Lots of interesting albums in 2011. Bass producers stepped it up with some great long players – a difficult task in an exciting scene that mutates and changes monthly it seems. Indie rockers with synths and beats also made a mark as the guitar world continues to hybridize with the electronic world. Five techno/tech-house albums stood out for me in a genre more suited for singles and eps. Here is a list of my top 25 albums (mind you- there are many albums I haven’t heard yet, but we have to draw the line somewhere, right?)
Hardcore Will Never Die
Good to hear Mogwai bounce back from a disappointing The Hawk is Howling. Mogwai barely etches out their post-rock protégés of sorts Explosions in The Sky’s Take Care Take Care Take Care- a band whose previous three albums are some of my all time favourites. Top tracks: “Rano Pano”, “George Thatcher Square Death Party”
A dark stuttered beat affair that held my ADD ears most of the way. Top tracks: “Let You” and “Bonnafide”.
23. Mr Raoul K
Introducing My World
Authentic percussive house from Cote D’Ivorie ex-pat, Mr Raoul K. Mule Musiq and its sublabel Mule Electronic- run out of Tokyo- never fail to release top quality music. Top Tracks: “The African Government”, “Japan Japon” Listen
Underated dancehall reggae artist determined to make an impact with this album of tuff riddims and fast-flowing lyrics. Top Tracks: “In The Shop”, “Born Pressurizer”.
21. Young Montana?
[Alpha Pup Records]
So much is going on in EVERY track on this album by beat/electronic/anything-goes wonderkid from Coventry,Uk. An ever-present groove- albeit a hyperactive, chopped up groove- make this a fantastic listen every time. Top tracks: “Sacre Cool”, “Mynnd”.
20. Pinch & Shackelton
Pinch & Shackelton
A serious slice of haunted darkness and Middle Eastern sounding percussion from these two original dubstep innovators- you know, when dubstep was interesting before it mutated into heavy metal-step. Top Tracks: “Cracks in The Pleaseuredome”, “Torn & Submerged”.
19. Young Galaxy
Montreal Indie Synthwavers, Young Galaxy are what I imagine more well known bands like Cut Copy and Friendly Fires to sound like- only more Canadian (which means cooler these days). I have not heard CC and FF’s 2011 albums yet, but Young Galaxy’s infectious cold pop sensibilities made this a morning drive favourite on my way to work.
18. The Kills
Blood Pressures is a dirty, gritty, garage-y, big drums, rock-out album. “Satellite” even uses the riff from the reggae classic “Fisherman” by The Congos. Top Tracks: “Future Starts Slow”, “DNA”.
17. The Streets
“Computers and Blues”
Mike Skinner’s fifth and final album of The Streets. While not as strong as the brilliant first two albums, Computers and Blues still has the witty, charming lyrics and fun story telling that most of us have come to love. I don’t care what other critics say- not for everyone, but definitely for me! Top Tracks: “Trust Me”, “Soldiers”.
Despite the horrible, Phoenix satire, “Take off Your Shirt”, Bibio put together another eclectic beat/folk inspired full length popular on road trips and at cottages all summer. Top tracks: “Artists’ Valley”, “K is For Kelson”.
15. Cosmin TRG
Releasing on a wide range of respected labels like Rush Hour, Hessle Audio, Tempa and now on Modeselektor’s 50 Weapons- Simulat is a staight-laced four-to-the-floor album that has the depth and weight reminiscent of an updated classic Surgeon album from the 90s. Top Tracks: “Ritmat”, “Form Over Function”.
14. Panda Bear
Heavy reverberated angelic hymns with drones that I am compelled to hum along with (even though I have no idea what Noah Lennox is saying). Top Tracks : “Last Night at The Jetty”, “Surfer’s Hymn”.
13. Handsome Furs
Punchy,electronic indie, 80′s sounding songs with a fresh sense of urgency and history. Fellow Québécois, Men Without Hats only wish their shit was this cool back in the day. Top Tracks: “When I Get Back Home”, “Repatriated”.
12. Cornershop featuring Bubbley Kaur
Cornershop & The Double ‘O’ Groove Of
Before you roll your eyes and say, “Where have Cornershop been since Brimful of Asha?”, I urge you to listen to this whole album. Tjinder Singh and Ben Ayres collobrated with Punjabi female folk singer, Bubbley Kaur to make a remarkable record with funky drum breaks, soulful basslines and resounding horns. But its Kaur’s vocals that make this album shine on all ten tracks. Top Tracks: “Topknot”,”Natch”,”Supercomputed”.
11. The Weeknd
House of Ballons
Wow, an R&B-based album with edge that was able to captivate and unite fans of all genres- from hip hop, R&B, pop, indie rock- even the techno/electronic headz went apeshit for the Scarborough-raised, The Weeknd. When I first heard the Siouxsie and the Banshees “Happy House” sample on the title track I was instantly intrigued with The Weeknd’s appoach to messing with formulas. The sex/drugs/party lyrics and that smooth Weeknd voice were definitely dope! Top Tracks: “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls”, “The Morning”, “The Party and the After Party”.
w h o k i l l
Merrill Garbus created an album that sounds all her own. This album got constant play in my car and made me drive faster and faster. w h o k i l l is dangerous. Top tracks: “My Country”, “Gangsta”, “Bizness”.
The Sepalcure duo are on a roll now with two excellent eps and this even better full length. Genuine bass emotion and buried melodies are somehow wrung out of all these flowing sounds. Top Tracks: “Eternally Yrs”, Breezin’”, “Pencil Pimp”.
This shit is scary! Like eerie don’t mess with Zomby’s dark, evil-ass scary. Zomby would for sure kick Satan’s ass if Satan/Lucifer ever released an album. Top tracks: “Things Fall Apart”, “Natalia’s Song”.
Listen if you dare
The Story About You
Deep, deep house with a German kick. This album seduced me from start to finish. We are now going steady. Shhh…don’t tell the other albums. Top tracks: “I Wanna”, “Watermelon”.
Whoa! where the ef did this guy come from? Melodic madness, chunky beats, wonky pitched vocals and epic synths. Let’s have seizures! Top tracks: “Plasm”, “L.O.V.E.”. Damu’s so far unreleased tracks on his XLR8R podcast are even better, but we’ll talk about that next year.
5. Peaking Lights
Dub-heavy, narco-psych hazy music from…Wisconsin! Top tracks: “All The Sun That Shines”, “Tiger Eyes (Laid Back)”, “Marshmellow Yellow”. Just writing this made me kinda high. Wicked remix of “Marshmellow Yellow” by Ital just came out and is a must hear!
3. Robag Wruhme
Not only is Robag Wruhme (formerly of the Wighnomy Brothers) one of my favourite DJs, but also he is one of my favourite producers. This time Robag slows down the pace and centres the album around beautiful piano pieces combined with field recordings and serene almost hypnotic sounds. A proper album that should be listened in sequence for full effect. This was a stunning complement to my favorite mix cd of the year, Robag Wruhme’s Wuppdeckmischmampflow Top tracks: “Thora Vukk”, “Pnom Gobal”, “Ende”.
2. Omar S
It Can Be Done But Only I Can Do It
Detroit techno/house with some dark acid lines, dubbed out washes, and everything done the non-compromising Omar S way. Top tracks: “Ganymede”, “Here’s Your Trance Now Dance”, “Solely Supported”.
A solid album from Bass/Techno/Dubstep chameleon, Martyn. Having heard his eclectic Fabric mix cd and reading that Ghost People would be coming out on the acclaimed label Brainfeeder (Samiyam, Flying Lotus, Daedelus, Tokimonsta)- I knew something weird and innovative was in store. The spoken word intro by Spaceape is only a small premonition for the blistering masterpiece that follows. Having previously forged the blueprint with his hybrid garage/techno/house/dubstep sound that so many producers successfully followed afterwards- Martyn surpasses that and sets a new template while paying homage to breakbeat/rave origins with “We are you in the Future”. This album closer captures everything exciting about electronic music from the last 20 years over the course of 9 minutes. For real!
Top tracks: “We are you in the Future”, “Masks”, “Popgun”
Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care [Temporary Residence]
Beans – End It All [Anticon]
Braids - Native Speaker [Kanine]
Shabazz Palaces – Black Up [Sub Pop]
Helixir – Undivided [7even]
Co.Fee - Easy Listening [My Hollow Drum]