30) Yeasayer – Fragrant World
If you still haven’t become familiar with the obscure, dance-worthy psychedelia that is Yeasayer, then this latest album is a fantastic place to start. Every song’s turn is unexpected yet comfortable, and I wholeheartedly believe they’re one of the most important bands on the planet right now. They should be opening for Radiohead.
29) Benny Yurco – This is a Future
For any of us familiar with Benny’s dominating axe-slashing prowess, it’s hard to believe there’s not one guitar solo on this, his debut record. But then you realize how great these Kingston via Brooklyn tunes are, and it all makes sense.
28) Actress – R.I.P.
The ambient electronic magic of this album falls somewhere between the subtle wonder of Caribou and the genius production of Flying Lotus. If you’re worried that every producer is being subdued by the womp of dub-step, then this album is a huge sigh of relief.
27) Heems – Wild Water Kingdom
Heems released two mix-tapes this year that made you realize that maybe Das Racist breaking up isn’t as big of a bummer as first instincts project. Things clicked perfectly on WWK, where laid-back, spun-out beats created the perfect backdrop for his hilarious and furious attacks.
26) Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Modern soul music needed a good kick in the head, and thank God Ocean showed up to do it. Like anybody who’s heard it, I think the record is killer, but I feel it lacks the amazing hooks found in previous singles like “Novocaine” and “Swim Good.”
25) The Black Keys – El Camino
Shit, who would have thought a few years back that the Akron duo would become the biggest band in America? Bringing back Danger Mouse was a huge move, even though this album comes in a solid third to their previous 2 efforts. And yeah I know, this album actually came out in December of 2011, but it was fucking everywhere this year so deserves its spot on the list.
24) Dinosaur Jr. – I Bet on Sky
Ahhh, the 3rd album since Dino Jr.’s reunion 5 years ago is once again consistently amazing, and finds Mascis and crew truly at the top of their game. If you ever loved this band and haven’t given the new stuff a try, be prepared to love them even more than ever before.
23) Swans – The Seer
The legends of post-punk made the greatest album of the career this year, 30 years after this debut. Centered around the half-hour long title track, drone and darkness have never coexisted in such a land of triumphant light.
22) Dr. Dog – Wild Race E.P.
The tunes just keep fucking keep coming from the Dog gang, and like always, they’re undeniably amazing. I have no clue why “Be the Void” wasn’t on this year’s album of the same name, other than the fact that they needed to prove how many amazing songs they had tucked away still.
21) The Shins – Port of Morrow
Sure, James Mercer may have once again hired an entirely new band for this album, but his consistent onslaught of amazing songs makes him allowed to do whatever the fuck he wants. Deceptively complex pop music at its apex – keep em’ coming James.
So Brooklyn groove-freaksters Yeasayer have been prepping for the August 20th release of their highly anticipated 3rd album, Fragrant World. Today they announced that they got word their album was about to be leaked, and it really seems like it’s not their intention. I still have yet to fathom how this process actually works… I mean, you got your band and the dudes making your record…obviously one of them must have leaked it, right? It’s not like the pizza boy grabbed the master tapes off some shelf – hell, there’s a good chance that physical masters don’t even exist for this album. Can hackers hack right through to a studio’s computer now? Seriously, how the hell does that shit work? Either way, to thwart the invisible hands that are threatening to take the artistic control and power out of the band’s own hands, today Yeasayer announced PSCYVOTV – standing for PREEMPTIVE SELF-COMMISSIONED YEASAYER VORSTELLUNG or TRACK VISUALIZER.
Essentially, the band made 11 quasi-videos for each song on the album, hid them throughout the internet, and now pledges to only leave them up until 8Pm EST this Friday, August 3rd. So basically they’ve put the whole album out there, but in a really hard to access formula, and set to videos that will sound really shitty if someone tries to make mp3s out of them. So you know, you rock your book-faces and your twitter-bombs and these things pop up I guess.
My only question is of when this idea actually came into play. Did they throw this shit together all last night in a quick attempt to take control of their own music, or was this some planned out thing? If it was a sudden move, then I applaud them. If it was planned, then I applaud them for making me think it’s a sudden move. Either way, I’m not that great with secret internet shit so I’ve only found a few. Here’s one – I can’t even tell what the track is called, and I suppose this video will disappear in 53 hours but here it is… I love it actually, super trippy ambient for the 1st half, and then the subtle digi-tribal beat kicks in. It sounds like Yeasayer for sure, but it’s also massively fresh and unique for them. And unlike the new Animal Collective tracks, this shit sounds like nothing Ive ever heard before. Dig it, I’m definitely on board.
50-41 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=122
40-31 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=124
30 – 21 – http://www.ishitmusic.com/?p=125
20) Booker T. Jones – The Road from Memphis
- With the MGs, Booker T. forged the cornerstone of instrumental soul music, and this album is by no means just a nostalgic celebration. Ideally having most of The Roots backing him up, Jones is still all about filling the pocket rather than playing crazy organ arpeggios. There’s an amazing take on Lauren Hill’s “Everything is Everything,” a killer cut with Jim James on vocals, and a crushing tune with Lou Reed called “The Bronx” which if you can imagine what it sounds like, I assure you it’s even more badass.
19) Panda Bear – Tomboy
- Five years ago Person Pitch was released, and its’ influence on the independent music scene has been enormous. Tons of young kids realized their whiny acoustic tunes could sound way cooler with massive echo, drone, and repetition; and the genre known as electronic music suddenly took on much more depth than anyone could have realized. Tomboy is a perfect continuation of this master’s craft, with a touch more focus on melody lines but still that same ‘float up to Neptune on a sunny day’ feel.
18) Tennis – Cape Dory
- Yeah, this album is definitely geared more towards the harmonic desire of my fellow Caucasians, but what do you expect from a band named Tennis? There are plenty of duos out there right now fronted by female vocals, but this husband/wife act makes it sound far more natural than the rest. Part 50’s doo-wop and part gritty roots-rock, this is the new theme music for hipsters on sail-boats who want to puke when they hear Steely Dan.
17) Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part II
- Hi, my name’s Adam King. I’m 31 years old, and I fucking love the Beastie Boys. Sure, this isn’t their finest work but it’s still ultra-hype, has a bunch of incredible tunes, and gives credit to me wanting to wear skate-shoes until I die. Hopefully, MCA fully recovers from nasty throat cancer, and we won’t have to consider this their swan-song. Either way, it melds perfectly into the rest of their catalogue, with tunes like “Make Some Noise” being able to theoretically exist on any of their albums.
16) The Black Keys – El Camino
- It took a few albums, but The Black Keys are now officially the coolest band on the planet. Creating a thicker sound as a duo than most full bands out there, this is where the soul of rock and roll dwells these days. Despite Danger Mouse reprising his production role, this is one of the first times that an album he’s touched doesn’t sound simply like a Danger Mouse record – which is a testament to how well these guys fit together. And if you haven’t been to a strip-club in a while because you got tired of hearing Van Halen on repeat, I assure you that half the girls only dance to The Black Keys these days.
15) My Morning Jacket – Circuital
- After the rather dis-conjunct feeling that 2008’s Evil Urges left me with, I decided it was best to lessen my expectations of MMJ. Then this album dropped and they became my heroes all over again. The huge, slow build of the opening “Victory Dance,” the undeniable power of “Holdin’ on to Black Metal,” and the slow time-pod ballad “Slow Slow Tune” are 3 of my favorite tunes the band’s ever released. They are defining what the modern idea of a true rock band should be.
14) The Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
- Calling this band punk-rock is like calling Jonathan Richman punk-rock; it’s more of a mentality than it is a sonic connection. After over a decade as a band, these guys have settled into their niche of just writing cool, catchy tunes and not giving a fuck what anybody wants to call them. This is the kind of band The Peanuts Gang would be really into during their high-school years, and Arabia Mountain finds them at the top of their form.
13) Bon Iver – Bon Iver
- Regardless of the mythical hype that swirls around Justin Vernon these days, and as much as I initially tried to deny it, this album is incredible. It initially comes off as way too simple, but then you realize that it’s actually totally complex. Masterful use of different layers and incredibly melodic chord changes take what could have been an incredibly drab and boring collective of tunes, and make them incredibly thick and literally brilliant. I didn’t want to love it, but I fucking love it.
12) Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi – Rome
- DM took 5 years to make this album, teaming up with Italian composer, Luppi, and re-assembling many of the same musicians used in the old Spaghetti Westerns like “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.” Essentially imagine that movie just came out, and Danger did the soundtrack and this is what you’d get. The creepy choir and dark strings, Jack White singing on a few morbid tracks, and a few with Norah Jones sounding badass for the first time in her life. This album is epic, and magical, and sadly overlooked by too many this past year. I personally thought it was gonna get nominated for at least a few Grammys.
11) Yeasayer – Live at Ancienne Belgique
- Ok, so this album was actually released a few days before 2011, but whatever, I make the rules. The tribal psych-rock of Yeasayer is presented with a whole new power here. A pristine recording from a Belgium show in the Fall of 2010, this is the album that can turn a whole different amalgamation of your friends onto this band – both head nodding hipsters and funked out post-hippies. It’s big, it bounces, it rocks, and it’s everything a great live album should be.
So if you’ve completely flaked on the Valentine’s day front, and your loved one is a most hip cat, then the off-beat Brooklynites of Yeasayer have got you in control. Today the band released a new video for the track “I Remember” off of last year’s brilliant Odd Blood LP, as well as a three-track EP of the songs with some different remixes. You can go to the band’s website today, and they have a link where you can send the EP to a loved one in the form of a digital valentine – pretty fly, but believe me the girl still wants flowers. Check the link at www.yeasayer.net or watch the video below.
In other most lovable V-Day news: LCD Soundsystem will appear on The Colbert Report tonight – Radiohead‘s new album The King of Limbs will magically appear on Saturday – and I’ve included my favorite love song of all time below the Yeasayer video just in case their neo-psychedelic seizure-inducing video makes your head feel as funny as mine did after viewing.