Here are my top picks for best albums of the year.
If you missed my picks for 2011 check here.
25. The KDMS – Kinky Dramas & Magic Stories [iTunes]
We’d got a taste of The KDMS’s sound via their incredibly groovy cover of Madonna‘s Gimme All Your Luvin’ (here). The duo, comprised of Polish producer Maximilian Skiba and singer Kathy Diamond continued to showcase their groove and motion with their upbeat, feel good, nu-disco debut. If you are a fan of Róisín Murphy‘s sexy vocals, then you should let Kathy Diamond’s soulful voice seduce you the same way Murphy’s does.
24. Gossip – A Joyful Noise [iTunes]
I still feel Beth Ditto’s vocals on this record sound restrained and controlled—but watching Ditto belt-out these tracks LIVE (where Ditto is at her best) 3-times during the course of this release, I’ve grown to love this record. Ditto’s raw LIVE vocal power birth new life into every song; the stage is where these songs truly become A Joyful Noise.
23. WAZU – Robobo [iTunes]
Dark-wave Aussie duo WAZU arrived out of nowhere with the haunting industrial track, ‘Murder 1′; the track quickly became one of my favorites— but it wasn’t till the witchy, synth-heavy track ‘Happy Endings’ appeared that I began to pay attention. Their debut album, Robobo is heavily influenced by new-wave and ’80s industrial sound that bare comparison to the best in the genre (Depeche Mode). The vocal exchanges and mashups between singers Matt and Rizz are definitely a plus here–as it adds a new dimension to the music. Robobo is not perfect, but it’s a great introduction to a very promising band.
22. SSION – Bent [iTunes]
There are plenty of addictive, pop, house, dance tunes and glitter here to turn anyone into a dancing queen. Simply play the addictive, ‘Blonde With You’ and ‘Listen 2 The Grrrls’ once, and I guaranteed you that you’ll be hooked. There is no escaping the dancing power of SSION.
21. TRUST – TRST [iTunes]
TRUST‘s (Robert Alfons and Austra‘s Maya Postepski) industrial, moody, goth-flecked synth-pop sound will seduce you into a dark, sweaty world filled with smoke, sex and drugs. Robert Alfons’ smoky, slithering vocals on this record are creepy, menacing, inviting, and at the same time seductive and sexually enticing. Think Crystal Castles with a more sensual pop sound. I love this record.
20. Garbage – Not Your Kind of People [iTunes]
I’ve been a fan of Garbage from the very beginning. Through their good, Bad and ugly. Fortunately, Not Your Kind of People is one of their best work. This record represents Garbage’s return to form…the dazzling alt-rock-sythn heavy hooks and screeching guitars of the 90’s are back, alongside Shirley Manson’s empowering vocals and songs. Give this record another try!
19. Ladyhawke – Anxiety [iTunes]
Ladyhawke‘s sophomore album was not what fans were expecting from the New Zealand singer. On her second outing, Brown substituted her synthy-pop sound with psychedelic guitar-riffs and 80s inspired rock hooks that brought a level of maturity to her music. The record succeeds, by delivering catchy and lyrically engaging pop tunes that never sound too-distant from Ladyhawke’s electro-pop material.
18. Friends – Manifest! [iTunes]
The 1980s musical revival never sounded so good… and so addictive. Brooklyn based, indie-electro-pop band, Friends’ ( a horrible name btw, try to Google the word ‘Friends,’ it’ll take you 10hrs to find the band) collection of cool and slick indie-dance tracks will seduce you into a New York state of mind where punk, funk and disco once dared to mingle.
17. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die [iTunes]
I think by now we all have our own opinions about who Lana Del Rey is or wants to be — but if we allow ourselves to let go of everything we know about her, including the dreadful SNL live performance and just focus solemnly on her music; we end-up with a soulful, remarkable record that transcends genres and time. ‘Born To Die’ successfully fuses hip-hop, R&B and electronic pop music with a vintage, faux-americana with a 1950s flair that oozes sensuality and glam; all while maintaining a vague sense humor.
16. Hot Chip – In Our Heads [iTunes]
This is probably hot chip’s most playful and colorful record to date. In Our Heads sounds like a debut of sorts due to it’s innovation and fusion of genres like Disco, Techno and Pop. Let Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard‘s inescapable sound lure you back onto the dancefloor and help you get your groove back.
15. Frank Ocean – Channel ORANGE [iTunes]
On this record Frank Ocean pours his heart and soul and lays it all down for the whole world to see. Channeling the best of Stevie Wonder and Prince, every track on this record perfectly depicts stories of love and loss over Ocean’s soulful, falsetto-brushed vocals and honeycombed R&B grooves.
14. Purity Ring – Shrines [iTunes]
Canadian duo Purity Ring (Megan James and Corin Roddick) will remind you of a few bands; the duo employs the same ghostly pitch-shifted vocals reminiscent of The Knife, Burial, and Crystal Castles to some extend. But the duo aligns closer to nu-wave and synth-pop bands of the 80’s. Unlike the bands mentioned above, Purity Ring brings a ‘fun’ factor to their lush, dreamy sound —and the clever mixture of hip-hop, synth and R&B grooves makes for a very creative debut.
13. Solange – TRUE [iTunes]
Admittedly, I’ve never heard Solange’s first record. So this album is kinda like a debut for me. From the first addictive opening track, Losing You to the soulful nostalgic final track Bad Girls this record is true perfection from beginning to end—largely in part to the slick masterful production of Dev Hynes, (Aka Blood Orange) Dev Hynes is a genius musician!
12. Crystal Castles – (III) [iTunes]
I think this is probably my favorite Crystal Castles’ album to date. On this record the band sounds more streamlined, cohesive and melodic than before. There is still plenty of anger, screams and staggering synth work here, but it all feels like it has purpose now. There is structure to the sound and lyrically it conveys more emotions than the previous records…even if the lyrics are still dystopian and apocalyptic in nature.
11. Marina and The Diamonds – Electra Heart [iTunes]
This record shares a lot of similarities to Lana Del Rey‘s Born To Die. They both share the same sentiment and obsession about the American life and dream — they both feel like are being narrated by a housewife…and thou Del Rey’s take has more of a vintage (50’s and 60’s) nostalgic approach, Marina’s vision plays a like a mainstream soap opera with a cynical take on the role. This is an incredible pop record.
10. The XX – Coexist [iTunes]
A beautiful record that flourishes on its own minimalist sound escapes. All tracks are sung and delivered beautifully by Romy Croft and Olive Sim over dreamy keyboards, delicate guitar riff and simple chord progressions. Their duets on this record sound intimate and tense— almost as if they were recorded in a bedroom. A simply remarkable record that showcases the band’s musical refinement and rapid growth.
9. Chromatics – Kill for Love [iTunes]
This gorgeous record is a perfect winter companion. Ruth Radelet’s monotonic and delicate vocals accompanied by the masterful italo style synth work and ghostly piano riffs by Johnny Jewel will hypnotize you into a timeless cinematic dream-scape of smoke, glam and nightlife.
8. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Trouble [iTunes]
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs makes music at the central point between pop, electro, house and melodic rave – and his debut album ‘Trouble’ is just more proof that TEED‘s Orlando Higginbottom is one of the most fascinating, brilliant and musically kaleidoscopic artists in the world right now.
7. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than… [iTunes]
This is the same emotional, spiteful and poetic Fiona Apple we ALL love…but this time around without any label restrictions. In her Fourth LP and first self-produced record, Fiona sounds more confident and self-aware (As if that’s even possible) by revealing every intimacy and disillusions of her life behind a cabaret-style acoustic set and masterful piano work.
6. Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man [iTunes]
Natasha Khan‘s third record, The Haunted Man, is a more personal and intimate affair than the gipsy-like, outwardly, story driven artistry of the first two records. On The Haunted Man, Khan explores issues of longing and loss and musically I feel is one of her best records; it reminds me a lot of PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake (which was my pick for best album of 2011) This record is raw and darkly enigmatic…but it’s also a pop record at heart.
5. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon [iTunes]
It’s hard to believe that Goulding’s first record, ‘Lights’ was only released two years ago. There is an immense maturity on Halcyon that I feel leaps ahead of her debut. With songs like ‘Figure 8’, ‘My Blood’ and ‘Don’t Say A Word’ Goulding showcases her songwriting growth as she dwells deeper into love, loss and heartbreak while vocally conveying emotions on every song with confidence and hope.
4. Santigold – Master of My Make Believe [iTunes]
With Master of My Make Believe, Santigold solidified herself as a genre-bending auteur. With the help of Switch, Diplo, Dave Sitek, and John HillIs, Santi gave us a wide range of addictive and creatives tracks that ranged from dancehall to hip-hop to rock. Although nowadays, cross-genre adaptability is no longer a novelty, this record simply serves as a proclamation that Santi did it first…and can still do it well.
3. Jessie Ware – Devotion [Amazon]
Devotion is an incredible soulful affair that channels the beautiful voice of sultry diva Lisa Stansfield and the sensual and timeless musicality of the iconic Sade. The record seamlessly blends Pop, Soul and R&B with contemporary electronic music; but it’s Jessie Ware’s soothing and dreamy vocals that shine brightly throughout each song. ‘Devotion’ is a beautiful record that stages the introduction of a shining new star.
2. Karin Park – Highwire Poetry [iTunes]
Thanks in part to The Knife collaborator, Christoffer Berg, Swedish electro-goth songstress Karin Park delivered a perfect, gloomy and brooding electronic record that almost made me knock-down Grimes from the top spot. Heavily influenced by 80’s industrial sound, synth and dub, mixed with lyrics of longing, sex and religion, Park manages to outshine comparisons by delivering a lush, gorgeous record that sounds years ahead of it’s time.
1. Grimes – Visions [iTunes]
On her first two records ‘Halfaxa’ and ‘Geidi Primes’, Grimes aka Clare Boucher introduced us to a range of gloomy atmospheric tunes and trippy psychedelic songs. With, Visions, her third record (to what she calls her debut) Boucher experimented with pop and synthesized electronic melodies that gave birth to one of the most creative and refreshing albums of the year. Wether is K-pop, Hip-Hop, new age, or bubblegum music, Grimes finds the core and soul of all those genres and delivers something new and creative that’s completely out-of-the-box and musically forward.