Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
One listen to this album and you understand why it just makes no sense whatsoever to compare The Strokes or Franz Ferdinand or any of that pop rubbish to this group. Incredible energy, an under-bearing political message, and sounds and a tightness to their songs you cant figure out how they got so good. A truly incredible album with not one single bad track, with enormous range.
“they have a sense of adventure, romance, belief and intelligence, of art, a desire to explode preconceptions and exceed expectations that marks them out way above and beyond any of their perceived peers. Silent Alarm is a debut about desperation, about being desperately angry at injustice, about being desperately confused with the world, about being desperately in love. It sets its aim high from the off, drums deliberately mixed too loud in opener “Like Eating Glass” in order to make you fully aware that something important and intense is about to happen. Is happening. “Price of Gas” is an oppressive military stomp possibly about the Kyoto Agreement and impending ecological collapse, a maelstrom of sharp guitars, cacophonous percussion and abstracted, luminescent electronic swoops that would probably terrify the type of band obsessed with recording on ancient equipment in order to capture some indistinct and ideologically suspect notion of “soul.” Soul isn’t something you find in a mixing desk—it bursts outwards from your chest and guts.” – Stylus Magazine
Boards of Canada – The Campfire Headphase
If the slow buildup to ‘Satellite Anthem Icarus’ doesn’t give you goose bumps and bring tears to your eyes because the sounds are so beautiful, you’re not human. Every note feels like the joy of opening an old photo album. And all this with a good subtle beat to keep your head nodding oh so slowly.
“…the duo remain extremely adept at creating lacunae at the heart of their music, spaces into which you can project your own feelings and memories. As you do so, you’ll slip into a gentle whirlpool of slowly emerging sonic details. The effect is seductive and remarkably subtle. A perfect accompaniment to summer evenings as dusk falls, The Campfire Headphase provides a key to the lost art of daydreaming.” – BBC.co.uk
Bohren & der Club of Gore – Black Earth
The band calls their music ‘horror jazz’, and that describes it perfectly, and would fit right into pretty much any film by David Lynch. Creepy = beautiful.
“Creeping, plodding, yet gorgeously, sleepily melodic. Each note played on the piano, each hit of the snare, carries great weight, and beauty. Their music falls like thick drops of liquid into a still, dark, black pool, rippling the surface with unknown echoes. Foreboding, and entrancing. The sultry, smoky saxophone … only adds to the noir-ish vibe, great for wandering the rainy streets of night-time San Francisco with this playing in your Walkman, let me tell you.” – Aquarius Records review
Celebration – Celebration
Its funny cause I wasn’t able to find really any good reviews for this album, other than on the 4AD messageboard! But I have this one below where they are criticizing basically, although I think it all sounds like a compliment. Celebration have made a very tight, very sexy (yes, sexy), very energetic record that sounds like a ride through a haunted ride at a carnival, with a dash of Siouxsie & the Banshees and some fanastic bass lines thrown in. Could be my favorite album of the year just for its sheer uniqueness.
“(Celebration) sounds something like 4AD’s entire catalogue being chopped up and fed through a meat-grinder, those glistening synths and ethereal harmonies and lilting whale songs agonizingly mashed into an ugly, Frankensteinian chamber-jazz. Nearly every track begins with a deceptively calm and fluid keyboard melody before slowly piling on more and more elements, becoming denser and more chaotic while Ford gets further and further from anything resembling pop music. It’s a neat trick, one that stays interesting over the course of the album, but don’t expect it to keep you warm at night.” – PitchforkMedia.com
Cocteau Twins – Lullabies to Violaine
How many times have I been asked ‘Who sings the vocals on that Massive Attack song ‘Teardrop’?’. URGH!! Its Liz Frasier, and ill be damned if that Massive Attack album wasn’t heavily influenced by Ms Frasier’s band Cocteau Twins which had released an album and EP pretty much every year for 17 years before that Massive Attack album came out. This is a 4CD collection of all their EP’s, of which the songs were never repeated on any album! Pick this up and rejoice in its umcomparable beauty.
“At the center were Liz Frasier’s multitracked, quasi-operatic vocals, sugar-hiccupping their way through the reverb-drenched mix, with Robin Guthrie’s proto-shoegazing guitars…tangling underneath. Melodies were soaring, arrangements so gauzy they left a residue and tempos uniformly sluggish – only periodically would a piano or keyboard slip into the mix, and even when they did you barely noticed. In any other group, the brutal, relentlessly-pounding drum machine would grind it all to an anvil-dropping halt – here, it merely adds a touch of levity to the proceedings. For the Cocteau Twins, that was template: soaring vocals, cascading guitars, pounding drum machine, buckets of reverb. Trends be damned, there would be no hip hop experiments, no dancefloor moves and zero concessions to the marketplace. It was as if no one else existed.” – Stylus Magazine
Coldplay – X & Y
This was strangely the hardest album to pick the perfect song to represent the greatness of this album. Why? Cause every track is just beyond beautiful. I fell in love with the first album (after being a skeptic cause of ‘Yellow’) while on a trip to Australia with my best mate Maria. Then album two was a stinker sans one or two tracks. Then this came out and I couldn’t believe they could top their original album, but they pretty much did it. Every track is so inspiring in some weird way. And if one more person calls them ‘the new U2’ im gonna pull a Hitler. They don’t sound like U2 or have any quality that sinks to the level of that Mr Goodbody suit wearing moron Bono and the rest of those jerks.
“These aren’t songs so much as the aural equivalent of suspension bridges, at once massive and graceful—constructions perfectly suited to Martin and Buckland’s metaphysical ponderings about the unanswerable questions of existence. At this point it’s apparent what’s in store, and we wait for the next moment of grandeur to arrive—anticipation of the Big Moment is a key ingredient of the dynamic—as Coldplay proceeds to fashion one monument after another.” – Paste Magazine
The Dandy Warhols – Odditorum of Warlords of Mars
Probably the funnest band to listen to or see live, and basically some very underappreciated songwriting. If the Velvet Underground were a bit poppier and didnt take themselves so seriously, youd have the Dandy Warhols. Each album pretty much continues on their path of very very catchy pop rock songs and spacey hook and bass driven ‘sonic cathedrals’. Each album bounced back and forth between putting you in a trance and then snapping you out of it the next song and repeating the process for an album worth of material. A great great album by a fantstic band.
“Neo-psychedelia is still the Dandies’ bread and butter, and on the swirling, dreamy “Down Like Disco,” they retrofit the Jefferson Airplane with shoegazer atmospherics. With its languid vocals and trippy, melting walls of organ, “Holding Me Up” is an after-hours party in a scary carnival funhouse and “Did You Make A Song With Otis” is a warped version of The Lemonheads, as played by clowns on acid.” – LostAtSea.net
Daniel Agust – Swallowed A Star
(One Little Indian)
I never really liked male voices at all until I heard Mr Agust, one of the 3 singers from Icelandic art-troupe GusGus, and this album seems to have been written to showcase just that. A collection of classical music esque pop songs with one heck of a voice. Smooooooooooooth ……..
“Electronic hisses, fizzes, squelching bass and Eleanor Rigby-esque strings announce the arrival of …Daníel Ágúst – former lead singer of Icelandic trip hop outfit GusGus with five gold records and an Icelandic number 1 to his name – along with Bix – remixer to Madonna, Sigur Ros and Beck – have created a rich tapestry of orchestration, eerie bleeps and rousing soulful vocals. A blissful mini sympathy with an infectious pop edge.” – One Little Indian
Doves – Some Cities
“(Doves) sound – pounding backbeats swathed in glittering, soulful melodies that swelled and crested like the black waves off Gibraltar – was unique in a way others were not (hello, Elbow). Some Cities builds on the band’s propensity for melodic grandeur and achieves pure sonic bliss in the bargain. …The urban stomp of breakneck single “Black and White Town,” the greatest hit Phil Spector never produced. “Snowden”s gossamer vocals and glistening guitar crescendos reach for the clouds, adrift in the sort of aural ecstasy fans of Britrock have been pining for since the heyday of Johnny Marr and you-know-who. And then there’s the haunted, piano-based “Shadows of Salford,” a hushed, elegiac phantom of a song birthed to be heard best, one suspects, emanating from an aging, pre-Blitz Victrola.” – Austin Chronicle
Engineers – Engineers
“It seems almost criminal to be listening to a record as summery as ‘Engineers’ on a day when the snow is building upon the windowsill outside. Everything about the album evokes dreamy days, lying in tall grass and looking up at blue, cloudless skies. Songs build with layer upon layer of gorgeous textures like a sweet but never sickly knickerbocker glory of aural bliss. An incredibly warm and organic sounding debut, the songs all belie the band name of Engineers, who, thankfully, never feel manufactured or contrived.” – Drowned In Sound.com
“Engineers don’t shift the paradigm in any radical new directions; they simply enliven it by paying it no attention and taking their own route through the oceans and smoke of sound. Engineers exists in a confused, semi-industrial wasteland where mist merges with smoke from factory stacks, where blackened buildings are bordered by canals, where empty warehouses stand close by like the disorienting walls of a charcoal maze. Which is to say that you could get lost there, but you probably wouldn’t mind.” – Stylus Magazine
50 Foot Wave – Golden Ocean
Art rock doesn’t get much heavier than this, and anger never sounded more clean and sunnier. Kristen Hersh’s new musical venture shows what a little class can do to music so dirty. When she whispers ‘You know what? You know that? You know what?, and then thunders into your head ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP’, you can’t help but get chills. Best lyric ever as well ‘Im gonna wash that man right out of my hair, and soap him into my eyes, and soap him into my eyes, and soap him into my eyes, and soap him into my eyes.’
“It’s a perfect mess. It’s artwork made of garbage, where each soiled and pungent piece is laid with great precision to create something great, then lit on fire for dramatic effect. Each step is planned to look drunk and uncoordinated, each breakdown, dropout and rebel yell is right on target. They make visceral trash rock look easy, and what’s more, they make it stick to your fingers, clothes and subconscious. “Golden Ocean” is a bounding, surreal piece, putting the rest of the disc in a mystical perspective. As it suggests, it moves and rolls like the tides, and as Dali would paint a shining seascape, brimming with irony, so has Hersh created her very own Persistence of Memory.” – LostAtSea.net
M83 – Before the Dawn Heals Us
It’s amazing how futuristic and groundbreaking this music sounds, and really isnt, as it sounds pretty much what a new My Bloody Valentine album would sound like if it ever happened, this being 14 years later.
“M83 layer(s) electro-acoustic sci-fi backdrops atop often-campy dialogue, and then buoying it all with by a massive noir choir. From the buzzing nighttime Blade Runner skyline of the cover art to lyrics investigating car wrecks and dislodged brains, this is a mammoth collusion of synth gasps and distorted swirls, darker and more urban than its meadow-bound predecessor. (M83) weaves a rock backbone into their tangerine-dream landscape with steady doses of highly effective live drums, gigantic post-My Bloody Valentine guitar, and sharper, more defined songwriting that helps to beef up the diaphanous symphony, and creating a massive, teeming, gaudy edifice that at its best dazzles like its own misty solar system. And even when it implodes, the unintentional fireworks of its collapse create compelling, stunning patterns that leak like colored ink through the nocturnal cloud cover.” – Pitchfork Media
Minotaur Shock – Maritime
“Maritime, is a joyous, positively sun drenched blend of organic instruments and electronic twiddlings. Indeed, as the name suggests, the album feels as if it were crafted in a cabin overlooking a beach in the midst of a northeastern Canadian spring. These aren’t just some glitched out beats slapped onto a piano loop; instead they’re beautifully composed pieces that thoughtfully blend both worlds together. Clarinets, flute, strings, drums and guitars are all featured throughout the album, standing proudly alongside some nicely tweaked beats. But what ultimately makes the disc enjoyable is Edwards’ balance of skill and accessibility. He is a very talented programmer, but it never comes at the expense at inviting the listener into its bright, Technicolor world that is worth every minute exploring.” – Popmatters.com
Oasis – Don’t Believe the Truth
“Don’t Believe the Truth is a real shock. It’s confident, muscular, uncluttered, tight, and tuneful in a way Oasis haven’t been since Morning Glory. It doesn’t feel labored nor does it sound as if they’re deliberately trying to recreate past glories. Instead, it sounds like they’ve remembered what they love about rock & roll and why they make music. The consistent songwriting to the loose, comfortable arrangements and the return of their trademark bravado makes Don’t Believe the Truth the closest Oasis has been to great since the summer of Britpop, when they were the biggest and best band in the world.” – Allmusic.com
Sigur Ros – Takk …
“(Sigur Ros) still sound hauntingly beautiful. The eleven songs on Takk…, a few of which are transitional pieces, each develop concurrent melody, dynamism, and swelling atmosphere to ravishing effect. In fact, one of the difficult things about assessing Sigur Rós … is finding a suitable explanation of precisely why their music is so peculiarly emotive. The best that I can do, insofar as cathecting emotional power-points is possible, is point out how lead singer Jónsi’s celestial vocals, both in their timbre and their avoidance of conventional lyrics, create a primal, non-linguistic impression. By avoiding words, he centers attention on the actual sound of his voice, and thus reaches more directly to a listener’s emotional consciousness. That chanting voice, combined with the fury of the group’s percussion, their shoe-gaze tendency for explorative guitar-textures, and smart cultivation of space, creates an ideal sonic landscape for emotional identification. One doesn’t have to read into it too far to understand that these elements create, conceptually, a sense of evanescence, a sense of the uncertain and consequently precarious beauty of sound.” – CokeMachineGlow.com
Sing Sing – Sing Sing and I
“It’s a record, that, for its occasionally trip-hop leanings, is really about the songs, rather than about sound textures and breathy singers. Together with their many collaborators, O’Neill and Anderson, by sheer force of personality, have outstripped their musical pasts — the former chiefly working as vocalist on others’ electronic-based projects, and the latter in all-about-the-ethereal Lush — and created a glamorous, evocative sound with a solid pop base, rather than mood pieces with pop trappings. It ends up being even moodier for all the genuine heart and wit behind it. Now there’s style for you!” – Splendid
Thievery Corporation – The Cosmic Game
“Though Thievery Corporation’s trademark confluence of chilled trip-hop, time-stretched dub, and casual musical globetrotting initially appears as tranquil as ever, beneath this false serenity churns an undercurrent of political anger, disillusionment and alienation that helps charge the album with enhanced fervor and vitality. The Cosmic Game is a veritable tour-de-force of trance-inducing fusionist bliss, carrying the listener from Jamaica to Rio to India with magic carpet ease before the quiet, hookah-puffing “A Gentle Dissolve” ends the game with a sigh rather than a scream.” – Pitchfork Media
Ulrich Schnauss – Far Away Trains Passing By (reissue)
I cant say enough about this musician. This album came out about 3-4 years ago but was just reissued, and with a bonus disc of songs released on other compilations. His music is probably the most exciting Ive heard in years. Beautiful beautiful electronic music that doesnt sound one bit electronic, and sounds more organic than anything in Whole Foods. HA! Very blissful sounds with gentle beats and melodies that seem to pull at some sort of heartstrings, I guess you could say. What can I say, intensely gentle and beautiful stuff
“Infusing the emotional intensity of classical compositions from J.S. Bach or Ludwig Van Beethoven with the electronic warmth of Richard James (Aphex Twin) or Global Communication’s more ambient work, Ulrich Schnauss has created a bit of a minor masterpiece with this six track album of unprecedented beauty. Simply put: Far Away Trains Passing By is elegant, simple and beautifully refined ambient techno. These melodies aim straight for the heart and capture it, embracing you in a dance of pure bliss that will have you spinning around the room like a whirling dervish. Quite frankly, this is one of the most stunningly beautiful releases of the year.” – BBC
Honorable Mention :
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Howl (Echo)
Cass McCombs – PREfection (4AD)
Foo Fighters – In Your Honor (RCA)
Interpol – Antics (Matador)
The Juan Maclean – Less Than Human (DFA/Astralwerks)
Lil Kim – The Naked Truth (Atlantic)
Madonna – Confessions on a Dancefloor (Warner Bros.)
Serena Maneesh – Serena Maneesh (Honeymilk)
She Wants Revenge – Out of Control EP / These Things EP (Geffen)
Sleater Kinney – The Woods (Sub Pop)