Best of 2011: Ryan

December 31, 2011

The best of any year is a tough write-up and to be honest I was really reluctant to put one together for the sole reason that I was holding out until I could hear the new Kayo Dot EP, unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet. So here it is, in all it’s pretentious glory!

Rustie – Glass Swords

Although many will disagree, I cannot stand the new age of music we begin to live in where music like dub step has overrun everything. That statement might sound strange however, to anyone that first takes a listen to this album. To be honest some of the music on this list may have first been tagged as this and really didn’t entice me to check out such gems. Although this album features low bass, and some cheesy drum samples, it certainly doesn’t sound like a Skrillex song. In fact, rather than rave and do E, this album finds a home somewhere like if Beethoven drove a low rider and only wanted his homies to listen to the absolute most grandiose “hood music”.

East of the Wall- The Apologist

These gentlemen have been impressing me for a few years now, and although the sound is almost completely different on each album (mostly because they are) they always deliver something special. Amongst the backdrop of a zillion other instrumental metal bands these days, their craft falls somewhere between Irepress and Dysrrythmia, but this time they add some of the most gorgeous and otherwise well placed voice into the caustic rhythms that truly explore todays wildest of composition.

Krallice- Diotoma

This might be my favorite album of the past year. I cannot begin to describe the amount of pure beauty this album contains, not to mention some of my favorite moments in music. Perhaps early on I may have written this album off, but if you simply take some time to sit down and listen you hear some of the most dynamic of shifts amongst what seems like a hypnotic wave of pure intensity. The production that guitarist Collin Marston implements makes the album literally sound like a thousand buzzing violins at constant tremolo. I think in tens years this album will feel like Ride the Lightning did for me as a kid.

True Widow- As High As the Highest Heavens and from the Center to the Circumference of the Earth

The story that this band originated from playing bars in Texas to recording and surviving in Portland isn’t a shock. They play Spoon man at maybe half the speed, while reinventing Cobain technique. If people really want to feel any sort of nostalgic fit then perhaps this would be a better tool than searching YouTube to find every episode of Rocco’s Modern Life only to realize that Sick Animation is way less creepy. But anyway, rule number one intervenes: If a band describes themselves as Stone-Gaze, then you must listen to them.

Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage

I can’t say enough good things about this band. Their album also came as a huge surprise to me, it is so different from anything happening in black metal today, especially in the United States. Firstly, Randall Dunn continues to produce the majority of the atmosphere on this album and again recreates some feeling I got from early nineties black metal that are all too uncommon now. There seemed to me a trend of bands like this to oversimplify until there was nothing left of the sound but crashing symbols, overly reverberated guitar, maybe a stream or a loon in the foreground (not that I don’t love that). However, this album is a sure testament to symphonic black metal in the cleverest of ways.

Washed Out – Within and Without

I can’t exaggerate enough what I needed more this year: an album that made me feel like I was in the 80s in the desert. This album came extremely close, just replace desert with beach. I cannot express how cool of a project this is in my opinion as well. The seems to be a faux nostalgia with this place that Washed Out takes me.

Tycho – Dive

Ghostly international does release some of my favorite music and this subtle masterpiece of electro has become probably my most played album of this year. If you just want to relax, then this is the best thing to just throw on, lay down, and stare out the window. The fact is though, there is some serious composition on this album, and every single melody proves it.

A Winged Victory for The Sullen – S/t

This is a marvel of present day musical ingenuity. Adam Wiltzie is able to take the ambient music I always loved him for and romanticize it with the grandeur of classical music, all recorded in large spaces with large pianos directly to magnetic tape. If there is any album that will stand the test of time, when all our money lights on fire, it will be this beautiful seven song album. If anything on this list, go get this one and play it as loud as possible and let the sound of what music was supposed to be sink into you.

SBTRKT – S/t

Also labeled as dubstep, this is rather, the real return of the Mack. This time he’s become a whole lot more melancholy. The singer and composer of this album quite possibly the most original take on electronic music that I’ve probably ever heard, at least since Aphex Twin. That is a huge statement to live up to, but it’s only a matter of time before everyone I know listens to this on the way to the club. And everyone will be kinda bummed at said club.

Liturgy – Aesthetica

I know there is more trash talk about this band than anything of which I’ve seen since Dimebag Darrell was an idiot and got himself shot. But I might argue that this is probably the best album of the last five years. Every thing about it is just so so even, except for the fact that drummer Greg Fox is putting on the best performance in metal music. The sheer complexity of the mathematical altered patterns is sometimes even outweighed by the intensity of moments that call for driving simplicity. Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is very keen on writing some of the most major guitar work in black metal history, and once again Colin Martson has made a record that is very precise in its tones. This album sound like Flemming Raussman recording New Wave of British Heavy Metal it in the late eighties in Sweden (*Second Metallica reference in this list).

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