So here we go. I had to rank my top 10 for Prefix, so I figured I’d just rank a couple more for this list. Other than the top few, it was harder than I thought it would be. Here’s the first group of records, with more coming in following days.
15. Justice: Cross [Ed Banger Records]
So hip. So trendy. So obvious. So what? Either you love their sound or you don’t. I do. That dirty, fuzzy noise has made these Parisians blogosphere darlings for long enough that dickrider extraordinaire Kanye West took notice, going so far as to nab the director of their amazing video for “D.A.N.C.E.” in an attempt to rip their steez (see his “Good Life” vid), but he will never be half as cool as these guys. I wanna smoke cigarettes with them sometime. I bet they even hold them all cool-like.
See the video for “D.A.N.C.E.” and read about more awesome music below.
This is my favorite video of the year. Insanely inventive and fun as hell.
14. Spoon: Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga [Merge]
It’s always a pleasure to see old favorites come back and drop a bomb to delete the “old” part of that phrasing. Spoon’s 2005 record, Gimme Fiction, was good though not quite as wonderful as the rest of their catalog, but this time around they refined their sparse rock sound and still managed to make memorable tunes. It’s like they were learning a new language last time around, and now they’re able to string it all together. From the feedback-laden, beatless vamp of “The Ghost of You Lingers” to the straightforward Americana of “The Underdog,” Spoon returned in a major way.
Spoon: “The Underdog”
13. Lifesavas: Gutterfly: The Original Soundtrack [Quannum Projects]
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. When it’s used as a template for re-creation, it comes off sappy and corny, but when it’s used as motivation, wonderful things can happen. Portland’s finest hip-hop outfit hit the mark with the latter, and came up with a record that feels like a throwback but gives the genre a big kick in the ass. Full of positivity and creative expression, these Blackalicious labelmates have made a party record that inspires.
Lifesavas: “Gutterfly [feat. Camp Lo]”
12. DJ Vadim: The Soundcatcher [BBE Music]
This one made its move late in the year. I thought it was all right the first time I listened to it, but the island influence that permeates this chunk of electro never fully grabbed me. One night I threw it on as I went to bed, and that was that. I listened to it twice before I fell asleep that night, absorbing every subtle production tweak and perfectly broken beat. Some songs are rockers, and some soundtrack late-night drives to precision. The only consistent thing here is its awesomeness.
DJ Vadim: “Milwaukee”
11. LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver [DFA]
I’ve already gone on and on about James Murphy on this blog here and here. Where I’d once written him off as hipster fodder with the occasional bomb up his sleeve, this record made me rethink his entire schtick. He’s really smart, but not too much for his own good, and though some of his disco-punk music strays a little too far from my taste, it seems that even in his most self-aware moments, he’s just having a good time. Nothing wrong with that.
LCD Soundsystem: “North American Scum”
10. Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha [Fat Possum]
Dear Mr. Bird…I love you. The sweet softness of “Scythian Empires,” the cold realities of “Imitosis,” and the splendor of “Heretics” provide further evidence of Bird’s ability to meld intelligence and observation to emotion and beauty. The wordplay and quirk that have become Bird’s trademarks are still very much in play, but his subtle detachment and sustained insistence in the chance of life lend a complexity to this record that makes it very hard to turn off.
Andrew Bird: “Scythian Empires”
9. Aesop Rock: None Shall Pass [Definitive Jux]
This will be known as the record where Ace Rock finally put it all together. A masterpiece of flow and lyrical intricacy, Ace remains cool and confident as he crams hip-hop through the filter of adulthood without sacrificing its youthful energy. It’s his most accessible record to date, full of bangers and think-pieces alike, and co-producer Blockhead’s finest works here are some of the most sophisticated beats he’s ever created. To be honest, Ace kind of grated on me in the past, but I have no problem listening to this record from start to finish.
Aesop Rock: “None Shall Pass”
Tune in soon for another batch of records…