Lotus Plaza - Black Buzz
Lockett Pundt, better known as the guitarist from Deerhunter, gave us another look at his dream like playing style on his sophomore solo album, Spooky Action at a Distance. "Black Buzz" offers smoky, Lee Hazlewood inspired guitar work, while Pundt focuses on his personal battle with drug addiction. This is the theme to a spaghetti western where the good guys don't ride off into the sunset.
Orbital - Distractions
It's been a long wait, but British rave masters Orbital are at the top of their game. "Distractions" is the deepest track from their new album, Wonky. There's a groovy dub feel to it, along with space age sound effects, a headbanging breakdown, and a layer that sounds like a hypnotic undersea dance party. What's not to like?
BadBadnotGood - Rotten Decay
The prodigies from Badbadnotgood may specialize in jazz, but collaborations with the likes of Tyler, the Creator shows hip hop culture runs deep in their veins. Pianist Matthew A. Tavares steals the show with dark and brooding chords that could be the beat for a downbeat hip hop track. Drummer Alexander Sowinksi's fills are furious and frenetic, and greatly complement the beautiful but bummed out atmosphere.
Of Monsters and Men - King and Lionheart
Icelandic pop folksters Of Monsters and Men had a heady 2011, and the worldwide release of "My Head is an Animal" sees them getting in touch with their earthy side. "King and Lionheart" tells the story of a king's servant who faces haunted oceans and mythical beasts, but swears to serve to the end. Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir's majestic vocal sets the tone, while Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson chimes in with perfectly timed cymbal clashes.
Jack White - Trash Tongue Talker
Jack White's Blunderbuss painted a electrifying tapestry of the American music history, and "Trash Tongue Talker" sees him spew the blues like none other. White spits acid at a former ladyfriend, while static guitars crackle and buzz in a Little Richard inspired rage. If you need a soundtrack for kicking your good for nothing lover to the curb, here it is.
Off! - Wiped Out
Keith Morris, of Black Flag and Circle Jerks fame, entered our consciousness with the Off's First Four EPs. Now he returns with his new band's first full LP, and it's even fuzzier and angrier than before. The lead single, "Wiped Out," is the perfect anthem for stage diving, beer spilling, and wrecking everything in your living room.
Storm Corrosion - Storm CorrosionThis collaboration between two of the finest minds in progressive rock was long anticipated, and the title track was no disappointment. The Storm Corrosion album attempted to cover a good bit of ground, but the title song brought those disparate elements together better than any other. Beautiful, haunting melodies, somber acoustic guitar, and even a bit avant garde/drone influences make "Storm Corrosion" one of the most unique tracks this year.
Beach House - Myth
Few artists can create a world as deep and expansive as Beach House. From the moment the hypnotic opening guitar strains kick in, you can tell the dream pop pioneers have crafted a sound you can get lost in. The expressiveness of singer Victoria Legrand will carry you to sheer bliss. By the time Alex Scally begins his tremolo strumming near the end, you'll realize you've entered a realm you won't want to depart.
Clubroot - Left Hand Path
If you dug Burial's Kindred EP from earlier this year, there's more where that came from. UK dubstep producer Dan Richmond is also known for creating work that cries out from the darkness, but he distinguishes himself from William Bevan's project in a number of ways. His minimalist approach helps the airy, spacious keyboards set the tone. That is, of course, until the hypnotic bassline comes in and puts a spell on you.
Mount Eerie - Through the Trees, Pt. 2
Phil Elverum may be an above average musician, but he truly shines in his ability to set a mood. Clear Moon gives off a vibe of driving through a forest at night while your headlights wash over all the trees. His melancholic guitar strumming and nondescript voice paints a somber picture of what it's like to exist in solitude.
Oddisee & Oliver Daysoul - You Know Who You Are (Acoustic)
Music sometimes suffers from being too bogged down by studio effects. The acoustic version of "You Know Who You Are" shows a pair of DC emcees demonstrating what hip hop can do when it has room to breathe. Oddisee's voice never wavers as he recalls people who molded him into what he is today, while Oliver Daysoul's soul inspired hook drives home the veracity of his message.
Iamamiwhoami - Goods
Swedish electro/pop starlet Jonna Lee is one strange lady. "Goods" may be the final track on her delightfully bizarre debut "Kin," but Lee sounds like she's ready to keep dancing until 3012. Her infectious melodies combine with futuristic synths and out of this world production values to forge one of the most unique and unforgettable tracks this year.
The Tallest Man on Earth - 1904
Fiona Apple - Left Alone
How would this list be complete without a look at the indomitable Fiona Apple? Even when spitting venom and vile she's breathtaking. "Left Alone" features a minute long drum intro, a foreboding shuffling piano melody, and a voice that's all over the place while always seeming to be in the right places. This about more than music, this vantage point into a message that is intensely personal and deliriously demented. Do you dare look away?
DIIV - Doused
Zachary Cole Smith of Beach Fossils has successfully created a song that combines post rock, post punk, and dreamy indie rock, while also having aquatic influences. Smith's voice comes at you from out of a haze, while the spaced out instrumental second half is as fresh as a salty ocean wave splashing against your face.