mxdwn’s Top 40 Albums of 2011

December 16th, 2011
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2011 was another great year for both music and MXDWN alike. The sheer wealth and variety of albums and artists that came across our desk this year made picking favorites a near impossible challenge. In fact, no writer’s number one album was the same. A testament to a memorable year if ever there was one. Fortunately, after some hard work, thought and compromise, we are able to proudly present you our Top 40 Albums of 2011. Read on. Listen. Learn. Love.

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40. Young the Giant – Young the Giant

Music, my long-lost lover, has finally returned in the form of the critically acclaimed Young The Giant. Soaring high on well-penned lyrics and crystal clear, tear-jerking harmonies, frontman Sameer Gadhia pours himself into every single note. This soul-stirring, unabashedly haunting album combines the best parts of Maroon 5, Kings of Leon, Weezer and Duncan Sheik with a polished yet vintage feel. Although “Cough Syrup” was their chart-topping goliath, opening track “My Apartment” prostitute homage “St. Walker” and the heart-wrenching “Typhoon” are definite show-stoppers.

Aisha Humphrey

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39. Wye Oak – Civilian

Wye Oak’s first major label release is a bit of a bittersweet affair. On the one hand, they’ve been quietly paying their dues for the past five years without having to resort to any of the gimmickry that indie folk usually falls pray to. On the flipside, a favorite “my secret band that no one outside the Baltimore area knows about” has gotten scooped up by a major label. Civilian at least sees Wye Oak’s labors coming to fruition in pretty pleasant and surprising ways. In time, Civilian will either be the first step on a long career for Wye Oak or their last dance with legitimacy.

Nathan Leff

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38. Boris – Heavy Rocks

Instead of just cranking out a Western-style sequel to Smile, Boris takes a step back and looks at where they’ve come from and where they’re headed from here. While it has the same name and nearly identical album cover as 2002’s Heavy Rocks, the new album, which features long-time collaborator Michio Kurihara on guitar, seems to vacillate between the hard, fast and aggressive riffs we’ve come to expect from Boris and their more droney inclinations. It merges in an interesting way in the form of “Leak, (Truth, yesnoyesnoyes),” which has it’s feet in both styles.

Nathan Leff

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37. Lady Gaga – Born this Way

For her second album, Lady Gaga could have continued to create edgy-yet-radio-friendly dance pop about disco sticks, telephones, and boys, boys, boys while maintaining her number one status. Instead, she photoshopped her screaming head onto the grille of a motorcycle and released Born This Way, complete with Euro-dance trash, ’80s riffs worthy of Def Leppard, religious commentary only a conflicted Catholic girl could pull off, and many other WTF moments. Enough dance tracks to keep mainstream audiences hooked and more than enough rabbit holes for diehard fans to get lost in, Born This Way is an album that only gets better with each listen.

Alyssa Fried

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36. Ghost – Opus Eponymous

There’s really nothing to be said about Ghost that isn’t instantly apparent. Backed by a crew of hooded Nameless Ghouls on bass, guitars, and drums, Papa Emeritus, His Most Satanic Pope, sings with Hasslehoff-ian catchiness and an almost macabre levity about Elizabeth Bathory (the infamous “Blood Countess”), human sacrifice, and the ever prevalent and potent power of Lucifer himself. This is exactly the sort of album Catholic school clergy take from you, and one that you’ll catch your Monseigneur humming to himself later.

Nathan Leff

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35. Africa Hitech – 93 Million Miles

Alumni from electronic groups Spacek and Global Communication come together for an album that is, frankly, equal parts Africa and high-tech. 93 Million Miles is a bracing, uplifting collection of rhythms and riffs suggesting the likes of Fela Kuti (”Light the Way,” “Do U Wanna Fight”) as well as leftfield techno and early intelligent dance music (”Foot Step,” “Our Luv”).

Adam Blyweiss

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34. Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

With Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, Explosions in the Sky Get back to their roots. Multiple guitars rule the sound with a loud/soft dynamic, while drums come crashing through and barely there bass accentuates. The Austin quartet’s signature styling of cathartic instrumentalism plays whichever role the listener chooses it to.

Sania Parekh

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33. iwrestledabearonce – Ruining It For Everybody

Despite the ridiculous name and song titles, iwrestledabearonce are anything but silly. Songs like “Next Visible Delicious” and “It Is ‘Bro’, Isn’t It?” combine unadulterated death metal with atonal guitar stabs, bright synths, and anything else the band can imagine. But unlike most bands in this situation, iwrestledabearonce have found a way to make all these disparate styles work together beautifully. Be sure to check out the squealing electronic noise and punishing breakdowns of “Gold Jacket, Green Jacket.”

Josh Neale

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32. The Black Lips – Arabia Mountain

The Black Lips present a shinier ultra concentrated version of themselves with Arabia Mountain. Producer Mark Ronson lent his Midas touch, causing no harm to that signature Black Lips garage-punk sound. He simply refined away with the best in ‘60s style recording techniques to near kooky, poppy, psychedelic perfection.

Sania Parekh

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31. Darkness Falls – Alive In Us

Hailing from Copenhagen, Darkness Falls duo Josephine Philip and Ina Lindgreen surprised us with the lush, dark, dream-pop of their debut Alive in Us. Playing in a ghostly fashion, never raising the tempo beyond a moderate to-and-fro, the band’s music is alluring and enticing. Danish electro star-in-the-making Trentemøller produced this album and brought his knack for cinematic scale to the music. You may not have heard of the band’s strongest single “Hey!” yet, but believe us dear readers. In time, you will.

Raymond Flotat

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30. The Book of Knots – Garden of Fainting Stars

Two of the three members of The Book of Knots, Matthias Bossi and Carla Kihlstedt, are recent exports from art rock/prog rock titans Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Seemingly out of nowhere, the group delivered their newest full-length Garden of Fainting Stars, featuring top-not guests Mike Patton, Blixa Bargeld and Trey Spruance. The album is a mutating and polished set of sonic experimentation, taking what could be an abrasive mess and turning into a head-nodding batch of eye-opening compositions. This trio represents the best of what experimental music could be.

Raymond Flotat

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29. Austra – Feel it Break

Katie Stelmanis is to Canadian trio Austra as Florence Welch is to her Machine. There are definitely some vocal similarities, but where the latter go for plangent rock, the rest of Austra fill their time and space with gothed-out beats. That might sound like an easy way to differentiate, yet Austra can both match Flo’s mainstream theatrics (”Shoot the Water”) and create their own dark paths to the club (”Beat and the Pulse”).

Adam Blyweiss

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28. Neon Indian – Era Extrana

With his follow-up to 2009’s lauded, micro-genre defining debut Psychic Chasms, Alan Palomo made Neon Indian’s sound darker, cleaner, and arguably better. Pristine dance single “Polish Girl” proved him worthy of sharing the club floor with any of his mainstream contemporaries from this year or beyond, while confident album highlights “Hex Girlfriend” and “The Blindside Kiss” found him rocking and swaggering his way right out of his former chillwave constraints.

Robert Huff

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27. Foster the People – Torches

Torches channels your inner Tom Cruise; making you dance in your underwear, jump on couches and yell “Call It What You Want!” Foster The People’s debut is easily the indie-rock-electro-pop party album of the year. With three hit singles; “Helena Beat”, “Pumped Up Kicks” and “Call It What You Want,” they know what their audience wants. Reminiscent of a light-hearted version of Silversun Pickup’s Brian Aubert, Mark Foster’s penetrating voice breathes an urgency into the lyrics. Lacing social commentary and inspirational messages with hand claps, whistles, heavy synth, piano and distorted keys, Torches is pure fun.

Aisha Humphrey

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26. Anthrax – Worship Music

Even with an 8-year lull, perennial thrashers Anthrax haven’t slowed down a bit. The return of classic vocalist Joey Belladonna is a welcome sight, and his presence, combined with modern production values, bring the band screaming into the 21st century. Songs like “Earth On Hell,” “Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t,” and “The Devil You Know” are vintage Anthrax, while “I’m Alive” and “In The End” slow things down to a grind while retaining the punk attitude. Don’t miss the ominously catchy chorus on “Judas Priest,” one of their best.

Josh Neale

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25. Cat’s Eyes – Cat’s Eyes

For those who loved the reverberated, decades past style of The Horror’s latest album Skying, Cat’s Eyes is a project and album not to be missed. A collaboration between The Horrors lead singer Faris Badwan and soprano singer Rachel Zeffira, Cat’s Eyes is a ’60s-inspired redux of girl-group and spy-groove pop music. It’s an album drenched in cool, never quite rocking, but creating a lush tapestry perfect for your throwback party or grey Sunday afternoon.

Raymond Flotat

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24. Toro y Moi – Underneath the Pine

A lot of people are getting a good chuckle from Chaz Bundick for choosing his own album as his favorite of 2011. But all joking aside, can you blame him? When it seemed like the dead-in-the-water chillwave moniker was becoming an albatross to all attached to it (though Washed Out and Neon Indian have both rebounded nicely), Bundick took a sharp left turn. He stripped down the electronics, went more organic with the instrumentation, and let his knack for songwriting and pop compositions speak for itself even louder than on his underrated debut. Then, after proving himself a worthy successor to the crown left vacant by Stereolab (oh yeah, I went there), he released a victory lap EP to remind us that he could not only still do his old stuff but do it even better. Nice work, Mr. Bundick. By all means, own it.

Robert Huff

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23. Hank III – Ghost to a Ghost

Hank Williams III outdid himself this year, releasing four albums worth of material on the same day. The best of these four was the country-focused Ghost to a Ghost. This album earns high-marks for Hank III’s ability to slow his own pace and not lose any of the joy of previous albums, coupled with his own determination to drag outlaw country music into the 21st century and stretch its boundaries. “Gutter Town,” the double shot “Ray Lawrence Jr.” and the album’s title track take country to the next level.

Raymond Flotat

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22. Battles – Gloss Drop

Half the joy in listening to Battles is guesswork. Deciphering what genre is being presented, or how a certain sound is actually created. Highlighted by an impressive roster of guest vocalists like Gary Numan following the departure of former lead singer Tyondai Braxton, Gloss Drop is a showcase of something truly original.

Sania Parekh

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21. Between The Buried And Me – The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues

Intended as a taste of things to come, Between The Buried And Me’s newest EP blends the band’s swirling guitar harmonies and guttural screams with classical composition techniques and gorgeous electronic soundscapes. From the opening Stravinsky strains of “Specular Reflection” to the gypsy polka interlude on “Augment Of Rebirth” to the Zappa-esque xylophone breakdown on “Lunar Reflections,” The Parallax is unlike anything we’ve heard from the band so far, and promises something truly incredible from the band very soon.

Josh Neale

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20. Evanescence – Evanescence

Three albums into their career, Evanescence gets better and better. Lead singer Amy Lee has taken the somewhat generic template of their multi-platinum debut Fallen and pushed it to a more defined and credible state, rocking harder, singing with more passion and ultimately making the songs a balanced state of abrasive and heartfelt. Haters be damned. Never have ascending piano lines, soaring vocals and power chord crunch felt so natural and timely. Why can’t hard rock and metal be understandable and confrontational? Kudos to Amy Lee and guitarist Terry Balsamo for making a hard rock album that features real singing and rocks with convincing authority.

Raymond Flotat

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19. My Morning Jacket – Circuital

The high concept of My Morning Jacket’s Circuital – that of life’s intertwining circuitry – places this album in the same neighborhood as Dark Side of the Moon. In the opening number “Victory Dance,” Jim James narrates a surveillance of the earth seeking life’s potential. From this bird’s eye view, we celebrate recklessness in “Outta My System” and the necessity of excess in “Holdin’ On to Black Metal.” We say good-bye to a child in “Slow Slow Tune” and finally to all of life in “Movin’ Away.” It’s easy to miss these themes because the music itself is entrancing. Mixing classic southern rock and modern experimentation, MMJ is an anachronism to an anachronism, timeless but representative of today. Circuital takes the best the band has to offer and expands it into this cohesive work of art.

Chad Gorn

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18. Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – We’re New Here

This year, it seemed cracked-beat rap and electronica producers turned to gold everything they touched. Clams Casino, the Odd Future crew, Balam Acab, The Weeknd, Daniel Lopatin and their ilk were at music’s forefront, propping up rhymes and club atmospheres with introspective elements of subgenres like witch house, chillwave, and dubstep. What most people forgot was that Jamie Smith, the producer behind downtempo upstarts The xx, got this ball rolling back in February. Assembling a wide variety of styles behind carefully chosen snippets and full songs from Gil Scott-Heron’s final proper album I’m New Here, We’re New Here finds Smith comfortable with all—techno (”Ur Soul and Mine”), dub (”Home”), acid jazz (”The Crutch”), even GSH’s jazz roots (”My Cloud”).

Adam Blyweiss

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17. Puscifer – Conditions of My Parole

Though the album cover and corresponding artwork may be hilarious and imply that nothing serious will be found in its contents, Puscifer’s Conditions of My Parole is anything but what it seems. Unlike previous full-length V is for Vagina, which featured numerous numbers poking fun at religious and sexual content, Parole is all business. The songs shift like the undulating waters of a turbulent sea between plaintive introspective songs and foreboding portents of the dark times ahead (or perhaps even here right now?). Maynard James Keenan’s art/comedy project has become an impressive project of unique style as high in quality as A Perfect Circle or Tool has been known to be. Here Keenan shares vocal duties almost exclusively with frequent collaborator Carina Round. The album’s denouement “Tumbleweed” is a chilling refrain of the album’s opening melody lightly cooed “Home / You’re so far away / come on home.”

Raymond Flotat

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16. Mastodon – The Hunter

Atlanta quartet Mastodon never fails to disappoint. Consistently delivering a sound as hairy as their prehistoric namesake, the band brings a lot of maturity to their album The Hunter. Tracks like “Black Tongue,” “All The Heavy Lifting,” and “Spectrelight” are awash with the classic Mastodon elements of dirty vocals, gritty guitars, and pummeling drums, while songs like “The Creature Lives,” “Bedazzled Fingernails,” and “The Sparrow” show the softer, proggy side of things. There’s also a greater emphasis on band collaboration, with drummer Brann Dailor contributing more vocals and songwriting than ever before. Once again, Mastodon has proven that they can write any kind of record they desire, and still retain that unmistakable Mastodon flair.

Josh Neale

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15. The Decemberists – The King is Dead

The King is Dead represents a departure for The Decemberists. Absent are the epic shanties and multi-part mini-operas. Instead, Colin Malloy & Co. offer ten radio-length, alt-country-folk gems, assisted by notable guests Peter Buck, Gillian Welch, and David Rawlings. King initially feels like a step backwards from 2009’s ambitious The Hazards of Love, but in reality it’s a new challenge. There’s an art to writing pop songs, and the band illustrates this mastery within the confines of brevity and simplicity without compromising the strength and beauty that make The Decemberists who they are. There is plenty of variety within these limitations. Malloy’s songwriting skills shine on stripped down “January Hymn” and “June Hymn.” “This is Why We Fight” and “Rox in the Box” display poignant intensity, “All Arise” and “Calamity Song” are delightful and fun. King is accessible, but the band’s integrity remains intact.

Chad Gorn

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14. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

Fans of Harvey have been admiring her sharp tongue for almost twenty years now. Some devotees have found the charm and worth in every record, which is more of a challenge on some of the earlier ones (’Boy was she pissed’). But this record’s stunning beauty is undeniable: the scope is impressive, the songs are brilliantly written, and her voice and playing is as much of a marvel as they’ve ever been. Theme records are a risk. But she decided to write an LP about Britain and knocked it out of the park. It’s a celebration of all things UK, from darkness to light, misery to ecstasy, and cleanliness to shambles.

Bill Chenevert

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13. 65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway

Sheffield, England’s 65daysofstatic knocked the ball out of the park this year with the deluxe edition of their latest album We Were Exploding Anyway. Within 90 seconds of the album’s opening track “Mountainhead,” the band establishes their precise talent for developing tension, enrapturing texture and manic changeovers. It’s a rapid-fire onslaught of electronics that make you want to dance, riffs that make you want to bang your head and arrangements that capture your imagination. “Crash Tactics,” “Piano Fights” and “Dance Dance Dance” all bring a maniacal attention to detail and level of excitement that few bands can rival. The Cure’s Robert Smith even makes a guest appearance on epic track “Come to Me.”

Raymond Flotat

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12. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

The pulse of thudding tympani, an orchestra of cello and violin, gritty wurlitzer and swells of synths are stirred by Lykke Li’s petite, almost child-like voice in her triumphant sophomore album. Conjuring vocals like Bjork and Mette Lindberg of Asteroid Galaxy Tour, Lykke Li masterfully blends multiple genres. Resounding universally, songs like “Jerome“ and “Unrequited Love” flirt with ’60s girl group “Shoo-wops” and harmonies, while the seductive “Love Out of Lust” echoes the ’80s film “Dirty Dancing” and the hit single “I Follow Rivers” can stand out in any dance club rotation.

Aisha Humphrey

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11. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up

The most imaginative, exhilarating hip-hop record in years. Former Digable Planets member Ishmael Butler, or “The Palaceer” as he calls himself nowadays, elevates the genre to heights untouched by any other rapper in as long as I can remember. At once free-thinking, thought-provoking and mind-blowing, the futuristic sounds and songs here tower over almost everything else released this year for both sheer ambition and control of craft.

Robert Huff

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10. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact

Simultaneously a summation of past triumphs and a new beginning, this is the record Gang Gang Dance’s entire career seemed to be building to. Taking every pop inclination of 2008’s Saint Dymphna to its logical, often exquisitely extreme conclusion while streamlining its sprawl, the band has achieved positively cinematic new heights. Even the untitled interludes that bridge the songs feel less like palette cleansers this time than necessary parts of a dazzling, comprehensive whole. From the sun-kissed opening swell of “Glass Jar” through the towering “Thru and Thru,” the record plays like one gloriously extended climax. One showstopping highlight after another that grows and morphs like a living entity (especially live, where Lizzi Bougatos proves herself a peerless front person). There are enough ideas for a band’s entire lifespan in the first half of this album alone, and it leaves me a gasp at the thought the these guys may only just now be getting started.

Robert Huff

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9. Adele – 21

This year, no one has made pain sound more beautiful than Adele in her second album. Channeling younger versions of Aretha Franklin and Carole King, Adele’s bittersweet tales of love, heartbreak and vindication have become anthems. Belting out woeful lyrics atop infallible melodies, Adele has single-handedly rejuvenated the pop ballad. Not since Whitney Houston’s Bodyguard era have there been so many true ballads on the pop charts, and rightfully so. The David Foster-esque production on this album astounds, as every last detail from the breaths she takes, the cracks in her voice, and the tiniest of percussive instruments can be heard clearly. Even the depth of the piano is so rich and full, that one would swear he or she is curled up inside of the instrument. Pushing boundaries, the British artist encapsulates country in “Don’t You Remember,” bluesy-rock in the Lynyrd Skynrd-esque song, “I’ll Be Waiting,” Motown in “One and Only” and even pop-rock in “Set Fire to the Rain” and the underrated cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong.” With soulful powerhouse hits like “Rollin’ In The Deep” and “Someone Like You,” Adele has established herself as an eternal mainstay in pop music.

Aisha Humphrey

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8. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

There isn’t much I’d change about For Emma, Forever Ago–I still listen to it regularly due it its sincerity and raw form, but that isn’t to say there’s no room for improvement, which is exactly what we receive on Bon Iver’s self-titled album. Bon Iver is more than a folk album. You’ll hear brief remnants of Emma, like in the beginning of “Holocene,” but the songs on Bon Iver blossom into much more. “Michicant,” like every other song on the album, excels lyrically and exemplifies the “drunk” state of the album both in the lyrics and in the sound. For anyone doubting Justin Vernon’s sincerity on Bon Iver, I would suggest seeing a live show. Watching them live is anything but the Justin Vernon show. The band, consisting of up to nine people at once on stage, come together for a true performance. Sure, Vernon is the heartbeat of this band and his voice is incredibly distinct, but it is important to note how well Bon Iver came together as a band in this album.

Nicole Goddeyne

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7. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

This album is all about layers and imagination. Stacked with more instruments than Anthony Gonzalez & Co. have used on any other M83 album, Gonzalez says that Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming album is a clear representation of himself. Beginning the two-part album with Zola Jesus duet “Intro” and the single “Midnight City” provides enough incentive to listen to all 22 tracks. Even the instrumentals are unskippable. Those tracks are there for a reason, like a 600-page novel with every sentence deemed important and necessary. There is no filler here. Other notable songs include “Raconte-Moi Histoire” and “Steve McQueen,” because Steve McQueen is a badass.

Nicole Goddeyne

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6. Atlas Sound – Parallax

Bradford Cox has come a long way in the past five years. The 29 year-old’s gone from dress-wearing, audience-bating Deerhunter show nightmares to soul-bearing, sad and psychedelic pop music that’s, well, pretty. He’s an artist in the truest sense, bound to his work and consumed by it, but his finished products are never anything short of mind-boggling. His third solo album is a heartbreakingly beautiful kaleidoscope of loneliness manifest in 12 songs. The first four tracks are stunners with the marvelously saccharine “Mona Lisa” smack dab in the middle. He plays expertly with all kinds of instruments, textures, sounds and effects. As a self-sufficient producer and multi-instrumentalist, it makes this LP even more of an achievement. If songwriters and musicians are to illuminate and celebrate the human condition, Cox should be regarded as a master of his craft.

Bill Chenevert

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5. The Horrors – Skying

Self produced in their London studio, Skying is laid out like a euphoric soul skipping through their prized vintage record collection. There are far too many classic influences to even count. Borrowing heavily from ‘80s new wave, the synths take center stage here, sometimes going at hyper speed. Lead man Faris Badwan seems more confident; the timid vocals present on Primary Colours all but gone. Instead, he sounds almost Bowie-esque and presents a genuinely full range. Amidst the chaos of directions, the pedal work of guitar player Josh Third keeps a ‘90s shoegaze element omnipresent, adding thick atmospheric reverb to the fluid synths. This a body of work that stands complete on it’s own, regardless of what came before it, or what will come after. The artwork that accompanies Skying is a perfect representation of how the music feels: A dripping acid trip of bright bursts of sound, hypnotic shifts, ethereal effects pedals, floating bass, aged synths, and complete and total envelopment in the moment.

Sania Parekh

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4. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

For Merill Garbus’s second studio as tUnE-yArDs, she expands sample-based compositions beyond the primitive technology of the handheld voice recorder employed in her first album. With unprecedented production value, there is an appreciable clarity to Garbus’ strangeness. Album opener “My Countr,” thrusts into a jungle beat, monkeyish vocal sampling and critical lyrical commentary on American patriotism, before being bombarded with synths that sound like razorblade rainbows. Sampling of percussion and vocals is certainly not new in the industry, but Garbus meshes it in a distinctly natural way with organic instrumentation, only allowing samples to slip into consciousness at the right times. Aside from Garbus’s brilliant compositions and their unique components, most laudable is her vocal performance. Garbus possesses a mind-blowing versatility in her singing. She has the rare ability of traversing from hushed and falsetto territory to multi-syllabic phrasing and a gravelly upper register yell that screams rock n’ roll.

Gianni Abbott

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3. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

After their tremendous efforts in 2011, Fleet Foxes are well on their way to finding a place in the musical canon. Astral Weeks as one of your primary inspirations will do that. Helplessness Blues came after some time of setbacks but proved to be worth the wait. The entire ensemble comes together as a full-bodied unit on every track, notably on “The Shrine/An Argument” (an eight-minute-long track) and on closer “Grown Ocean.” While Helplessness Blues may strike many as timeless, singer/songwriter Robin Pecknold manages to also speak specifically to his generation. At just 25 years old, he is indeed a healthy, significant product of our time.

Nicole Goddeyne

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2. Florence + The Machine – Ceremonials

There are some bands that release one epically amazing album that makes you wonder how they top it. This is how I felt about Florence Welsh’s first album Lungs, a deep, romantic album that was tribal with serious soul. Not only does Ceremonials live up to expectations, but it’s on par with its predecessor, full of more grace and even darker lyrics. Welch has the voice of an ethereal dark angel that can also send you into dance. This album has not left my Spotify playlist since it’s release, nor should it leave yours.

Pamela Lin

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1. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

What Annie Clark has done with Strange Mercy is up the ante. If there are any questions of modern musicians making creative, envelope-pushing rock and roll, they need only look at St. Vincent’s catalogue to see that there is hope. And as a woman, she’s a powerful creative force; she writes and composes every song. That’s impressive when you listen to all the instruments used and moods achieved. Clark rips on an often feedback-heavy guitar, playing simple parts for the most part, but playing them like a ferocious creature. She plays with style and grace and effortlessly leads a much larger sound on stage. Standouts like “Chloe In The Afternoon,” “Surgeon” and “Cruel” have emerged as some of the most memorable songs of the year. What’s more, this record feels like a natural progression from her previous two albums. And watching her develop into one of the most intriguing musicians making indie rock is a joy. Seeing her in concert was a thrill, and her 4AD session is stunning. She’s stylish, smart, ambitious and yet still modest. She’s more interested in making thoughtful, powerful records than appearing on TV shows, showing up at parties or getting her photo taken. This record cemented her in America as a musician to watch and with it, she’s given us a piece of art to pour over and enjoy for years.

Bill Chenevert

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