2017 was Donald Trump’s first year as president of the United States. Perhaps it is “outrage fatigue” at play, but it seems in retrospect that the albums that resonated with me this past year share certain qualities. Most of my favorites exhibit patience, steadfastness, focus, and determination. I needed music that is restorative. I needed it to provide space for my brain and my soul.
Jared C. Balogh — Between Probabilities (Evgeny Gerasimchuk, Grigory Bazhanov and Jared C. Balogh)
Balogh’s compositions are complex thorny things sometimes. Rhythmically dense, melodically spiky, angular in all the best ways. What a treat to hear this set of compositions realized with live guitar (played by Evgeny Gerasimchuk) instead of rendered via computer. Available as a free download on WFMU’s Free Music Archive. Disclosure: Jared is my friend and bandmate.
For much of this year I felt as though I was not able to keep abreast of music releases well enough to even pick favorites. Then suddenly towards the end of the year I came across several really great releases and A Tribe Called Quest dropped their first album in years which turned out to be amazing. Who knows, another great album might get released in the few remaining days of 2016…
The Body — No One Deserves Happiness
Starting off quiet and dark like Miranda Sex Garden, this album soon gives way to slow-crushing heavy guitar glaciers. Almost like Swans in the 90s turning back into Swans in the 80s.
Here’s my list of favorite releases for this past year, presented in alphabetical order:
Lucrecia Dalt — Ou
This is filmic, cinematic music. Sounds creep in and out of view with the seamless rhythm of the best film editors. Texture and grit are key ingredients but harmonies do sometimes emerge to lend a familiar emotional anchor to the abstraction. There’s a radiophonic wooziness that bathes the whole affair in nostalgia.
There were so many interesting album releases in 2014 I felt I could barely keep up. In fact, I was still adding titles to my Best of 2014 contenders list late into December. Here are some of my favorites, in alphabetical order:
The Bug — Angels & Devils
Kevin Martin returns to his The Bug alias for a full length LP and several EPs worth of mutant bass music in 2014. More than any other electronic music producer, Kevin understands the equal importance of mass/weight and texture. Both aspects are deployed extremely effectively whether the track is an atmospheric snarling dub-wise bass mantra or a neck-snapping mutant-dancehall-cum-grime firestarter.
Time, once again, to review some of my favorite music releases from the past year (pretty much the only regular feature of this “blog”). 2013 was a very fruitful year for alt-R&B/future-R&B as well as for Chicago-London bass hybrids. All the usual caveats apply. There is always too much music to hear all the great releases in a year but these grabbed me more than the rest. I look forward to reading all the other lists to catch up on what I missed.
Chants — I Feel Like I Feel It
If memory serves, I heard about this release via dj /rupture’s Mudd Up blog. The most obvious signposts are Shlohmo or Origami Sound’s post-Burial soundscapes but Chants manages to make an electronic music album that sounds extremely personal and expressive. There is a strong enough identity to shrug off easy comparisons.
There are still some great albums and singles being released mid-December, including a new 12-inch from Burial, which could easily be included here if I had had more time with them before compiling this year’s list. As always, this is my small contribution to the mass of music nerd list-making that happens at the end of each calendar year. I’m sure I’ve missed some of your favorites and I will likely read a lot of other lists to satisfy my curiosity over missed items and unjust dismissals. I hope you find something to enjoy!
Selections in alphabetical order
Burial — Kindred
Hyperdub have released two 12-inch records from Burial in 2012. If you like Burial you likely know what to expect. No surprises here: crackly atmosphere, meta-rave sonic vocabulary, skittery percussion… All the things I always love about Burial, no matter how same-y it’s starting to get. The only surprise, then, could be that I’m still not tired of Burial music.
2011 has been a remarkable year. It has seen volcanic eruptions disrupt global travel, political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, an official end to the US occupation of Iraq, the emergence of a genuine political protest movement in Occupy Wall Street, incredible flooding in South Asia and Southeast Asia, the end of the second Steve Jobs era at Apple, the return of The Muppets and a continuing effort in the US to dismantle due process and replace the “will of the people” with the profit motives of corporations.
It has also been full of interesting musical activity — intriguing new releases practically every week of the year. So much music that it would be impossible to spend the time to give each a fair shake. So here I have gathered my favorite releases of 2011 which had attracted my continued or repeated attention. There are many omissions, to be sure, but that is why I read others’ lists.
Selections in alphabetical order (mostly)
Burial — Street Halo
Burial returned this year with a stellar 12-inch and several choice collaborations. Expanding on his strengths as a producer of atmospheric and emotional sound design, Burial also played with some different tempos on Street Halo.
Another list. I look forward to skimming through others’ lists to see what I missed or dismissed too easily in 2010 or what never made it to my ears.
My picks, in alphabetical order:
Akira Rabelais — Caduceus
The latest from Akira Rabelais delves further into his finely textured soundworld. Having built a delicate and detailed sonic vocabulary since the 1990s, this composer continues to impress me with his skilled digital manipulations. Finely tuned grit.
It seems that 2009 is the year when I shifted my attention back to rock and pop music. Dubstep still holds my attention but not to the extent that it did back in 2006 when it took over my brain. Here are the things I enjoyed most in 2009, in no particular order.
The XX — XX
Thanks to my friend, Tony, who first mentioned this band to me. The XX are a young bunch who make lean pop music consisting of boy/girl vocals, hand-played drum machines and perfectly placed guitar lines. This album quickly became a habit.
It is hard to believe that it is December already almost January. It is even harder to believe that I had to scrape sleet off my windshield today last week in the middle of Texas.
This year saw some big changes:
1. I now live in TX.
2. I now have a regular job. I am not self employed so I have to wear pants and talk to people.
3. I ditched that horrible razr. iPhone, baby!
4. I bought a house.