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Look I know this looks like a big wall of text, and believe me it really is, but I sort of have a point. First off, it’s true I’m lazy and I’ve spent my entire Christmas break applying for Graduate Schools (get a real job amirite?) and frankly the last thing I want to do this Christmas Eve is hunt down images and work on layout for a few hours. I didn’t even vote in the staff best of (so don’t blame me). Most importantly though a thousand words are worth a picture so maybe these words might paint an appropriate year-in-review. As the title suggests, this has been a year where the 80s have ruled supreme; I want to dedicate this entire year, actually, to the under-appreciated 80s electro-pop duo OMD. Saxophones, keyboards, sex, and hazy soundscapes of drunken post-Sharon Stone effluence and tumescence dominated the sounds of the year—canticles of vanity in the best way possible. M83, Destroyer, and Bon Iver were big movers this year and they ultimately define this sound.
It was a good year. It was not a great year; certainly not a great year in respect to 2010. There were some stellar recordings, but there wasn’t too much fight in reaching my top 25. Feist’s Metals, The Dodo’s No Color, Bill Calahan’s Apocalypse, Phonte’s Charity Starts at Home are significant runners-up, and I never did get to The Roots’ Undun or WU LYF. Once the 25 was set, the order was surprisingly difficult. Outside of the top 5, the order is fairly interchangeable and all the albums changed places at several points. Songs of the year are: “Bay of Pigs” by Destroyer, “Intro (ft. Zola Jesus)” by M83, “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes, “New Year’s Eve” by Tom Waits, “Surgeon” by St. Vincent, “House of Balloons” by The Weeknd, “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine, “Holocene” by Bon Iver, “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)” by Cymbals Eat Guitars, “Wilhelm Scream” by James Blake. Without further ado, my favourite albums of 2011:

1. Destroyer – Kaputt

As if I need to add anything else to what I already pointed out in my review. Bejar takes everything that signifies terrible 80s music and uses them to great effect. Case in point: “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker”. This eight minute slab of synths and trumpets manages to use its “cheesy” elements for something very sad indeed. Perhaps it’s the way the trumpets melt into a squall of acid jazz at the end—perhaps it’s how the whole album seems to melt away into the labyrinthine “Bay of Pigs (Detail)” perhaps the only song to top two different personal year-end song lists. Oh Danny boy.

2. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

READ BYVOLUME. ByVolume is watching you.

3. Tom Waits – Bad as Me

Tom. Fucking. Waits…. Next please.

4. Fleet Foxes –Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes do it again. They prove my greatest asset when I tell people why I dislike Mumford & Sons. “You just don’t like them because they’re popular.” WRONG. I really just wish Fleet Foxes were more popular. They deserve it more; they have more ingenuity about them, not to mention talent. Are they “original?” Yes, they are, I invoke T.S. Eliot and say that they take what came before them—namely Appalachian folk—and make it into something identifiably their own. So in the eternal question of which is the funnier punch-line, the canoe or another NME review, I think we have are answer. Canoe dig it? Yes—and that’s a terrible pun.

5. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

This is the best Radiohead album. Emphasis on the word album. The King of Limbs feels more cohesive than anything else they’ve ever done. The whole album isn’t built around singles, but rather around flow. The flower imagery spread throughout is apropos; this thing blooms. When you first put on the clusterfuck that is “Bloom” it’s hard to gather a sense of just what the hell is going on. Repeated listens reveal the wanderlust is not in vain. From the congested openings to the breezy, light closer “Separator,” The King of Limbs unfurls itself to the listener. Beautiful.

6. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

I don’t really like describing bands or albums through formulaic equations of influences. It feels pejorative. But what the hell: Bob Dylan + Shoegaze = Slave Ambient. QED.

7. Colin Stetson – New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges

I like circles. That sounds childish, let me start again. I like circular patterns in art. They fascinate me. I don’t try to limit my attentions to just these aspects of a work, but I can’t help but be drawn to these patterns. There’s something in the way things are repeated that seduces my intellect. I’ve written extensively on tautology in E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, Joyce’s Ulysses, and even Eliot’s “Prufrock.” That’s why Colin Stetson feels so enthralling to me—the circular breathing techniques, the masterful loops. He builds and builds and builds. Layer upon layer of saxophone drones, squeals and scales that create something absolutely mesmerizing.

8. James Blake – James Blake

There’s just something so heart-warming in the way “I don’t know about my dreams” gets repeated over, and over, and over. And over again.

9. Shabazz Palaces – The Black-Up

Sometimes I pretend to listen to hip-hop, because, y’know, Southwestern Ontario is SO urban. The jazzy, cut-up beats and the sludgy synths make this socially-conscious hip-hop quite delicious.

10. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

Did you guys hear? Annie Clark can play guitar. Like a boss. Her licks have grown in fierceness since Marry Me and Actor. Look no further for the impressive way the guitar just rolls over “Surgeon” for the perfect example of her chops. But not only that, her song-writing oeuvre has grown en masse. The result is Strange Mercy, something that breathes with lessons only two previous albums could give Miss Clark. The second half of the record initially seems to drag, but that’s merely because it’s less immediate than the star-studded opening half. Give it some time, this one needs room to grow.

11. The Weeknd – House of Balloons/Thursday/Echoes of Silence

Me: The Weeknd are playing a show here in a couple of weekends.
My Friend : YAY, let’s go.
Me: I feel like I’m too white for that show.
My Friend: Most people who actually listen to the Weeknd are too white.
Me: I also don’t do enough drugs.
My Friend: Yeah, and I don’t have enough sex.

So ends a dialogue summarizing The Weeknd.

12. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

When Pitchfork reviewed this and said “you’ve heard these songs before,” they weren’t kidding. Every time I listen to this album I think for sure I can place these melodies on a particular classic rock song… but I can’t. Girls sound like a lot of classic rock bands—all the greatest ones. That makes Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in many ways essential. A buoy for the good ol’ days of rock and roll.
13. Sepalcure – Sepalcure

Deviant am I doing it right?

14. The Antlers – Burst Apart

Burst Apart really just feels more whole than Hospice, ironically because the band ditch the ostentatious melancholy of the latter. With a greater influence on the songwriting as opposed to an overarching concept, The Antlers really get a chance to shine.

15. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver

I don’t really like the middle part of this record. Not that it’s bad at all, I just feel like the three middle songs make up this same-sounding suite of Steve Reichisms . Thankfully the first four and last three tracks are golden; well, at least until “Beth/Rest” has the cheesy power guitar solo. You had me up until that point Justin. Still, bravo for trying.

16. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lenses Alien

I still can’t tell if there’s any structure here. Alien Lenses sprawls even more than Why There are Mountains, with far shorter song lengths (erm, generally speaking). Either way, I can’t take my ears away from this. There’s just something about these guys that feels so energetic and essential, this may be the most “underrated” (I gulp in using the term that I really don’t like) album of 2011.

17. Florence & the Machine – Ceremonials

Read my review. Next.

18. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972

Along with Stars of the Lid, there is nobody near Tim Hecker on the pedestal of ambient music. Ravedeath, 1972 just further goes to show why. Starting right-off with “Piano Drop,” the album floats through you with all its endearing and mystical nuances.

19. Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow

Kate Bush comes back to us with another album of slow, pacing genius. Not to fall back on tropes, but this really is a winter album. Just look at that title. Plus the eponymous song actually goes through fifty “words” for snow. “When we got to the top of the hill / We saw Rome burning.” Indeed.

20. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

Fans didn’t seem to take all that well to I Am Very Far, which is too bad. The “bombastic” side of the band was hardly over done—the melodies were still there as were Will Shef’s brilliant lyrical twist and turns. “Your Past Life Was a Blast” also happens to be one of the better songs this year. Maybe you should listen again, guys. Maybe, just maybe, you should stop being terrible people.

21. Chad VanGalen – Diaper Island

Album contains probably the sweetest, saddest, most touching song to ever be named “Shave My Pussy.” Maybe? Definitely. Also: better than Women.

22. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life

Rawr.

23. Steve Coleman and the Five Elements – The Mancy of Sound

Slappin’ da bass. Squealin’ da sax.

24. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

The only place that PJ Harvey’s newest album seemed to fly “under the radar” is our very own Sputnik. Shame on you all. Of course, “under the radar,” is a qualified term; what I really mean is people here seem to continuously skip over this for the uneven Laura Marling or the even more uneven Laura Stevenson. Both of those are good records, don’t get me wrong, but neither contain the poise and maturity that only years and years could bring Harvey.

25. Wye Oak – Civilian

Civilian was a late inclusion to my year end list. After seeing her live opening for The National last week I finally picked up Civilian. I wish I had done it earlier. In many ways Wye Oak is the surprise inclusion personally. But listening to the album just a few times I know it could’ve been far higher than position 25 given some more time. Oh well, at least the duo get a spot.





thebhoy
12.25.11
oh god I so don't give a shit how this looks.

klap
12.25.11
hahaha i love the random antlers artwork

also i need to listen to wye oak again it never grabbed me

thebhoy
12.25.11
the random pictures where I was like, fuck this shit I don't currr hahaha

FromDaHood
12.25.11
Not even reverse order?

Electric City
12.25.11
lenses alien*

Xenophanes
12.25.11
Fuck yeah Murakami reference. Just finished "1Q84" the other day. Exhausting, but great book.

pizzamachine
12.25.11
"Rawr."

hehheh I get the joke

Acanthus
12.25.11
The Weekend dialogue was a real highlight

Deviant.
12.25.11
Answer: yes, yes you are

Knott-
12.25.11
note to keelan you cant say note the italics when there aren't any

well i guess you can but

also :) @ 2

gonna work really hard to get the 2nd issue out early jan cause im useless

Irving
12.25.11
Wait the Fleet Foxes self-titled was released 3 years ago...

thebhoy
12.25.11
oops, my bad Iriving and Downer. I'll fix that when I have time. No reverse order, I don't care. The italics part wasn't my fault because the blog was being a bitch last night.

thebhoy
12.25.11
and no Thomas, I don't think there are any better ambient artists (at least consistently) as good as Hecker or Stars of the Lid

mvood
12.25.11
Wye Oak is really underrated

thebhoy
12.25.11
yeah they were fucking good live

PistolPete
12.25.11
descending order was anti-climactic haha dialogue for the weeknd made me lol (is that actually true about who listens to the weeknd?)

thebhoy
12.25.11
it kind of is true. It was late, was going to do the order in reverse but I was tired and realized I screwed up so was like fuck it. Basically after the top 5-7 the order really doesn't matter like I said.

BrownPark
12.26.11
where b the punk

Irving
12.26.11
^ lol

AggravatedYeti
12.26.11
have I told you I love you lately?
No? Well I do.
Merry Canadamas Keelers.

Imperial
12.26.11
Another list of stuff I need to check out...damn you.

thebhoy
12.26.11
Thanks Yeti!

Aids
12.27.11
awesome stuff. I loved the usage of QED.

Aids
12.27.11
and the writeup for The Weeknd is amazing.

thebhoy
12.27.11
haha QED brought me back to grade 11 math. Felt good using it

Mordecai.
12.27.11
no blink negged.

AtavanHalen
12.28.11
"This is the best Radiohead album"

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

thebhoy
12.28.11
ugh originally I had "album" italicized because I don't think it's really the best Radiohead album, I just think in certain ways its the most cohesive whole production from the band.

natey
01.03.12
i love all these thingies and albums but no not better than women...



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