“The albums I lived in” was the basic thought that opened last year’s list of LPs. The same applies today, and the only idea to add is: colors. On S&S throughout 2011, you might have noticed a shift towards tweaked images or collages of sorts; it just happened, almost subconsciously, in an ongoing attempt to somehow get a hold of where this music can send us. So naturally that process continued, and escalated, when approaching this year’s favorites, and now here we are:
13. Grouper – A | A : Alien Observer / A | A : Dream Loss
The one that was never there, the A | A set had something distinctly absent to it. Initial spins drifted by with little presence, as if chronically out of focus or behind some labyrinth of silk. Then, one night it came along on an otherwise solo ride back from upstate New York. Framed by a bus window we looked out into black silence, and watched as it slowly bled into a city’s skyline. And that nothingness would return later from a subway train, this time in the blank faces of commuters; vapor trails. This was not a realm to observe, but to be in, to be an alien, out of place, on the wall.
12. Co La – Daydream Repeater
The new old, the old new, anything, misremembered exactly like it should be, repeated and served with citrus flavored champagne and wedges of pot brownie. Daydream Repeater was too fun, too smooth, too rich not to recognize, and that’s it; words can only get in the way of its limbo. And cheers to Dial Tone Earth as well.
11. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
The everything howl, Go Tell Fire To The Mountain delivered on all it had hinted at, while remaining just as indecipherable and emotionally raw as those early smoke signals (now silhouetted by a more crisp, craft-revealing horizon), which is a testament to power and tone, and old fashioned fucking guts.
10. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
The wise soul in a ghost town tavern who’s rambling but also making a whole lot of sense, one clever line after another, tossed over a jukebox that’s been playing the finest classic rock songs never heard, and the only logical thing to do is latch onto his rhythm of existential observations and ride along until the sun cuts in.
09. Two Bicycles – The Ocean
The sea and the lonely hero, trading visions in the moonlight. There was a vivid time lapse in these lyric-less arrangements—Jamison knew just how to arc it—all senses accounted for, shimmering.
08. Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
The great battle, man and saxophone. Not quite human what Stetson did on Judges, simply unknown and unprecedented, a mesmerizing gallop of mythic proportions.
07. Gem Club – Breakers
The black ship, somewhere between frozen land and slow motion heartache, took year-round voyages to November. Its crew never upright or peering out ahead, but rather, laying flat with eyes fixed upward, lost in the clouds of their own psyche and in turn, lost in the quiet, unnavigable wavelengths of each other.
06. The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
The disintegrating ballroom, a fascinating game of déjà vu in the dust of a freshly disturbed, century old floor.
05. Keith Freund – Constant Comments
The Balch Street Park; sometimes a few kids played there, other times it was more like a dozen. Sometimes it was surrounded by traffic and chatter and dogs; others it stayed empty, under construction or falling rain. Walking outside with Constant Comments became a routine, and it never once sounded exactly as it did a day prior. The fields of its recording and this city’s exterior reality blended in a such a way that the term ‘album’ hardly does Keith Freund any justice here; what he made was life, as music.
04. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
The Year of Hibernation had these timely bursts of hope under what seemed like the weight of the world—the last sky-lighting minute of “July”, the flipped switch in “17” when a sudden guitar underscores a mother’s good advice, the entirety of “Daydream”, and the final march of “Montana”, to name a few. Trevor Powers dreamt up something exceptional—this was collectively felt right away; it resonated inexplicably deep and inspired a wealth of imagery and realness, and that’s the kind of storyline that simply makes this whole interaction irreplaceable.
03. Balam Acab – Wander / Wonder
The aquatic wonder, living in this most shadowed corner of headphone space—from the start, the very second of impact, when “Welcome” shoots an endless ripple across the ocean floor, Wander / Wonder was a pure textural utopia, enchanted with purples and blues, sent as a 40 minute ‘existence preview’ from some parallel universe where everything is water, and all beings whisper with an intense light splintering out of their luminescent bodies.
02. Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place
The intersection of heavenly and earthly, just after present moment, just before sleep; it was indeed magic, and everything I love about beautiful music, feathered and spun beyond any previous notion of it.
01. BRAIDS – Native Speaker
The purest epiphany of 2011, Native Speaker could be intimate and free at the same time. Looking at it in halves, side A breathed in for B’s exhale. The balance was what made it a perfect record. That and the character of every track—a million swirling parts all with precise direction and grace, each mood fully immersible on their own but that much stronger when entered together. And then there’s Raphaelle’s voice, everyone’s voice…
Hearing your friends inside a song can make you smile, and it can also sway in unique, immeasurable ways. But really isn’t that the point of all this, to connect with and celebrate something that affects us? Is it coincidence that some of Victoria and I’s favorite people this year also made our favorite album (or that we were able to help curate shows with a few of the artists above)? Impossible to fully know, and until S&S no longer reflects those personal instances (which is never), I fortunately do not need to try and separate the two sides. Balance.
On that note, we’d like to thank you all for your support in a dream year. And please find our Year in Photos within a wonderful feature on Victoria over at Think or Smile.