It’s that time of year again, the time of endless “best of” lists, top 10′s and retrospects. At LSD we do only one: the best music of the year list. As pointed out before, 2011 has been quite a meagre year in quality pop music. One had to look a lot harder than last year to find something worthwhile. And while last year there were some clear trends and themes, this year we mostly witnessed rehashes of rehashes of older styles and flavors. Still, if you sifted through the piles of mediocre releases long enough, there were some gems to be found:
Great melody, great voice, great lyrics, great video, great trumpet. But the best thing about Destroyer’s “Kaputt” is the sugarsweet melancholy that oozes out of it. Simply the best pop song of the year. And if this list would be a “Best Albums of 2011 list” Kaputt would definitely be in the top 3, and maybe even on the prime spot. From that album you should also check out “Chinatown“, “Savage Night At The Opera” and “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker“. But an even better idea would be to listen to the whole thing, over and over again.
An extremely catchy mesh-up of pop and dubstep. Purity Ring is one of the only groups this year who produced music with a new and fresh sound. Listen to the Christian AIDS Remix here, and to the follow-up single “Belispeak” here.
The Slave Ambient album is full of very uplifting indie rocksongs which can be played over and over again without becoming tiresome. “Baby Missiles” was my favorite track from the album and the current “plays” count in my iTunes stands currently at 42.
It was hard to pick a favorite from Zonoscope, since it contains so many good tracks. In the end I went for “Where I’m Going”, because of its cool 60′s vibe. But it could just as easil have been “Pharaohs and Pyramids” or “Sun God”. The overall quality of the album is so high that it’s very strange to me that it is hardly featured in any top 10′s of best album lists.
Seasick Steve is one of the very few reasons I was sorry to miss out on this year’s Lowlands Festival. His performance there was pretty damn good, judging by the videos and the accounts of people who were there. The Seasick Steve story is probably pretty wellknown by now: a 69-year old former carnie, cowboy and migrant worker, who always made blues music on the side, suddenly has a big hit album and tours all the major festivals. He lived as a hobo for long stretches in his life and he lived in San Francisco in the 60′s, so he is one of the few remaining remnants of the Beat/Hippie era. But his appeal is not just the extremely cool biography. The heavy bluesrock he plays on his improvised instruments is actually really great! You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks is one of my favorite albums of the year and the title track my favorite track of the album.
With Within Without Washed Out has made a very intimate album. On the right occassion this music will set the mood. Tracks like “Echoes” and “Far Away” are great, but “Eyes Be Closed” is my absolute favorite.
Dominik Eulberg studied ecological geography in college and works parttime as a parkranger. But at the same time he is also a minimal techno dj in demand, and producer for the Cocoon and Traum Schallplatten labels. In his music he uses ideas and samples from nature. His critically acclaimed album Diorama contains tracks called “Täuschungs-Blume”, “Metamorphose” and the best one is called “Tanz der Glühwürmchen”.
If you dress up as Giorgio Moroder you are already a hero in my book. And when you mix deep house, acid and Moroder-style disco, you’re gonna make my top 10. Especially in the “Revenge Strings of Fife Remix” this track is a killer. Very smooth production and great instruments.
With their second album Days, Real Estate continues their winning streak. A second album which matches and maybe even tops the quality of the first one is an exception in indieland, so it’s quite an accomplishment. This album has a little bit more fervor to it than Real Estate. Where the first album was introvert and slow, on Days they have upped the tempo and energy a little bit.
There is supposed to be a “dubstep explosion” going on in the U.S. All major hip hop and pop artists are now adopting the typical breakbeats and earpopping electro-riffs. Dutch producer 2562 has already been producing dubstep for quite a few years now. And he keeps getting better at it. It is not a controversial thing to say that he is in the same league with artists like Martyn, Shackleton and Kode 9. The Fever EP is his latest work and it rocks. “Intermission” was the deepest and most interesting track on that release.
Below is the bonus list. These are the tracks that just didn’t make it to my top 10, but are worth your while nonetheless.
Best track of the Monkeytown album. They are not as relevant as they were a few years back, but this is still a damn good track.
Making a 2011 IDM cover of a classic The Who-track sounds like a recipe for disaster. But Sepalcure has pulled it off. True, it only reminds vaguely of the original, but it’s still a damn good cover.
There is the danger of my list losing all its credibility by putting Noah and the Whale on it. Yes, it’s a band that caters to 17-year old hipster girls. Yes, the album is sugarsweet and poppy. But I don’t care, I like it anyway. It’s kind of liberating that they don’t use dark 80′s synths, don’t mumble and distort their vocals, and that their tracks are unapologetically happy. So there you have it.
Solid indie track with a very catchy hook. Doesn’t bring new ideas to the table, but it works great on a festival.
Normally I’m not the biggest James Blake fan, but with this track he hit the mark. Named after this funny cinema phenomenon by the way.
Bonus, part deux. I decided to include some songs which were released before 2011, but which I discovered this year. Besides discovering brand new artists and tracks it’s just as important important to keep searching for unfamiliar old stuff, imho.
Released in 2010, but missed by me in that year. Very good Chicago-style house track. It also came with a nice video. Be sure to check out “Coma Cat” as well.
An extremely good track from the Selected Ambient Works album, which has somehow flown under my radar for all these years. It’s amazing how fresh a track like this, but also “Pulsewidth“, “Heliospan” and “We are the Musicmakers“, from the same album, sounds. These were produced at the end of the 80′s and in the early 90′s, but any modern producer would be proud as hell if they could just produce one track of the same quality. Unfortunately he didn’t play any of them during his liveset at the STRP Festival.
A lesser known Underworld song, from the 1992-2002 album. A fat, sluggish beat, good build-up and great vocals from Karl Hyde.
This sent shivers down my spine when I heard Miss Kittin play it during her set at the Melt Festival, and I couldn’t get it out of my head afterwards. It took some effort to get a track id, but when I found it I played it over and over again, to get back that special Melt feeling.
I found this remix on the Warp 20 (Chosen) release. It’s the best version of this LFO acid house classic.
Next up is the other guy’s top 10. Please don’t include this song Adriejan. I know it’s your favorite track of the year, but think of the LSD image!