing the excellent Spooky Action at a Distance under his Lotus Plaza moniker. It’s a shoegazey affair full of reverb and distortion, recalling 90’s indie bands like Superchunk, Treble Charger, and Dinosaur Jr.

It takes a few listens for the album to grow on you but once it does it reveals itself as a record that plays out beautifully from start to finish. It’s interesting to note that Spooky Action works in the same way an ambient album does, you can put it on and not hear it at all or listen carefully and get swept into every lick and hook. But I think it’s a record that needs to be listened to in its entirety, I don’t feel the songs pack the same emotional punch when listened to one at a time or out of sequence. That said, the album can feel a bit samey at times, but thankfully, that’s why we have Deerhunter.

Top tracks: “Strangers” and “Jet Out Of The Tundra

azealia banks
12. Azealia Banks – Fantasea (self-released)

Blame this one on summer time – a guilty pleasure without question, but hell if it ain’t got some amazing production courtesy of Diplo, Hudson Mohawke, Araabmuzik, Ikonika, Machinedrum, and more. Around this time last year, Azealia Banks appeared out of the blogosphere with her now ubiquitous song “212”. It was an absolute earworm that showed off her talents as a singer and rapper. This year’s been a busy one for the young artist, she’s put out her 1991 EP, as well as Fantasea, and shows no sign of slowing down, as her full-length debut is set to drop in February.

As with all the new young ‘hip’ artists that explode overnight, I took Banks’ for what I thought she was, a young musician in a long line of young musicians lucky enough to have her 1,500,000 views of fame before fizzling out. But her damn name just kept popping up everywhere, and so when even my cousin Chris (a man of discerning tastes) was spouting her praises, I started putting Fantasea on while jogging, and within a few listens I was pumping my fist in the air and singing along with her. Fantasea is scattered, varied, and uneven, but there’s a lot of hands in the soup at this point, and Banks is still trying different things and figuring out her style…and while she’s figuring things out she’s having a hell of a fun time doing it. Tracks like “Luxury”, “Nathan” and “Fierce”, show her moving from deep house to disco to crunk as if it ain’t no thang. And as I mentioned earlier, she’s been fortunate to work with some of the most innovative producers out there, and so at this point the question that remains is if she is the by-product of amazing producers or the real star? Only time will tell and I’ll be listening along the way.

Purity-Ring-Shrines

11. Purity Ring – Shrines (4AD)

The first of three Canadian entries on my list this year is the fast-rising duo from Edmonton, Purity Ring and their debut album, Shrines. Mixing the sensibilities of the Knife, Holy Other, Bjork, Burial, and labelmate Grimes, the young band have created a dark and moody collection of songs, with the help of processed vocals, synths, gloomy bass, and gritty yet expansive production. The lyrics throughout the record focus on the body and its organic nature, reminding us of our mortality while making us simultaneously contemplate our next move. Shrines came out in the summer but is better suited to the grey days of winter, and you can be sure it will be one I’ll be returning to during the wintry months ahead…

Top Tracks: “Lofticries” and “Crawlersout

Wild-Nothing-Nocturne

10. Wild Nothing – Nocturne (Captured Tracks)

Jack Tatum returned this year as Wild Nothing with his sophomore release Nocturne and makes good on his promise to amp up all that was endearing about his excellent debut Gemini. But to be honest, I was worried. After seeing his band play a dismal live show in Toronto in 2010, I was ready to cast them aside and get my 80’s/90’s fix elsewhere (Twin Shadow, Beach Fossils, Diiv, Wild Beasts). But, because I loved Gemini and the Golden Haze EP so much, I decided I had to give Nocturne a try. After my first listen I was underwhelmed, I felt the direction he had moved in was flat and the songwriting wasn’t as dynamic, but after a few more spins I realized my first impression was wrong, the songs were better written, gorgeously recorded, he’d upgraded to a live drummer, and incorporated some great strings. In short, Nocturne is a more complete album than Gemini, the songs have more meat on their bones, and don’t have to rely solely on reverb to get their point across.

Opening song “Shadow” revels in Tatum’s upgrade, with lustrous strings in between verses and a nod your head beat that makes me smile every time I hear it. “Only Heather”, “Paradise” and “The Blue Dress” all show Tatum as not just an excellent guitarist but a damn fine bass player as well. Perhaps Wild Nothing works best as a studio project and that’s fine with me, because in the end, Nocturne has proven to be one of the most consistently satisfying albums of the year for me.

cfcf

9. CFCF – Exercises (Paper Bag Records)

Montreal producer Michael Silver aka CFCF returned this year with the stunning Exercises EP on Paper Bag Records. Silver has been on a bit of a run lately dropping the fantastic Night Bus mixes in 2011, in which he reinterpreted Aaliyah, Biggie, Fever Ray, Autechre and more for the wee hours of the night. But with Exercises, we see the steady maturation of Silver’s talent as a producer. The album is made up of eight keyboard based tracks that are subtle and subdued, working on loops and licks of sound that consistently surprise. Silver is able to eke out emotion, knowing that he only has to hit the right note once in a song to make his listeners feel the meditative vibe.

Silver has an ear for simple melody, letting tones and swirls of synth gently build on top of each other, and this is one reason why this album is so successful. The other is its shining star, the amazing middle point track “September”. It’s a cover of the David Sylvian track of the same name and the only song with vocals on the album. Silver’s voice sounds strong and assured, the synths mesh together perfectly, and the song packs quite an emotional punch. The first time I heard it I was on the bus in the morning and it was chilly but the sun was shining and Silver’s voice surprised me at first, reminding me a bit of Arthur Russell, and the subtle build of the production was just perfect with the hand clap beats, farting bass line, and synth stabs sounding so nice…that you can guess what happened: I got that pang, my eyes went a little watery, I had to turn my face to the window for a moment and take a breath. I had to let that tingly feeling wash over me, let it quietly remind me of all that’s good and true and possible in my life. C’est la définition of good music, my friends. I’ve since listened to it many times and can say it’s one of my favourite songs of the year, and being followed by the equally gorgeous piano based song “December” doesn’t hurt either. Every track is a winner.

Exercises is CFCF’s finest work to date and shows he is definitely an artist worth getting excited about.

holy other - held

8. Holy Other – Held (Tri Angle Records)

Tri Angle recording artist Holy Other released his full-length debut Held this year, and it sees him further expanding on the moody gloom of his earlier With U EP. This is a dark, dark record, one that can throw listeners for a loop upon first playthrough. On the surface it is so bleak and forlorn it seems the perfect soundtrack for the end of days we’ve been waiting for oh so eagerly…

I have a student in one of my classes who is obsessed with the apocalypse and death. 13 years old and he might as well have “memento mori” tattooed on his forearm. During a History lesson, he will shout out, “Why are we learning this? We’re all going to die soon anyways!” Or during my spiel on pollution and green living in Geography class, he’ll pipe in, “We might as well all just kill ourselves now!” I’ve had to kick him out of class a few times, mainly because it annoys me that his dark thoughts influence the other kids too. One quasi-suicidal teen in each class is more than enough thank you very much. He’s just so blasé about it all too, as if he knows his life is nothing but a short joke and he’s sitting around waiting for the punchline. Fuck he pisses me off. So, I have been trying to open his eyes to the bigger picture, trying to get him to jump over to the optimistic side of the fence, and at least see things from another perspective.

Same thing could be said for Holy Other’s Held – once I started looking at it as uplifting rather than somber, I heard it in a whole new way. Once my ears latched on to this perspective, “Love Some1” turned into perhaps the most effective love/break-up song of the year, with its haunting climactic chant “Love someone/me me me”. Title track “Held” is also a powerful and intimate cry for what we all want most, to be held, to be loved, and the subterranean vocal plea: “Hold me, ahh, love me” may sound twee within the context of this write-up, but is extremely compelling within the track. It has a way-slowed down R&B feel at the end, as if he’s drifting off to sleep happily wrapped in his loved one’s arms…

Holy Other taps into that sad, lonely, existential part of you, much in the same way that Burial does. And sometimes it’s nice to walk in the rain, to wallow a little, and with Holy Other as the soundtrack feeling moody never felt so good.

modern driveway

7. Luke Abbott – Modern Driveway EP (Notown Records)

Norfolk based electronic musician, Luke Abbott, released two EP’s this year, Modern Driveway in the spring, and Object is a Navigator at the beginning of December. While both reveal his refined ear for analogue craftmanship, it’s with Modern Driveway where Abbott has truly tapped into something sweet. The title track opens the album with a slow build of insistent chord stabs and a subtle 808 line that softly swells underneath the arpeggio synths like something out of halcyon mid-90′s Detroit. Abbott ekes so much emotion out of this track, it’s hard to believe he’s able to outdo himself a few tracks later, yet that’s exactly what he does with penultimate track “Carrage”. It’s a beautiful and bubbly stomper with the requisite ‘pull the beat out of the mix and drop it back in mid-point’, and although I’ve heard this technique more than countless times, Abbott does it so well here, you’ll want to play the song again and again. Interspersed between the stunners are two subdued pieces, more align with the material on his earlier record, Holkham Drones. Overall, this is one of the finest electronic releases of the year, one that begs for repeat listens, and a sure-fire sign that Luke Abbott is about to blow up big time.

tame impala

6. Tame Impala – Lonerism (Modular Records)

Tame Impala returned with sophomore album Lonerism, twelve more tracks of that great psychedelic rock I fell in love with on Innerspeaker. Grabbing the listener by the neck right from the start, “Be Above It” transforms into a terrific Pink Floyd-esque mechanical drone, and with its mix of the retro and the experimental, Tame Impala are making some of the most authentic sounding “new classic rock” I’ve ever heard. This unique throwback sound is one of the things the band does so well, and I think it’s safe to say that few other bands today sound like them at all. A little further on in the album, songs like “Apocalypse Dreams” and “Why Won’t They Talk To Me” really allow frontman Kevin Parker’s songwriting abilities to shine through.

I saw Tame Impala play this summer at Osheaga and they put on a great show, trying out “Apocalypse Dreams” and the awesome “Elephant” to the delight of the crowd. Wafts of weed floated in the air for the duration of the show, and I completely zoned out in the vibe. Still, I think they’re a band better suited to an indoor venue, and so I’m looking forward to seeing them again on their tour this spring. Lonerism contains hit after hit, but in listening to only a few of the songs on the album you’d be missing out – this is one case where the whole is clearly greater than the sum of its parts. The album flows together seamlessly, with each song picking up on, and adding to, subtle parts of previous tracks. Tame Impala take Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Sabbath, and The Beatles, mash ’em all together and create an amazingly authentic 60’s/70’s sound that I could listen to all day. Great stuff.

grimes

5. Grimes – Visions (4AD/Arbutus)

Claire Boucher aka Grimes is 2012’s “it-girl”. Visions came out early in the year and helped catapult Boucher from local weirdo/hero to international star. Visions is a hypnotic album that expertly meshes pop sensibilities with electronica in entrancing ways. Her two big hits “Oblivion” and “Genesis” are still just as fun and immersive to listen to as they were when they first hit the interwebs a year ago. Grimes’ production brings to mind early Aphex Twin and other old Warp artists, and her voice floats in her strange falsetto above the mix, often unintelligible but no less bewitching.

Seeing her live show at The Cabaret du Mile End in Montreal was very impressive as I saw a young artist emerging before my eyes. Grimes was particularly cute and awkward on stage, seeming a bit nervous, continually asking the sound guy to “turn down the lights” and “turn up the music”. And once the lights went down and the sound went up she seemed much more in her element, letting her inhibitions go and her voice soar. And for the most part, she totally had the vocal chops live, although I did notice some voice loops assisting her once in awhile, most notably during the high parts of “Be a Body”. Production wise I was very impressed as the songs took on a grittier, darker vibe than they have on the album. The bass thumped hard, the snare pops rattled, and the synths coalesced into an analogue swirl of sound.

Later tracks on the album like “Nightmusic” and “Symphonia IX” although unassuming are arguably the strongest and most hypnotic with their subtle 4/4 beats and warm analogue production. Grimes seems to be at the forefront of a whole new wave of young electronic musicians pushing the boundaries of genre and technology. I expect big things from her in the future and think her sound will only get stronger, louder, and more particular the longer she keeps making it. Awesome album.

Cloud Nothings

4. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory (Carpark Records)

It was on a cold day in early January when I first listened to Cloud Nothing’s debut record Attack on Memory. Before opening track “No Future/No Past” was even a minute in I was already hooked. It was like I was sixteen again, I could feel the angst and tension in Dylan Baldi’s voice, and the aggression hidden just below the surface of the band’s tight rhythm section. It made me excited to be alive, in the same way bands like Eric’s Trip or Tool or June of 44 did back in the day. That exemplary teen angst powerfully comes to a head in the refrain of the 8-minute blast of “Wasted Days”, when he screams “I thought I would be more than this!” over and over until his voice is ragged. Afterwards, they lighten the mood for the next two songs, before returning with the Drive Like Jehu-esque “Separation” and “No Sentiment”, reminding me of amazing bands like A Minor Forest, Paul Newman, and North of America with their chugging bass lines, angular guitar licks, and kick ass drums. Cloud Nothings bring to mind so many bands from the past, yet they never sound too much like one or the other, which has resulted in them paving out an indie-rock sound all their own. They are a young band quickly coming into their own and one to watch out for in the next few years.

Here’s something I’ve been pissed off about for six months now: I had tickets for their show at Casa del Popolo but missed it. It was a Friday night and me and my friend Mike were drinking a beer at his place, watching the Raptors lose on the telly, thinking if we get there by 10 we’ll be totally fine. So we get there at 10 and it was already over, they were packing up their gear, and drinking a well-deserved beer. Son of a whore, I am still pissed about this! And of course their set was awesome, loud, super-tight, there was a mosh pit the entire show, and apparently due to technical difficulties during the last song, rhythm guitarist Joe Boyer put down his guitar and dove in the mosh pit. Come back to Montreal soon guys, I’m waiting…

Grizzly-Bear-Shields

3. Grizzly Bear – Shields (Warp Records)

Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest was the crown jewel of INAUDIBLE’s very first BEST OF LIST in 2009. That album was so thrilling to me with regards to its production and each song’s dynamic and diverse composition. I had not listened to their earlier albums, so Veckatimest was my point of departure and it left me convinced they were one of, if not the best, young band making “indie-rock” in our present day. The reason for this was because I really enjoyed how within their music they seemed to be constantly looking back yet ever looking forwards; not afraid to sound a bit like their influences, while at the same time, ambitiously driven to lock down their own style. With Shields Grizzly Bear have done just that – they have sonically carved out their niche, gained a whole new legion of fans, and released my favourite “rock” record of the year.

Seeing their live show this year solidified my belief in their talent, as they effortlessly played their challenging compositions, switching instruments mid-song when needed, and delivering strong and near pitch-perfect vocal performances throughout. The band emitted an air of subtle class on stage, void of rock star pretension, letting the music speak for them, which I found very refreshing.

Unlike Veckatimest’s instantly infectious “Two Weeks”, Shields has no clear-cut single – the album calls for careful listening, and takes some time for it to reveal itself completely, but once it does it will reward your ears and mind again and again. Tracks like “Yet Again”, “Speak in Rounds”, “What’s Wrong” and “Gun-Shy” are all different stylistically, but each song showcases the band’s varied writing strengths. The album closes with “Sun in Your Eyes”, an eight-minute opus that has hints of theatre and prog and is arguably the band’s best example to date of their overall sound. Shields is a challenging album but one that showcases everything that is great about modern rock and roll. So good. More gentleman, more.

kendrick-lamar-good-kid-maad-city

2. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (Interscope Records)

Oh yeah, we gettin’ down to the wire now! Coming in at a strong second for the year is Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. Ever since my Mom confiscated my Straight Outta Compton cassette tape when I was 12, hip hop has held a coveted place in my musical makeup. It was a view into a whole other culture for me, and the first time I paid close attention to the lyrics in music.

My Mom realized how angry I was with her for taking my rap music away from me, so she replaced my N.W.A. and 2 Live Crew tapes with the PG rated “He’s The DJ, I’m the Rapper” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, while my Dad was trying to get me into Zeppelin and The Beatles. But still I would go to my friend Justin Smith’s house, because his Mom let us listen to all the gangsta rap he wanted, plus let us watch R-rated horror movies and eat an endless pile of junk food. Eventually, once I started playing guitar, those classic rock discs my Dad kept pushing on me would take over my musical tastes, which would then lead to metal and indie and post-rock. But then, in first year of university I heard Aquemini by Outkast and it was one of the most amazing albums I’d ever heard of any genre. This was the start of my rap renaissance, as I got into Def Jux artists like Aesop Rock and El-P, old skoool heros like Tribe and Nas, new skoool stars like MF Doom, and even Kanye West. Since then I’ve never stopped listening to rap, but it’s definitely been a minute since a hip-hop record has excited me as much as good kid, m.A.A.d city. And what a record it is! It deserves all the attention it’s been getting, because it’s a truly original, compelling rap record, unafraid to risk taking a moral stand, with the confidence to successfully execute Lamar’s ambitions.

The narrative thread is familiar: black kid growing up in the projects has dreams of making it as a rapper, yet is pulled in directions he doesn’t want – crime, drugs, gangs, etc. – and after his friend is killed in a shoot out he decides to no longer get caught up in the game, and effectively pave his own way in the world. Yet even if the story is familiar, the delivery is not. Interspersed with amazing voicemails from his Mom and conversations with his homeboys, we see Kendrick as son, as well as, as a young kid growing up out there in the “m.A.A.d city”. Musically, the album is obviously indebted to Outkast (see “The Art of Peer Pressure”), but has such a strong sense of place that it deftly sidesteps the derivative. Kendrick uses many influences but he deploys them strategically, unexpectedly, which helps the record already feel like the classic it surely will become.

2013 will be an enormous year for Kendrick Lamar. Let’s hope he can hang on to the vibe he’s got going right now, because good kid, m.A.A.d city is the year’s most powerful record both lyrically and musically. Ya bish, ya bish!

Top tracks: “Money Trees” and “Swimming Pools (Drank)

fourtet-pink

1. Four Tet – Pink (Text Records)

In a way this can be considered more of a lifetime achievement award, as Kieran Hebden’s has been an innovator in the world of electronic music for over a decade now. That said, Pink is still the most exciting electronic album of the year for me. Under his Four Tet stage name, Hebden has released groundbreaking albums that span electronica’s sub-genres from leftfield to post-rock to IDM, yet over the last few years Hebden has had his ears set not to the sky but to the ground, namely the dance floor, after he started DJing at the Plastic People Club in 2009. The next year he released the superlative There Is Love in You, which saw him writing more dance-oriented tracks like the excellent “Love Cry”. His Fabric mix followed in 2011, and now with Pink, a collection of 12-inch singles, we find him writing some of the best techno music of the year.

Hebden has eschewed the quirk and abstract he is known for and applied a more clinical approach to get booties shaking and fists pumping and the results are spectacular. This is not to say that he’s lost any of his playfulness, these songs still maintain an inherent organic quality even though they follow the techno formula, mainly because Hebden always throws in a little something extra – chimes, synths, vibes, bass wobbles, piano, skittering vocals, and more. Compositionally, he seems to have been inspired by artists like Omar S, Burial, and Pantha du Prince, easily pushing songs into the 8-minute mark. Stand out track “Pyramid” uses a great bass line and repetitive vocal lick: “I remember when you walked away” to amazing effect, this track is a late-night banger, one that urges you to get up and dance. But, it’s dark too and has a great Steve Reich breakdown in the middle before the house beat and funky bass return to keep you shakin’. Opening track “Locked” starts off the album with nothing but minimal, interlocking drum loops for well over a minute, before a characteristically beatific melody emerges, and spirals around those shuffling drums, phasing in and out of focus accented with occasional deep bass wobbles. Elsewhere, “Ocoras” and “Jupiters” reveal Hebden’s knack for rhythm and groove, and the sprawling “Peace For Earth” momentarily eases away from the dancefloor with a komische-y, near beatless ten minutes, before throwing us back on the floor again for awesome closer “Pinnacles”.

Critics have sort of harped on Hebden saying he’s made great strides into club territory but still hasn’t quite fleshed out his style as a dancefloor artist. And while Pink technically shouldn’t be considered a proper follow-up to There Is Love in You, I think even as a singles compilation it suggests that Four Tet is still capable of going deeper and expanding higher than almost anyone else out there. Great stuff!

Yes! I made it to the fucking end!

 
HONORABLE AUDIBLES (click album to sample a track)

Andres - New For U

Andrés – New For U

Bersarin Quartett- II

Bersarin Quartett- II

Crystal Castles - III

Crystal Castles – III

Floating Points - Shadows

Floating Points – Shadows

Green Kingdom - Egress

Green Kingdom – Egress

Loscil - Sketches From New Brighton

Loscil – Sketches From New Brighton

Luke Hess - Keep On

Luke Hess – Keep On

Smallpeople - Salty Days

Smallpeople – Salty Days

Strië - Õhtul

Strië – Õhtul

Sufjan Stevens - Silver & Gold

Sufjan Stevens – Silver & Gold

Tanlines - Mixed Emotions

Tanlines – Mixed Emotions

The Sea and Cake - Runner

The Sea and Cake – Runner

Twin Shadow - Confess

Twin Shadow – Confess

the xx - Coexist

the xx – Coexist

 

jason noble

R.I.P. Jason Noble (1971 – 2012)

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2011
INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2010
INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2009

Best wishes for 2013 and onward! Cheers to good muzik, friends, many laughs, and brief moments of (un)clarity.

love,

ml