Most years I spend a lot of time trying to find the best new music. This time it was a bit different. Thanks to the joys of VCE I spent almost every waking moment studying or on one of my many sanity savinghttp://electricskeleton.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=785&action=edit trips to cafes and the pub. The only music I really found myself listening to was stuff that I could sleep or study to, which narrowed my listening habits down to Sigur Ros and Belle and Sebastian.
Because of this I’ve decided to make this a list of best releases rather than albums because it contains a live album and few EPs. Also, I want to give a huge thanks to anyone who’s recommended or sent me music over the past year and saved me from my Dear Catasrophoe Waitress hell.
20. The Drums Self-Titled
While there are many acts jumping on the lo-fi bandwagon, The Drums are one of the best. Their debut album is satisfying mix of 80′s britpop and Beach Boys style surf. While it isn’t the most original album out there, there are enough hooks to keep you interested and is the perfect soundtrack to a summer road trip.
19. John Steel Singers- Tangalooma
I had a hard time deciding if Hungry Kids of Hungary or The John Steel Singers should take this spot, however I gave it to the latter for improving on the EPs (if only slightly). Like you would expect, this album is full of the catchy and off-kilter pop songs John Steel Singers are known for.
18. Girl Talk – All Day
While we could get into all sorts of debates about the legality of Girl Talk’s (AKA Greg Gillis) mash-ups, you can’t deny that they are extremely entertaining. All Day is his fifth album and contains, 373 samples from the likes of The Arcade Fire and Jay-Z. Hearing Ludacris rap over Black Sabbath still hasn’t lost its novelty value and probably won’t for quite some time. The album was released as a free download with no prior notice and is meant to be heard as a seamless mash-up, with tracks added for convience. Highly recommended for long train trips.
17. Washington I Believe You Liar
It’s been a big year for Washington with an album release, record-breaking shows at The Corner Hotel and an epic ARIAs performance that managed to be the one redeeming feature of this years awards ceremony. While the endless radio play, shopping centre soundtracks and festival appearances have dampened the enjoyment of this album for many people, it still stands out as a great collection of pop songs.
16. Scott Spark- Fail Like You Mean It
This is one of those times you shouldn’t judge an album by its cover. Because while it looks like the kind of comedy you’d generally find in an op shop, it’s actually a collection of smart and touching indie-pop songs that cover everything from Christmas to Elvis. If you’re a fan of piano-playing songwriters then you’ll be a massive fan of this record.
15. Outoto- Pip
In the wrong hands this album could come off as being arty for the sake of being arty, but Outoto turn it in to a highly listenable album of quirky and off-kilter pop songs.
14. Darren Hanlon- I Will Love you At All
I couldn’t have an end of year list and not include Darren Hanlon. I Will Love You At All continues his tradition of mixing detailed lyrics about the everyday with gentle folk. While this album isn’t as playful as his previous releases, tracks like the 7 minute ode to visiting your old house and the call and response of All These Things make it an enjoyable listen.
13. Los Campesinos!- Romance Is Boring
On Romance Is Boring Los Campesinos! sound frustrated. The title pretty much gives away the main theme of the album, with plenty of songs detailing failed relationships while the music, while noisier contains all the shouts and claps we are used to hearing. While it could all come off as being too much for one release, Gareth Campesinos’ gift for witty and attention grabbing lyricism holds it all together.
12. Steering By Stars- Cables
Post-rock often gets branded as repetitive and inaccessible, because let’s face it, 10 minute build-ups to a one minute crescendo aren’t exactly the most entertaining thing to listen to. However when it is done right, the results are amazing. Steering By Stars are an Adelaide band whose music could stand up against the likes of Sigur Ros. There is so much going on musically that it draws you in and makes you forget you’re listening to largely instrumental album.
11. Vampire Weekend- Contra
The success Vampire Weekend’s debut album was the catalyst for every band and their dog deciding to add tribal beats and jangly guitars to their sound. unsurprisingly, their second album Contra didn’t have the same impact. That said, it does see the band branch out. California English sees the use of auto-tune and Diplomat’s Sun features a very effective M.I.A sample.
10. Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
This album does nothing to disprove Kanye West’s reputation of being completely bat-shit insane, but this time it’s a good thing. This whole album is crazily ambitious and features guests ranging from Nicki Minaj (who is surprisingly not annoying on this album) to Justin Vernon. Hell, even Pitchfork gave it a 10.
9. Local Natives- Gorilla Manor
For those of you disappointed that we didn’t get to hear the promised Fleet Foxes release last year, this album is a godsend. Featuring three-part harmonies, hand claps and a Talking Heads cover, Local Natives are one of the best things to come out of L.A in quite some time.
8. Jonsi- Go
For years Sigur Ros fans have been attempting to decipher Jonsi’s icelandic lyrics, however when we hear him sing in English on Go, it feels like some of the magic is gone now we can understand what he’s singing. That said, the music is still amazing, and quite surprisingly, mostly upbeat.
7. The Jezebels- Dark Storm
The Jezabels have gained a lot of attention this year but it’s for a very good reason. The songs off Dark Storm sound like they belong to a band who have released a number of albums rather than a few EPs, combining soaring female vocals with the atmosphere of The National.
6. Laura Marling- I Speak Because I Can
When Laura Marling released Alas I Cannot Swim at the age of 18 many people were surprised at the quality and depth of her song-writing, which seemed to reflect the life of someone much, much older. On I Speak Because I Can she shows even greater maturity with folkier accompaniments, more serious lyrics and enough variety to prove she is one of the best things to come out of the London folk scene.
5. Boy & Bear- With Emperor Antarctica
I love it when Australian bands make music that can stand up against the international acts we all obsess over. Case in point: Boy & Bear’s debut EP With Emperor Antarctica. They play indie-folk like nobody’s business, have got the harmonies thing down perfectly and write some incredibly catchy tunes.
4. Arcade Fire- The Suburbs
Many people hoping that Arcade Fire would release another funeral were disappointed with this album. But truth be told, I don’t think we’ll ever get another album like that from these guys. The element of surprise is defenitly absent now and it seems we expect them to release brilliant albums, rather than it being a bonus of sorts. The Suburbs may lack the orchestral swells of their previous work and at 16 tracks it can be a long listen for some. However, when they get it right on tracks like Ready To Start and Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) it is a very rewarding listen.
3.The Basics- The Basics
The Basics recently played what could be their final show, however for those of us who miss seeing them live, they’ve released The Basics, which was recorded at the Northcote Soical Club. This album is a definitive album of sorts featuring tracks from all their albums as well the obligatory cover or two. The Basics are more of a live band than a studio band and if you’re yet to hear them, this is the place to start.
2. Dan Kelly- Dan Kelly’s Dream
There was only a tiny difference between this album and my #1 album and Dan Kelly’s Dream and I have feeling most of it came down to my strange listening patterns this year. This album is Dan Kelly’s first with his dream band and features songs about indie bands blowing up power stations and playing classical music at one of Melbourne’s more interesting train stations, all set to catchy and slightly psychedelic pop music.
1. The National- High Violet
The National have always sounded unhappy, but never more so than on High Violet. The moment the demo-like Terrible Love kicks in you know it’s going to be a dark album and even the more soaring moments such as the brilliant Bloodbuzz Ohio seem restrained. What makes this album so great however, is the way it sounds like a complete album. It does not overstay its welcome and like all The National’s releases, it slowly draws you into to its multiple layers until you cannot stop listening. Addictive and amazing.