1. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
2. The Notwist – Close To The Glass
3. Aphex Twin – Syro
4. Tune-Yards – Nikki Nack
5. Caribou – Our Love
You’re Dead is wild enough to turn the casual listener off immediately. I like that in a new record. It’s fucked up (seriously, turn off all the lights, put on your headphones and watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XDhz5kanYk), it’s cutting edge (what a dumb cliche to use – sorry), it’s original as all hell, it’s dark as hell, it’s insane at moments and cool at others. Flying Lotus’ new album is one of those rare few that make me wish this is what pop music sounded like. Lying in just the right spot between hip hop, jazz, and experimental noise, this album was recorded in the artist’s living room on a couple of mics with a handful of instruments and a laptop. It sounds dirty and homemade, yet masterfully produced, and that’s exactly what he was going for. Listening to this album feels surreal. While it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel or anything, I haven’t quite heard anything just like it. Listen to this album and let your head explode!
The Notwist’s new album is really cool! It’s like being lost in M. C. Escher’s Relativity – in a good way. You know those dreams you have where you know it’s a dream? It’s something like that. I have several other Notwist albums that are all good, in their own way, but there is something about Close To The Glass that makes me feel like they’ve really arrived at something. It’s experimental (always good in my books), it’s got lots of synthesizer (also good in my books), it’s still pop music (still important, in a way), and despite the fact that I can list 10 other bands that look the same on paper, I can only put one of them in this list. And the reason this album makes it, is that it has this way of taking you into and out of familiar ground. Listen to Casino, then listen to Lineri. Tell me it’s the same band. From the opening analog sequencer to the final fading harmonies, Close To The Glass is worth a good pair of headphones and some long, good repeat listens.
Finally! After 13 years of waiting, new music from Aphex Twin! As I’ve gushed about this news to friends and colleagues, it’s occurred to me that not many people seem to know who this is. I blame this partly on the fact that, yeah… okay… not everyone is into weird electronic music and: where the fuck have you been, man?!!!. Seriously. So, for those of you scratching your head, not knowing whom this insane genius is, I give thee: Wikipedia. Anyway, part of me felt like leaving this off the list, because I prefer some of his crazier, more experimental stuff, while this is definitely of the poppier variety, for him. And I swear I considered that I might be including this only because it’s been so long and I honestly assumed he’d never release anything else. But despite all of it, this album got very heavy repeat listens at first, and now just fairly heavy, so damn it! I like it. It’s great to have RDJ back! This album is chock full of analog, Aphex goodness, and now that I’ve heard (read) him say he’s planning to release more soon, it’s a good time to be an Aphex Twin fan!
Merrill Garbus is insane, and I can’t get enough! Tune-Yards almost epitomizes what I look for in pop music, and her third album really solidifies that she is not just some passing weirdo (although, if she passed, you might think, “Look at that weirdo”), she is a fucking mad scientist of music! Her style on Nikki Nack is complex and percussive, with perceived meter mixing with actual what’s usually just 4/4 time, precision clicks, bangs, and shuffles. I mean, yeah, that’s kind of her bag already, but on the new record, she sounds like she’s mastered that wizardry of insane sound stuff she does. Oh yeah, did I mention the vocal harmonies and other cool vocal tricks? Damn! What the hell is she up to and how does she give this style so much soul? She’s very talented and very different without going over to the dark side of non-musical sound. This album is so good!
It was not easy deciding who should make the very last spot in the list. Frankly, it’s easier to pick first than last. In fairness, I must have heard 15-20 really good new albums this year, who were each, at one point, considered for this list, but owning that prestigious spot is none other than Ontario’s Dan Snaith, better known, of course, as Caribou. When I found out there was a new Caribou album coming, I didn’t bother giving it a test listen. It’s one of those artists you know is going to take you to sonic boundaries in the best way possible, so why bother testing the waters? Just jump in. While this was a little more electronic than I was anticipating, or maybe more accurately, hoping (I really like the slightly more acousticky side of Caribiou), I’m truly okay with it. It picks up where his last album, Swim left off, in 2010. I’m a really big fan of the one-man-band types (aside: I had a scroll up to realize that there’s actually only one real band on this list – there rest are solo projects), and Caribou really does it well. What he can do with a laptop and a couple hardware synths is pretty intense. Our Love is dancey pop music, but again, it’s done so well, in such a unique style, that I can’t resist it. Well done, Caribou!
Can you think of some albums that should have made this list? Let us know in the Comments!