Saturday, December 31, 2011

REVIEW(S): TOP 100 ALBUMS OF 2011

New Age Aural Abundantcies..

What a GREAT year for music! I haven't had this tough of a time making "cuts" since EIC bega
n. This list was dwindled down from about 1700 hopefuls (yeah I know, ridiculous right?) At times I found it really hard to stay on top of all the amazing releases that were coming out! And, as always, I wonder (and probably did) if I missed any other terrific albums? When it came down to the #1 spot I went back and fourth (and back and fourth) between the top 10 listed. I think (no, I "know") I made the right choice though, hopefully you'll agree with at least a few of these choices anyhow. Also, with the great things that were happening to music this year, I think it's only fair that I mention a couple "negative" things as well; first of all "Dub Step" is NOT Skrillex is not Dub Step. Dub Step = Burial (and the likes), Skrillex = Nu-Dub Step or "Nub Step" as I like to call it;] Secondly (and I have to stress that I am the LEAST political person you may know) this whole government act that could very well change the way everything runs/operates on the internet, is bad (VERY bad). Laws like this could in-fact ruin the small guys out there (such as EIC). Thirdly I can't believe how many major bands (at least ones that have a major impact on me) released what could potentially be their most boring albums to date. I know we all have our "off" moments, but the fact that these are the albums that may give the artist the attention they've deserved for so long says a lot about the general public's taste in music ($#!tty). All that being said, there were a lot of new/undiscovered talents that emerged this year (as usual), a lot of surprises indeed, lots of "dark" music that was designed perfectly for these old ears, and a lot of smart new Electronic acts that really hit the spot, some laid back/some a little more uppity, a lot of "Neo-New Agers", and a lot of "Neo R & B-ers", definitely a lot of triangles;] This truly was a great year for sound though, especially for Hip Hop, Witch House, IDM, and Atmospheric music in general. Aaanyways, without any further ado here is EverythingIsChemical's..


"Top 100 Albums Of 2011"


100. Pallers - The Sea Of Memories
..if you're into Chill Wave
99. Calibre - Condition
..if you're into yester-year's (90's) "Techno" music
98. Shlohmo - Bad Vibes
..if you're into smooth as f^@k Electronic music aka "the new future lushness"
97. Blackout Beach - Fuck Death
..if you're into dark and mopey Indie music
96. David Lynch - Crazy Clown Time
..if you're into David Lynch
95. Ricky Eat Acid - Haunt U Forever
..if you're into Ambient-instrumental Chill Wave<--Free!
94. Twin Sister - In Heaven
..if you're into Indie Electronic catchiness
93. Amen Dunes - Through Donkey Jaw
..if you're into Neblung Price (which you should be)
92. James Blake - James Blake
..if you're into Dub Step meets Nu-R&B
91. High Places - Original Colors
..if you're into experimental Dream Pop
90. Shabazz Palaces - Black Up
..if you're into Hip Hop
89. Cass McCombs - Wit's End
..if you're into melancholy Indie
88. Baths - Pop Music/False B-Sides
..if you're into "Chill Wave", Indie Electronic
87. Hooray For Earth - True Loves
..if you're into "stadium sized" Indie Rock/Electronic music
86. Future Sound - The Thrills
..if you're into Hip Hop that sounds like it was produced by Junior Boys
85. Apparat - The Devil's Walk
..if you're into well written Electronic Pop
84. How To Dress Well - Just Once EP
..if you're into orchestrated Nu-R&B
83. Br'er - City Of Ice
..if you're into Xiu Xiu and/or experimental Industrial music
82. Atlas Sound - Parallax
..if you're into Atlas Sound, not my favorite, but still great
81. Moonface - Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped
..if you're into catchy Indie Pop
80. The Horrors - Skying
..if you're into The Horrors, this will most likely be their opus
79. Terror Train - Terror Train
..if you're into dark Slow-mo Disco with a Glow, ya' know?
78. Police Academy 6 - Police Academy 6
..if you're into Chill Wave/Indie Electronic
77. Zola Jesus - Conatus
..if you're into triumphant Gothic beauties
76. Neon Indian - Era Extra├▒a
..if you're into Chill Wave
75. Wise Blood - These Wings
..if you're into "eclectic" Indie Pop
74. Boy Friend - Boy Friend
..if you're into endearing Dream Pop
73. Colin Nance - Summer Fever
..if you're into Neon Indian meets M83 (kind of)<--Free!
72. Kynan - High Heals
..if you're into catchy Indie Electronic music<--Free!
71. Sally Paradise - Aouu!
..if you're into playful Dream Pop70. Lovesliescrushing - EverythingIsChemical Virtual 7" No. 7
..if you're into Lovesliescrushing/Ambient Shoegaze/EICV7" Series:)<--FREE!
69. Metamorfozy - Decasia
..if you're into Electronic/Indie/Classical "concept scores"
68. Implodes - Black Earth
..if you're into Experimental Post Rock/Kranky
67. Vondelpark - NYC Stuff And NYC Bags EP
..if you're into Sinner DC and/or Dub Step
66. Planningtorock - W
..if you're into Fever Ray
65. Psychic Powers - Infinity
..if you're into futuristic/spacey Dream Pop
64. James Pants - Love Kraft
..if you're into a guy who likes to be creative with his sounds
63. Tyler, The Creator - Goblin
..if you're into Hip Hop/the leader of the "underground internet rap organization"
62. Summer Camp - Welcome To Condale
..if you're into catchy Indie Pop
61. Boas - Grave Dreams
..if you're into bizarre Indie Electronic Pop
60. Death In Vegas - Trans-Love Energies
..if you're into Alt Pop with a leaning towards modern Electronic sounds
59. Still Corners - Creatures Of An Hour
..if you're into Dream Pop, I probably should've listened to this one more..
58. Julianna Barwick - The Magic Place
..if you're into angelic female hymns
57. Caroline - Verdugo Hills
..if you're into cutesy "J-Pop"
56. †‡† - Ghetto Ass Witch
..if you're into Rave/Witch House sounds55. Future Islands - On The Water
..if you're into Gothic Tropical Pop
54. The Drums - Portamento
..if you're into C-A-T-C-H-Y Indie Pop
53. S.C.U.M. - Again Into Eyes
..if you're into Interpol, only you wish they were darker and slightly more Electronic
52. Natural Snow Buildings - Waves Of The Random Sea
..if you're into Drone (good drone)
51. Mirror Mirror - FRKWYS Vol. 5
..if you're into modern-sunny Psychedelia Pop
50. Young Man - Ideas Of Distance
..if you're into Atlas Sound, only more relaxing
49. Teaadora - A Jamais Vierge/Virgin Forever
..if you're into dark/experimental "Folk" music/noise/art
48. Cokiyu - Your Thorn
..if you're into Electronic/Ambient prettiness
47. David Shane Smith - Controls SM
..if you're into experimental Indie Electronic music that sort of reminds me of Throbbing Gristle<--HIGHLY overlooked/Free!
46. Ringo Deathstarr - Colour Trip
..if you're into (classic) Shoegaze
45. My Friend Wallis - On Hawaiian Time
..if you're into Grouper dabbling in the "Pop" side of Dream Pop<--Free!
44. Sleep ∞ Over - Forever
..if you're into emerging talents that will one day (in theory) release an "album of the year" (eventually-maybe)
43. Glass Vaults - Into Clear EP
..if you're into atmospheric bliss<--Free!
42. Rotten Tropics - EverythingIsChemical Virtual 7" No. 6
..if you're into dark/experimental Industrial music/EICV7" Series;]<--FREE!
41. Mount Pleasant - The Aztecs
..if you're into catchy as hell "Indie Electronic" sounds40. Sleepingdog - With Our Heads In The Clouds And Our Hearts In The Fields
..if you're into Winter seasonal sounds/Adam Wiltzie
39. Snowman - Absence
..if you're into dark and atmospheric Shoegaze
38. Six Organs Of Admittance - Asleep On The Floodplain
..if you're into Neo-Psych Folk music
37. Warm Ghost - Narrows
..if you're into amazingly underrated Indie Electronic acts
36. Air Drops - EP
..if you're into top quality Dream Pop music mixed with a dash of Chill Wave
35. Balam Acab - Wander/Wonder
..if you're into relaxing Electronic music/Tri Angle Records
34. Spaceghostpurrp - Blvcklvnd Rvdix 66.6
..if you're into dark and twisted Hip Hop (think 90's "Horror Core"), hand's down this is the best Rap release of the year<--FREE!!
33. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
..if you're into M83, only not as good (this album would've made for a better "b-sdies" release), definitely the biggest upset of '11, yet look how high it still is..
32. Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica
..if you're into one of the best Synth musicians on the market currently, if he mixed this album with the length and spaciness of his previous efforts ::pffft:: fuhget 'bout it, best album of the year,.
31. The Caretaker - An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
..if you're into relaxing memory replacement surgery
30. Brian Eno - Drums Between The Bells
..if you're into Brian Eno doing what an Eno does best.
29. Teeel - Amulet
..if you're into Chill Wave, this is THE artist (in my opinion)
28. Dream Boat - Widow
..if you're into bleak Witch House
27. How I Quit Crack - Untitled CDR
..if you're into euphoric Witch House
26. Bad Passion - Doin' It Slow
..if you're into The Xx, Mahogany, and/or old school Hot Chip<--SOOO AWESOME & FREEEE!!25. Yoko Duo - Behaving Like A Widower
..if you're into Sinner DC, Home Video, and/or Junior Boys
24. Rebecca Peake - The World's Strongest
..if you're into AMAZING Shoegaze/Dream Pop <--more prolific than any other artist I've ever known and it's FREE!
23. Grouper - A I A: Alien Observer/Dream Loss
..if you're into Grouper (which you are..unless you're dead (to me))
22. Future Shuttle - Water's Edge
..if you're into serene, Spacey, Psychedelic, relaxing, and synthetic<--soooo good!
21. Blue Daisy - The Sunday Gift
..if you're into 90's Techno meets "top quality/modern day" productions
20. Tropic Of Cancer - The Sorrow Of Two Blooms
..if you're into Belong, only slightly more "Gothic"
19. Soft Metals - Soft Metals
..if you're into sensual Electro music (this is the best)
18. Julia Holter - Tragedy
..if you're into eclectic and beautiful (heartheartheartheart)
17. Big Black Delta - BBDLP1
..if you're into a "Rock refurbished" M83 kind of sound
16. Chelsea Wolfe - The Grime And The Glow
..if you're into Lo-Fi Gothic beauty
15. Oupa - Forget
..if you're into melancholy Indie Pop<--GORGEOUS stuff! What Yuck should've been..
14. ∆Aimon - Amen
..if you're into Dark & Sexual Industrial/Witch House music<--this is AMAZING!
13. Various Artists - A Witch House & Okkvlt Guide To Twin Peaks
..if you're into Witch House/Drag and/or are wondering where to start with the genre
12. Ford & Lopatin - Channel Pressure
..if you're into unique/crazy talented Electronic artists sounding somewhat like Max Tundra
11. Elite Gymnastics - Ruin
..if you're 90's House/Trance sounds meets today's Indie Electronic standards

10. Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes
One of my favorite/ most overplayed records of the year had to be Cat's Eyes self titled debut. Cat's Eyes is Farris Badwan (dude from The Horrors) and Rachel Zeffira (an Italian composer). They both have a lot of talent, A LOT of talent. Rachel is a Classically trained, Farris is more of a "Pop Enthusiast" so both ends of that spectrum come together quite nicely. The final product is a "throwback" album of sorts that focuses on the 50/60's "motorcycle rebel". It's a form of "Pop Rock" (maybe), but very smooth, Classical, and "surfy". Sometimes it's melancholy, sometimes it's dark, and sometimes it's (for lack of better terminology) "Phil Spector-y".

There are two sides to this record, one is a bit more laid back and reminiscent of an "era transcending Broadcast" (that's the side I like the most) and then there's the more upbeat, yet "dark & mysterious Pop Rock" sounds, which are really good too and bring the whole package together quite nicely. This album ebbs and flows between the two styles giving the album a truly unique archaic persona. Quality vocals, both male and female, nice instrumentation (terrific actually); string sections (gorgeous ones), twinkly piano compositions, ominous horns, etc, Cat's Eyes is dark & spiritual/vintage jubilation. I just wish it didn't have to end, hopefully this is permanent project, not just a "side"..

You should probably already own this, but if you don't get it, you deserve it.

9. Dirty Beaches - Badlands
About a year ago Ryan Gosseling did it, actually about four years ago El Perro Del Mar did it, really many of us have done it.. So what's with all these bands paying homage to vintage music birthed from a time before internet, cell phones, & maybe even color TV's? It doesn't matter. As long as the trend continues/never dies. We all grew up around oldies music, it's what our parents usually played in the car (for most of us I would assume), it only made sense that eventually one of us would begin paying homage to that music. Rather than be a direct rip off of Dick Dale or Patsy Cline though Dirty Beaches brings a cinematic flair and Lo-Fi aesthetic that is sure to get all the Indie kids uh-movin'.. "Badlands" may not be the debut release of DB (check out how many they have so far), but it will certainly be the one that puts them on the map.

"Badlands" starts off with a less than popular start, but after you listen to the rest of the album you will understand it's place. Once track two begins you immediately notice the Surf Rock/Rockabilly-esque tones come through. Side note: Generally when I would hear/see those words together I would be a bit skittish about looking further into the project, not the case here. Dirty Beaches have a way with making those sounds come off as dreamy, catchy (catchier), and entertaining for a modern sound listener. Song's like "A Hundred Highways" sound like something straight out of a 60's Surfer do
cumentary. "True Blue" reminds me of the prom scene in Back To The Future when they slow dance. And "Lord Knows Best", wow. Such an amazing song. Perfectly tuned piano looped behind croonfull vocals (somewhat reminiscent of Richard Hawley), a sustained guitar/possibly keyboard sound, and this amazing choir keyboard sound that creeps in (heart that sound). It could be the best song you'll hear all year long. So anyways.. OK, the homage thing has been done, but the way Dirty Beaches does it is quite unique as well as 101% made for these ears.

"Badlands" is a pitch perfect Lo-Fi throwback to an era of music that has always held a special place in my heart. Look for this one high up on 11's year-end list. HIGH
LY RECOMMENDED-thoroughly addicting stuff here...

8. Natalie Beridze/TBA - Forgetfulness
Natalie Beridze, although could be considered, isn't really new to the scene. In-fact "Forgetfulness" is her 4th (I believe) album. Her name changes a little bit on each album; TBA, Tusia Beridze, Natalie Beridze, etc., but the sound remains (pretty much) the same. Ms. TBA has a strong grasp on engineering acumen modern techno soundscapes. The closest comparisons I can think of are Bjork, Jane Jensen, & Ellen Allien. Perhaps a "female Trent Reznor" with a soft side for Minimal Techno mixed with a dash of Ambient Classical? Whomever/whatever you want to compare her to doesn't really matter, the music speaks for itself (and then some) and you will hear that from the very first note. This is by far the most interesting, intelligent, and sexy release of the year.

You need this soooooo bad right now (and everyday after that too). _IGHLY _ECOMMENDED (fiil in the blank).


7. La Big Vic - Actually
What a lovely album. What a perfect meshing of Krautrock and Dream Pop. I absolutely adore this group and everything they are doing for music. If you haven't heard about this band, which is slightly likely seen as how "under the radar" they seemed to be for some odd reason, know this; one of them co-ran the site Altered Zones (RIP) and another member was trained by the guy who ran Pink Floyd's live sound (yep, that Pink Floyd). The range of knowledge/sounds between all three of these musicians is incredibly expansive/impressive, it only made sense that when they finally put their heads together that they would create something as stunning as this.

'Actually' is a constantly evolving album from b
eginning to end, each track seems to rebirth from a tiny alienistic egg into something completely/conceptually beautiful. To me when listening to this album I am constantly reminded of Mahogany's stunning debut "Dreams Of A Modern Day", only more Kraut-like, which is laid-back and euphoric mixed with a bit of "Psych weirdness". Note for note this album is amazing, not one sound, not one beat, nothing on this album is wrong.

I'm just hoping you get all the keywords mentioned above, if you do than you get that this is something you can not pass up. HIGHLY-HIGHLY-HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


6. Belong - Common Era
Since 2006 Belong have been blessing my headphones with their version of Ambient Shoegaze. With every record since then (about 2 full lengths and a couple EP's) the band has fully realized the potential of their soundscapes. Belong have been apart of a few different labels now, but (in this person's opinion) really found their home once they joined forces with Kranky. On the group's first release for Kranky they really have outdone themselves and quite possibly created the best record I have heard all year.

Although the Ambient/Droney elements are still in full effect on "Common Era" there is definitely a stronger sense of well crafted Pop songs laying underneath all of it. To be honest with you, after listeni
ng to this album (over and over and over and over again) I got the sense of witnessing one of the best "homages" ever to MBV's masterpiece "Loveless", or better yet "Loveless Pt. 2". I know, a lot of bands have tried this, but most fail. Belong have perfected a sound that has been lost amongst bands for a long time now, "tightness" and "knowing when to be experimental". The songs are very damp & layered (with guitar, keyboard, and a few other hidden sounds), the vocals are somewhat in-audible (I wouldn't want them any other way), and the simple nature of the drum machine loops gives the album the bit of brightness that it needs. I read once that Kevin Shields (MBV) promises at least one more My Bloody Valentine album (after he releases his solo material), until then you have Belong's "Common Era" to keep you company. By far (without a doubt), "Common Era" is one of the best Shoegaze albums I have ever had the pleasure of owning (and I own a lot).

(Probably) My favorite thing about 2011 was listening to this album (over ..and over again). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ("more than I can put in words recommended").


5. Active Child - You Are All I See
I knew patience would pay off with this artist, I knew Pat Grossi(#26 of last year/Active Child) would put out something (again) worth cherishing/obsessing over the rest of my life as well as constantly using as a base for comparison, but how could I have possibly known that he would be putting something together that would exceed all of those expectations?

'You Are All I See' is one of the most impressive debut LP's in a long time. We all knew that the talent was definitely there,
I just don't think we could've expected this level of writing at such an early stage in the artist's "now promising" future. Sounding like M83 (never a bad thing) only more heavenly/angelic, Active Child utilizes lots of harp, LOTS (it's soo pretty--not sampled either!), lots of Spacey synths, lots of synthetic drum pads, and tons of terrific vocal harmonies (be-it sampled or clean, Pat Grossi is one of the best male vocalists currently "active"<-oh!). This is another one of those albums that just flows perfectly from beginning to end. "You.." is quite possibly the best album of all year displaying the perfect (*doctor recommended) amount of "Heavenly Synth Pop". (pitch perfect.)

This is the kind of album that won't ever let me give up on music. I would recommend it, but that seems cliche. I demand it.


4. Julian Lynch - Terra
Easily the most "warn vinyl" of the year for me.. Julian Lynch has always been "on the cusp" with his music, and all of that talent has lead him up to this, "Terra", which is everything I need/survive on when it comes to sweet & melancholy Indie Psych Pop music.

"Terra", in my opinion, is a modern day Psych Pop masterpiece. It's one of those "the world isn't quite ready for it now, but years from now this will be "re-noticed"" kind of album. It has everything a classic Psych album should have (euphoria/relaxation/vivid colors), it has everything a modern Indie Pop album should have (sincerity and individuality), and (most importantly) it has everything my ears crave. Really though, "Terra" is (almost) perfect (probably perfect) from beginning to end. I'd say somewhere bet
ween Atlas Sound, Pink Floyd, and humble beginnings is where Mr. Lynch's cloud of sound lays.

I can't believe how many people overlooked this album on their year-end lists, it confuses me. You need this, you crave it, I guarantee it or I'll buy your copy from you. H
IGHLY RECOMMENDED AND THEN SOME (+ a lil' more probably).

3. Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise
OK, I'm gonna mention three artists that Mr. Jaar reminds me of. You should know, these artist I'm gonna mention tend to have obsessive fans. You either obsess over these bands or you just don't care for 'em. "Space Is Only Noise" is of it's own sound, but when comparing it to contemporary leaders in the same field, it could easily be placed next to Matthew Dear, Coil, and/or DJ Shadow. Now that you've heard those names (and you've possibly widened your eyes at the thought) you should probably know what to expect. If those names (unfortunately) mean nothing to you... Nicolas Jaar makes Electronic Pop music mixed with hints of Jazzy seduction, Classical sampling, and a few very weird tones. In-fact, if you pay close attention to the title "Space Is Only Noise" you may know what to listen for, is it the space between his noise, or the noise between the space? Every second on Nicoals' debut is filled with an interesting/pleasing note, sound or beat. I don't know, I just don't see how there could be a better Electronic album this year ..is that crazy to think?

Fans of the Kompakt or Ghostly family will definitely swoon over this. Actually, everyone should get this, I'll buy your copy if you dislike it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.


2. Water Borders - Harbored Mantras
For such a young label Tri Angle really has done a lot to change the game. First there was Balam Acab with their version of Moody Electronic Drag (which I heart), then there's the "Witchy"/Sample Driven o0o00 (whom I also LOVE), a few other (really awesome) acts in-between, and now Water Borders (my new favorite Tri Angle artist). Water Borders, like many of the other bands on Tri Angle seem to share the same "modern dark" thinking state of mind. However, unlike most of the acts on this bewildering label, Water Borders take cues from a few older artists as well; think Coil meets Tuxedo Moon. (stop drooling on your keyboard/fantasizing about how amazing that pairing sounds, go get this NOW.)

'Harbored Mantras' sounds emit the titles theme quite genuinely. There are lots of organic/"other worldly sounds" mixed w
ith aural nirvana landscapes within these hypothetical lush walls. There are elements that can definitely be thrown into the Witch House/Drag genre, there are also a few No Wave (see: Tuxedo Moon) and Experimental Industrial "moments" (see Coil). What more can I say? The mood is gloomy, the sound is currently unrivaled, Water Borders fit perfectly in Tri Angles elite circle,err-umm "Triangle".

For people into dismal s
ound architecture, and most importantly, (maybe) for people interested in transformative states*. (*also, for people with good taste in music:) RE-COMM-END-ED/one of '11's best offerings.

...and the #1 Album of 2011 is...

1. HTRK - Work (Work, Work)
I guess I have to update this list now too.. Judging by the first single I heard from this group (yep, I was late getting into these guys--but don't worry I'm kicking myself for it everyday now;..) "Eat Yr Heart", I knew HTRK was gonna be somewhere on my year-end list. Well, I was right, my estimation may be off by a little, but I was right.. It's perfect, there I said it.

Do you guys remember Garbage? For those of you and your "rock rooftop"; Garbage was a mid-late 90's Alt-Rock
band that dabbled in Electronic/Industrial music. They were known for their "overly sexual" lead singer Shirley Manson, actually I heard these guys may be reuniting? ::ahem:: Anyways, with Garbage I always felt like they were "almost there", they were so close to being everything I would want in a band; willingness to "experiment", strong production, a little dark, definitely "Electronic" in some way, and somewhat "laid back", they were lacking something though and that was this; (three simple words really) "automatonic seductive sadism". On HTRK's Ghostly debut, 'Work (Work, Work)', the group is sans a member, due to the late bassist Sean Stewart (sad story actually..), but maybe stronger because of it, in his honor I suppose? You can hear a difference between "Work.." and 'Marry Me Tonight', with the group's older material I felt as if the focus was more on the "Machine Of Loving Grace" style bass lines (which I so dearly LOVE.), with "Work.." they have shifted their attention to a much darker (really dark), DEFINITELY more Electronic sound, unique yet fitting for the Ghostly label really. The first three tracks on "Work.." would also sound at home on an early 4AD release, "Gothic and Entrancing", and that's when the androgynous "Bendin'" comes up and ..oh man, you are now officially under HTRK's desirably ominous spell. At this point the seduction is in full swing, but it only get's better.. Oh my gawd, hold on, I'm really into this song brb.. ::k, im' back:: From then on the album becomes slightly more "Industrial" and (here's that word again) "darker". This album is just perfectly designed for me, what can I say? By the way, HTRK (pronounced: Hate Rock), although sounds like a funny/tongue-in-cheek kind of reference, really is a perfect name for the kind of music they produce. This album is one long fight against being under the influence of something dark for too long, it's slow moving, its sinister, its passionate, and it's one of the best f#$king albums I've ever heard, EVR.

Sometimes atramentous ElectroniX are all You really need. 10 out of 10 album recommendation. Hey (all you living people); I better hear some HTRK being played at my funeral (please?).


See ya next year;]

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