10. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
The return of old friends. Often an album with as much hype as these guys generated fails to live up to expectation and while there was no revolution of sound in this release, it was another gem. This was their first proper release since Geogaddi in 2005. That’s almost 8 years of waiting, and listening to a variety of other bands steal their sound. They’re still the best at what they do.
9. Sam Amidon – Bright Sunny South – From our review – Sam Amidon has been making quiet, subtle and lovely folk music for some time now. This album sees him as an accomplished artist with a number of very impressive recordings under his belt, and a man that understands the sound he wants to create.
8. Arcade Fire – Reflektor – Arcade Fire stopped for a minute and looked at themselves! This was a definite change in direction for Arcade Fire, and it really, really helped, as did the introduction of James Murphy of LCD soundsystem fame twiddling the knobs. It makes you bounce and will be filling the floor at the local indie disco for years to come.
7. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away – It’s been five years since Dig, Lazarus, Dig, an album that never really happened for me. This is an all together different affair and put to bed the worries that they’d lost their mojo. I guess if you get that many talented musicians in the one place, they’re bound to get it right most of the time. The best thing about this album is possibly the arrangement and the lovely organ sounds. It is well within their comfort zone, but it just exudes quality.
6. Glenn Jones – My Garden State – From our Review – 10 beautiful compositions of complexity and ingenuity are laid out here using chimes, banjo and guitar. The primary influence is the American Primitive ‘Takoma’ school of John Fahey, someone Mr. Jones learned from, idolised and ultimately collaborated with.
5. Devendra Banhart – Mala – From our review – Devendra is something of a throw back, and I doubt he’d argue it. His music definitely sounds like it’s from another decade, but there is something warm and rich about what he does, that really captures a mood and is quite special.
4a. Justin Walter – Lullabies and Nightmares – From our review –
Justin Walter’s debut full-length is one of those records you put on that sinks into your consciousness without you really noticing it’s happening. Ambient yet to-the-fore at times its improvised nature does add to the organic sound of the album while at the same time holding aspects of drone and repetition. There is also a jazz influence on some of the tracks. Overall this is a really beautiful release from the Brooklyn-based/Michigan-bred trumpet player and composer and one of my fav’s of the year so far. Have a glimpse at Walter’s recording process below.
4b. Juana Molina – Wed 21 – Yes, there are two fourth places, the reason why is because I can! Juana Molina is back with another album of strange samples of squelching, scraping, grating, banging, beeping and other bizarre sounds, with her own beautiful voice covering all. It’s one of the most fun albums on the list, and she is certainly one that deserves a wider audience. There is so much going on in each song, you’d love to know how it was all pieced together.There’s no one quite like her, in my mind.
Interesting fact about Juana, she started her career in showbiz as an actress in a hit comedy show in Argentia. Strange but true.
3. Bill Callahan – Dream River – From our review – “The only words I said today are ‘Beer’ and ‘Thank you’” are the lyrics that capture the imagination in the first song of Bill Callahan’s 15th studio album ‘Dream River‘. He’s created a wonderful character for himself, and I’ve no idea how close to the real Bill it is.’ Any Callahan release is something to look forward to, and this hits all the right noises.
2. These New Puritans – Field of Reeds – This is an album that crept up on me and just consistently stayed in play lists and often on repeat. The album features string sections and is kept quiet and just so tender. It builds slowly, with a fantastic arrangement of instruments and layered vocal sounds. An album that shows they’re capable of taking risks and that they often come off.
1. Pale Green Ghosts – John Grant – This was really been John Grant’s year. He’s been doing what he’s been doing for a number of years, and he’s quitely waited for the world to sit up and take notice, it has in spades! Often with electronic sounds, this album is mostly about his voice and the quite bizarre lyical style. If you haven’t heard it yet, it’s a must.