Song - Artist - Album
Living Room - Grouper - The Man Who Died In His Boat
After another week's delay here are my top five albums of the year. I thought it was a great year for music, and I hope you did too. If you missed part I, you can check it out here, and part II is right here. Thanks for reading and hopefully 2012 is just as good!
5. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
Youth Lagoon is the moniker of 22 year old Boise, Idaho native Trevor Powers. While The Year of Hibernation has all the clichés of an indie album released in 2011 (i.e., recorded in a bedroom, remarkably lo-fi, reverb heavy vocals, anxiety-ridden lyrics) there’s something remarkably sweet about the album that I can’t shake. While other dreamy pop albums are washed in a sea of haze and distortion, there’s some extremely hooks and great lyrics on The Year of Hibernation. Songs start slow and disjointed, but after plodding along a beat drops and the song becomes something entirely new. It’s a tried and tested formula, and it’ll be interesting to see if Powers can make it work in the future, but on these 8 tracks it works extremely work well, and for 2011 that’s all that matters. (Check out "17").
4. Deafheaven – Roads to Judah
As I mentioned earlier in my Ash Borer write-up, black metal is trending right now, and nothing makes that more evident than Deafheaven’s debut LP Roads to Judah. The San Francisco five piece has taken black metal as a jumping point and incorporated a number of other influences from hardcore, post-rock, and shoegaze to create a sound that is amazingly immersive, beautiful and powerful. “Violet” kicks off the album with four and a half minutes of ambient noodling that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Sigur Ros song and then launches into a furious onslaught of blast beats and tremolo picking. Each subsequent song follows the formula of loud to soft, brutal to beautiful, each featuring a wonderful climax. To actually refer to the band as “black metal” would be to do the band, and the genre, a disservice. While the sonic influence is clearly there, the album is far too lush and emotional to be included in such a cold and calculated genre, but Roads to Judah shows where the genre may be headed.
3. Pygmy Lush – Old Friends
During the late 90s to early 00s, Pg. 99 existed as a collective of musicians making intense, emotional hardcore. Their influence was incredible, but since breaking up the group has seemed to disperse into factions, still creating music wholly different from Pg. 99. One of those groups is Pygmy Lush, formed by Pg. 99’s vocalist, guitarist and drummer. While Pygmy Lush is entirely different from Pg.99 in that they write and perform folk songs, rather than brash, angry hardcore, there still exists a heavy, gloomy atmosphere over every song. While it took Pygmy Lush a few albums to get their sound down and finally decide who they wanted to be, Old Friends finally finds them comfortable in their new skin. Each song is wonderfully orchestrated, beautifully written, and mysteriously dark. Almost every trace of Pg. 99 is gone, save for a crescendo here or there, and for a group of musicians to be able to make a great album in two very different genres, I’d say that’s quite the accomplishment. (Check out "Admit").
2. Giles Corey – Giles Corey
In 2008, Have a Nice Life released Deathconsciousness. A massive double album filled with some of the gloomiest, heaviest, dreamiest, most beautiful post-punk/shoegaze/lo-fi ever recorded. (It may sound like I’m exaggerating, but it’s truly one of my favorite albums ever.) Since the album came out, one of the two men behind the project, Dan Barrett, has worked tirelessly to create a record label, Enemies List Recordings, to put out more of the same. Nothing from ELR has quite touched Deathconsciousness, but in 2011 Barrett put out some of his own solo recordings under the name Giles Corey and came as close as anybody’s come. Giles Corey is a collection of slowly burning, heavily brooding acoustic songs about depression and cult leaders from the 1800s. Barrett has self-described the music as “acoustic music from the end of the Industrial Revolution” and I haven’t managed to come up with a tagline any more accurate. Each song as a rustic, ghostly atmosphere that seems lost in space. (Check out "Blackest Bile")
1. Beau Navire – Hours/Life Moves
Beau Navire released an EP (Life Moves) and an LP (Hours) in 2011, and since I couldn’t pick between them, and since they both combine to 38 minutes in runtime, I decided to cheat and name them, collectively, my favorite album of 2011. Life Moves is a mix of 6 incredibly messy, chaotic, emo songs while Hours is much more focused and streamlined. The album channels the intense, calculated chaos of late-90s emo like Jerome’s Dream, Orchid, and melodic sensibilities of Yaphet Kotto and You and I. Every song is short on time, but undergoes a number of changes and creates a number of transcendent moments. The vocals are incredibly abrasive and unaccustomed ears may not be able to discern left from right, but anybody who’s a fan of 90s emo, Beau Navire is a blessing. There’s a moment in “Fitting Pieces” where after about a minute of aimless shouting and riffing a guitar suddenly enters the fray and sways and jumps in such an awkward rhythm, but the tone is so perfect and somehow it just fits beautifully. Despite all the chaos and fury, a lone riff breaks through to offer this beautiful clarity and understanding. Another moment occurs in “Cloud City” where after a scattered and messy first half, the song stops and the band comes together to produce this transcendent guitar riff. For me, those two to three second moments are what make music great.