I do this every year, but don’t always broadcast my favourites. I think the new music released this year was outstanding. I definitely listened to more ambient/electronic music than I have in the past, but Joan Osborne is on the list, and that’s just a great straight-ahead blues recording, and some of my favourite tracks are pure pop (Phil Phillips) and folk (The Tallest Man on Earth). All kinds of great stuff was released this year.
The best albums are listed first in no particular order, followed by the best individual tracks. The tracks have a link to an mp3 file that will be available for a while.
|Nils Frahm – Felt
Technically released last year, this one didn’t hit my radar until the middle of this year. It’s a solo piano recording, supplemented with some subtle electronics. Very quiet and quite beautiful.
|Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm – Stare
Another Nils Frahm release, this time partnering with Ólafur Arnalds. Steve Reich, Terry Riley and others kicked-off repetitive minimalism 50+ years ago, and this is where it has taken us.
|Max Richter – Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons
I have to say that this might be the most awkward album title of the year. But it’s Max, so it pays to overlook the cosmetics. Richter is one of the best “contemporary classical” artists out there, and here he has taken elements of Vivaldi’s concertos and reworked them in his own image. He stays close to the original in many respects, but veers far enough towards Max that you know this is no ordinary version of The Four Seasons.
|John/Talabot – ⨏in
One thing I really struggle with is classification of new music. Is it dubstep, is it progressive house, electro-house, techno-house? Who knows, and to some degree, who cares. All I know is that when I put my iPod on shuffle this year and a track from ⨏in came on, I invariably stopped to see who was playing.
|Joan Osborne – Bring It On Home
This is definitely the most traditional rock/blues album on my list. Just straight-forward classic stuff.
|Burial – Kindred
I didn’t get this kind of music for a long time, but this year something clicked. Maybe its just a greater degree of familiarity. Maybe it’s just not quite as “out there” as Burial’s earlier material. Whatever. I listened to this one many, many times and thoroughly enjoyed it.
|Dan Deacon – America
Deacon’s last release, Bromst, was my “album of the year” in 2009. This one is more serious, and hence less fun. But it is still one of a kind. Definitely recommended.
|Deadbeat – Eight
Again, I have a hard time knowing how to classify this kind of music. I do know that when I need something to clear my head on the 6:20 train into Toronto, this fits the bill very nicely. Deadbeat restricts himself to a fairly limited range of emotions in his music, but makes the most of everything in that range.
|Bill Laswell – Means Of Deliverance
Laswell is quite possibly the most prolific artist I have ever heard of. He has played on, literally, hundreds of recordings: his own and supporting others. When he last hit my radar, he was playing beat-heavy versions of South Asian tracks. That was good, but this almost solo bass recording is amazing.
|Nils Petter Molvær – Baboon Moon
Those Norwegians. They do things differently. First they send us Jan Garbarek to do all sorts of crazy things with the saxophone. Then the send us Nils Petter Molvær who has a pretty liberal interpretation of how to make music with a trumpet. Thanks to a short trip to Canada this year, I can say his band is even better live than on this very impressive recording.
The most pop oriented track is definitely Phillip Phillips winning performance from American Idol (Mum – you’d probably like this one). The Ivan Gough and Feenixpawl is pure dance-floor banger. The Tallest Man on Earth does his folkie thing. Wankelmut does a really interesting remix of One Day / Reckoning Song that some might find hard to get used to.
I think they are all worth a listen, but then that’s why there are on my year end list.
Click on the name of the track to listen.
Very interested in what discoveries others made this year. Feel free to agree/disagree/go on a tangent by adding a comment below.