Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Spins and Needles' Albums of 2011

Oh look it's another list. Boring, I know, but it's the end of the year and us music writers have fuck all else to do apart from look back on 2011 and reflect. Being a hater of both Bon Ivor's and PJ Harvey's recent efforts, my selection this year sways away from the hive, veering between synth-addled spectacles and acoustic guitar wielding weepers.

Curiosly, I don't think there's anything in there my 15 year old self would have termed 'indie' (i.e scruffy chancers with guitars and scuzzy tunes)
. Does that mean 'indie' is dead or the 'indie' inside of me is dead? A question for another day perhaps, but given my prediliction for guitar based music a few years back it is a touch odd to see the music I've most enjoyed this year is, in every sense, synthetic. I guess I must be moving with the times. Look at me go.

1. John Maus - We Must Become The Pitless Censors of Ourselves

This is one of these albums I keep coming back to. The cold, synthsized aesthetic makes it a perfect London sountrack, but there's a interior pathos to these tracks that means their just as listenable played low on a late night. An absolute gem.

2. Rob St John - Weald
Annoyingly this came it after I had submitted my list for records of the year. Rob has always been an amazing performer and here, with this sumptious debut, he compounds his place as one of the UK's most engaging singer/songwriters.

Post-dubstep? Sigh-Fi? Who knows and, really, who cares. Aaron Jerome's debut LP is a masterclass in understated beats and glitchy effects. Admittedly, it wasn't something I was initially in to, but after a few spins while pounding the pavements to and from Liverpool Street its jarring nodes clicked like Fonzy's fingers in a 50s dancehall.

4. Tune-Yards - w h o k i l l
As much as I enjoyed Bird-Brain, w h o k i l l is a dramatic step up in both songwriting expertise and production value for the idiosyncratic Merrill Garbus. Brutal, intense and utterly compelling, it's the sort of album that you can mine for months and never quite get to the bottom of it.

5. Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise
In the cold depths of February Nicolas Jaars airless compositions seemed to be on continous loop. But once the days lightened its impact lessened, Jaar's weighty electronic matter sat ill at ease with the the joviality of summer. Now, with winter back in full swing, it's once again a fascinating, harrowing listen.

6. Psychedelic Horseshit - Laced
A mental, psychedelia-splattered crackpot of a record from lo-fi genius Matt Whitehurst. The magnificent I Hate The Beach is still my running tune of choice.

7. David Thomas Broughton - Outbreeding
With his odd, almost incomprehensible warble, David Thomas Broughton is one of the UK's most curious songwriters. This sublime acoustic LP is testament not only to his lunatic Anthony Hegarty-like pipes, but also his infectious ear for a tune. Mental bastard indeed.

8. Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
This hits the top ten based almost purely on the frazzled fuckery of album opener Glass Jar. The rest of the album's not too shabby either - filled with bleeps, bleeps and rhythmic chants - but as a cut Glass Jar is the record's absolute zenith.

9. Conquering Animal Sound - Kammerspiel
Initially I thought Kammerspiel was far too technical to ever truly immerse in, but after a few months of prolonged listening it clicked, transforming into a mesmerising electro-beaut of a record.


10. Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes
Well, this was a surprise. Faris Badwan (he of Horrors fame) and Rachel Zeffira (she of opera soprano fame) joined forces to create one of 2011's most spell-binding and utterly fascinating shimmers of retro-pop brilliance.

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