Things I Loved in 2014, Pt. 2

For me, 2015 is a year dedicated to completing the projects that I start. As such, here’s 7000 or so words about some of my favorite music from 2014— accompanied by a whole bunch of streams, links, and shouts out to a number of honorable mentions. All in all, a pretty excellent year. But, then again, it’s hard to look back on any year where D’Angelo comes out of hiding to put out his first full-length in over a decade and be upset.

In reading this list, I hope you discover something you hadn’t heard or maybe even hear something you had in a new way. Look for some new content on Chickens Don’t Clap! very soon… including the unveiling of a new feature! Until then, enjoy part two of my favorite things from 2014 (you can check out part one right here).

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PC Music

If I were to choose each individual offering from the PC Music movement that I loved in 2014, this year-end list would be completely inundated. As such, I’ve decided to keep it simple and give a big-up to the entire crew. As it is, PC Music operates almost as a single organism, producing countless artists whose works each reflect a different take on their inimitable and improbable balance of self-aware, saccharine-sweet and at-times trashy pop aesthetics, and a bold, forward-thinking approach to production and songwriting. Skewed expectations abound, the collective continues to sharpen their focus and relevance somewhere between the increasingly intertwined electronic and pop music landscapes. Building on what can only be called a huge breakout year in 2014, label founder/mastermind A. G. Cook has already kicked off 2015 with a high profile remix of Charli XCX’s “Doing It”, cheeky future-pop princess GFOTY dropped the astounding “Cake Mix” last week, and PC Music queen Hannah Diamond is back in the studio as we speak.

Check the best PC Music jams from last year and the rest of the 2014 list after the jump.

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Things I Loved In 2014, Pt. 1

Well I’m a touch late, but I couldn’t let the previous year pass by without imparting some sort of reflection on what moved me in 2014. The forthcoming lists will be presented haphazardly and in no particular order, much the like the music therein was consumed. Processing so much information can be daunting and usually leaves me working to get organized at the end of the year– but it’s always, always fun. Whittled down from some 500+ albums, EPs, mixes, and singles, here are some of my thoughts on 2014.

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My Favorite San Diego Releases of 2014

 

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Nathan Hubbard – Encinitas and Everything After (Vol. 1-5)

Nathan Hubbard‘s monumental Encinitas and Everything After— a five volume collection of twenty-five compositions clocking in at a cool five hours— was unquestionably the most impressive release from a San Diego artist last year. The deserved winner of the San Diego Music Award for “Best Jazz Album”, this work certainly surpasses the concepts of both “jazz” and “album”, constrained by little other than the limits of how much the human mind is capable of processing in 2014 and Hubbard’s expansive creative vision. This warm tribute to Encinitas, the small beach community that sits a stone’s throw north of San Diego (and Nathan’s hometown), feels a bit more like everything and everything after. A work that begins like a languid, sunkissed Sunday afternoon between the eucalyptus and the shoreline, only to patiently dip into cool night and build back to day again, these five volumes dispatch the listener through a mix of chaotic dreams, hazy memories, heartfelt eulogies, snapshots of particular places and times, ruminations on the passage of time itself, and beyond. In other words, this is an examination that utilizes seemingly every reflective angle available to it. Hubbard’s often experimental and highly collaborative approach yields a personnel roster of some seventy-two performers who contributed to both new compositions and some that date as far back as 1992, performed in a myriad of arrangements— from tape and sample-based electronic experiments, to more traditional jazz quartets, to larger and more varied ensembles.

To be honest, I’m still processing this opus and probably will continue to process it for some time to come. But, what better reward for a listener is there than that? You can navigate those depths yourselves when you pick up all five volumes of Encinitas and Everything After over at Nathan Hubbard’s Bandcamp page.

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Diggin’ in the Carts: The Unsung Heroes + My Favorite 8-Bit Jams

Episode one of Diggin’ in the Carts, the Red Bull Music Academy’s new miniseries that explores the history of video game music and the influential composers of Japan, came out yesterday. This first of six weekly installments gives a brief overview of the origins of sound and music in video games, from Pong to Pacman and beyond, before moving on to the importance of early soundtracks by Namco’s Junko Ozawa and Nintendo’s Hirokazu ‘Hip’ Tanaka. A composer and hardware designer, Tanaka had a hand in the creation of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) sound chip and also went on to design the sound hardware for the Gameboy.

As a child of the NES epoch, these 8-bit sounds are burrowed deep into my psyche and bring forth a flood of nostalgia and emotion, as they do for much of my generation. I’m excited for the rest of the series and will be sure to post the episodes here. After all, many of these composers haven’t received their due credit, considering the far-reaching influence of their works. It’s great to see them getting it here.

To commemorate the series’ kickoff, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite 8-bit compositions from the golden NES era (presented in no particular order). Peep the list after the jump and feel free to share some of your own favorites in the comments.

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Things I Loved In 2012: Top 10

And finally… the cathartic wrapping up of my favorites from last year. Here’s my top 10 from 2012 in no particular order. Thanks for reading everyone! It feels good to be back.

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Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city

“Okay…  now open your mind up and listen me, Kendrick / I am your conscience, if do not hear me then you will be history, Kendrick”

A complex and stirring reflection on growing up in Compton, Kendrick Lamar‘s good kid, m.A.A.d city is a record that has all parts working for it. Kendrick’s mind-boggling flow effortlessly rides between snare slaps and 808 kicks, transforming at a moment’s notice to complement this LP’s exceptional production in endlessly inventive ways. Yet for all his technical flair, it is ultimately the poignant narrative of good kid, m.A.A.d city that ascends this masterpiece to the status of modern classic. The strengths of Lamar’s storytelling are many, but remain grounded in his ability to weave together the looming themes of family, peer pressure, alcoholism and substance abuse, violence, love and lust, loss, anxiety, and survival, all the while capturing smaller moments with such detail that you feel like you’re right there with young Kendrick rollin’ down Rosecrans.

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Kendrick Lamar – Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe

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Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)

Buy: Pick up good kid, m.A.A.d city over at Amazon.

cashmere_cat-mirror_maruCashmere Cat – Mirror Maru EP // “773 Love” (Cashmere Cat Edit)

In an era where access to music is unprecedented, mysterious bedroom producers often find themselves with a unique piece of promotional capital— their lack of identity. When everything is at your fingertips, there’s nothing like a little inscrutable piece of information to drive the internet crazy. Of course, first and foremost you’ve gotta have the skills to garner the initial attention in the first place. Cashmere Cat definitely had it all.The incredible Rustie BBC Essential Mix introduced the world to “Mirror Maru”, a tune the BBC tracklist initially miscredited to “Swag5”. Within a few days it was revealed that this mix highlight was indeed the work of the 24 year old Norwegian producer born Magnus August Høiberg. Apparently he has been in the game for a little while now— appearing at the DMC World Championships as DJ Final in 2008— but really blew up in 2012 with just a taste of this track and a series of inventive and impressive remix work, peaking with his superb edit of Jeremih’s “773 Love”. He went on to release the Mirror Maru EP on DJ slow‘s Belgium-based label Pelican Fly and drop a sick remix for Ed Banger Records.

At the end of the day, I simply can’t get over Cashmere Cat’s approach to production. The spazzy, syncopated arrangements, the crisp drums and synth, the rich instrumentation and layering of sounds, the sense of space within the compositions— all pushing a perfect balance of building tension and breezy vibes. Keep your eye on this one in 2013; I guarantee he’ll be making big moves.


Buy: Get a copy of the Mirror Maru EP from Beatport and download the “773 Love” edit for free via the SoundCloud widget above.

nicolas_jaar_no_bbc_edit_2Nicolas Jaar – The Essential Mix (BBC Edit)

Nicolas Jaar‘s monumental BBC Essential Mix was unlike any mix I heard last year. Or any other year for that matter. Ever a wizard of sound, Jaar touches on just about everything over these two hours— Twin Peaks, folk, Jay-Z, classical, jazz, teen pop, juke, contemporary classical, soul, minimal techno, and the obscured spaces in between. Yet for all its eclecticism, this mix is remarkably seamless, skewing all into a dark and reflective vibe that has Jaar’s inimitable fingerprints all over it. Even sweeter, Jaar’s label Clown & Sunset made an edit available that removes all the pesky BBC Radio 1 station drops and banter. Shouts out to Pete Tong, but frankly this opus deserves to stand alone. I’ve listened to the mix in full over a half dozen times at this point and it’s still astounding.

Buy: Download this mix via the SoundCloud widget above.

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Rustie – BBC Essential Mix

Rustie also forged one of the most exciting pieces of music in 2012 with his contribution to the BBC Essential Mix series. An eclectic masterpiece altogether different from Nicolas Jaar’s work, this mix is propelled by dense, low-end heavy electronics, huge club jams, hip-hop bangers, Zelda samples, and Rustie’s propensity for the maximal. The results are mind-blowing. Rustie’s frenzied mix is two hours of fervent energy with just the right amount of respite, leaving you teetering on the edge of exhaustion as the cool waves of the unreleased Rustie jam “444Sure” wash over you at the finale. Full of exclusives, this mix was also the source of much clamoring on internet forums and blogs for a number of unbelievably dope tracks— Baauer‘s massive trap anthems “Harlem Shake” and “Dum Dum”, Dorian Concept‘s sick remix of Cid Rim‘s “Draw”, Cashmere Cat‘s indelible “Mirror Maru”, and of course a veritable LP’s worth of new and unreleased material from Rustie himself. Will those Rustie tracks ever see the light of day? Who knows. Until then, enjoy this epic mix at the stream below.

Andy Stott - Luxury ProblemsAndy Stott – Luxury Problems

Before the release of his excellent Luxury Problems, I had the pleasure of seeing Andy Stott perform during the Modern Love Records showcase at Decibel Festival in Seattle. In the basement underneath Melrose Market, Stott laid down a mind-melting set that was ultimately my favorite of the entire festival. Most of the material he played was from this unbelievably heavy LP, which is a big step forward even after last year’s excellent pair of EPs: Passed Me By and We Stay Together. The haunting compositions of Luxury Problems build slowly upon murky drones and loops, swampy 4/4 bass kicks, and haunting, angelic vocal work from Andy Stott’s childhood piano teacher Alison Skidmore. A balance between delicate beauty and ominous dread, this record feels like death. Not a terrifying death, but rather a patient, creeping shift into another dimension, the ethereal voice of forgotten ancestors guiding your way through the shadow to the other side. No finality, simply a beautiful and mournful transition to another world.

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Andy Stott – Numb

Buy: Get a copy of Luxury Problems over at Bleep. You can also stream the whole LP at the Modern Love SoundCloud page.

john_talabot-finJohn Talabot – ƒIN

2012 was a year saturated with excellent electronic releases, as many producers propelled house, bass, garage, juke, and the like into new territory. Barcelona’s John Talabot took a particularly fresh and forward-thinking approach to house music, infusing his balaeric cuts with spectacular depth. The sonically rich ƒIN is alive with mood and texture, full of dense compositions that plunge through a murk of melancholy up to introspective, crescendoing highs. Talabot’s varied and propellant percussion, tropical melodies, and lush layers of synth converge to form a vibrant pulse that never allows the record to stray too far into darkness. And it’s that cool interplay between the light and its shadows that make ƒIN one of the more nuanced and rewarding listens of 2012. Stream “Destiny” and “So Will Be Now”, two standouts from the record featuring vocalist/producer Pional, below.

Buy: Pick up ƒIN over at Bleep.

lil_ugly_mane-mista_thug_isolationLil Ugly Mane – Mista Thug Isolation

Bitch, I’m morose and lugubrious / I’ma let the uzi spit / turn his face into gooey shit

Word is that before he became a rapper, Richmond’s Lil Ugly Mane was deep in the noise/black metal scene. A fact not all that surprising when you consider the monumentally harsh gloom of his 2012 LP Mista Thug Isolation. Building off that classic mid-90s Memphis sound, this is a record birthed from the darkest underbelly of the 9th circle of southern hip-hop. The theme is executed with tight precision— from the lurid cover art, to Shawn Kemp’s dense and gritty production, to Ugly Mane’s brutal and pessimistic lyricism. Of course, it’s also all cleverly delivered with a subtle tongue-in-cheek self-awareness that imparts a grimy intellect and sick sense of humor to album: “I’ma slit my wrists, no tourniquet, I’m murderous / My crib got more burners than furnishin’ / Got a lot of haters, not concerned with it / The Earth revolve around earning currency, Copernicus / I leave you scared stupider than Earnest is“. The many layers of Mista Thug Isolation easily transcend Lil Ugly Mane from proficient horrorcore-thug revivalist to a one of hip-hop’s most exciting MCs.

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Lil Ugly Mane – Serious Shit

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LIl Ugly Mane – Cup Fulla Beetlejuice

Buy: Grab Mista Thug Isolation for $5 over at Lil Ugly Mane’s Bandcamp page.

baauer-harlem-shakeBaauer – “Harlem Shake” b/w “Yaow!”

Baauer was taking trap to the next level before it became an absurd playground for e-tarded bros at HARD Festival. Which didn’t take much time at all. The internet’s consensus is that trap was birthed when Flosstradamus dropped their huge remix of Major Lazer’s “Original Don” a little over a year ago. O Trap how quickly ye have grown! Yet, however oversaturated or polluted with knockoff artists this genre tag may become, Baauer feels like a producer who will continue to hold it down and elevate for as long as he’s fuckin’ wit it. Both “Harlem Shake” and its flipside “Yaow!” are nothing less than bangers of gargantuan proportion. Huge low-end radiates through rave synth squelch, pitch-shifted vocals, Lion roars, snare roll bursts, and Lex Luger-like crescendos. Try to drop these tracks and not go H.A.M… it’s just not gonna happen.

Buy: Download the “Harlem Shake” b/w “Yaow!” single for free via the SoundCloud widgets above.

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Ryan Hemsworth – Slowed Summer

In a year where Ryan Hemsworth totally outdid himself, it was difficult to decide on just one offering from this rising Halifax producer. However, I felt this particular mix— and he put out many this year— perfectly captured the collective consciousness of internet rap nerd culture in 2012. An amalgam of #RARE SNES and PS1 bootlegs, exclusive trap bangers, future bass anthems, and dumb, boastful hip-hop, Slowed Summer sounds like my adolescence crashing head first into the here-and-now. Diddy Kong‘s takin’ shots at yer crew while Alucard‘s poppin’ bands in the club, all to a soundtrack of the best thugged-out SoundCloud jams you never heard. Damn. And in 2013 this guy is straight up sampling Final Fantasy VI?!? Don’t hurt ’em, Hemsworth.

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V/A – West In Dust 2012

In my opinion, West In Dust 2012 was by the far the most promising label compilation I heard last year. The joint project of Rave Deep (aka David Reep, aka Elephant & Castle) and the notably busy Glenn Jackson — who plays in James & Evander and Hoodcats, produces tracks under his own name, helps head blog/web-label MAPZZZ, and writes for XLR8RWest in Dust is a new electronic label based in Oakland that is full of burgeoning talent from the Bay Area, Chicago, Montreal, Melbourne, and beyond. Their inaugural comp is an incredibly consistent offering that flows as well as any album, yet also highlights the individuality and distinct talents of each featured artist. That is, West in Dust 2012 presents an impressively unified artistic vision without ever becoming homogenous or repetitive. Even more exciting for me was the fact that I really only knew a handful of the artists that make up this comp. To have all of them deliver is unexpected to say the least and speaks volumes not only of their talents, but also of the taste levels of selectors David Reep and Glenn Jackson. West in Dust will likely be a force to reckon with in 2013, so be sure to pay attention.

Buy: You can download West in Dust 2012 over at the West in Dust Bandcamp page.

Things I Loved in 2012: Part 2

And now for the second part of my random musings on music in 2012… and if you missed it, you can view Part 1 right over here.

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Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE

Frank Ocean‘s unfolding story was one of the most beautiful and honest of 2012. His heartfelt letter that touched on his experiences of the past few years and the complexities of human sexuality set the tone for his moving performance of “Bad Religion” on Jimmy Fallon and later release of his excellent debut studio album channel ORANGE. This powerhouse of forward-thinking R&B was a grower for me, the subtlety and strength of Ocean’s earnest compositions unfurling further with each repeated listen. Of course, I don’t think anyone can deny the immediacy of devastating standout “Thinkin’ Bout You”. Take a listen below.

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Frank Ocean – Thinkin’ Bout You

Buy: Get a copy of channel ORANGE over at Amazon.

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Traxman – Da Mind of Traxman

Da Mind of Traxman, another masterpiece of juke from 2012, is one of the most versatile and original offerings in the history of the genre. With savvy vocal flips, slick jazz samples, gritty 303 synth, and brutal, distorted guitar cut-ups, Traxman lays down an LP’s worth of next level shit. The particularly eyebrow-raising album opener “Footworkin on Air” rides in with a hypnotic and ethereal kalimba riff that Traxman deftly deconstructs and reforms over bubbling arpeggios, booming bass hits, and syncopated snare slaps. The mind of Traxman is an otherworldly nebula indeed, so breathe deep and enjoy the trip.

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Traxman – Footworkin On Air

Buy: Pick up Da Mind of Traxman over at Planet Mu.

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Holy Other – Held

A deep, spectral meditation from mysterious Manchester producer Holy Other, Held is exactly the kind of release one might expect from one of Tri Angle Records‘ finest. These compositions are forlorn and brooding at their core, but remain gracefully balanced with euphoric and emotional highs. Haunting vocal fragments pulsate across surging ambience, droning synth, and rich drum work; plaintive calls from beyond the veil that color Held with a mournful and nostalgic hue. Stream the gorgeous title track below and listen in awe as Holy Other effortlessly bends the despondent first half into the transcendent prayer that closes the song.

Buy: Get a copy of Held over at Bleep.

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DJ D’Nelski – Hush Hush Presents: Distant Lights Vol. 1

I’ve already mentioned Kid Smpl‘s excellent debut LP, but the founding of Hush Hush Records also brought us this sweet night bus mix from label head and KEXP DJ Alex Ruder (aka DJ D’Nelski). A beautiful introduction to these kinds of tunes for anyone who’s slept on it thus far, Distant Lights Vol. 1 blends the cream of the crop from the Hush Hush monthly DJ night in rainy Seattle. An appropriate soundtrack of hazy beats and screwed and spaced out R&B, this mix is drowned in a distinct emotional pulse— don’t be afraid to succumb to the vibes and let yourself feel.

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DJ D’Nelski – Hush Hush Presents: Distant Lights Vol. 1

Download: Head over to the Hush Hush Records page to download this mix.

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Danny Brown – “Witit”

This track— a bonus track on the deluxe edition of 2011’s stellar XXX-— is nothing short of the most monstrous hip-hop banger to drop last year. SKYWLKR’s production is completely bonkers, a poltergeist beast of subs and ascending synth shrill, and Danny Brown goes straight ignorant on it: “She rubbin’ all on them titties like my name was Biggie / But I don’t know no Diddy, but got Dirty Money with me / Got some Bobby and that Whitney for Christina and Britney / She sippin’ then she get tipsy, then she drop it low and get get it”. This is rap nihilism at its finest.

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Danny Brown – Witit

Buy: Get a copy of XXX (Deluxe Edition) over at Beatport or head to Fool’s Gold Records to get The OD EP picture disc vinyl.

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Perseus – “Seychelles”

This dancefloor banger from French Express label head Perseus may be quite familiar to those of you who checked out Face of Another, the audio/visual mix I made last year with Marilia Maschion. I seriously cannot get enough of this one. Centered on an incredible Toni Braxton sample, “Seychelles” is a deep piece of disco-tinged house that’s as tropical as its namesake. With an infectious chord progression, killer synth tones, and production that’s so crisp and clean, this is easily one of my favorite dance jams of the past few years.

Buy: You can download the “Seychelles” b/w “Love in Zanzibar” single for free from the French Express Soundcloud page.

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Burial – Kindred

Sheesh, what can I even say about Burial? Kindred is yet another masterful and mold-breaking offering from the enigmatic London producer. For these three extended compositions Burial effortlessly cycles through layers and layers of sound, imbuing this EP with unmistakable mood and atmosphere. The dark and seductive title track is eleven and a half minutes of sublime drone, unearthly vocal flips, grimy breakbeat, vinyl crackle, and static that will engulf you. Peerless.

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Burial – Kindred

Buy: Download a copy of the Kindred EP directly from Hyperdub.

Things I Loved In 2012: Part 1

Oh. Hi there. It’s been a while. Let’s get this thing going again, yeah? I’ve missed ya’ll. Enjoy this brief look back at 2012 over the next week before I start tackling 2013.

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DJ Rashad – Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi

The hectic 160 BPM rhythms of juke continue to be transformed by a number of brilliant producers, including some of Chicago’s legendary progenitors of the genre. Founding father of footwork DJ Rashad put out one of the year’s finest LPs with the innovative and inspired Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi, pushing the genre to new limits.

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DJ Rashad – Feelin’

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DJ Rashad – iPod

Buy: Pick up Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi over at Beatport.

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LOL Boys – Fader Mix + Edits

With the highs must come lows… sadly, 2012 signified the dissolution of my favorite rising electronic duo: LOL Boys. With little more than a brief farewell on their Facebook page, this internet-borne collaboration was ended just as they were on the brink of truly breaking out. In their parting, LOL Boys released a zip file of the edits that made up the awesome mix they put together for The FADER back in July. One of the most refreshing and eclectic blends of pop tunes I’ve heard in a long while, this breezy masterstroke was on repeat for weeks after it dropped. Stream that mix and download Edits below.

And hey, it’s not all tearful goodbyes. The silver lining here is that Jerome Potter still carries the LOL torch as Jerome LOL and Markus Garcia is starting to release tracks under the alias Heartbeat(s). Perhaps now we’ll get twice the goodness from these two talented DJs and producers.

Download: LOL Boys – Edits

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Schoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions

Kendrick Lamar’s instant classic good kid, m.A.A.d city was enough to solidify 2012 as the year that TDE delivered handily on their promise. I just hope that Kendrick didn’t overshadow Habits & Contradictions, the excellent LP that fellow TDE member Schoolboy Q dropped earlier in the year. Between some excellent sample work and production, Schoolboy’s agile and aggressive flow, plus some dope guest spots, this is definitely not to a record be slept on. Stream Schoolboy’s heavy collab with K-Dot himself down below.

Buy: Grab Habits & Contradictions over at Amazon.

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Mrs. Magician – Strange Heaven

If you’ve been following my Facebook, Twitter, or Soundcloud feeds, it’s become readily apparent that I am listening to a lot less guitar-centered music these days. However, the infectious garage rock haze of Mrs. Magician‘s stellar debut album Strange Heaven was an undeniable force in 2012. Produced by San Diego legend John Reis (Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, The Night Marchers) and released on his label Swami Records, this effort has helped earn these hometown heroes some much deserved attention and acclaim. They even snatched up a San Diego Music Award last year for “Best Pop Album”, proving that they actually do get some things right over there now and then. Check out the bitingly clever and catchy “There Is No God” below or stream the whole LP here.

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Mrs. Magician – There Is No God

Buy: Pick up a copy of Strange Heaven from their Bandcamp (digital) or over at Midheaven Mailorder (CD/LP).

jamcity-classicalcurves

Jam City – Classical Curves

If the Night Slugs crew sounds like they came from the future, then Jam City is making music from the furthest reaches of that spectrum. His unconventional approach to electronic music cuts right through the time-space continuum, referencing the dark minimal sounds of early rave and house, but bending them like light through a prism into a refracted sound that is at once abrasive, mesmerizing and very new. Classical Curves is certainly one of the more challenging records I heard this year and requires a bit of time to process fully. But, the rewards at the end of that journey are well-worth it.

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Jam City – Her

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Jam City – The Courts

Buy: Get a copy of Classical Curves over at Bleep.

Kid Smpl – Skylight

Kid Smpl has had an impressive year— from his excellent Escape Pod EP, to his hypnotic performance at Live for the Funk‘s Decibel Festival showcase, his acceptance into the latest session of the Red Bull Music Academy, and of course the release of his beautiful debut full-length on Seattle’s freshest new label Hush Hush Records. A deep exploration of ‘night bus‘ music, Skylight is pure vibe; a slow and subtle atmospheric drone that builds patiently to emotive heights, only to reverberate back into an ambient vapor. This is necessary listening, so turn off the lights, put on your headphones and zone out in this ocean of lush tones and textures.

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Download: Kid Smpl – But I Don’t
Buy: You can buy Skylight over at the Hush Hush Records Bandcamp page.

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Korallreven (feat. Julianna Barwick) – “Sa Sa Samoa” (Elite Gymnastics Remix)

This Elite Gymnastics remix of Korallreven and Julianna Barwick‘s “Sa Sa Samoa” is a massive and authentic jungle rinse-out of the original balearic choral jam. However, to fully appreciate this track, you must watch the video. Equal parts seapunk, dump.fm, classic rave footage, and cosmically poignant Final Fantasy VII dialogue, this intense and assaulting visual speaks to life on the internet like no other. And when that Whitney Houston sample drops in… it’s all over. Ecstasy.

Buy: Download a copy of this track for free (along with the rest of the EP) over at the Acéphale Soundcloud page.

For the Record… My Top 25 Albums of 2010

Chickens Don't Clap: Top 25 Records of 2010

Check out my twenty five favorite records in the concluding segment of my two-part “Oh hey I never posted these, I probably should have done that” series. Though not that relevant anymore, how could I pass up a chance to post that sweet header image from Portland artist Ilan Schraer? But seriously, the above piece is awesome and so are these records. Definitely check out the ones you might have missed.

Tomorrow we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming…

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Rafter - Animal Feelings

25. Rafter – Animal Feelings

[Buy] [Listen]

The Roots - How I Got Over

24. The Roots – How I Got Over

[Buy] [Listen]

Glasser - Ring

23. Glasser – Ring

[Buy] [Listen]

Vampire Weekend - Contra

22. Vampire Weekend – Contra

[Buy] [Listen]

Big K.R.I.T. - K.R.I.T. Wuz Here

21. Big K.R.I.T. – K.R.I.T. Wuz Here

[Buy] [Listen]

Earl Sweatshirt - EARL

20. Earl Sweatshirt – EARL

[Download] [Listen]

Onra - Long Distance

19. Onra – Long Distance

[Buy] [Listen]

Tyler, the Creator - Bastard

18. Tyler, the Creator – Bastard

[Download] [Listen]

Mulatu Astatke - Mulatu Steps Ahead

17. Mulatu Astatke – Mulatu Steps Ahead

[Buy] [Listen]

Field Music - Measure

16. Field Music – Measure

[Buy] [Listen]

Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)

15. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)

[Buy] [Listen]

Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me

14. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me

[Buy] [Listen]

Curren$y - Pilot Talk

13. Curren$y – Pilot Talk

[Buy] [Listen]

Menomena - Mines

12. Menomena – Mines

[Buy] [Listen]

Teebs - Ardour

11. Teebs – Ardour

[Buy] [Listen]

Four Tet - There Is Love In You

10. Four Tet – There Is Love in You

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Download: Four Tet – Angel Echoes
Buy: Order There Is Love in You directly from Domino Records.

Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner

09. Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner

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Download: Gold Panda – You
Buy: Get Lucky Shiner over at the Ghostly International Store.

Caribou - Swim

08. Caribou – Swim

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Download: Caribou – Odessa
Buy: Buy Swim directly from Merge Records.

Curren$y - Pilot Talk

07. Curren$y – Pilot Talk II

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Download: Curren$y – Hold On (Feat. Young Roddy & Trademark)
Buy: Order Pilot Talk II from Amazon.

Toro y Moi - Casuers of This

06. Toro y Moi – Causers of This

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Download: Toro y Moi – Low Shoulder
Buy: Causers of This is available via Carpark Records.

Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

05. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

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Download: Big Boi – Shutterbugg (Feat. Cutty)
Buy: Order Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty from Amazon.

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today

04. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today

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Download: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round and Round
Buy: Grab Before Today over at Insound.

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

03. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

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Download: Kanye West – Monster (Feat. Rick Ross, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, & Bon Iver)
Buy: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is available at Insound.

LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

02. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

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Download: LCD Soundsystem – Dance Yrself Clean
Buy: Get This Is Happening from any of these vendors.

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma

01. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

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Download: Flying Lotus – Zodiac Shit
Buy: Pick up Cosmogramma over at BLEEP.

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Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order):

Abe Vigoda – Crush
Avey Tare – Down There
Baths – Cerulean
Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
The-Dream – Love King
Maps & Atlases –  Perch Patchwork
Mount Kimbie – Crooks & Lovers

Pantha du Prince – Black Noise
Superchunk – Majesty Shredding
Teengirl Fantasy – 7AM
Tera Melos – Patagonian Rats
Women – Public Strain

Chickens Don't Clap: Top 25 Records of 2010 (End)

For the Record… My Top 5 EPs of 2010

So… uhh… I never posted these lists. I had grand illusions of actually completing blurbs for all of them, but as time passed and they became less and less relevant it started to feel a little superfluous. After all, a week is a year on the internet, etc. But back in real life these are all still good albums that deserved to get their due here and elsewhere. In consideration of that, listen below and go buy some. Albums next.

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Kingdom - That Mystic

5. Kingdom –That Mystic

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Download: Kingdom – Fogs
Buy: Pick up That Mystic at BLEEP.

Freddie Gibbs - Str8 Killa

4. Freddie Gibbs – Str8 Killa

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Download: Freddie Gibbs – Live By the Game
Buy: Download Str8 Killa from eMusic.

Flying Lotus - Pattern + Grid World

3. Flying Lotus – Pattern+Grid World

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Download: Flying Lotus – Camera Day
Buy: Buy Pattern+Grid World over at BLEEP.

Games - That We Can Play

2. Games – That We Can Play

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Download: Games – Strawberry Skies (Feat. Laurel Halo)
Buy: Pick up That We Can Play at BLEEP.
Watch: Check out Franck Deron’s rad found footage video for Games’ remix of CFCF’s “It Was Never Meant to Be”.

James Blake - Klavierwerke

1. James Blake – The Bells Sketch / CMYK / Klavierwerke

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Download: James Blake – CMYK
Buy: Grab all three EPs over here.

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Honorable Mentions:

Botany – Feeling Today [Listen] [Buy]
Dom – Sun Bronzed Greek Gods [Listen] [Buy]
Girls – Broken Dreams Club [Listen] [Buy]
Letherette – Letherette [Listen] [Buy]
Tropics – Soft Vision [Listen] [Buy]
The War on Drugs – Future Weather [Listen] [Buy]
Wild Nothing – Evertide [Listen] [Buy]

Songs of 2010: The List

As promised, here is a list of my 50 favorite songs from 2010 (links to streams and music videos included). This list has changed a half-dozen times or so since it was originally compiled, but I’ve always found it difficult to settle on a set of tracks for very long. That being said, the vast majority of the original 50 songs remain in this incarnation of the list — a testament to their strength — but have simply shuffled around in relative standing to one another. Chances are I’ll even make some slight adjustments as I type this out, but here goes…

50. Panda Bear – “Last Night at the Jetty”
49. Washed Out – “You and I” (Feat. Caroline Polachek)
48. Women – “Eyesore”
47. Donwill – “Love Junkie” (Feat. The Park) (Wallpaper. Remix)
46. Big K.R.I.T. – “Hometown Hero”
45. Gold Panda – “Same Dream China”
44. Deerhunter – “Helicopter”
43. Aloe Blacc – “I Need a Dollar”
42. Freddie Gibbs – “The Ghetto”
41. Gauntlet Hair – “I Was Thinking…”
40. Toro y Moi – “Low Shoulder”
39. Sleigh Bells – “Tell ‘Em”
38. Flying Lotus – “Dance of the Pseudo Nymph”
37. Teengirl Fantasy – “Cheaters”
36. El Guincho – “Bombay”
35. Erykah Badu – “Umm Hmm”
34. Active Child – “When Your Love Is Safe” (Classixx Remix)
33. Jamaica – “Short and Entertaining”
32. Rafter – “Fruit”
31. El Guincho – “Novias”
30. White Hinterland – “Icarus”
29. Rusko – “Hold On” (Feat. Amber Coffman) (Sub Focus Remix)
28. Young Montana? – “Sacré Cool”
27. Breakbot – “Baby I’m Yours” (Feat. Irfane)
26. Curren$y – “Audio Dope II”

Peep the top 25 after the jump.

Continue reading

Top Twenty Five Albums of 2009

Chickens Don't Clap!: Top Twenty Five Albums of 2009

Artwork by Ilan Schraer.

Yes, finally! Last year was full of great music, but these twenty five records (and handful of honorable mentions) represent the best of 2009 in my ears. Feel free to post what moved you in the previous year or what you can’t believe didn’t make this list in the comments.

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Phaseone - Thanks But No Thanks

25. Phaseone – Thanks But No Thanks

[Website] [Free Download] [Original Post]

Lil' Wayne - No Ceilings

24. Lil’ Wayne – No Ceilings

[Website] [Free Download]

Fever Sleeves - Soft Pipes, Play On

23. Fever Sleeves – Soft Pipes, Play On

[Website] [Free Download] [Original Post]

Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy

22. Kurt Vile – Childish Prodigy

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

Tyondai Braxton - Central Market

21. Tyondai Braxton – Central Station

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

Nero's Day at Disneyland - From Rotting Fantasylands

20. Nero’s Day at Disneyland – From Rotting Fantasylands

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

Here We Go Magic - Here We Go Magic

19. Here We Go Magic – Here We Go Magic

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

Atlas Sound - Logos

18. Atlas Sound – Logos

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

Dâm-Funk - Toeachizown

17. Dâm-Funk – Toeachizown

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

Taken By Trees - East of Eden

16. Taken By Trees – East of Eden

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa

15. The Very Best – Warm Heart of Africa

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

The-Dream - Love vs. Money

14. The-Dream – Love vs. Money

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

Volcano Choir - Unmap

13. Volcano Choir – Unmap

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

Girls - Album

12. Girls – Album

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

11. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

[Website] [Buy] [Original Post]

WHY? - Eskimo Snow

10. WHY? – Eskimo Snow

True to basically every WHY? record to date, Eskimo Snow was an album that slowly grew on me with each successive listen. Traversing the greatest span of any thus far — from genuine uncertainty to my tenth favorite of last year — this recent effort fits perfectly in the continuing thematic arc of Yoni Wolf’s  on-record persona. His dark, self-deprecating, yet often humorous musings drip with a solemn acceptance not found on previous works, his typically sarcastic resistance diminished into resignation. Eskimo Snow‘s relative gloom is at once propelled and balanced by its open production and rich compositions; its melancholic melodies may pull at heart strings, but here WHY?’s rippling, interlocking arpeggios of guitar, piano, and vibraphone soar within an impressive breadth of space, instilling the subtlest sense of hope against the odds that Wolf lays out quite explicitly: “I wish I could feel close to somebody but I don’t feel nothin’ / Now they say I need to quit doing all this random ffffff— / Now I think my upstairs neighbor hears me masturbatin’ / And there’s other one’s peepin’ through the slits in my curtains / And I never got a name for my shady compulsion / ‘Cause I messed up and kissed my shrink in a Jersey City hotel room… / …and I know sayin’ all this in public should make me feel funny / But ya gotta yell somethin’ out you’d never tell nobody.” I’m not sure if it’s helping him at all, but Wolf’s catharsis is decidedly our gain.

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Download: WHY? – This Blackest Purse
Buy: Order Eskimo Snow from Anticon Records as CD or LP.

Antony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light

9. Antony and the Johnsons – The Crying Light

It seems to be an increasingly remarkable occurrence, in our current era, when an artist is able to construct an identity that stands in stark contrast to those of his or her contemporaries. New York singer, composer, theatrical and visual artist Antony Hegarty should certainly be counted as one of a shrinking number of such artists. His latest album, The Crying Light, is another devastating work, every piece crafted with staggering grace and care. In this mournful exploration of birth, life, death, nature, identity and the complex interplay between these forces, Antony and his chamber orchestra infuse his arrangements with overwhelming emotion, relying on sparse instrumentation that yields implausibly rich textures and soundscapes. Beyond compositional strength, the emotional depth of The Crying Light is bolstered by Antony’s otherworldly vocal performance. At once capable of controlled, trembling warbles, pained croons, and magnificent, chill-inducing caterwauls, his distinctive voice perfects the expressive realization of this record – what other way is there to convey the crushing tragedy of a song like “Another World”? “I need another world, this one’s nearly gone / Still have too many dreams, never seen the light / I need another world, a place where I can go” could never sound more sad or beautiful. [Originally published in Treble’s Top 50 Albums of 2009]

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Download: Antony and the Johnsons – Another World
Buy: Pick up The Crying Light over at the Antony and the Johnsons webstore.

jj - jj n°2

8. jj – jj n°2

Though Joakin and Elin have finally been officially revealed to the world as the starry-eyed individuals behind jj, there’s still very little information out there about these Swedish popsters. Some wonderfully melodramatic interviews have cropped up — one in English, one translated from Italian mag PIG — but don’t look for a website, blog (to speak of), MySpace, Facebook page, or twitter account to help shed light on this playfully mysterious duo. Though with the way they wear their hearts on their sleeves, there may be little more for jj to share with those who have already adsorbed the hazy, summery pop gems they dropped in 2009. A brief, tropical swirl of balearic and folk tinged pop, their debut record jj n° 2 fits in perfectly as the chilled-out flipside to the breezy electronica of labelmates The Tough Alliance and Air France. Released on July 1st, it follows both A New Chance and No Way Down as Sincerely Yours’ latest stake on continued dominance of the “summer jam”. And with tracks as irresistible as the sunny and uplifting “From Africa to Málaga”, the drugged-out and euphoric “Lollipop”-remake “Ecstasy”, and the buoyant “Masterplan”, jj n° 2 may be the most convincing one yet. [An edit from Overlooked Records (Pt. 1)]

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Download: jj – From Africa to Málaga
Buy: Stream and download jj n° 2 at the Sincerely Yours digital store.

St. Vincent - Actor

7. St. Vincent – Actor

Brooklyn’s indie sweetheart Annie Clark has two excellent records under her belt as St. Vincent. Last year’s effort, the dynamic and affecting Actor, is a masterful blend of woozy chamber-pop, driving guitar-rock, and honeyed, jazz standard-tinged croons. For this album, which is even stronger and more refined than her last, Annie shifted through a myriad of roles as songwriter as she immersed herself in some of her favorite films and crafted her own soundtracks to particularly striking moments using her computer. Her initial MIDI compositions are fleshed out here into full-bodied songs, featuring a vibrant swell of woodwinds, strings, synthesizers, and guitars. At once cinematic, intimate, dramatic, and whimsical, Actor is a cool and confident work that both demonstrates Annie Clark’s growth as an artist and whets the appetite for what St. Vincent will give us next.

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Download: St. Vincent – The Strangers
Buy: Order Actor from Beggars Group USA as MP3 ($8), FLAC ($10), CD ($12), or LP ($12, free mp3 download).

Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II

6. Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II

Album sequels can be a tricky business, especially when an artist sets up an upcoming record as a sequel to a work held to be the best in their discography, let alone one of the greatest hip-hop records ever made. Results have included some modern classics like Tha Carter III and unexpected comebacks like Stillmatic, but there’s been plenty more disappointments (I’m looking at you Blueprint 2 and 3) along the way. Even against these odds, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II finds Raekwon comfortably reprising his role as ice-cold kingpin and cinematic storyteller, crafting an opus worthy of sharing the name of the original classic. These bleak tales thoroughly detail intersecting lives caught up in inner city drug trade and its associated fallouts with the same grit and vivid hood slang poetry that permeates the greatest Wu-Tang records. Intense, disturbing, grimy, eloquent, and inimitable, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II is easily one of the best hip-hop albums of the last few years. [From Overlooked Records (Pt. 1)]

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Download: Raekwon – House of Flying Daggers (Feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface & Method Man)
Buy: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II is available from Amazon, Insound, or Rhapsody.

Mos Def - The Ecstatic

5. Mos Def – The Ecstatic

“ZOMG!1!! The Ecstatic over OB4CL2!!11??!?!” Yeah hip-hop heads, I said it. Both could be considered return-to-form records, but for some reason I found The Ecstatic a bit more satisfying than its excellent counterpart in ’09 rap-dominance. In fact, I’d probably agree that Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II is the better album, objectively. Maybe I just have higher expectations for Raekwon, or maybe I simply didn’t think Mos Def had another record like this in him. While there’s no doubt that the significant amount of stellar Stones Throw production is a big help to The Ecstatic‘s overall dopeness, everything on this record sounds inspired — even “No Hay Nada Mas”, over-the-top accent or no. Mos Def’s flow is fierce and agile as he rides beats of all sorts of sounds and textures, flipping between quick, rapid-fire rhyme assaults, smooth, distinctive sung passages, and cool, swagger-full verses that recall all the things that made this MC so exciting in the first place, all the while pushing into refreshing new territory.

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Download: Mos Def – Auditorium (Feat. Slick Rick)
Buy: Pick up The Ecstatic on LP and CD over at Insound or as an mp3 download at Amazon.

Fever Ray - Fever Ray

4. Fever Ray – Fever Ray

Taking some time away from her work with her brother Olof in The Knife, Karin Dreijer Andersson revealed her own solo material as Fever Ray and toured pretty extensively in 2009. Her self-titled debut was a phenomenal record, but was propelled beyond even that by a particular fascination with merging the realms of sound and vision. On top of the incredible stage and costume design that visual artist Andreas Nilsson brings to the live performances of both The Knife and now Fever Ray, half of the songs from this album were further brought to life with often-brilliant music videos, directed by Nilsson and other collaborators. Of course, this approach wouldn’t be as effective were the music not so well suited for expansion and embellishment. Devoid of any accompanying visual components, the dense electronica of Fever Ray itself inspires a torrent of emotion and dark imagery. Andersson’s languid vocals, at times distorted through pitch-shifted dementia, pierce cold soundscapes of blips, bleeps, bass thumps, synth loops, and ominous ambience with cryptic meditations (“Uncover our heads and reveal our souls / We were hungry before we were born”) and devastating lyrical gloom (“If I had a heart I could love you / If I had a voice I would sing”). The resulting opus is one of the most engrossing musical experiences of the previous decade, a fully crafted piece of art in the age of blogability.

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Download: Fever Ray – If I Had a Heart
Buy: You can get the standard or deluxe edition of Fever Ray over at Insound.

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

3. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

What was it about 2009 that made so many bands crank out their most impressive work to date? Was it some supernatural confluence of creative energies or just plain luck? Dirty Projectors may or may not be able to help answer that question, but their excellent debut for Domino Records, Bitte Orca, was undoubtedly one of the many monumental musical achievements of the year. Mastermind and frontman Dave Longstreth has traveled one of the more obtuse and challenging paths in indie music this decade, one that has both drawn some into a cult-like reverence and repelled others, but never before has his work rewarded listeners so fully. An album that comfortably straddles the lines between art, pop, technical prowess, and accessible songwriting, Bitte Orca takes the ideas explored on the Dirty Projectors’ 2007 record Rise Above and pushes them to their logical and more realized conclusion. Here the emphasis falls decisively on the inspired interplay between Longstreth’s intricate, Jùjú-influenced guitar work and the stunning vocal harmonies of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian. From the bright, fractured pop of “Temecula Sunrise”, to the R&B-like groove of “Stillness is the Move”, to the massive, layered anthem “Useful Chamber”, Bitte Orca is a complex listen that accomplishes a whole lot in just nine songs, reconciling its numerous parts in a manner that is refreshingly comprehensive and original. [Originally published in Treble’s Top 50 Albums of 2009]

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Download: Dirty Projectors – Stillness Is the Move
Buy: You can pick up Bitte Orca as CD, LP, Cassette, or digital download from Domino Records.

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

2. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

The third full-length from Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear is no doubt their most successful to date. Even with an early, widely circulated leak, Veckatimest still ended up becoming one of a number of impressive indie showings on the Billboard charts, selling 33,000 copies its first week and debuting at #8. More importantly, this record also happens to be Grizzly Bear’s most captivating and fully developed, its lush, orchestral psych-pop elevated and completed by the skilled production of bassist Chris Taylor. Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen again trade songwriting and lead vocal duties to great effect, imparting their own unique flourishes to Veckatimest‘s swirl and swell of catchy and distinctive guitar work, hook-laden keyboards, elaborate and affecting vocal harmonies, and haunting choral passages. Further reinforced by subtle and stirring string arrangements from New York wonder-boy composer Nico Muhly, as well as some excellent backup work from Beach House‘s Victoria Legrand and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, this complex, emotive, and finely-tuned work ascends to the realm of greatness with no shortage of effort. But treading where others would come off as overwrought, Droste and Rossen’s rich and immaculate compositions are simply constructed with precise prowess, vision, and care.

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Download: Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks
Buy: Order Veckatimest as CD or LP from Insound.

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

What’s left to say about Merriweather Post Pavilion? Perhaps the most anticipated, discussed, hyped, acclaimed, loved, and hated-on record of 2009, this album — like so many in their discography — found Animal Collective reinventing themselves as they climbed into impossible-to-foresee, but ultimately logical, new territory. Without fourth member Deakin for Merriweather, the threesome of Avey Tare, Panda Bear, and Geologist continued A.C.’s increasingly pop-driven trajectory into a world of melodic, low-end heavy electronics, massive vocal harmonies, considerably less abrasive songcraft, and unbelievably dense production with the help of recording engineer Ben Allen (P. Diddy, Christina Aguilera, Gnarls Barkley). And while there are some touchstones as far as influence is concerned (Beach Boys, house music), good luck coming up with any meaningful direct comparisons to Animal Collective’s sound on this landmark recording or otherwise. This is a largely unexplored sonic expanse, yet A.C. seem to feel incredibly comfortable and confident — maybe more than they ever have — in making the most enjoyable experimental music you’ve ever heard.

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Download: Animal Collective – My Girls
Buy: Merriweather Post Pavilion is available as CD, LP, or MP3s over at Domino Records.

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Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order):

Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue [Website] [Buy] [Original Post]
Clues – Clues [Website] [Buy] [Original Post]
Dananananaykroyd – Hey Everyone! [Website] [Buy] [Original Post]
Gentle Friendly – Ride Slow [Website] [Buy]
Japandroids – Post-Nothing [Website] [Buy] [Original Post]
Javelin – Jamz n Jemz [Website]
Lotus Plaza – The Floodlight Collective [Buy] [Original Post]
Phaseone – White Collar Crime [Website] [Free Download] [Original Post]
Real Estate – Real Estate [Website] [Buy] [Original Post]
Kurt Vile – God Is Saying This to You… [Website] [Buy]
Wallpaper – Doo Doo Face [Website] [Buy] [Original Post]
Wavves – Wavvves [Website] [Buy] [Original Post]
Yoñlu – A Society in Which No Tear Is Shed Is Inconceivably Mediocre [Website] [Buy] [Original Post]