I know I’m a few weeks late to the party, but I thought I’d do another installment of my year-end wrap up. I kind of like the idea of going back through everything at the year’s end to make an accounting and organize my own impressions of what I’ve heard this year.
I took in about 170 albums worth of new music this year, and another fifty or so filling in the back catalog. Almost all of these got the three differential listens (speakers, headphones, car), and most of them got a good bit more than that. My overall impression has been that this wasn’t a particularly “new” year. I didn’t hear anything that sounded startlingly unusual, but there were lots of fun takes on familiar sounds.
I’ve included my ten favorite albums from last year in no particular order, with some commentary:
2:54, S/T : Adventures in the lusher-than-Lush region of Collide-like goth-tinged dream pop. No surprises here, but it’s pitch perfect. In other news, VICE compared it to the feeling of going down on your first goth girl in the bathroom of the Werewolf Dungeon.
Drokk : Concept album [√]; by Geoff Barrow of Portishead [√]; about Judge Dredd [√]; in the style of an 80’s minimal synth film score [√]. There was only one chance in twenty I wouldn’t like this album. Mission accomplished Geoff Barrow: you’ve finally tapped into the lucrative “Old Goths who love Judge Dredd, but also like Portishead enough to listen to side projects” market, the Venn diagram of which probably more or less completely overlaps with the regular readership of this blerg.
Chairlift, Something : If you haven’t heard this album, forget what you think you know about Chairlift and watch this, then come back and finish reading. Frivolous, inscrutable, but so, so catchy. Upbeat songs about vehicular homicide with humorous lyrics. Full disclosure: this album is so far into my lane that it only took me about 45 seconds of listening to appreciate that this album was going to be big for me. I heard that insane synth-hook in a demo clip of Sidewalk Safari, and immediately ordered without further reflection.
Marissa Nadler, The Sister - This album reminds me of a specific style of adult contemporary that was popular in the middle oughts pushed through death trauma and delivered to a Homeric hell where everyone just sits around on the abyssal plain, and is bored by the afterlife, each spirit quietly wishing they could trade places with the meanest wretch among the living just to escape the endless lack of sensation. The ghost of Norah Jones doomed to eternal exile, in short album format.
RosenKopf, S/T - Electro-Industrial with incoherent shouting of slogans scratches a deeply-seated itch in me, that I’m not sure will ever entirely go away like a particularly nasty case of scabies you got from Al Jourgensen that time you got to meet him backstage
Grizzly Bear, Shields - This slot was either going to be filled by this album or the new Bear in Heaven album, but I ultimately decided that this album was a little more pleasantly complicated and a little less up its own ass. And it’s really, really pretty. I like it less than their last effort, but (from my perspective) they were already so far out in front a step backwards is still winning.
Swans, The Seer - I don’t really need to explain this to you all. If I have any followers who aren’t Swans fans, I’m not aware of it. This is clearly album of the year material and is probably my favorite Swans album since “The Burning World.”
Andy Stott, Luxury Problems - Ambient, sinister bass music will never not be interesting to me. Does it sound like a haunted factory full of spectral women wailing in torment while also grinding out a third shift? If so, I will buy it. I promise.
Burial, Kindred/Truant- And on the subject of ambient, sinister bass music being of perennial interest to me, Burial’s been on fire this year, and Truant is astonishing. Every release, I think “he won’t be able to surprise me with another permutation of musique-concrete-for-strung-out-hobos,” but it never fails to floor me. And I just wind up driving around (or wandering around) at night listening to it over and over. It makes me feel hungover just listening to it, but I can’t stop listening to it.
Trust, TRST- I’d been waiting for this puppy since I first heard candy walls in early 2011, so when it arrived this year (fully formed like Athena bursting from the head of Zeus) I was pretty stoked. Non-Goths and people without time for New Order or Depeche Mode can just skip to the next entry. Everyone who is still reading should buy this album tomorrow. I haven’t heard a better synth-pop club-goth record since I can remember. Maybe I never heard one.
These are ten additional albums that I listened to frequently and enjoyed a great deal, but that didn’t quite push up into the obsessive listening hall of fame. If you haven’t heard these albums, I commend them to you:
Crystal Castles, III
Julia Holter, Ekstasis
Mark Lanegan Band, Blues Funeral
Raime, Quarter Turns Over the Living Line
Cult of Youth, Love Will Prevail
Sharon Van Etten, Tramp
Lower Dens, Nootropics
Bear in Heaven, I Love You It’s Cool
The Gaslamp Killer, Breakthrough