It seems like its about that time; a mid-year look at the albums that have clocked up the most time in my rotation. I chose the top 25 with no particular order of ranking really, just the ones I seem to have spent the most time going back to. Lots of great ones aren't on the list and I'm sure lots more will squeeze their way in before the year is out.
Sugar tipped prog-psych in a handy pop suitcase. Noah Lennox uses his Animal collective background as a springboard and reinvents Pet Sounds
for the next generation. This one's likely to hit a few lists this year but I'd have to say that its well worth the adulation.
Panda Bear -Ponytail
Rounding up a heavy hitting roster of helpers, Toth aims to make his most palatable record yet and still manages to create the great bummer folk album of the year. Using the touchstones of Waylon Jennings and Leonard Cohen he's made an album haunted by the road and touched with specks of digestible pop. Letting his inner troubadour turn down the fuzz lets Toth be seen for the great songwriter he has always been.
Wooden Wand -Spitting At The Camera
A dense mixture of smoggy drone rock and rhythmic pop that shifts and molds itself somehow into a surprisingly cohesive album. The Atlanta band have taken their lysergic pop concoction and won over a pretty much anyone they encounter, brining them in right behind Panda Bear for one of the best psych-pop albums of the year. Druggy, hazy and damn fun underneath it all.
Battles have taken their sonic palate from their previous EPs and somersaulted over them. Combining their rhythmic prog-math with some insane sense of pop, they've created a dark, heady cough-syrup rock album. If any band has laid down the future of what rock should become this year it is Battles for sure.
Acid-skronk warriors Raccoo-oo-oon have a penchant for dark and noisy walls of chaos and they've given pretty much anyone in the noise related areana something to be jealous of. They follow their sinister impulses down a ragged path to the secret hollow namesake of the album and proceed to clear-cut jagged rhythms and torrents of sound into your brain; drums skitter and shake while howls and moans lurk in every corner breaking out of a haphazard guitar chug. Delightfully dark and chaotic.
Raccoo-oo-oon -Mirror Blanket
It just wouldn't be a good year without a Glenn Donaldson related release on here. Hitting on a similar "bummer pysch" aesthetic that Sartin and Donaldson contributed to Flying Canyon, this project serves as a cloudy day come down to Donaldson's normally carefree sing-a-longs. A world worn counterpoint to some of the hazily sunny Jeweled Antler releases. Donaldson is again in top form here.
Giant Skyflower Band -Feast of Blood
Japan's premiere shape-shifters of all things sludgy team up with Japanese underground legend Michio Kurihara to create and album that balances taught emotional drone with searing guitar work into an album of epic proportions. The two seem to balance each other nicely; with Kurihara's blistering guitar breaking through moments of tranquility at just the right moment and lighting the seas of drone on fire with fuzz.
Boris With Michio Kurihara -Starship Narrator
Cecile Schott returns to form with an album of heartbreaking beauty and noir temperament. Shirking her former use of samples in lieu of a more natural approach, she composed an album that revolves around her childhood obsession with the viola de gamba. A dark lonesome album that continuously supports Schott's skill and grace as a composer.
Colleen -Sun Against My Eyes
Marissa Nadler sings as if removed from our own time. Her voice is extraordinarily captivating; strong with an icy melancholy that hangs to the edges. She has crafted yet another album of haunting narratives that all sound as if they could have been recorded and left in a dusty trunk for years only to be unearthed by someone fortunate enough to stumble upon someone's private collection of tragedies.
Marissa Nadler -Dying Breed
This record... this band is all about drums, and lots of them. Each member wields sticks like a tribal rite and if not beating the senses out of skins or a keyboard members are given to fits of howling. Pulsating with inner demons that threaten to reach out and tear your eardrums from you, gAame is an intense delusion of sticks and fists and flashes of heat that leave you soaked in tension.
Aa (Big A little a) -Thirteen
Whispered in soft tones that belie their longstanding ties, the two sing without the implication of making an album, just the confidence of two people sharing something for a moment. The most personal records are often the best, and this record with its lyrics wrapped around northeast traditions and the perfect intertwining vocals both hushed and vibrant, seems like oral traditions caught on tape for the first time.
Asa Irons & Swaan Miller -Whitwill
The Grails latest album is a journey further into the reaches of instrumental western psychedelia. You can feel the dust in your nose and throat and the hot wind on the back of your neck with each note. This is a Morricone feverdream; as recapped by the ghosts of Jimmy Page and Tony Iomi. A dark foreboding landscape that continues to wear on the soul even when the cost is clear.
Grails -Dead Vine Blues
After a 6 year hiatus SOTL come back with an incredible, sprawling double album that rises and falls in almost alarmingly serene pulses. It's a dark spiral downward but certainly a perfectly pleasant one. Wiltzie and McBride have nailed the sweet somber vibrations of decay, dissolution and dealing with the inevitability of both.
Stars of the Lid -Humectez La Mouture
Pop Levi has taken this year by force, a pop cannon that screams to be recognized. This album was a full speed slip n' slide through pop, glam and rock influences that, though some put off as derivative is simply too much damn fun to dismiss. An absolute party shaker from start to collapse.
Pop Levi -Hades' Lady
There's something in their music that always seems to match perfectly the feelings associated with precipitation; the fragility of falling water and the wonderfully bittersweet sadness of the music seem intertwined. A beautiful follow up to their previous EPs. Amiina have really emerged from their place in the background as a string ensemble and aid to other's music and taken their place as one of neo-classical's new breed of artisans.
Still mining the water's of 1976, Gustav Estes and crew have created an album that retains the same spirit as their last but turns down a bit of the urgency and ups the moody moments in between the searing guitar. A more evolved Dungen pushing past psych and further into the waters of prog but still with style and a fervor that transcends language and culture.
The band's endearingly sweet melodies are completely shattered by the force and charisma of Becky Stark's vocals. Her delivery fairly shimmers with a hopeful innocence and added to their hippyish leanings towards an overt message of peace and love saving the day make this a completely delightful listen. It's a welcomely unjaded record in a time when cynicism is much more accepted than hope.
Lavender Diamond -Here Comes One
This one comes in as one of the best pop albums of the year. The Bees have captured the secret frequency to some long lost 60's transmitter that beams forgotten radio hits that you just can't put your finger on, but you simply can't stop humming all the same. Their wonderfully eclectic style has captured my attention on their last few releases and this one is no exception. One of the most overlooked British bands to date. Why these aren't radio hits I can only chalk up to the lost in time approach, but as a fan of lost 60's reissues this hits me in just the right way.
The Bees -(This Is For The) Better Days
Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto seem perfectly matched to tap into both the sanguine and apprehensive vibrations that run throughout the veins of life, resulting in a record that is both calm and thought provoking; forcing you to ponder its folds and your own as you listen. Steeped in Sakamoto's effortless piano lines and imbued with Fennesz's keen sense of less is more production, the album is a much easier but no less impressive meeting than the two have produced in the past. This will definitely make the year end and will be hard pressed to be surpassed by another ambient record this year.
Leaving some of the intensity of the guitar drone behind, Matthew Cooper creates an album that is fragile and panoramic at the same time. Echoing much of the musicianship of An Accidental Memory In the Case of Death
, he lets his melancholy symphonic side show through again. Another sweet sad epic that leaves cooper stranded in melancholy and washed through with a sense of unimaginable loss.
Eluvium -Requiem on Frankfort Ave
Jeremy and Christian from Meneguar return to their lo-fi folk project Woods and create another intimate fuzzed out pop gem. The songs are recorded to tape as if the recording process was an after thought but the songs are tender glimpses into the psyche of these two musicians. Full of plaintive odes to love and fear and hope and collision; pock marked lullabies tracked with cigarette ash and eraser marks. These are songs that feel like they may have been left on an answering machine at 4:00 in the morning.
Woods -Bone Tapper
This was another album I didn't hear until a little late, but seeing how I'd loved their debut I'm not sure how that happened. Another great bit of darkly psychedelic pop that ties together themes of late night madnessand plays a bit more smoothly than their last record. Mixing folk, pop and swirling ambience into a Floydian anomaly, the likes of which haven't appeared elsewhere this year.
Still riding the blue collar, DIY Boards of Canada feeling but without all the Satanic rumors. The band has taken their androgynous vocodor wielding sound and injected it with everything from funk to back shed beats and its come out as one of the most beautifully ramshackle sounds around. Another beautiful psych-pop gem from the BMSR camp. Not surprising that others are finally starting to jump onto this one.
Black Moth Super Rainbow -When The Sun Grows On Your Tongue
Jana Hunter returns with a broader but still very personal record. Hunter captures the shady tree moments, a respite from the sun but still in sight of the warmth and brightness that lies all around. Songs make a brush with carefree but always leave some element to trepidation and like a change in the wind she can turn the ease to insular pins and needles. As the summer progresses this has become a wonderful accompaniment to sunny days.
Jana Hunter -Valkyries
Another jangly slice of sunshine from Robert Scneider. The band lost their original drummer but seem to have picked up the pieces and moved forward admirably. Catchy as ever and still setting the bar for a horde of indie-pop followers. Not quite as power pop as the last album but finding a good mix between that direction and their constant love of 60's pop. Excellent, but was there a doubt?
The Apples In Stereo -Energy
via Stereogum (hey I've gotten yelled at for this track before, just coverin' my ass)