We've shown you our albums/singles/etc of the year, so we thought it only fair to share the favourite five albums of some of our favourite musicians of 2011 plus a few who have records we're looking forward to in 2012... we've also embedded a few tracks so you can get a taste of some of these records.
The Antlers chosen by Peter Silberman
Braids Native Speaker
Native Speaker is so intricate sounding, yet spacious and airy. Lyrically, the prettiness & lightness of the vocals is juxtaposed with fierce sexual defiance, or something to that effect. I don’t profess to know what anybody intends their lyrics to mean, but that’s what I gather.
In some sense, I think this record’s one of my favorites for the simple reason that every song is memorable and familiar. It’s the kind of album you put on because it’s reliable and comfortable.
On the other hand, Biophilia is something I listen to to be taken somewhere else. Bjork singing about the universe and existence is pretty much my dream come true.
Talk Talk Laughing Stock (reissue)
Obviously not a new album, but Badabing reissued Laughing Stock this year, and it’s one of the best albums of all time, so there.
Son Lux We Are Rising
Probably the most underrated record this year. Ryan Lott is one of the best musicians I’ve ever met. He has an ambitious genius quality about him, elegantly represented in his music. He made We Are Rising in 28 days, though it sounds like it should have taken years.
I'm terrible at answering 'best of' questions because my memory's appalling, and for every great record I remember there's at least five that I've forgot. So here are some records I've loved, but there are many more I've loved just as much. I think.
Slow Club Paradise
Like all great records, it's sexy and sad in equal measures. And always beautiful.
Malcolm Middleton A Quarter Past Shite
A self-released compilation of very, very old songs I used to have on chewed-up cassettes, and the album I've wanted him to release for years. Hilariously miserable / miserably hilarious.
The Twilight Sad No One Can Ever Know
It's not out till next year but James gave me a sneaky, secret CD-R of it in August in return for me taking him to the Batman Live! show at the SECC, so it's been on my phone and in my ears almost constantly for most of the second half of 2011. It's The Twilight Sad you know through a 1980s synth filter and I love it.
Josh T. Pearson The King Is Dead
This limited edition live LP is far better than the studio album to my ears. It's mostly the same songs but his personality comes through more in the jovial stage banter and contrasts beautifully with the heartbreak in the set. Plus: a Boney M cover. Nice one.
Julianna Barwick The Magic Place
I listened to this on a long train journey home and it was perfect. Something aligned in the heavens that day, and it transformed a mundane duty into a truly gorgeous experience.
Blanck Mass Blanck Mass
I've been a fan of Fuck Buttons for quite a while so it was no surprise I was into Benjamin John Powers solo project. Lots of drones and distorted melodies - totally my style.
Fennesz & Sakamoto Flumina
Another really good ambient record. They made a song in every musical scale which means i have 24 songs and 2 hours of music to listen to.
Bon Iver Bon Iver
It was good to see such an album being so successful. He moved away from his minimal approach and even embraced some 80s synths and cp80 pianos but it's still him and beautiful.
My homies Gernot & Szary made their best album to date. A quite bumpy trip trough their current headspace. Don't forget to switch on the subwoofer!
M83 Hurry Up We're Dreaming
I have to admit - this album is too much. Still think it shouldn't have been a double album but hey, there are lots of good songs and I can just make my own somewhat shorter version of it.
OLUGBENGA of Metronomy
Clams Casino Instrumental Mixtape
This came out of nowhere for me. I knew who Lil B was but he puts out so much music that I gave up trying to follow him. So, I never heard 'I'm God' and so had never heard of Clams Casino. Then I read the Pitchfork review of his album (yeah, I admit it) and I tracked down a mediafire link. I think this could well be my most played album of the year. I don't usually go in for hiphop instrumentals but there's something about the spirit of these tracks that's very moving. And on a geeky level, it's interesting to hear someone actually build the sound of crap MP3s into their production. Clams wasn't the first to do it, but nothing else I've heard this year has had me coming back so much.
The only pop album of the year where I got to the end and immediately hit play again after having listened all the way through. So many lyrical moments that just stop you in your tracks and melodies that stay with you for days.
Three Trapped Tigers Route One Or Die
I'll be honest and say that I didn't love this album the first time I played it. But I loved 'Reset' - the final track - and I've loved all of the EPs that preceded this album. Plus, Tom Rogerson is a friend of mine. So I played it again. By the third listen, I couldn't imagine a world in which songs like 'Cramm' and 'Magne' didn't exist. Basically, I had expected them to make the electronic album of the year and what they did instead is make on the hardcore records of the year instead.
Jay Z Kanye West Watch The Throne
As much as I liked My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I now find myself skipping tracks. In fact sometimes I find myself skipping forward after hearing, say, Jay Z's verse on 'So Appalled'. Plus, when that album came out, I'd heard half of it because of the GOOD Friday leaks. It cannot be overstated how unusual it is in 2011 to come to a hiphop album having not heard any tracks except one of the bonus cuts. And - PRAISE BE - the main body of the album was only 12 tracks long. Considering the stadium status of both these rappers, the whole thing could have been a bloated mess. Instead Jay and Kanye surprised us by delivering an album that is by no means perfect but is absolutely bursting with lyrical dexterity, back-and-forth rhymes, varied (often adventurous) production and an honest-to-goodness word of mouth hit, 'Niggas In Paris'.
Om Unit The Timps / Transport
These two EPs are so worth your time. 'The Timps' and 'An Eternal Way' are my two favourite productions to come out of UK bass culture this year. Taken together the EPs represent a concise album's worth of material from someone who manages to infuse this very electronic, very machine-driven music with a numinous quality that reflects his personality and beliefs. And that's something you can't really learn from a Youtube tutorial on 'How to get my bass to sound like Flux Pavilion'.
21 Records That I Listened To Often, Released in 2011, Ordered Alphabetically
Atlas Sound Parallax
Azita Disturbing The Air
Bill Callahan Apocalypse
Blackout Beach Fuck Death
Cass McCombs Wit's End
Devon Williams Euphoria
Eleanor Friedberger Last Summer
Fennesz + Sakamoto Flumina
Kate Bush 50 Words For Snow
Kurt Vile Smoke Ring For My Halo
Moonface Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped
Oneohtrix Point Never Replica
PJ Harvey Let England Shake
Ryan Driver Who's Breathing?
Sandro Perri Impossible Spaces
Sr Chinarro Presidente
Tim Hecker Ravedeath, 1972
Tom Waits Bad As Me
(The) War On Drugs Slave Ambient
Zachary Cale Noise Of Welcome
CUT COPY chosen by Mitchell Scott
Girls Father Son Holy Ghost
Such a beautifully put together record - this record is bursting with feelings of hopelessness and longing and frantic energy chanelled into hook laden well crafted songs. Another great step forward for the band
Toro y Moi Underneath the Pine
A beautiful lush record with unlikely instrumentation and a great sense of personality that draws you in. Its production is at once lo-fi and grand.
Atlas Sound Parallax
With this record Bradford Cox seemed to take Atlas Sound out of the bedroom and produced an amazing sounding record. the free flow of ideas is still there, but it sounds more detailed and finished than his other Atlas Sound work - another window into the mind of a genius
The Horrors Skying
Its been great listening to this record and the progression in the band's sound that it marks - they seem to become more interesting with each record. Its a dense, lush sounding expansive record which really nails its aesthetic
My favourite Australian record of the year - its been fantastic to watch the Twerps become such an amazing sounding band. The songwriting as well as the playing continues to evolve and I find myself wanting to listen to this record again and again.
A Winged Victory For The Sullen chosen by Dustin O' Halloran
preface: It's been one of those years were I was either in my studio or performing somewhere..so I was in a kind of musical bubble and most of the music I heard was from my people I know, thankfully they made great albums.
Johann Johannsson The Miners Hymn
Johann has yet to make an album that does not get under your skin and this one digs deeper. The last piece on this record is so epic and powerful..and I think one of his best works. It's a record that continues to unfold with each listen and will be timeless piece as always.
Hauschka Salon Des Amateurs
I have had the pleasure to know Volker (aka Hauschka) and tour with him over the years. Seeing his sound grow and expand has been a wonderful thing..and here all the pieces come together and I think he made his strongest and most unique album yet. Live it goes to another level!
Our good friend Francesco Donadello (aka The Scientist) who mixed A Winged Victory For The Sullen also mixed this record. I first heard it when he called me downstairs into the street where he had parked his car and was pretty excited to show me how he developed a method of mixing the record in his car with his system hooked up to the car stereo...the perfect way to mix an electronic record! We sat and listened to the record in his car and I was amazing at how good these sounds were….the Thom Yorke track is pretty great.
Christina Vantzou No .1
Christina is the very talented girl who did my visuals for my album Lumiere and meanwhile she was concocting an album that so masterfully created musically the colors and images she creates. A stunning first album for someone who never made music before….!
Sleeping Dog With Our Heads in the Clouds And Our Hearts In The Fields
Ok I know this is my band mates other band…but I could not listen to many vocal records this year..and this one I just loved. It had space to let the vocals breath and become more powerful..and I just love Chantal's voice, it's fragile and honest.
Tim Hecker Ravedeath, 1972
I think this is Tim's best work..and its a kaleidoscope of colors and imagery. Something that you cant compare to anything the came before…it made time stand still for me.
Josh T Pearson Last of The Country Gentlemen
Josh has been a friend for over a decade since my band Devics toured with Lift To Experience ages ago. He was my only friend that I knew when I moved to Berlin. He moved away but came back to record this record of the most heart breaking songs. During these session we did a few version in my studio live, and it was one of those moments that is just magical and the reason you make music.
of Montreal chosen by Kevin Barnes
London Sinfonietta Ades: In Seven Days/Nancarrow Studies no's 6 and 7
This is a great headphone album, sometimes I listen to it while writing free verse and it inspires all kinds of wild thoughts. That probably sounds very nerdy but it's more fun for me than shooting rabbits in the garden from my bathroom window.
John Adams Son Of Chamber Symphony/String Quartet
It makes me sad how overlooked contemporary symphonic music has become. this album works on my brain in ways that no other album does. it fills the mind with all sorts of complex stimuli, but not in an overbearing fashion, plus I love the idea of this composition being the "son" of an earlier work of his.
Deerhoof Deerhoof vs Evil
Deerhoof consistently create the most exciting and adventurous art around. I love how blissfully "them" they are. It's so inspiring to know there are artists out there pushing the envelope to the extreme that they do. I think of them as people I'd like to impress, just cause I respect them so much.
Eleanor Friedberger Last Summer
I love Eleanor's voice so much, and her lyrics are the best, always thought provoking and, seemingly, confessional. There are some serious "dance around the bedroom wearing a wolf mask" jams on this one.
The Beach Boys Smile Sessions
I realize this is a reissue and maybe it shouldn't be considered along with these new releases, but it did come out this year so fuck it. I can't think of another album that has influenced or inspired me more than 'Smile'. It's just so astounding on every possible level. Knowing about the back story only makes it that much more heart breaking, yet life affirming at the same time. The pairing of Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks together is enough to make one believe in the existence of a benevolent God.
The Phantom Band chosen by Duncan Marquiss
ASAP Rocky Live Love mixtape
It's been a good year for hip hop, I've enjoyed Das Racist, Shabazz Palaces, Azealia Banks and Odd Future. ASAP Rocky's narcotic swag is getting the most headphone time just now though.
This sounds like Philip Glass' Kolyanasquaatsi score played by Meshuggah, yet it doesn't get too cerebral and manages to maintain heft. Liturgy did a great interview on DJ Rupture's Mudd Up radio show back in April.
Bill Orcutt How The Thing Sings
The former Harry Pussy front-man has developed an inimitable way of playing solo primitive guitar, it's good to know that the instrument hasn't been completely exhausted of it's possibilities. Gutted to have missed his UK shows in October, I heard ecstatic reports from the staff at Cafe Oto.
Whaur The Pig Gaed On The Spree: Scottish Recordings by Alan Lomax 1951-’57 compiled by Alasdair Roberts
I've enjoyed watching archive clips on the Alan Lomax Archive youtube channel this year (See My Jumper Hanging On The Line sung by a youthful R.L. Burnside in his back garden is a particular highlight). It's great to hear Lomax's Scottish research though, and so lovingly selected by Alasdair Roberts the "bastard heir".
Sensi Addict Prince Jazzbo
This is an awesome digidub 12" reissue on Replay. I bought this after hearing it on the hi-fi in Kristina Records, the vinyl only store that opened on Stoke Newington Rd in London this year. The place is a hazard for the wallet though it's impossible to leave empty handed.
Rude Pravo The Heteradelph's Daughter
Of all the band's we've played with this year Glasgow's Rude Pravo are my favourite. Self-released on Luke Fowler's Shaddazz label, the album is a warming mix of analogue synths and concrete textures crowned by Cara Tolmie signature vocals.
Dutch Uncles chosen by Peter Broadhead
John Maus We must become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
The most strangely addictive pop songs you will hear all year. If Spinal Tap's Viv Savage went solo it would certainly sound like this. Ooodles of colourful synths, pub style vocals dripping in Suicide'esque slap back, stark drum machines, tubular bells and some damn catchy hooks. I take my Snowdon bobble hat off to John, well done.
Less is more.
Frank Ocean Nostalgia-Ultra
For an Odd Future man, he seems to have his R&B head screwed on tight! Though technically a mix tape (which makes it even more scarily good), these pop tunes are so effortlessly polished you can see all your own music imperfections in the reflection. 'Lovecrimes' may also be favourite track of the year, a rolling piano that you never want to stop, no matter how slow she goes.
Beastie Boys Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
Oooooh baby I like it raw! Drums blasting, synths wailing, Guitars uberly distorted and you can barely make out the trios ricocheting rhymes. But you know they are there which makes you more the merrier. I'm also sure a knife must be lodged in a hammond or perhaps a rhodes somewhere in NY. Terrific record and fun for the whole family (especially that video, they got Ted Danson!)
Oneohtrix Point Never Replica
My most current listen, that without a doubt needed to be added to my list. Simply stunning, genre hopping, sample chopping, floor mopping, jaw dropping, bass swirling, synth sweeping, animal screeching, tape warping, loop clicking..... erm You get the idea. It's fokken good.
Spectrals Bad Penny
Louis is a genius, and still so young. This is such an impressive long playing debut and we're mighty jealous.
WILD FLAG wild flag
Put a bird on it!
Metronomy The English Riviera
Joe mount's electro caterpillar blossomed into a beautiful pop butterfly.
M83 Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
They bestrode the year like an ambient pop colossus.
John Maus we must become the pitiless censors of ourselves
Just for 'believer' 'the moon' and 'quantum leap' - an ex collaborator of Ariel Pink, this scholarly nut makes astonishing, fractured pop.
Old Apparatus s/t
I was totally transfixed by their movements this year - death drone, deep bass, and glitchy percussion all combined. Amazing and thrilling.
Andy Stott Passed Me By / We Stay Together
Safe to say, nothing's made an impact on us as much as Stott's 2 EPs, mini-albums/ whatever this year - as dark as hell is deep.
Limp Bizkit Gold Cobra
Everyone always laughs at LB, but they forget behind durst's silliness, Wes Borland can riff like an absolute bastard.
Bastions Hospital Corners
Seriously brutal, and these guys seem to be getting a lot of well deserved attention at the moment. The album is executed with a copious amount of blast beats and beefy riffs.
Some say this is sci-fi music, others say post juke, but either way it's highly emotional and very sincere. It's electronica that comes straight from the heart. 'Scissors' is definitely one hell of a break up song.
Chairlift chosen by Caroline
Cass McCombs Wit's End
Favorite track: 'Memory's Stain'
Class Actress Rapprocher
Favorite track: "Limousine"
Devon Williams Euphoria
Favorite Track: "Dreaming"
Gang Gang Dance Eye Contact
Favorite track: "Chinese High"
John Maus We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
Favorite Track: "...And The Rain"
LOW chosen by Alan Sparhawk
PJ Harvey Let England Shake
I still remember where I was when I heard her first record, Dry. I think she's one of the great artists of our time. Have you heard the 4-track record she did in the 90's? Everything she puts out is engaging and timeless, even as she is glaringly in-the-moment with this record. There should be more records like this being made, but our generation has really fallen down on the job. We're too cautious maybe.
Lucinda Williams Blessed
I heard the first song "butter cup" on the radio and figured that song itself warranted buying the whole record. turns out she slays it all the way through - great songs, great band, and I could listen to her sloppy drawl all day.
Shabazz Palaces Black Up
My hip hop vocabulary is limited, but every once in a while I get addicted to a record that usually comes to me by accident. My last one was Psalm One's Frequent Flyer - sick record. Others have been kool keith, and crew jones. I took this from the Sub Pop records office, same day I took a promo for the Blitzen Trapper record. I suppose if i say I like the beats and rhymes, i'd sound like a poser, but it's true! - I like the beats and rhymes.
Blitzen Trapper American Goldwing
I had heard a few song by these guys before, but this was the first whole record I ever heard. Lead singer dude's got a great flair for hooks and tunes. I like the way he sings, too, which is strange because he sounds sometimes like other people who's singing I don't like. Looks bad to be listing bands from our own label, but I really thought these two were exceptional.
Gillian Welch The Harrow and The Harvest
I have to put this in because mimi (drummer in low) spent a lot of time with that record. I love it too, not as much as "time the revelator", but it's still great. raw and simple, she and dave set a high standard for the rest of us.
The Beach Boys The Smile Sessions
Alessio - I've been waiting for this to be released for ages. I downloaded all the bootlegs during the years and had the Smiley Smile album but this is the final Smile, the absolute masterpiece. One of the records of my life. It's perfection applied to music but still sounding extremely human.
The Field Looping State Of Mind
Alessio - This album is an immersive and downright transcendent experience that I could get lost into forever. A lot of people try but no one does it like The Field!
Wild Beasts Smother
Alessio - My favourite UK band. This is their wonderful third album of elegant, beautiful and painfully sincere pop. Some amazing lyrics too.
Kate Wax Dust Collision
Sam - This is really special record - Kate Wax's eerie alien vocals pitted against corruscating synth arpeggios and sweeping cold wave pads really tickle out gooseflesh and raise the hackles.
Tonto's Expanding Headband Zero Time
Sam - Not a new record, but new to me this year - Tonto's music walks the fine tightrope between esoteric navel gazing and melodic populism effortlessly. Indeed, it’s shocking how timeless their music still sounds today – particularly the album centre piece ‘Aurora,’ a brooding, hypnotic drone pop odyssey.
Milo Cordell, The Big Pink
The Weeknd House of Balloons
A beautiful druggy haze. I cant remember a record that holds a feeling like this from beginning to end since Spiritulized's Ladies and Gentleman..._
A great record to have whilst on tour. A record to watch England unravel through the wet window pane of a Tiger Tours white Mercedes van.
Big K.R.I.T Return of 4eva
As much as I love Juicy J, Waka Flocka and all the Lex Luger jump up party hip hop, the lyrical content doesn't go much beyond weed and syrup so it was with much relief when I heard Big K.R.I.T. and his more conscious flow.
Girls Father Son Hoy Ghost
A wonderful record that I put on most mornings.
Deptford Goth Youth II
Pretty much my favourite record of the year and perhaps my favourite record ever on Merok.