Aaron Detroit, Buyer at Amoeba Hollywood. As you may know, I've worked in Hollywood for 8 years, but started my time with Amoeba - way back in 1998 - at the San Francisco store. This is my extensive list of 2011 releases that I fell in love with or had hot and heavy affairs with this year.
- Wild Beasts Smother
In 2008, Brit quartet Wild Beasts released their shaky-legged -but- stunning debut, Limbo Panto. In the four years since, the band has released two thoroughly dazzling masterpiece full-lengths of deceptively delicate indie rock, lyrically bent towards looking in the dark recesses of the heart and libido, largely sung by co-vocalist Hayden Thorpe in his trademark falsetto. Smother finds the band adding a new restraint to their arrangements that allows the tension in the lyrics to hit with hair-on-end chills. It is a singular LP by a singular band that I expect will eventually reach a Radiohead-level stratosphere.
- Björk Biophilia
Biophilia is Björk 's most cohesive and thrilling album since 2001's Vespertine and her downright best work since 1998's Homogenic. The record on paper sounds overly conceptualized (science vs. technology vs. nature) and clinical (it was made in-part with and for an iPad,) but Björk sounds the most connected to her music in at least a decade and it's lyrical concerns are existential at a time when her peers seem more concerned with social and political issues (which Björk largely addressed with 2007's Volta).
- PJ Harvey Let England Shake
There are currently so few "albums of the times" but I believe that is what PJ Harvey has achieved in making with Let England Shake. When "The Words That Maketh Murder" single came out, it was the week of the shootings in Arizona and the song was a weird solace for that general anxiety that these inconceivable events inevitably bring on. I played "On Battleship Hill" on repeat in the wake of the horrid events in Japan, pondering nuclear winter and America's ability to make everything about us (Potassium Iodide tablets sold out in Kansas?). It's a lot to project onto a Rock album, I know. However, I think she really hit the right cultural nerve with Shake and serves up genuinely cathartic listening moments to balance out the complete escapism we all typically engage in to assuage our worldly anxieties.
4. Prurient Bermuda Drain
If Prurient ever had anything in common with Industrial music of the past, it’d be most along the lines of Throbbing Gristle - “Enteratinment Through Pain”. On Bermuda Drain, Dominick Fernow shows up with something close to musical instead, mining his love of 90’s Industrial ala Ministry et al. but largely offering textured and warm aural cocoons one could almost call “pretty”. Intense and truly dark, Bermuda Drain is miles above any of the neo-goth/drag-schlock.
- James Blake James Blake
A 24 year-old English Dubstep producer transforms into a Post-Dubstep crooner with a serious Joni Mitchell obsession. Debut Of The Year.
- CANT Dreams Come True
- Andy Stott We Stay Together / Passed Me By
To begin with, We Stay Together and Passed Me By were really two full-length LPs masquerading as EPs, but now reissued as a two CD set the records make up one sprawling and epic post-apocalyptic dance/freak-out album. There’s something just a bit wrong here, something unnerving. Chains rattle and your body is dragged to the dancefloor. A slowed-down vaseline-lens film of Techno’s skeleton dancing on House’s grave. It’s a dubby and grim affair but infectious as hell. Let’s call it Reaper Rump.
- Kreng Grimoire
‘You don’t belong here’ are some of the only words uttered on Kreng’s (aka Belgian theatre company composer Pepijn Caudron) sophomore LP, Grimoire. These words are the perfect summation of the atmosphere Caudron creates with his albums – you, the listener, are the voyeur of something beautiful but bad, welcoming but evil. Lynchian dream sequences and nightmares meet Hammer Horror torn-apart.
- Atlas Sound Parallax
Somehow, with both Atlas Sound and Deerhunter, Bradford Cox keeps making flawless LPs of fantastic and forward-thinking pop with transgressive storytelling. Parallax is where Atlas Sound finally matches the mighty Deerhunter, though it may not seem that way at first. Much like Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest, Parallax takes a moment to settle in and after a few spins the LP reveals itself to be the stunner it is.
- Austra Feel It Break
Alright, culturally we’re having an ‘80’s moment. From the rampant greed of Wall Street to leggings making a comeback as pants. Also, apparently, Goth and Synthpop have been codified as hipster again. So the timing for the release of Feel It Break couldn’t have been better. Thankfully, even though Austra may be dressed in all the drapings of the genre, they bring a welcomed contemporary queer and feminist bent to their dark floor-fillers. Depeche Mode grooves with Kate Bush Oooh’s.
- SubRosa No Help for the Mighty Ones
Miranda Sex Garden’s Fairytales of Slavery meets The Gault’s Even As All Before Us. My favortie Metal record of 2011 is a coffin of Dust-Bowl Doom performed with 3 female vocalists and electric violins in place of lead guitars.
- Cold Cave Cherish The Light Years
Wes Eisold and Dominick Fernow made a bizarre left turn from the previous minimalist pose of 2009’s Love Comes Close into the polished epic-ness of Cherish The Light Years. Cold Cave, with Light Years, has succeeded at making the Post-Witch House generation’s Born To Run.
- Iceage New Brigade
Chances are you read much about these overly-hyped snot-nosed Danes, but if you’ve heard the record you know it’s the best punk record of 2011 - The utter insanity and confusion of the world shouted back with youthful abandon in 12 short bursts.
- Lifelover Sjukdom
Sjukdom is a solid and quite unique album of melodic, depressive Metal. When guitarist/vocalist Jonas Berqvist (aka ‘B’) unexpectedly died this year , Lifelover (oh! the irony) died with him. Some of my favorite metal since Bethlehem ceased to be the shit. R.I.P. Lifelover.
- Grouper A|A: Alien Observer / Dream Loss
Liz Harris aka Grouper keeps squeaking out these ethereal and dreary masterstrokes on a regular basis. This one’s right up there with Dragging a Dead Deer… If I had to pick a just one of the twin A|A LPs, it’d be Alien Observer for it’s yearning title track.
Triple LP madness made up of Classic Detroit Party Garage covers of Classic Detroit Party Techno! As the sticker on the jacket says: “This ain't no Sandinista, think Metal Box!”
- Kate Bush 50 Words For Snow
This is the release good ol’ Kate has been warming up to since her comeback in 2005. Well, since we are talking about snow here as a concept, we can say she’s been cooling out to this. Despite leftfield lyrical topics like Yeti, weird guest appearances from her 12-year old son, Bertie, and longer, slower arrangements - Snow is the most conceptually successful (if not best) Kate LP since Hounds of Love.
- David Lynch Crazy Clown Time / Chrysta Bell & David Lynch This Train
David Lynch produces music the way he directs film. Crazy Clown Time is the nightmarish alternate reality roadster and This Train is the red velvet-draped dreamboat slowly drowning.
- Active Child You Are All I See
An angel-voiced ginger choirboy from Philly fallen into the depths of Los Angeles and plucking harp(heart)strings alongside lush electro. Despite a white-guy slow-jam duet with How To Dress Well, the rest of it is pure gold.
- Evangelista In Animal Tongue
Former Geraldine Fibber Carla Bozulich releases her best work so far under her Evangelista moniker, and some of the best of her entire career. She’s always been a lyrical exorcist and AnimalTongue is no different with all it’s dark sexual babelogue and religious motifs throughout to wrap her own gilded tongue around. A slow burner with lasting brillance.
- 40 Watt Sun The Inside Room
Basically the new Warning album, but with a little bit more polish. Patrick Walker’s voice is always welcome in my home.
- HTRK Work (work, work)
Post-Riot-Grrrl-Opiatic-Glacial-House from Melbourne.
- Of The Wand And The Moon The Lone Descent
Not the somber neofolk affair one might expect, but a lush, even upbeat, orchestral-apocalyptic-pop with a bit of a Lee & Nancy-vibe. A great new direction for Mr. Larsen.
24. Yussuf Jerusalem Blast From The Past
My favorite French Garage Rockers, who sometime think they’re a Black Metal band, return with another perfectly ramshackle LP.
- Esben and The Witch Violet Cries
Brighton black-clad palefaces cast spells of gothic and folky ambience on reverberated Deathrock guitar crescendos.
- Panda Bear Tomboy
Moodier than it’s predecessor, so it took awhile for this one to settle(much like his pal Bradford’s brillant Parallax), but “Scheherezade” is worth the price of admission alone.
- Patrick Wolf Lupercalia
Wolf’s love letter to his husband and his most unabashedly Pop album to date. He left the best songs for the follow-up EP, Brumalia, but the album reaches romantic heights few Pop records aspire to these days (and certainly don’t reach). Opener “The City” should be on that next mixtape you make for your desired one.
- Der Blutharsch and The Infinite Church of The Leading Hand The Story About The Digging of The Hole and The Hearing of The Sounds From Hell
Der Blutharsch 2.0 is a drugged-out-Psychedelic-Metal-hot-mess. How many tabs of acid does it take to alienate your fan base and make better and all the more unsettling records as a result? Go ask these fucking weirdos.
- Loss Despond
Southern Funeral Doom. So heavy and dark you’ll need to up your meds, but you won’t be able to stop listening to it either. Despond is instantly a classic of the genre.
- Dirty Beaches Badlands
Noir Lo-Fi for late night LA drives.
- Lantlôs Agape
More great blackend shoegaze.
- Rome Die Æsthetik der Herrschaftsfreiheit - Vol. 1- 3
A 3-disc song cycle that looks at art’s role in protest and revolution at a time when the world is in the most upheaval of recent memory. Deep vocals caught somewhere between Leonard Cohen’s sincerity and Andrew Eldritch’s drama on bombastic and folkish ballads.
33. Brigitte Fontaine L'un N'empêche Pas L'autre
Veteran French rascal Fontaine rounds up some of her pals including Grace Jones and Noir Desir’s Bertrand Cantat for a varied but cohesive set. Produced By Ivor Guest who helmed Jones’ comeback LP Hurricane
34. The Caretaker An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
Gorgeous, dark ambient made up of sampled parlor room music from old 78s - easily transports you to a another time and reality. Swoon.
- Meshell Ndegeocello Weather
In the last 5 years or so, Ndegeocello has quietly made and released her 3 best albums. Weather is the last part of this trilogy-of-greatness, using the same band that helped make the last two so outstanding.
- Savoir Faire Hooray For Hollywood
If you were to ask Savoir Faire “Who Are You?” He’d reply that he’s “A Guitar-Totin’ Pimp” and “The Pirate Of The Hollywood Hills” who longs for old Hollywood, Not Doug Fairbank’s Hollywood but Kim Fowley’s Hollywood. However, scratch the surface and under the facade Savoir is just a hopeless romantic seeking a good old lady and a little bit of peace inside this crazy town.
- Planningtorock W
You know the thing behind the dumpster at Winkie’s in Mullholland Drive? I think it made an album. It’s creepy, lovely, and other-worldly.
- epic45 Weathering Robert Wyatt meets Bark Psychosis meets Piano Magic.
39. Raphael Saadiq Stone Rollin’ If not entirely authentic, Stone Rollin’ is successful at xeroxing great vintage and still sounding like thoroughly modern Soul.
A rad hybrid of No-Wave, Deathrock and Six Finger Satellite-worship.
Punky, Folky, Occulty – Cult of Youth, now with a full band!
A Metal opera of sorts concerning gentrification and centering around my old residence and stomping grounds of 17th Street in San Francisco’s Mission District. Every style and subgenre collides here with heavy doses of '70’s organ to boot!
43. Weyes Blood and The Dark Juices The Outside Room
A hazy and lo-fi psych-folk spell caster
44. Cat's Eyes Cat's Eyes
- The Joy Formidable The Big Roar
A big reverberated roar from Wales that mines the peak-era of 120 minutes college-rock ala Pixies, Throwing Muses, The Primitives and My Bloody Valentine. Not as good as the early single versions, but possibly the making of the next big Arena Rock band.
- Dark Castle Surrender To All Life Beyond Form
More great Doom from Profound Lore! Eclectic and textured.
- Death Grips Exmilitary
Other than Shabazz Palaces (which didn't make my official 50), the only Hip Hop record I heard this year that really grabbed me. An assaulting barrage of sound and killer beats with an overall doomy atmosphere. The lyrics are Aggro as all get-out, but the album has a much deeper critique on our culture than is at first apparent.
- Noveller Glacial Glow
Instrumental and ambient guitar work from Sarah Lipstate. Lovely.
- Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats Blood Lust
70’s Satanic sludge and sleaze dubbed from old scratchy reel-to-reels? No, but that’s what it sounds like!
- Craft Void
Killer old-school black metal. Awesome.
Zola Jesus Conatus
Shabazz Palaces Black Up
Sam Mickens Slay & Slake
Lady GaGa Born This Way
Simon Scott Bunny
Lindsey Buckingham Seeds We Sow
Leyland Kirby Eager To Tear Apart The Stars
Balam Acab Wander / Wonder
Wolves in The Throne Room Celestial Lineage
Yannick Franck Memorabilia
Handsome Furs Sound Kapital
Ten Favorite EPs of 2011
- Prurient Time’s Arrow
- Parenthetical Girls Privilage, Pts. III & IV
- Patrick Wolf Brumalia
- James Blake Enough Thunder
- Forest Swords Fjree Feather
- Light Asylum In Tension
- Clams Casino Rainforest
- The Soft Moon Total Decay
- Esben & The Witch Hexagons
- Salem I’m Still In The Night