11 great new ones in 2011

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – S/T

Though there is no particular order to this list, UMO gets top billing because it is simply the funnest album I heard all year.  Fuzzed out, intricate, danceable, and best of all quick (about a 30 minutes).  Never underestimate economy, or how good a drum sample from a Pointer Sisters song can be…….

Tinariwen – Tassali

So a little bigger hubbub, and some superstar cameos, but you’d never notice.  The amazing thing about their sound is everything can slide right in, whether it’s recorded in a studio or the middle of the desert.  I just keep waiting to see if I tire of that endless Tuareg groove….

Skeletons – People

The only other band I can compare this to is that weird 90’s band Home, who sounded absolutely like nobody else.  Same thing here.  Stretched out and glorious, you didn’t know songs could work like this…..

Real Estate – Days

Lazing, loping guitar rock that reeks of early summer evenings.  I certainly understand the Feelies comparisons, but this sounds more like those great 3rd and 4th Byrd records to me.

Atlas Sound – Parallax

If pop music was perfected underwater.  I have a feeling Bradford Cox simply can’t turn it off.  We’re lucky his taste in sound modulation and trajectory are what they are.

Iceage – New Brigade

Flat out, off-time and ferocious. Only highly evolved 19-year-olds (from Denmark) can capture this kind of energy.  This is for all you old guys holding your Fugazi candles who say there’s no good new music.  Can’t wait to see where they go from here…..

Washed Out – Within and Without

The chillwave (or whatever it’s currently labeled as) scene is far too homogeneous for me to wade through entirely, but I do gravitate towards a very particular convergent of styles and sounds (almost as enjoyable were  John Maus and the new Neon Indian).  It’s basically ice-cold-synth-pop, and I really hope some sad, misfit 17-year-old enjoyed this as much as I did.

May Roosevelt – Haunted

Making electronica spooky is not the hardest thing in the world.  To do it convincingly is. Not since Clara Rockmore has the theremin sounded so robust and inventive.

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

I think Tom actually has a better record than this in store next, but what I like most about this is the watershed in execution.  More compact, but somehow denser than before.  Let’s call this the introduction to Wait’s Third Age….

Tim Hecker – Ravedeath 1972

Technically the sound of one days worth of a pipe organ in Iceland (with some electro-accoutrement).  Sonic swells of disengagement and pitched battles of gains and decay.  Great for late nights, early morning or anytime you need that thought in your head to go a different direction.

Radiohead – The King of Limbs

I just keep waiting for the lame Radiohead record.  I don’t think it’s gonna happen.  In a weird way, this could be their most focused work yet ; “Bloom” offsets “Give Up the Ghost” just as “Magpie” offsets “Separator”.  With only 8 songs (not counting the two singles released afterward), I felt slighted at first, but I think I get it now…….

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