Posts Tagged ‘bibio’

INAUDIBLE’s BEST OF 2017

December 22, 2017

Hello everybody! Welcome to INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF LIST: EDITION #9! Without further ado, let’s get down to the nit and the grit and reveal INAUDIBLE’s favourite musical moments of 2017.

FAVE EP’S, SINGLES, 12’s of 2017

click album cover to sample a track

Grant - No Lights EP

Grant – No Lights EP

See Other - Linda EP

See Other – Linda EP














Lobster Theremin is a fantastic record label. Head Lobster, Asquith, and his team released 30 records in 2017, and Grant and See Other are just two highlights among many. Grant is my favourite house producer of last year, as I love his earlier releases on Mork and Lauren Bacall, and See Other’s propulsive 4/4 beats have continually had me coming back for more. Check ’em.

Ozel AB - Workshop 24

Ozel AB – Workshop 24

D. Tiffany - Blue Dream

D. Tiffany – Blue Dream












 

Ozel AB has also put out music with Lobster Theremin, but 2017 sees him releasing Workshop’s 24th release, and it’s a real good one. Deep, introspective, eyes-closed head boppers for those in the know. While Vancouver’s D. Tiffany keeps up the Van City hype and drops another four solid tracks of eclectic bass-leaden house music.

HONORABLE AUDIBLES OF 2017

click album cover to sample a track

There was a ton of excellent music this year that I enjoyed from all different genres. From hip-hop to rock to ambient, 2017 showcased some great highlights and guilty pleasures…

Lotta Sea Lice

Courtney & Kurt – Lotta Sea Lice

Galcher Lustwerk – Dark Bliss

The opening track on a Kurt Vile album is always fantastic, and it’s no different here with “Over Everything” on Lotta Sea Lice, his fun collab with Courtney Barnett. The two musicians compliment each other really well, and the album is full of straight ahead good ol’ blue collar rock ‘n roll. Kurt and Courtney version 2017! Very easy listening.

Galcher Lustwerk is one of the chillest dudes in techno and although nothing will ever be able to beat his sumptuous 100% Galcher mix from 2013, his much-anticipated proper debut Dark Bliss still offers up a set of deep and trippy house numbers featuring smooth beats and his hypnotic vocals. It’s club music for those favouring their vape pens over their mixed drinks and I be diggin’ it.

Colleen - A Flame

Colleen – A Flame, My Love

Kelly Lee Owens

Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens

I’ve been listening to Colleen since her debut on The Leaf Label in 2003, but seeing her live at last year’s Mutek, made me really see what an accomplished musician she is. Her set had me mesmerized. With A Flame, My Love, A Frequency, she abandons her oft-used viola de gamba for synths, and the result is just as immersive as her earlier work, and shows a musician always willing to embrace the new.

Speaking of new, Kelly Lee Owens was a relative unknown at the start of this year, until she released her debut album on Smalltown Supersound, and she now finds herself on many best of lists. Reminiscent of early Grimes, Owens makes moody electronic music and uses her voice to anchor the listener in. Great stuff.

Bibio - Phantom Brickworks

Bibio – Phantom Brickworks

Bing & Ruth

Bing & Ruth – No Home






 

Bibio has constantly reinvented himself over the course of a decade and a half-dozen records – from lo-fi folktronica, to hip-hop beats, to leftfield and even to yacht rock – and he’s worn each hat well. But with Phantom Brickworks, his first ambient album, the hat’s never fit so damn comfy and snug. The music on this album feels effortless. It’s soothing and haunting and makes for a great vibe to wake up to in the morning or zone out to at night. Well done, sir.

Bing & Ruth aka David Moore has produced my favourite piano-based ambient record of the year. Unlike Bibio’s more languid and improvisational approach, the tracks on No Home Of The Mind feel composed and intellectual, but that doesn’t mean they’re not emotional. The album is modern classical in its execution, and as soon as opener “Starwood Choker” begins, the listener is immediately swept in. Highly rec’d.

Kelela - Take Me Apart

Kelela – Take Me Apart

Vince-Staples-Big-Fish-Theory

Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory

Kelela is the low-key Solange for 2017 and with Take Me Apart she further refines the future R&B sound she’s been developing over the last five years. Working with hot ticket producers like Arca, Kingdom, and Jam City, Kelela is in full on sultry mode throughout. Whether the tempo is fast or subdued she keeps the sensual vibe running from start to finish. Insert fire emoji here.

With Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples leans hard on electronic dance music producers like SOPHIE and Flume and successfully crosses genres, popping out club bangers and tracks to bop yer head to while you sink heavy-lidded into the couch and a cloud of smoke. I was a bit surprised at Vince’s corporate sponsorship with a soda company, but in our current hyper-branded culture, why wouldn’t a young musician want to supplement his cash flow and rep the same soft drink as Lebron James?

Mac Demarco - This Old Dog

Mac Demarco – This Old Dog

Nick Hakim - Green Twins

Nick Hakim – Green Twins

At 27, Mac Demarco is already feeling wise and grown up, and it shows on This Old Dog, his most straight-forward and easy listening record to date. Some longtime fans have said they miss the young nutso Mac, with his weird tunings and goofy stage antics, but I like this new old cur. It’s a good look on him and he knows it.

D.C. native, Nick Hakim could easily find himself on a bill with Mac and fit right in. Mixing the stylings of Conan Mocassin and Unknown Mortal Orchestra with a 1970’s soul vibe, Hakim’s debut Green Twins makes good on his earlier EP’s and shows a young musician truly stepping into his own. His live show at Bar Le Ritz in Montreal this April was excellent, and I look forward to further evolutions of his laidback sound.

Gas - Narkopop

Gas – Narkopop

DJ Sports - Modern Species

DJ Sports – Modern Species

Seventeen years after Wolfgang Voigt put out his masterwork Pop, he returns with variations on the same theme avec Narkopop. If someone put a gun to my head and screamed: “Tell me your favourite album of all time, NOW!” and in that moment I blubbered “Pop by Gas”, I could die happy with that choice, as I’ve been listening to it consistently enough over the last fifteen years. So then, a new Gas record is a pretty big deal, and as expected Narkopop is just as visceral as his earlier work, but it walks a much darker path. It’s moody and consuming and worthy of about seventeen years worth of listens. Sounds good to me.

I don’t know a goddamn thing about DJ Sports. All I know is that his name is pretty stupid, and his music is pretty awesome. It’s as if I found an old burnt CD from Uhfska in a box somewhere and discovered a classic electronic album from twenty years ago. Modern Species is a throwback to late 90’s house and jungle, but it also features some very nice beatless moments, and there’s a track that reminds me a lot of Arovane too. Definitely worth a few spins in your Discman.

GUILTY PLEASURES OF 2017

the xx - I See You

The xx – I See You

Drake - More Life

Drake – More Life

The first time I listened to I See You, I thought it was The xx’s flattest record yet, but then their hooks and melodies started to get lodged in the old noggin’ and before I knew it, I was playing “Replica” six times in a row everyday for a fortnight. Jamie xx is a formidable producer and while I still think In Colour is his strongest release to date, apparently there’s still a little space left for some angsty songs about heartache in my life.

Is Drake a good rapper? Negative. Is he a good singer? Not at all. But is he a taste maker? Without a doubt. His ‘playlist’ More Life, features more guests, more genres, more samples, and more producers than you can shake your booty too. And it sure has its share of fun moments. More tune for your head top, indeed.

INAUDIBLE’S TOP NINE ALBUMS OF 2017

9. William Basinski – A Shadow in Time

William Basinski is up there with Wolfgang Voigt in my books as one of ambient music’s living legends. Like Voigt, Basinski’s catalogue has been on consistent rotation in my quiet morning moments for the better part of a decade. But as much as I enjoy his music, I always thought Basinski (not unlike Herr Voigt) was probably a pretentious jerk that took himself way too seriously, but thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumptions.

I finally saw him live this year at POP Montreal and man, what a cool and down to earth dude! He played the two new pieces from A Shadow in Time to a packed and sweaty audience, and in the end, he slowly faded the music out for a very long time, and as hushed as it got, you could still hear everything perfectly amongst the burps and whispers of the crowd.

William Basinski may be a down to earth guy, but he’s got his eyes clearly fixed on the goddamn stars! I love him.

8. Beach Fossils – Somersault

I was under the impression that the guys in Beach Fossils had moved on to new things, since there hadn’t been a peep from them since 2013’s excellent Clash The Truth. So I was quite happy to see a new record from the Brooklyn band to help kick off the summer.

Less derivative (and douchey) than DIIV, and more varied in their songwriting than Real Estate, the songs on Somersault, reveal the Fossils at their most mature, and provides a suite of emotional and melodic indie rock tunes. The addition of strings and horns throughout the album also helps give their sound a sonic boost. In my opinion, after Real Estate’s rather stale, In Mind, it’s safe to say that Beach Fossils have usurped their place for fave ‘indie’ band.

7. Freddie Gibbs – You Only Live 2wice

Gangsta Gibbs rises from the ashes of a drive-by, jail time, and an acquitted rape charge, and returns with You Only Live 2wice, his hardest and most accomplished collection of tracks yet. Gibbs and I couldn’t be more opposite, but I’ve been fascinated with his rhymes and flow for a long time now, and it seems like he just keeps getting better.

Seeing him live at Theatre Fairmount in Montreal this summer was an absolute treat. Like a total pro, he blasted out his complicated raps for well over an hour and didn’t seem to take a breath the entire time. Plus he was humble, quietly thanking his fans for sticking with him through all the muck, before cranking the bass back up to eleven. More Kane, more Gibbs!

6. Fresco & Irisarri – La Equidistancia

For a half decade, Leandro Fresco released one song a year on Kompakt’s annual Pop Ambient compilation, and they were always highlights to my ears. He finally released his first solo album in 2015, and it’s really good, but teaming up with Rafael Anton Irisarri (aka The Sight Below) seems an inspired choice. La Equidistancia is my favourite ambient album of the year, because it creates the perfect soundscape to get lost into while writing, reading, studying, thinking …

The entire album can swirl by in a blip until final track “Un Horizonte en Llamas”, which sounds a lot like Boards of Canada, but also creates the sensation of the clouds lifting and clearing, allowing you to zone back in to your world, and wake up back to your reality. It’s an impressive effect and I doubt it was done on purpose, but it’s some really great stuff all around. Let’s hope they keep this partnership up in 2018.

5. Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins

Grizzly Bear return after a five-year hiatus with the excellent Painted Ruins, yet another collection of intricate and impressive songs. There was a lot of talk about how a new Grizzly Bear album would fit in the current music streaming landscape? As if our collective attention spans have become so short no one can even listen to an hour’s worth of music from the same band anymore.

My response: a new LP by Grizzly Bear fits just fine thank you very much. Music is music is music. And I for one think a suite of music from one band (aka an album) still works just as goddamn well as it did when Robert Plant was howling about getting his lemon squeezed. Music is timeless. Period. And Grizzly Bear are an excellent example of this.

With Painted Ruins they have written the record they wanted to, and it is an album that rewards with repeat listens, as their compositions are rich, chaotic, melodic, and vocally fantastic. I’ve listened to Painted Ruins countless times and it’s still revealing itself with each spin.

Seeing them play a sold out show at Metropolis this year showcased a band still at the height of their powers and still very relevant in our current music culture.

4. Tyler the Creator – (Scum Fuck) Flower Boy

Tyler the Creator grows up and releases his most cohesive and strongest musical statement to date with Flower Boy. His gravelly voice and penchant for sleek production mixed with infectious samples finally take centre stage, because Tyler decided to let the music speak for itself and himself, allowing listeners to shake off some of his more polarizing moments of the past.

Lead single “Who Dat Boy” is a straight-up banger, and the entire album is chock full of catchy hooks and pleasant earworms throughout. It also acts as somewhat of a cathartic statement for Young T, as he (sort of) claims ties with the LGBTQ community, and attempts to explain his obsession with cars and attention-seeking antics stem from loneliness and boredom. Guests like Frank Ocean, A$AP Rocky, Kali Uchs, Jaden Smith, and Lil’ Wayne help round out the vocals and bolster the album’s overall appeal.

Like Vince, Tyler reps consumer culture, but thankfully none of it overshadows what we’re really here for: the tunes. Flower Boy is definitely the hookiest album of the year, and one that I can play while at the gym just as comfortably as when having friends over for dinner. Let’s see where Dat Boy will go next…

3. Four Tet – New Energy

It’s been 16 years since Four Tet aka Kieran Hebden released the groundbreaking Rounds, and in the span of almost twenty years, he’s put out consistently excellent music while never pigeonholing his sound. Over the last seven years or so, Hebden has moved his musical aesthetic from couch to club, and with New Energy he presents all his strengths in one record, from new age chill to dancefloor banger, with all the little ambient nooks and eclectic crannies in between.

Lead single “Two Thousand and Seventeen” is possibly Hebden’s most moving track since “Angel Echoes”. It could easily be an unreleased track from 2003’s Rounds, and is a perfect example of the cyclical nature of electronic music. Unlike any other genre, there’s a timelessness to electronic music, and I predict “Two Thousand and Seventeen” will sound just as heartbreakingly on point in 2022 as it does now.

New Energy works your head, your mind, and your dance moves, as showcased on the top notch track “SW9 9SL”. Hebden is a class act and continues to show he’s one of the most accomplished and varied musicians in the electronic music scene.

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Kung Fu Kenny drops his fourth LP DAMN. with the precision and discipline of a martial artist and leaves all of his contemporaries in the dark.

The production on DAMN. is stripped down and raw in comparison to Butterfly’s intricate live arrangements, and like A Tribe Called Quest’s excellent album from last year, DAMN. is a brilliant combination of the timeless and the modern, the old school and the next-level. And for the most part it bumps HARD.

Does he miss the mark here and there trying to be a bit too radio-friendly? Perhaps. But he more than makes up for it with tracks like “DNA” and “FEAR”. “DNA” has gotta be 2017’s most undeniable fight song, while “FEAR” is probably the most complete song in his discography, the perfect culmination of who Kendrick Lamar is as a rapper and storyteller in 2017. It’s emotional, personal, and a clear standout on an album full of standouts.

But all this talk of Kendrick as the GOAT seems a bit hasty. Let’s wait a bit, no? Let’s see what he does next, and let’s see if after all the nods, and reps, and hype and success of this album, he actually does remain humble.

1. Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun

Bet you weren’t expecting this one, eh?

Earlier this year, maybe around March or April, I listened to Come On Die Young for the first time in close to ten years, and I couldn’t believe how perfectly it suited my current mood, as well as, how much I used to fucking love this band. In the early aughts, me and Mogwai were pretty goddamn tight.

The first time I ever heard them I was driving home, listening to Brave New Waves on CBC, and the great Patti Schmidt played “Burn Girl-Prom Queen”, a ten minute slow burn of a song, that had me goose-bumped and chain-smoking, and driving past my house for another spin around the neighborhood.

Perhaps more than any of the ‘revered’ bands from my early twenties, Mogwai were able to envelop me like no other, they knew how to absorb my mind completely, whether they were playing at a sensitive hush or with the angsty urge to make my ears hum and ring. They wrote the music I wanted to make. Soft, loud, dark, introspective and volatile, met with occasional moments of quiet beauty.

But somewhere along the last decade and a half, I tossed Mogwai and their post-rock kin aside for all things electronic. And yet, my musical tastes are somewhat cyclical, and after listening to their newest record “Every Country’s Sun” as a soundtrack to autumn, I was surprised to hear that Mogwai were still on top of their game. And now, instead of just being loud for loud’s sake, their sound grows outwards rather than just up up up. Their guitars sound like synths, their synths like guitars, and the bass and drums are as driving as ever.

Opener “Coolverine” sets the mood immediately, and draws the listener into a set of comfortably claustrophobic tunes that mix electronics with guitars, art-rock with grit, and volume with ambience, all to emotional effect.

I saw them live at The Corona in Montreal in early December and I’m still thinking about the show. It was special for me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’d somehow never seen them in all the years I’ve been a fan, secondly, it’s probably going to be my last concert for a while, since I’ll soon be singing lullabies to a newborn instead of bopping my head in a club, thirdly, it was a rather cathartic experience after a tumultuous week at work, and finally, they were absolutely stellar live.

They showcased most of the new album, highlighting how strong the new songs really are, but they also played “Cody”, “Mogwai Fear Satan”, and opened with “Hunted By A Freak” (a personal favourite), which had me fighting back tears as I sat on the balcony in the dark by myself. Earplugs were a necessity, but it wasn’t until the encore where they really aurally assaulted us, and I truly loved every single minute of it.

As I write this, I’m listening to the title track of the new album on vinyl and it’s soundin’ real heavy and real nice, and so for these reasons Mogwai’s ninth LP, “Every Country’s Sun” is INAUDIBLE’s favourite album of 2017.

Yes! I made it to the end!

Thanks for reading, happy 2018 to all y’all! I’m looking forward to all the craziness my 40th year will bring….

Big Love,

ml

Bibio – Mind Bokeh (Warp)

April 6, 2011

For Juno Records

When Ambivalence Avenue came out in 2009, I quipped that this was a new and invigorated Bibio — Bibio 2.0 — an artist finally stepping out of the BoC meets folktronica shadow that both propelled and pigeonholed his sound. Ambivalence was exciting, fresh, and a solid leap forward for UK producer Steven Wilkinson.

Now, Wilkinson has returned, hot off the heels of his lauded breakout album on Warp, with Mind Bokeh. The new album carries much the same tone as Ambivalence, combining playful vintage melodies and summer-fuelled beats — but it also sees him venturing even further out of his folky-comfort zone and pushing into new sonic territory. Wilkinson’s vocals are more prominent in the mix this time around, and with “Take off your Shirt”, he tries his hand at Phoenix-style pop, using a chunky riff and cheesy lyrics with the hopes of creating a summer banger. And to be sure, it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the album, yet what may initially sound jarring ends up being a decent track after a few listens. “K for Kelson”, on the other hand, is a definite winner, seeing Wilkinson try his ear at “tropical robot pop”, and crafting an infectious poolside hit.

Other tracks see him revisiting the styles that became his trademark on Ambivalence Avenue. “Light Sleep” for example works the funk vibe in similar fashion to “Jealous of Roses”, and “More Excuses” sounds like an extension to “All the Flowers”. “Artists’ Valley”, works a crunchy Fly Lo beat and a smooth bass line outro, that’s perfect for bobbing your head during more ‘chilled out’ moments. The title track is a wandering blurry soundscape, reminiscent of BoC, and closer “Saint Christopher” may indeed be the album’s best track, featuring a light 4/4 beat and high-hat shuffle driving three interweaving guitar lines for six beautiful minutes. It’s brilliant production and a great outro to the album, and perhaps a sign of even further sonic evolutions.

The term ‘bokeh’ comes from the Japanese and has to do with staring at the out of focus areas in a photographic image; Wilkinson attempts to do this with your ears and mind, and for the most part, he succeeds. With Mind Bokeh we see Wilkinson reworking the best moments of Ambivalence Avenue and trying out a few new styles as well. It’s not a full leap forward, but Bibio 2.5 has got it going on.

INAUDIBLE’S BEST OF 2009

December 16, 2009

I am happy to present Inaudible’s first annual end of year listy list.

TOP 23 ALBUMS OF 2009

23. Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day (GOOD Music)

Kid Cudi’s proper debut is a solid collection of nu-skoool hip-hop jams and pop anthems – and when it came out a few months back I listened hell out of it for about two weeks straight. Originally, I thought it was going to end up way higher on my list, but in the end, it’s levelling off at the bottom. The main reason for this is that it unfortunately lacks lasting power. I don’t want to listen to it anymore. I feel I’ve exhausted it of all its charms. Still, “Man on the Moon: The End of Day” does have some great tracks, and at its best moments shows Kid Cudi’s potential as a force to be reckoned with in mainstream hip-hop.

But where does the Solo Dolo go from here? I’m afraid his recent gigs with Lady Gaga are showing us exactly where . . . but ya never know, he could still surprise us. Cudi is worth listening to, but so far he ain’t changing the game, he’s just going along with it. At least I discovered Chip Tha Ripper because of this album.


22. Junior Boys – Begone Dull Care (Domino)

The Hamilton, Ontario duo Junior Boys return with their third album and present more of the same lush and textured emo-electro-pop. There’s something about Jeremy Greenspan’s voice that I am absolutely and completely fed up with, but this album gets a nod on the list for its ridiculously smooth production and the number of times I kept returning to it over the year. “Begone Dull Care” is great for dinner parties, morning hangovers on the TTC, and dates with girls who don’t really like electronic music. And that is exactly the Boys’ problem. They are playing it way too safe, veering off into the terrifying world of muzak instead of delving deeper into the world of next-shit electronica. These boys are audiophile nerds to the extreme, which is why their albums sound so goddamn good, but is also why I want them to push their sound further. And I want Greenspan to try something other than his trademark breathy crooning. His voice on Morgan Geist’s “Double Night Time” was a welcome addition, and a nice teaser as we waited for a new Junior Boys release, but he sounds exactly the same in every song. His timbre, tone, emotion, and pitch does not vary one bit from the opening track on “Last Exit” to the last track on “Begone Dull Care”.

Still, I do give the Junior Boys props, they’re an excellent duo, but all I ask is for them to step it up in future releases, especially if they want me to show more than just dull care. (I know it’s a cheesy end but I’m going with it.)

21. Sleeping Me – Lamenter (Phantom Channel)

Sleeping Me is the moniker of guitarist Clayton McEvoy who makes sweeping ambient compositions that are reminiscent of Stars of the Lid, Harold Budd, and Brian Eno. McEvoy uses only guitars and an array of pedals to create his droned out sound. The result is a relaxing and dulcet lull that is perfect for morning coffees or an absorbing book before bed. McEvoy also put out an album entitled “Cradlesongs” earlier this year, but it is hard to find, so I have not heard it in its entirety. However, if “Lamenter” is any indication, it too is sure to be ideal listening for shoegazers, just in the horizontal position.

20. Telefon Tel Aviv – Immolate Yourself (BPitch Control)

In late fall of 2008, I finally saw Telefon Tel Aviv live, and was given a sneak preview of “Immolate Yourself” as they played the album almost in its entirety. Although, I was a tad dismayed at their stripped-down sound, I was still happy to finally see one of my all time favourite electronic duo’s play live. And when this album came out in January, I picked it up immediately. TTA are meticulous producers – their early releases and 2007’s excellent “Remixes Compiled” disc clearly illustrate their amazing attention to the slightest glitch, hiss, and frequency. While still arranged and produced with the same hyper attention to detail, “Immolate Yourself” seems much more restrained and unadorned. Even so, this is dark electro-pop at its moodiest. I think it’s worth owning this album for opening tracks “The Birds” and “M” alone. Fun late night experiment: smoke a joint and try to figure out exactly what Cooper and Eustis are saying over and over in “The Birds”.

Fans of the group will unfortunately know already that just a few days before the album was released Charles Cooper was found dead in Chicago. This was upsetting news, yet ironically helped give the album even more emotional resonance. Telefon Tel Aviv are an ambitious and forward-thinking band and it’s a sad fact the duo won’t be on any more top lists in years to come.

19. Mokira – Persona (Type Records)

Andreas Tilliander returned this year with a beautiful release under his Mokira moniker. Andreas Tilliander has put out some of the finest and most genre-defining electronic releases of this decade: “Ljud” and “Elit” under his own name and “Cliphop” and “Plee” under Mokira. Now a seasoned and respected veteran in the electronic music world, Tilliander’s 2009 release on the lovely Type Records may be his finest album to date. With such strong work backing him up it makes it almost impossible to truly gauge, but suffice to say “Persona” is a brilliant piece of static-warbled and absorbing ambience. Opening track “About Last Step and Scale” begins very much like a Basinski loop, but then after a minute or so, you feel like you’re being pulled downwards, deep below the ‘disentegrated loop’ and into Mokira’s territory. He operates miles below the surface, creating dark bass rumbles, enigmatic rhythms, and low-frequency bleeps and bloops, yet still keeps it melodic at all times. It’s an album I can write to, fall asleep to, but also listen carefully to and get lost within. Andreas Tilliander stole my robot heart years ago and “Persona” reminds me exactly why.

18. The Field – Yesterday and Today (Kompakt)

It took me awhile to get over my initial fears that Axel WIllner’s second album would fail in comparison to “From Here We Go Sublime”. But once I was finally swept into the looped brilliance of “Yesterday and Today” I was hooked, and now think it’s a much more fully realized vision of his musical aesthetic.

The second track “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” slows the tempo down and adds lush vocals in the mix to fantastic effect, and then “Leave It” comes next – a sprawling and emotive track of 4/4 techno bliss – and when the bass hook drops at the 3 minute mark, I am fucking sold. Wooh. One of my fave songs of the year for sure. The title track is also fantastic and features John Stanier from Battles adding some live drums to the mix. Another fine piece of work from The Field and yet another solid release from Kompakt.


17. CYNE – Water For Mars (Hometapes)

Gainsville, Florida’s, CYNE released the fantastic “Water For Mars” this year on Hometapes, and it quickly turned into the most satisfying summer album of the year for me. The production skills of Speck and Enoch are bass-heavy and hip-hop smooove. MC’s Akin and Cise Star play off each other’s rhymes, always trying to compliment each other’s lyrical dexterity. “Pretty Apollo” begins with a Fender Rhodes tinkle and snare pop and quickly builds into one of those hazy summer jams. CYNE’s overall feel is that of next-level hip-hop . . . ain’t no gangsta shit here, just intelligent rhymes, dope production, and positive energy. This was one of my most listened to bike ride albums for sure. I’m such a boombox pimp, pimp, pimp, pimp.

16. Passion Pit – Manners (Frenchkiss)

Passion Pit’s full-length debut fits in with a long line of “dance rock” or “synth rock” bands that I enjoy listening to when a) I want to have a good time, b) I am getting ready to have a good time, or c) I am already in the process of having a good time. Think Hot Chip, Cut Copy, Bloc Party, Phoenix, Hall & Oates et al. It really is quite surprising that a band mixing uber-falsetto lead vocals, a children’s choir, and chipmunk synths, actually sounds this goddamn good. Thanks to the slick production, ridiculously infectious hooks and refrains, and the band’s youthful energy and emotion, “Manners” is a through and through winner of an album, and one I dig a little more with every listen.

Fave track: “Let Your Love Grow Tall”. Lovely.

15. Rameses III – I Could Not Love You More (Type Records)

“I Could Not Love You More” is a soothing and pastoral album full of lush drones and ambient soundscapes. Combining acoustic guitar, lap steel, loops, voice, synths and field recordings of idyllic summer days, the London-based trio have released a relaxing and intimate album reminiscent of Mountains, Helios, The Green Kingdom, and Klimek.

Like all good ambient and modern classical, there’s a sense of weightlessness to Rameses III‘s music, yet there’s still an inherent feeling that a band is playing this music – it’s not overly produced, it’s soft and very organic. Tracks like “The Kindness in Letting Go” and “Cloud Kings” play up the trio’s love for sprawling drone, while tracks “Across The Lake Is Where My Heart Shines” and “No Water, No Moon” are more song-like in composition, where the instruments maintain their sonic shape, rather than morphing into a whirr of sound. Overall, Rameses III has released another fine album and one of my favourite ambient, home listening albums of 2009. C’est tellement beau, le!

14. DJ Sprinkles – Midtown 120 Blues (Mule Musiq)

I have consistently returned to “Midtown 120 Blues” throughout the year and find it one of the smoothest house albums in recent memory. This is house music that conjures up the classic sounds of Chicago and Detroit and is very rewarding after repeated listens. There’s soul here, techno, nostalgia, and rich ambience. The monologues and voice snippets are interesting and introspective and deal with the politics of music and identity. Tracks “Ball’r (Madonna Free Zone)” and “House Music is Controllable Desire You Can Own” are highlights that play just as well in a party setting as they do in a horizontal one. Sexy, sad, deep, smart, and emotional music. Smoooove.

13. Moritz Von Oswald Trio – Vertical Ascent (Honest Jon’s)

One could argue this is electronic music’s answer to rock super group Them Crooked Vultures, because the trio is made up of a) Moritz von Oswald of Basic Channel, Maurizio, and Rhythm & Sound legend, b) Sasu Ripatti, better known as Luomo and Vladislav Delay and Uusitalo and c) lesser known but still prolific, Max Lodenbauer of Sun Electric and NSI fame.

Jesus Christ!

Early releases from Ripatti under his various monikers define some of my finest moments listening to music ever (especially on drugs for Delay and on a dance floor for Luomo), and don’t even get me started on Basic Channel and Rhythm & Sound – the definitive forerunners of stripped down minimal techno and dub techno respectively, and also up there as some of my finest listening experiences ever! So suffice to say, I was stoked and intrigued when I found out the trio, being hyped as a live improv jazz meets dub ensemble, were releasing an album.

Each of the four tracks are simply called Pattern and all range around the ten-minute mark, and they do have a jazzy feel to them. The type of stuff a later Miles would have made if he was, ya know, an android. Pattern’s 1 and 3 both keep the pulsating, rolling percussion throughout, while Pattern 4 is the most dub-like in execution, working at a slower more languid clip and builds hazily, ending with a strange burst of synth. Pattern 2 is the most atmospheric of them all, and sounds like robots slowly building other robots in a factory that has absolutely amazing acoustics.

The fact that “Vertical Ascent” is a live album is also something of note. Especially in a genre of music where many “live” shows consist of nothing more than staring at Powerbooks. These three musicians have been innovating for close to twenty years and show no sign of stopping. Brilliant!

12. Mayer Hawthorne – A Strange Arrangement (Stones Throw)

No other album this year made me smile as much as Mayer Hawthorne’s instant classic “A Strange Arrangement”. This LP is so much fun and infused with the smoothest soul I’ve heard in years. Meshing the sounds of Smokey, Marvin, Curtis, and the Temps, Mayer Hawthorne’s debut plays like a warped 33 from your parents old LP collection, but also manages to sound like the next shit at the same time. Seeing him live was also a great experience, and I hope he continues to refine his throwback sound and innovate a bit more with his next release, but overall when the Mayer’s in town, you know it’s gonna be a good time.

11. Tortoise – Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey)

Post-rock darlings Tortoise release their first album of new material in 5 years and it’s a complete return to form. Sounding like the proper follow-up to 2001’s “Standards”, “Beacons of Ancestorship” truly is a prog album. It is dirty and crisp, sounding like it was recorded underwater and in an air-tight studio at the same time. And as always, their sound is undefinable – dub, post-rock, lo-fi, electronica, dance, spaghetti western, jazz, classic rock, punk, it’s all here in a tight 45-minute set. What more can I really say? Tortoise’s musical influence really knows no bounds. They are one of the best bands in the biz and one of my all time faves. Catch them on their belated North American “Beacons” tour in early 2010. Love it.

10. Memory Tapes – Seek Magic (Rough Trade)

Dayve Hawk took the blogosphere by storm in early 2009 putting up free releases as Weird Tapes and Memory Cassette, and by summer he had wed the best aspects of his two projects to become Memory Tapes. Instead of building tracks with layers of sound, the songs on this album are filled with catchy hooks, choruses and refrains, in proper pop song fashion. Guitar licks reminiscent of New Order, and analogue synths suggestive of Aphex Twin are meshed together to smashing effect in “Green Knight” and “Bicycle”. The choruses of “Stop Talking” and “Graphics” are so infectious and hooky you’ll find yourself singing them for days. Album closer “Run Out” is a perfect come down track, it’s emotional and harmonious, and could easily be stretched out to ten minutes in length and I’d still want to play it over again. Props to Hawk for his musical output this year, and let’s hope 2010 sees him playing some live shows in our respective local areas.

9. Dog Day – Concentration (Outside Music)

It was great to discover an amazing east coast rock band this year, because it’s been many a moon since a group from the Maritimes has really piqued my interest. But in the tradition of bands like Eric’s Trip, Hardship Post, and Elevator to Hell, Dog Day have the lo-fi power pop indie rock thing down to a beautiful science. The vocal interplay is great, and the album is chock full of catchy melodies, smooth synth lines and angular guitars licks. Their live show at The Horseshoe in Toronto was also a great concert and proved the band excels not just in the studio but also on stage. Best band outta the Maritimes since Shotgun and Jaybird for shizz (and they don’t really even count because they orig from the Yukon). Gimme more!

8. Mountains – Choral (Thrill Jockey)

Brooklyn duo Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp have released my favourite ambient/modern classical album of the year. Mountains are up there with Marsen Jules and Loscil for me, because with “Choral” they have crafted a beautiful album that expertly blends the organic with the digital – seamlessly meshing acoustics with electronics to fantastic effect. I have been lulled to sleep by this album more than any other this year, but have also enjoyed it in the early mornings, and while reading and writing. Their live show at The Music Gallery in Toronto was one of my favourite live shows of the year. Using guitars, synths, accordion, melodica, voice, two Powerbooks, and lots of other toys, they created a whitewash of introspective and hypnotizing ambience.

In October, the duo released another album entitled “Etching” that was limited to 1000 copies, and I’ve unfortunately been unable to get a hold of it, but I’m sure it’s just as warm and abstract as the fantastic “Choral”. If you can find it, buy it.

7. The xx – The xx (Young Turks)

Oh youth! In all your angsty, moody, cigarette filled ennui! Let’s write an album so deceptively simple and void of emotion that it will end up being one of the most complex and emotional albums of the year!

Lucky for us, the bloodsuckers behind the “Twilight” travesties weren’t quite hip enough to know about The xx yet, otherwise “Crystalised” would probably be playing during some anti-climactic softcore vampire porn moment in “New Moon”. They already stole Death Cab, Bon Iver and St. Vincent from us, and forever tarnished their musical credence as fodder for vampire-related garbage, and no doubt The xx’s lethargic pseudo-goth sound would have fit right in.

But I digress. The debut album from this young band is a very good one. It’s been hyped to death, and deserves at least most of it. I unfortunately showed up late to their Toronto debut at The Phoenix with Friendly Fires on December 2nd and missed their brief half an hour set. I was upset to have missed them and received mixed reviews from various people at the concert. Perhaps the recent loss of keyboardist Baria Qureshi from the band had something to do with their hasty and as one person said “lackluster” performance. I can’t say for sure, but I think I would have liked their live show. I’ve returned to this album many times since its release and think it’s a melancholic grower worthy of repeat listens.

Fave tracks: “Stars” and “Night Time”

6. Nosaj Thing – Drift (Alpha Pup Records)

Jason Chung aka Nosaj Thing made quite a name for himself in 2009 with the release of his first full-length album “Drift”. While he’s being lumped in with the LA hip-hop scene, “Drift” is far from being simply a hip-hop album. There’s just as much dubstep and leftfield IDM as there is hip-hop. The beats are spastic and crisp, the bass deep, and the synths dark, murky, and atmospheric. This album has continued to surprise me all year with its depth and range. The last half of the album gets a bit more heady, pulling the listener in with its offbeat compositions. Sonically speaking this is one of the best sounding albums of the year with its many layers and intriguing use of samples. I caught his show in Toronto earlier this year and although the turnout was few, Nosaj’s set was great. I look forward to more new music from this young and talented producer.

5. Wax Stag – Wax Stag (People in the Sky Records)

Reminiscent of Solvent, Plaid, Marc Houle, and early Autechre and Aphex, Rob Lee’s debut as Wax Stag is a veritable analogue bubblebath for your ears. Synths, moogs, hand claps, and 8-bit bleeps and bloops help make this album a charming and sonic winner. And for those of us who’ve been listening to IDM and leftfield electronica since before the new millennium, it’ll churn up some serious nostalgia too.

Rob Lee also records music under the moniker Tack Till, a more subdued indietronic solo project, which is really awesome stuff as well. It reminds me of the very first Savath and Savalas album. Check it out and if you haven’t heard Wax Stag yet, please do so.

4. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue (Warp Records)

Stephen Wilkinson aka Bibio released his first album for Warp Records and with it his musical aesthetic expanded twofold. Bibio’s earlier releases “Fi” and “Hand-Cranked” were excellent skewed folktronica, but as he continued to release new music, the sound was getting a bit samey and uninspiring. Definitely not the case with “Ambivalence Avenue” though – Bibio keeps his indie folk roots but tosses soul, hip-hop, and techno in the mix, to create one of the most pleasant surprises of the year, as well as, one of my fave releases. The production is amped, the song writing more structured and deliberate, and the juxtaposition of genres works like a charm.

The remix album “The Apple & The Tooth” also features four new tracks from Bibio, as well as some dynamite remixes by Wax Stag, The Gentleman Losers, Eskmo, and Leatherette, and I find it just as satisying a listen as “Ambivalence Avenue”. A great year for Wilkinson’s musical output, and I look forward to further evolutions of his sound.

3. Lusine – A Certain Distance (Ghostly International)

Jeff McIlwain returned as Lusine this year with “A Certain Distance”. The album is full of Detroit-tinged synths and beats, as well as the addition of vocals from Finnish singer Vilija Larjosto on “Two Dots” and “Twilight”, and Caitlin Sherman on the absorbing “Gravity”. Although, McIlwain doesn’t break any new ground with “A Certain Distance”, the album does an excellent job of straddling the divide between electronica and pop music. The production is smooth and has been tediously tinkered and tweaked with by McIlwain, and in the end it tops my list because it epitomizes that type of melodic techno I like to listen to no matter what mood I happen to be in.

2. POLVO – In Prism (Merge Records)

Chapel Hill, NC post rock legends POLVO returned this year after a twelve year absence and dropped the fantastic “In Prism”. Barely missing a beat in a dozen years, the band (with new drummer Brian Quast) have written my favourite “rock” album of the year. Now, this may partly be because Polvo are one of my all-time favourite bands, and the mere fact that they got back together and put out a new album is enough to warrant them a place on my list. BUT, the album is really fucking good – it’s dark, and moody and off-kilter. However, I do usually skip the first three tracks of the album and start at “City Birds” because the opening tracks sound like a “new” Polvo, all polished and mature, whereas the rest of the album transports me back to the mid-90’s, to halcyon days, to my youth, where things seemed happier. Or better. Or funner. Or I don’t fucking know. More carefree or something.

“Lucia” has some amazing guitar work, with Ash Bowie’s skewed chord progression and Dave Brylawski’s classic rock riffage mixed with Eastern sensibility. The following track “Dream Work/Residue” sounds as if mined from “Exploded Drawing” B-sides and does a good job of churning up the post-rock nostalgia I apparently have become an eternal sap for. Polvo were probably the most influential band for me during my own music making days, with their crooked tunings, fucked-up time signatures, and stoned energy. And so Polvo’s “In Prism” is topping my list for 2009, because like Wax Stag and Tortoise and Lusine, it reminds me of days gone by and the many memories that come with . . .

1. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp Records)

. . . Grizzly Bear‘s “Veckatimest”, on the other hand, reminds me of the future and the past in asynchronous chorus.

Sometimes when a band gets too much hype I will refuse to listen to them. Take Fleet Foxes for example: I just recently began listening to their self-titled debut and now a year after its release I love it. My cousin Chris did the same thing with Burial. While everyone around him was going ape-shit over “Untrue” in the fall of 2007, he staunchly dismissed it, not ready to embrace the dubstep sound that was beginning to inflect electronic music. But a year later, like me and Fleet Foxes, Chris and Burial were having a torrid aural affair…

The way I see it, if a good band puts out a good album, I will eventually get into it, and I don’t care if I’m riding the crest of the hype-wave or not.

Which brings me to Brooklyn based quartet Grizzly Bear. I have never listened to “Yellow House”. Or the “Friend” ep. Or seen them play live. Or really know anything about them. All I do know is that when I finally gave “Veckatimest” a chance, I quickly realized that Grizzly Bear was one of the best young bands composing music in our present day. A throwback to “White Album” era production, elaborate songwriting with many hooks and changes, and amazing vocal work reminiscent of The Beatles, Beach Boys, CSNY, The Guess Who, Bjork and more.

Now this is not to say that they sound like The Beatles, it’s just that the ambition displayed on this album reminds me of the fab-four’s further aspirations for the White Album. Plus, the production value of “Veckatimest” is comparable. The drum toms in “All We Ask” sound like they were stolen from Ringo’s set, and the deep bass slides at the end of “Fine For Now” sound like they must be coming from a Rickenbacher. Yet, Grizzly Bear have appropriated none of Paul’s schmaltz, they’re very much more rooted in John’s sonic textures, rather than Paul’s sentimentality. But enough comparisons to a band it’s stupid to make comparisons to in the first place…

There isn’t a throw away track on “Veckatimest” and it’s subtle infectiousness grows on you slowly but surely. Album opener “Southern Point” starts with a jazzy guitar riff with simple Rhodes chord accompaniment that gets your head bobbing and then builds to a beautiful chorus with strong vocals that remind me of The Guess Who. Second track “Two Weeks” is probably the most accessible track with its sing-along refrain and mid-tempo beat. Standout tracks for me are “Fine For Now”, “Ready, Able”, “While You Wait For the Others” and the beautifully sparse closer “Foreground”.

What an assured, and matured collection of songs, yet, it’s clear the band is still experimenting with their sound(s) and overall aesthetic. No other album this year in any genre has given me a glimpse into the future of music for the next decade like “Veckatimest”, and Grizzly Bear do so by first taking one step backwards into the past and then a strong hop, skip, and jump forward into what’s to come. Fucking awesome. I made it to the end.

BEST NEW ARTIST OF 2009

Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points

Look at that baby face! The fact that he already sounds so goddamn good at the young age of 22 makes me very excited about his future in music. I am already assured of his deftness for sound. Shepherd’s got an ear for sonic composition like Spencer Tunick’s got an eye for the visual. A natural is what I’m calling him.

Everything he’s put out this year has been a warmer, a burner, and a mafuckin’ killer – and still just footnotes to the amazing music he’s going to produce in the next 5 years!

My wish for 2010: A Floating Points full-length please. I imagine it sounding so good it’ll be inaudible.

RIP MJ (1958-2009)

Happy 2010.

Thanks for reading…

ml

Bibio (Warp Records)

June 19, 2009

WARP177

Stephen Wilkinson (aka Bibio) will release his first album for the historic Warp imprint on this year’s summer solstice. This is exciting not just for Wilkinson as a musician (making the jump from the respectable Mush label to one of electronica’s most revered and genre-defining), but also for us the listeners. Why you ask? Because Bibio’s sound has taken quite a jump as well.

His 2005 debut “Fi” and 2006’s “Hand-Cranked” received constant rotation in my waking hours of those years, but his recent release “Vignetting the Compost” was a bit of a disappointment. For all intents and purposes “Vignetting” is a fine album, but it sounds kind of uninspired to me. That’s why “Ambivalence Avenue” is so thrilling. It’s Bibio 2.0 – the production is amped, the song writing more structured and deliberate, and his style has gone from hushed morningtronica to an excellent balance of fractured beats à la Flying Lotus to tender folk à la Crosby, Stills and Nash. And it really works.

The album’s release on the first day of summer is fitting, and so far is in the running for tops of the season. Wilkinson may have very well carved a niche for himself here, stepping out of the Boards of Canada shadow that helped launch his career, but at the same time pigeon-holed his sound. “Ambivalence Avenue” is a sunny yet thoughtful album, perfect for drives on winding highways, impromptu kitchen parties, campfires, picnics, and stoned afternoon bike rides.

Dig it. Welcome summer 2009.

Edit: “The Apple and The Tooth” remix album comes out in mid-November courtesy of Warp Records. It’s a great re-interpretation of choice tracks from “Ambivalence”, as well as, four new songs from the man himself. Nice! It’s got remixes from Wax Stag, Gentleman Losers, Leatherette, Lone, Eskmo, and more! A really tight postscript for Bibio’s sound in 2009. Check it and wreck it!

apple & the tooth