Rockfeedback Records of the Year 2011: #40-31

20 Dec 2011

Ambient black metal!  Drive time folk!  Lo-fi indie!  Post-dubstep!  More don’t-call-it-chillwave!  Tuneless drone!  Our records of the year countdown reaches numbers 40 to 31.

+F

#40: Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

The precocious Seattle band’s follow-up to 2008’s much-loved debut picks up where they left off, with beards and bewitching harmonies remaining firmly intact, as is FF’s devotion to the sound of Summer of Love-gone-sour exponents like Love and Buffalo Springfield. The title track was a deserved radio staple during the first half of this year, but playful moments like ‘Bedouin Dress’, displaying hints of Van Morrison, were just as captivating. (Matt Tomiak)

Fleet Foxes - Montezuma by gypsysphere

#39: Wolves In The Throne Room – Celestial Lineage

If the presence of just one black metal record on our countdown seems tokenistic, well... it is a bit tokenistic. But to be honest, I don’t see Kurt Vile’s LP making the Mixmag countdown – certain publications do what they do, and that’s fine. But it’s often beneficial to stretch out of one’s comfort zone out a little, and that’s exactly what WITTR did with Celestial Lineage. Whilst ‘black metal’ was already too restrictive a term to apply to these wide-eyed Washingtonians with perfect comfort, here they pushed the boundaries of the genre in to realms rich with synthesisers, folk-inspired song structures and divinely pretty quieter moments to form a record that, whilst still decidedly brutal when it wanted to be, saw them operating in a realm that’s now entirely their own. (Thomas Hannan)

Wolves in the Throne Room - Woodland Cathedral by iamametallover

#38: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra

The best things in life come when you least expected them, a sentiment you can't help but feel is shared by both Unknown Mortal Orchestra and all who have listened to their brilliant self titled debut. Formed from the ashes of his old band The Mint Chicks, frontman and future guitar god Ruban Nielsen can't have expected the universal acclaim that was heaped upon his new project’s debut, just as we're sure many of you didn't expect the record to be such an addictive and essential listen. (Michael Harounoff) Unknown Mortal Orchestra-FFunny Frendss by josiahmfilm

#37: Washed Out – Within & Without

After the backlash that followed Ernest Greene’s debut EP releases and the whirlwind of blog adulation that ensued, few expected his jump to a full length format to be such a success. The sound and feel of his EPs remained, but gone was the underlying suspicion that all the work had been done by the artists sampled by Greene, which made for a much more comfortable listen. The 9 tracks here don’t cover a vast array of styles, but they prove that there is no one better at chillwave than the man who helped kick the whole movement off. The album isn’t just the first classic of the movement, it’s a classic of electronic music as a whole. (Stan Morgan)

Washed Out - Amor Fati by DominoRecordCo

#36: Zomby – Dedication

Even attempting to explain exactly why Dedication is one of the records of the year is a struggle, the reason being that Zomby's music isn't really designed to be discussed by anybody other than the mysterious producer himself. We can however do our best. A record made shortly after the passing of his father, Dedicationsaw Zomby go in a lot darker, yet never dwelling in it. It's a sophmore effort from a man making music in a different time and place to his previous work, but the boundaries are still being pushed as far as he can. This is a fine record for that very reason. (Mike Harounoff)

Riding With Death - Zomby by tracks_arte

#35: Bon Iver – Bon Iver

For Justin Vernon, following up 2008’s For Emma, Forever Ago with anything remotely deserving of comparison seemed like an almost impossible task. Yet he avoided retracing the steps he took making For Emma…, resisting the temptation to lock himself away in a remote cabin with an acoustic guitar and a bottle of whiskey, and instead recording his album in a studio(?!?!). The instrumentation was also changed for the follow-up, expanding the palette to include electric guitar, strings, piano and soft, National-esque horns. But one thing that hadn’t changed was Vernon’s voice. His exquisite use of multi-tracking found on his debut was carried over to this album, and it’s something that would certainly have been missed were it not present. Lyrically there hasn’t been much shift either - Bon Iver is still as cryptic and as personal as For Emma…, with every track on the album supposedly linked to a place or event that holds some kind of significance for Vernon. As simultaneous refinements and expansions of a signature sound go, it was nearly flawless, and clearly showed the scope of Vernon’s enviable talents. (Stan Morgan)

Bon Iver - Wash. by Fluid Radio

#34: St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

One thing that Annie Clark has always been incredibly good at is painting pictures with her music. Each of her songs seems to possess its own personality, and the instrumental often wonderfully compliments the lyrics with a deliberate closeness. Her new album, Strange Mercy, continues this trend. It’s a record full of wonderful contrasts and surprises that doesn’t compromise any of Clark’s trademark quality control, and no two tracks on the record sound alike. Even within the songs themselves there are abrupt changes which are unexpected but for some reason completely welcome. And changes like these help this record feel fresh throughout. It is perhaps remarkable that Clark has managed to produce an album that’s so varied but fits together so well as a whole. It is, perhaps, also the mark of a truly talented musician. (Rachel Bolland)

surgeon // st. vincent by sexmusic

#33: James Blake – James Blake

Another one on our list that may cause some screw faces, the worth of James Blake’s debut has been much debated both on the internet and in the real world, and there’s yet to be a definitive thumbs up or down for the Prince of Dubstep - until now. After hundreds of listens and hours of discussion, the decision has been made that the record is in fact, very good - the only downer was that the blogosphere and its relative galaxies did such a good job of showing you all the people that had made songs that sounded a bit/a lot like James Blake and were either far better/worse that itmade the job of having a universally appreciated record near impossible for Blake. Still, it boasts some brilliant jams and is home to many of the highlights of the future bass scene we've all become so used to throughout this fine year. We doff our cap to it. (Mike Harounoff)

James Blake - Lindesfarne by Taping Memories

#32: Atlas Sound – Parallax

An unwilling poster-boy for alternative hipsterdom, Bradford Cox is one of the most enigmatic yet potent songwriters around, and between Deerhunter and his solo career – dubbed ‘Atlas Sound’ – he is able to oscillate between an art-rock and ambience as far as his fancy fits. What’s interesting now is that where this erstwhile dichotomy existed as separate cortexes of Cox’s brain – here, on Parallax– they conjoin. He’s honed his strengths and in doing so, channelled both his penchant for the inaccessible and the immediate in such a way that does disservice to neither. It’s a quite remarkable album that blurs creative styles and comes straight from the heart of indie music’s most inscrutable players. (Joe Daniels)

te amo // atlas sound by sexmusic

#31: Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972

If you’re a fan of Rizzle Kicks, look away now. Blurring the line between classical and contemporary music, Canadian Tim Hecker’s release this year has reminded many people about the power of minimalism. The exact antithesis of the ‘sound of 2011’, Ravedeath, 1972is an affectingly beautiful and at times difficult album, which uses lush natural reverb (which comes courtesy of an Icelandic church) almost as an instrument in itself, manipulating the concoction of digital and acoustic sounds into swarming, hypnotic patterns. Listening to the album is less about entertainment and more about the experience, an experience which is best undergone alone and one which you’ll learn more from with each listen. (Stan Morgan)

The Piano Drop - Tim Hecker by Porchnight

 

<< Rockfeedback Records of the Year 2011 - #50-41

>> Rockfeedback Records of the Year 2011 - #30-21

>> Rockfeedback Records of the Year 2011 - #20-11

>>Rockfeedback’s Records of the Year 2011 – #10-1

 

 

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