Thursday, June 09, 2011

14 from the front of 2011

Hard to believe the year is approaching it's midway mark already.  It seemed like time to cough up a short list of recommendations of the high points so far.

13 & God - Own Your Ghost
---Members of Themselves and The Notwist reconvene half a decade after their self-titled debut to confront mortality over a hip-hop/electro/acoustic beat that's as captivating as it is edgy and unsetlling.

James Blake - S/T
---UK dubstep producer takes a crack at minimalist RnB.  Like the irradiated skeleton of TV on the Radio.

Bill Callahan - Apocalypse
---third release under his given name for the former Smog leader.  It's another moody and cryptic meditation on America, nature, history and, of course, horses.

Destroyer - Kaputt
---a front runner for this year's Polaris, Destroyer steps up the production and explores an 80s-tinged sound that's long on atmosphere and short on retro-embarrassment.  Bejar is at his lyrical best too.

The Dodos - No Color
---after a fairly lackluster second album this San Francisco outfit comes out hammering all the cylinders with a hyperspeed collection of pop featuring great harmony backup from Neko Case.

Little Scream - The Golden Record
---Laurel Sprengelmeyer is an Iowa-born transplant to Montreal.  After adding her input to that scene's luminary outfits (Bell Orchestre, Arcade Fire, Stars) they return favour by backing her on this debut that rivals their best.

Low - C'Mon
---after experimenting with heavy guitars and electronics this long-running Minnesotan couple has gotten back to basics with an album of slow burning majesty that holds up next to their early best.

J. Mascis - Several Shades of Why
---in the midst of a Dinosaur Jr. rebirth including a Bug tour this summer, J. took a little time to make a solo acoustic album with guestwork from Kurt Vile, Ben Bridwell and others that should please both longtime fans and those looking for a quieter, deeper time.

Thurston Moore - Destroyed Thoughts
---like his buddy Mascis, Sonic Youth's leader seems an unlikely candidate for an acoustic + strings solo album (produced by Beck no less), but it works... and works well.  Like a slightly more nervous Nick Drake masterpiece.

Okkervil River - I Am Very Far
---after the high water mark of Black Sheep Boy Okkervil seemed to be somewhat on autopilot.  Nice to see this rager pull them back on track.  It's the precise storytelling couple with a more angst, energy and production that we've seen before.

The Raveonettes - Raven in the Grave
--- this Danish duo have been on a "not broken / don't fix it" trajectory over their last few albums.  Overshadowed a little by The Kills, perhaps, they still outperform and on this release, out-grunge their competition.

Telekinesis! - 12 Desperate Straight Lines
---Michael Lerner's self-titled debut had a few brilliant moments amidst the ok-to-great flow.  But on this follow-up a livelier crunchy sound props up twelve killer power pop tracks that never ever fail to win.

Timber Timbre - Creep On Creepin' On
---recorded in the gothic depth of his Queen St. Toronto bachelor pad. Taylor Kirk delivers another slab of moody voodoo.  With help on foghorn sax by Colin Stetson Creep On is a horror show that shivers and rattles the bones.

Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo
---rather than re-hashing the all-too-excellent Childish Prodigy, Vile comes back with a collection of tracks that are twistier and briefer, but no less driving in their Midwestern weary ways.

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