Loversmademen’s 50 Favorite Albums of 2011

Below is a list of our favorite albums of 2011.  It is in no particular order.  Please feel free to download the compilation of songs taken from albums on the list.  Enjoy.

Loversmademen’s Favorite Albums of 2011 Compilation (Part 1) 

Loversmademen’s Favorite Albums of 2011 Compilation (Part 2)

Shlohmo – Bad Vibes 

This year has seen any number of artists create fuzzy, spaced out beats.  Shlohmo does it better than most.  Creating his own instrumentation, Shlohmo is able to develop a cohesive sound and with Bad Vibes he delivers something we were all hoping to hear since his bedroom tinkerings started to surface.

Previously: Shlohmo remixes Kelis ; Shlohmo mix for FACT 

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Shabazz Palaces – Black Up 

Black Up is perhaps the best record of the year.  It is so persistently fresh; so steeped in twisted rhythms, crushing bass, and unique lyricism.  Ish “Butterfly” Butler takes all of his classic hip-hop training and elevates into a living, breathing monster.  This record makes it all the more glaringly obvious that most hip-hop is about as inventive as a snuggie.  Black Up is the benchmark for what hip-hop can be in 2011.  If nothing else, “an echo from the hosts that profess infinitum” will knock your fucken socks off.

Previously: Shabazz Palaces performs “Recollections of the Wraith”

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The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing 

Departing is a simple and unadorned record that is bursting with emotion.  The forceful drumming propels the soaring passion of Nils Edenloff’s songwriting.  It might not grab you at first listen but songs like “The Breakup” and “Stamp” will creep under your skin and, soon enough, you will be alone in your car screaming along to them.

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Caveman – Coco Beware 

Maybe not a reinvention of the wheel, but Coco Beware is an excellent debut from a band that has a knack for delicate and catchy melodies.  Some of their instrumentation is very Shins-esque and the background crooning could have come right out of a Grizzly Bear record but those are petty grievances in light of how enjoyable this album is.

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Teebs – Collections 01 

The fact that Teebs is primarily a graphic artist isn’t surprising when you listen to his music.  His songs feel visual.  They create a sense of space.  The first in what is sure to be a stellar series, Collections 01 is not always cohesive but it succeeds in making lush and sonically interesting tracks.  Put it on when driving stoned on a dark road.

Previously: Teebs in Soundcloud Tuesday

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Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin On 

Most will say this record is creepy; and while it undoubtedly is it also has an alluring slyness, almost like a David Lynch movie.  When I first reviewed this album I observed that “some might listen to Kirk’s music and bemoan the fact that most songs are born from a fairly simple formula: pulsating piano, sad-sounding vocals, and an occasional string flurry. But, true to his blues/rock roots, Kirk uses subtlety to his advantage. What sounds commonplace after one listen morphs into something entirely unique by the third.”

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White Denim – D

White Denim is one of the most interesting rock bands playing right now.  They are increasingly multi-dimensional.  Seemingly influenced by prog-rock, psych-rock, folk, and all stops in between, White Denim will hopefully continue to confound.  D feels like a hazy trip through the rock towns of the south in the 1970’s.  Guitars weave in and out of one another, occasionally stopping for a beautiful, lazy ballad (e.g. “Street Joy”).

Previously: White Denim’s new EP, Video for “Street Joy”

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Real Estate – Days 

Days seems like a record that is steeped in memory.  These songs are built from fading thoughts of warm beach days, aimless activities, and youthful innocence.   Whether intentionally or not, this New Jersey quartet makes ideal soundtracks for drives along the coast.  The guitar riffs are delicate but gorgeously crafted.  And “It’s Real” might be as close to a perfect song as I have heard all year.

Previously: Video for Real Estate’s “It’s Real” 

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Destroyer – Kaputt 

My first reaction to this record was that “Kaputt’s sound is paradoxical in that it consists largely of sounds lifted from genres that are, in and of themselves, pretty mediocre.  Tracks like “Chinatown” and “Blue Eyes” are interspersed with lounge sax riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on a Kenny G album.  In the same vein, “Suicide Demo fro Kara Walker” bathes in washed out synths and “Song for America” evokes old school glam-pop.  In that sense, it is all the more striking that Kaputt is a supremely enjoyable record and one that continues the Destroyer tradition of necessitating multiple listens before it can be completely absorbed.”  Many listens later I only like the record more.

Previously: Video for Destroyer’s “Savage Night at the Oprea” 

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M.E.D. – Classic 

Rock solid hip-hop from a guy who can’t seem to drop anything else.  Well-produced hip-hop in the more traditional mold is not exactly all over the place nowadays, which is why this album was so needed.  It’s a reminder of what a track can achieve with a good sample, snapping drums, and on-point cadence.  Oh, and the fact that Alchemist, Oh No, and Madlib handle the production can’t hurt.

Previously: Videos off of Classic

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Weasel Walter, Mary Halvorson, Peter Evans – Electric Fruit   

Bringing together three of the most talented free jazz musicians living today, Electric Fruit is buzzing with creativity.  Guitarist Mary Halvorson, trumpeter Peter Evans, and Drummer Weasel Walter create dynamic conversations with their improvisations.  Sometimes they talk over one another, shouting and yelping, but then they will quickly turn to a more conciliatory tone, playing off of and complementing each other.  Difficult, but extremely rewarding.

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Peaking Lights – 936

The lovely folks at gorilla vs bear wrote that on 936 “achingly beautiful melodies float over immersive and occasionally seedy dubbed-out grooves; beats rise out of a hazed jungle underworld, at times sounding like primitive machines. And the effect is nothing short of transcendent. 936 is a refreshingly original and somewhat unexpected blend of classic dub and acid-soaked, female-fronted psychedelia that emerged seemingly out of nowhere to become one of the year’s most compelling and replayable jams.”  I wholeheartedly agree.

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Monolithium – Simon and G-Funk 

Error Broadcast is a fantastic label and really any one of their releases could have been on this list.  But Simon and G-Funk seemed to coalesce all of the things that make the label great (stabby synths, neck-snapping drums, disjointed rhythms, and lush samples).  These are future beats—funky and fresh.

Previously: DZA (of Error Broadcast) is remixed by Salva

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The Luyas – Too Beautiful to Work 

Montreal has a knack for churning out great, quirky little bands.  The Luyas are of that camp.  Too Beautfiul To Work is their most realized work to date and its sound slowly seeps into you as the songs progress, forcing you to take notice.  I am still of the belief that “as with most mood driven indie music, there may be a right and a wrong time to listen to The Luyas.  Take that as you will.  I appreciate the opportunity to have music that is fitting for particular moments in the day.  The Luyas’s time is the frigid walk home in the park, the burned out hours in the evening.  The times when you don’t have much else to do except sit, listen, and enjoy.”

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The Sandwitches – Mrs. Jones’ Cookies 

There is a timeless quality to The Sandwitches sound.  These tracks could have just as easily come off of a dusty LP from the 70s.  Jangly and brooding guitar pop, Mrs. Jones’ Cookies is a denser affair than How to Make Ambient Soundcake but that is a welcome development.  The record begs for repeat listens and, consequently, creeps up behind you and refuses to leave.

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Big K.R.I.T. – Return of 4 eva 

Krit does Southern rap justice.  The drawl is intact but also present is introspective lyricism and beats that are as soulful as they are bass heavy.  Amongst the numerous Outkast references (which is always a plus) Krit drops bars that are actually worth quoting: waiting with my hands out/ broke in a hood they could give a damn ‘bout/ braggin to my homie about the hoes I fuck/ drinkin bottle after bottle plus I smoke too much/ I never had a job that would pay me well/ I took what I could cause they gave me hell/ spent what I stole on some clothes and kicks/ my ex-girl said I won’t amount to shit.  Living proof that humility and good rap music are not mutually exclusive.

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The Field – Looping State of Mind 

While not quite as transcendent as From Here We Go Sublime, Alex Willner’s latest release is wonderfully hypnotic and succeeds in forging a unique sound in a genre where one artist often bleeds into the next.  The title of the record is a pretty apt description of Willner’s approach—loops build upon one another eventually forming a forceful wall of sound.  Willner uses repetition to build complexity and in doing so he wordlessly reflects the world around us.

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Beirut – The Rip Tide 

The Rip Tide is about as close as Beirut comes to easy listening.  Whereas, in the past, one would have to have a real deep passion for ukulele and horn arrangements to enjoy Beirut recordings, their newest album is far more balanced.  Bouncy keyboards propel “Santa Fe” and “Goshen”, “The Rip Tide”, and “Vagabond” are all rooted in lovely piano riffs.  Overall, this slight change doesn’t dull the sound but rather makes it more diverse and gives new environments for Condon’s wonderful croon.

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Buffalo Tom – Skins 

I’ll always have a soft spot for a well crafted alt-country song.  Buffalo Tom have been appeasing me since the mid-80s.  After an almost ten year hiatus, the band came together to make Skins, a record that has all the benefits of maturity but few of the missteps.  “Down” is a smoky jam that begs to be played in a grimy watering hole.  It’s not a life-changing record but rather one that reaffirms the tenants of great rock music.

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Natural Yogurt Band – Tuck In With…

Born in the astonishing, parallel universe known as Stones Throw, Tuck In With… is Sun Ra as played by Roy Ayers.  It is psychedelic jazz with just the right amount of funk thrown in.  The Natural Yogurt Band create a world all their own and invite us to follow them down the rabbit hole.  Ideal for forward thinking cocktail parties and acid trips alike.

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Nicolas Jaar – Space Is Only Noise 

Bizarre and fascinating, Nicolas Jaar’s debut album swirls around the edges of lounge music, electronica, dubstep, jazz, and minimal, never quite landing on any of them.  Found sound is removed from its context and thrust into Jaar’s spacey soundscapes.  I enjoy that the album can relax the listener at the same time that it forces him or her to pay attention.

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra

A strong contender for rock record of the year.  UMO write quirky and playful songs that also display their adept technical ability and production expertise.  Ruban Nielson is a fantastic guitar player and that is no given in today’s musical environment.  Opening track “Ffunny Ffrends” encapsulates everything that is great about the band: psychedelic grooves, a bouncy melody, and catchy lyrics.  What else does one need?

Previously: UMO’s interview with Yours Truly 

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Christoph El’ Truento – Wednesday Ep 

This EP does not necessarily contain Christoph’s best work but it is a worthy introduction to an exceptionally talented producer.  His beats almost drip out of the speakers.  Earlier this year we said this of El’ Truento’s work: “It is born from synthesizers and found sound alike.  Electronic foundations are supported and morphed by organic noise.  Both dream inducing and immediate, one gets the sense that Christoph is releasing the exact sounds that inspire him at that moment–nothing more.  No pandering, just mindbending noises that are at times funky and at other times challenging.”

Previously: Sunday by Christoph El’ Truento

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Kenlo Craqnuques – Turqoise 

Some call him the Dilla of French Canada.  I would be inclined to agree.  His output of fantastic beats is staggering, having released seven free tapes over the last couple years.  Each release bears the name of a new color.  With Turquoise Kenlo is starting to delve more deeply into synth territory but the more conventional hip-hop beats have gone nowhere (although with Kenlo nothing is really conventional).  Nobody else is producing stellar hip-hop instrumentals as consistently as Craqnuques.  Take notice.

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Burial – Street Halo 

Although I think an artist as heralded as Burial should make a little more fucken music every once in a while, when something does surface it is undeniably good.  Countless artists have taken to aping his template—airy female vocals laced over deep bass and a two-step break.  But his productions are still the most affecting, the most genuine.  Street Halo is a relatively small amount of music but the fact that I have replayed it a hundred times has to count for something.

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Thundercat – The Golden Age of Apocalypse 

Earlier this year we had this to say about The Golden Age of Apocalypse: “Soulful and unique, the album blends the electro-tinged production stylings that Brainfeeder has mastered with Jazz arrangements that would have been right at home on a Roy Ayers record.  Electro stabs fit surprisingly well tucked inside soulful chord progressions.  And, oh, Bruner is a fucken animal on the bass… The Golden Age of Apocalypse is exactly the groove Thundercat should be on.  Listening to the album on repeat is a wonderfully spacey experience, as the jazz lines become interchangeable with the electronic soundscape.”

Previously: Review of The Golden Age of Apocalypse and album stream

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Schoolboy Q – Setbacks 

Alongside Danny Brown, Schoolboy Q is enjoyable for his sheer bravado.  His I-will-bang-your-girlfriend-and-then-spit-in-your-mouth attitude.  The beats are hype and for every lackluster verse there is a line with some mind-bending wordplay.  “Cycle” sports a wonderfully simple chorus and some adept storytelling.  It’s not on this album but another one of his tracks samples Menomena.  If nothing else, that sold me.

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Danny Brown – XXX

I am now only more confident of our original assessment of this record: “Danny Brown’s XXX has been my favorite rap release of this year. Brown’s surreal violent imagery coupled with a deep level of self-actualization makes his raps a dense weaving of irony, internal reflection, and mind-blowing lines. After all, this is the man who brazenly yells “Hold up! Wait a minute! That pussy ain’t shit ’til it’s had some Danny in it!” a few minutes before reflecting on casual sex and drug use leading to life being a joke in “Party All the Time” and reflecting on the social strife of his hometown Detroit in “Fields.”

Previously: Review and Videos 

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Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost 

I love the Beach Boys like I love me a good woman, so to equate the opening of this record to a good Beach Boys song is quite an occasion.  That’s right, your welcome Girls.  But really the thanks should be given to them for writing a record that is entirely indebted to the past but yet bursting with individuality.  This year has seen any number of bands rehash a retro aesthetic in their music.  Girls do it with class.  They don’t shy away from the cliché but instead use it to their advantage to write heart wrenching pop gems.  “Love Like A River” is refreshingly familiar and “Vomit” is one of the better songs of the year.

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Gangrene – Greneberg EP 

Roc Marciano is making some of the best rap in the world right now and Oh No and Alchemist have been masters of their craft for over a decade.  A true supergroup, Gangrene is grimy as all hell.  This is gutter rap in the best sense of the phrase.

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Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines 

This site hasn’t quite delved into its love for power-pop but, don’t fret, it’s there.  Telekinesis make exceptionally catchy tunes.  Riff after riff they demonstrate the importance of making music that doesn’t shy away from bold melodies.  There’s no shrouding their intentions here; no ambiguity for the sake of experimenting with artist-listener disconnectedness.  None of that crap.  This is the antithesis of that, and all the better for it.

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Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo 

Rock that feels distinctly American is disturbingly scarce.  Kurt Vile’s newest record goes a long way to remedy that, as these rootsy guitar tunes are Americana through and through.  On some tracks Vile sounds in love and on others he sounds miserable.  But I  appreciate that those emotions are laid bare.  It is also nice to hear songs that are as inherently gorgeous as “Baby’s Arms” alongside CCR-esque james like “Puppet to the Man.”

Previously: “Baby’s Arms” on La Blogotheque

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Blackout Beach – Fuck Death 

While Carey Mercer’s voice is not for everyone, he is an undeniably excellent songwriter and wordsmith.  Fans of Frog Eyes will find much of Mercer’s familiar tropes in Blackout Beach: obscure allusions, ironic wordplay, brooding repetition.   But the soaring guitars of Frog Eyes are swapped for analog synths on this project.  It makes for a more monotone and less explosive sound but, ultimately, a fitting one.  Mercer has made a career out of exploring separation, isolation, and the like; so a cold industrial background is more than appropriate.

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Cotton Jones – Sit Beside Your Vegetables EP 

This EP is, at worst, lovely and smile-inducing and, at best, a perfect collection of country-twanged pop.  Lead singer and songwriter Michael Nau has a wonderfully weathered voice, like he’s spent the day smoking a pipe and weeding his fields.  Beyond that, the songs are bright and fun.  The bass bounces along jauntily on the opening track and the piano sound on “Egg on the sea” is perfectly quaint.  Good old enjoyable tunes all around.

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Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2, Judges 

I doubt anyone on this list is more adept with their instrument than Colin Stetson.  Note that all of the sounds present on this record are produced by Stetson, his sax, and stunning breath techniques.  Circular breathing is something most of us cannot come close to fathoming but Stetson makes it sound effortless.  This record warrants inclusion in this list on technical achievement alone but it also helps that it is a pleasure to listen to.  It is haunting and mysterious.  The sounds ebb and flow with Colin’s breath and at the end one is left nothing short of amazed.

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Has-Lo – Conversation B 

Has-Lo, along with the rest of the Mello Music Group, make great underground rap du jour (a la Blu, Elzhi, Danny!, etc.).  Conversation B is his most formidable record to date and an excellent introduction to a woefully underappreciated lyricist.

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Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler 

Marissa Nadler writes haunting and gorgeous acoustic ballads.  I first took notice when a song on her first EP, “Diamond Heart”, continued to find its way onto my playlists.  Since that song was released Nadler has honed her craft and this self-titled debut is a complete realization of her talents.  Most heap praise on her enchanting voice, as they should, but also of note are her adept guitar arrangements.  There is lots to love here and it is likely that things will only get better for Marissa Nadler as her career progresses.

Previously: Stream Marissa Nadler

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Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming 

Not unlike Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Charles Bradley is a reminder that soul music is not a relic.  Bradley was discovered by Daptone records exec Gabriel Roth when he saw him singing for a James Brown cover band in 1999.  This fortuitous event allowed the world to take note of Bradley’s gritty, soulful voice.  Backed by The Menehan Street Band (also of Daptone, and who’s song “Make the Road by Walking” was sampled for Jay-Z’s “Roc Boys”), Charles Bradley turned his old tunes into No Time For Dreaming.  Otis Redding will never make music again but that Bradley is makes that fact a little more bearable.

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Salva – Complex Housing 

Great full-lengths coming out of the dance genre are not the norm.  Artists that make blistering singles often struggle when trying to convert that energy into an hour long event.  Salva is successful largely because it seems the guy can produce whatever the fuck he wants, and do it with aplomb.  Complex Housing touches on garage, grime, dubstep, electro, hip-hop, juke, glitch, UK funky, and ghettotech to name a few.  These tunes kill dance floors but they are also heady enough to be appreciated in the comfort of one’s home.  An impressive feat from a continually excellent producer.

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Run DMT – Dreams 

Mike Collins’ penchant for trippy sound collages and blissful pop comes together nicely on this cassette.  Both this record and Co La’s Daydream Repeater achieved a hypnotic and nostalgic sound through swirling repetition and shrouded allusions.  “Dreaming”, for all its muddy layering, is, at its core, a pop tune.  But in the hands of Collins it is a far more obscured affair.  Hazy and complex, this is an artfully crafted album that is as experimental as it is catchy.

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Part Time – What Would You Say? 

Deadpan throwback 80s music is exactly as awesome as you would imagine it would be.  If your response to that is “I don’t imagine it would be awesome at all” then Part Time is not gonna be your jam.  But for the rest of us What Would You Say? is retro-synth pop gold.  Meticulous in his quest to recreate a specific aesthetic, David Speck crafts sassy, synth-centric tunes that conjure up images of tight leather and cocaine.  Over the top, sure, but a good time nonetheless.

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Toro y Moi – Underneath The Pine 

Toro y Moi is one of the more excellent purveyors of that ubiquitous sound that some have come to call “chillwave”.  It is not an inaccurate description but neither is it a good one.  Toro y moi’s (aka Chazwick Bundick, which sounds like a band name in itself) sound is, ultimately, chill but more importantly it draws on disco grooves and reverb-dipped melodies to make something all its own.  In my humble opinion I think Bundick’s voice is a little wanting but his sense of style and his guitar work are spot on, so he gets a pass.

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tUnE-yArDs – W H O K I L L 

Merill Garbus, aka tUnE –yArDs, has been the go to name drop this year for those trying to stay on the pulse.  Most didn’t know her after the first tUnE –yArDs album dropped or as her previous outfit, Sister Suvi.  I was able to see Sister Suvi some four years ago amongst ten other people on a frigid Montreal evening.  They were great.  Thus, its been all the more enjoyable for me to see Garbus become a bonafied success.  She is a gifted songwriter and her performances are nothing short of mind-blowing.  That she was able to distill some of that passion into W H O K I L L is what makes it so successful.  It is nice to see Garbus becoming a star, but part of me still wishes I could see another tUnE –yArDs show, on another cold Montreal night, with those same ten devoted fans pressed against the stage.

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Low – C’mon 

Of this record singer-guitarist Alan Sparhawk had this to say: “with the last couple of records, we were grappling with something outside of ourselves. This one feels more like, ‘Well, forget that. I’m looking in your eyes right now, and we need to figure out how to get through the next moment, together, as human beings.’”  Full of jangly guitars and heartfelt melodies, that assessment seems to perfectly encapsulate what makes this album good.

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Beach Fossils – What A Pleasure 

Rodion and I are consistently overlapping in our music preferences but I’d say that nowhere is our agreement as strong as when it comes to tunes like Beach Fossils.  Something about the twangy guitars and sun-kissed sound is just coded into our DNA.  After this blog becomes an iconic bastion of musical taste there will inevitably be a film made about our success and something like this would be an apt choice for the soundtrack.  Jokes aside, this EP is a brief slice of guitar bliss.  Put it on on the way to the beach and remind yourself how lucky you are.

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Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica

One of digital music’s most interesting contributions is that is has allowed a whole new generation of musicians to experiment with an important question: what are the confines, if any, of music?  Since John Cage and others came onto the scene the digital realm has been a hotbed for pushing the boundaries of what one might conventionally consider a piece of music.  Does music need to consist of chords? Or notes? Or even intentionally enjoyable sounds?  Playing with the  tenants of music is something Daniel Lopatin excels at.  And with Replica he has shown once again that digital soundscapes can be one of the most affecting modes of musical expression.  This is music to close your eyes to.  Music that aims to affect you not passively please you.  See what happens if you try and let it.

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Darkside – Darkside EP 

Nicolas Jaar teamed up with guitarist Dave Harrington to show yet again that he is a peculiarly talented individual.  With Darkside, Jaar’s eerie minimal electronic compositions are filled in by groovy guitar lines and effect-heavy vocals.  It sounds like the Black Keys took a bunch of acid and experimented with some analog synths.  Which is to say, pretty sweet.

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Amtrac – Came Along 

Came Along is unabashedly fun dance music.  It strikes all the right chords, so to speak, and will leave one with a hankering for some booty-shaking.

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Clams Casino – Instrumentals 

Clams Casino is not your average rap producer.  His work for Lil B, amongst others, does indeed include drums but that’s basically where its connection to traditional rap music ends.  Casino’s beats are deeply atmospheric and mood based.  His instrumental mixtape could have been made by Keep Shelly in Athens and nobody would have thought that odd.  His approach is a welcome addition to a too often stale genre.  Plus, his work with A$AP Rocky is fucken bonkers.

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Big Troubles – Romantic Comedy 

Earlier this year, we had this to say about Big Troubles: “Big Troubles’ new album Romantic Comedy is a masterfully crafted pop-rock excursion. The rhythms are vibrant, the solos are melodic, and the vocals brush against you like sheets drying out in the summer wind. Still, simplicity can be deceptive and I by no means want to imply that the album isn’t brimming with talent. Rather, Big Troubles don’t feel the need to throw their musical abilities in your face, but rather guide your emotions to the same destination.”

Previously: Review of Romantic Comedy

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Thanks for reading!

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2 Comments

  1. this is the kind of high quality post that I have come to expect from such a fantastic duo. Whoever you guys are, you seriously rock.

    Reply
  1. Anxieties and venerations of a close friend | loversmademen

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