My Top 10 Albums of 2012

Oh god, this is the first thing I've posted here since June. :| Uh... hey, guys. How's it going? Good? Great! I've been busy. Really busy. I'm in the final semester of my program and it's fucking killing us. Fortunately, it's winter break (5 weeks!) and though I've spent some of it sick, I also have been writing/making stuff for end-year listings. Hooray!

I've been meaning to do this for a while now but haven't because, previous to this year, my library has been lacking in the variety required for this. I'd find it a little shortsighted to compose a top 10 list if all I listened to was 10 albums and all of them were electro/dubstep. Alas, this year has brought many changes, some better than others, and one of them is that I've expanded my taste in music by leaps and bounds. It's made for an incredible year of discovery, one which I really want to share with everyone. Maybe I can introduce you to some really cool stuff, too! For each album, you'll find a Youtube vid of a song I find noteworthy on the album and a link to where you can purchase it. Have fun reading!

I originally did not want to include soundtracks on my list because OSTs work a little differently than a traditional album does. While some soundtracks can stand on their own really well, (see: Shatter’s soundtrack) the score is usually there to accompany and support a game, not to be the star of it. This year has some soundtracks I found to be really notable, so I included a few on my collective list (see: bottom of post later on) to make sure they got their due recognition.

It should probably speak some amount to how much I love the Journey soundtrack that I would place it above nearly every other album I've listened to this year. The multiple renditions of Journey’s cello theme is as beautiful a listen as you’ll have with any soundtrack this year, and the closing theme’s vocals will haunt you in the most profound way. The feeling will resonate so much more if you have played the game but even if you have not, the closing tracks of the soundtrack will bring emotion in you unlike anything else you could listen to this year.

That it is the best soundtrack this year in gaming alone is worth as much praise as it can get. That it can stand alone as a beautiful composition of music despite being an original score... that’s something special, and something I find to be incredibly deserving of the spot it’s at.

You can purchase the Journey Soundtrack digitally through iTunes for the fucking bargain-theft price of $4.99.

I cannot express how happy I am that my most anticipated album of the year turned out to be every bit as awesome as I expected it to be. I found out about Caster through Reddit, where one of the two band members posted their first ever track on r/electronicmusic. I rarely listen to self-posts on there because most people’s work is, well, average at best. It’s cool they’re trying but you can only hear so many FL Studio stems before you start to lose it.

That said, Caster’s post of “Wayward Youth” had a ton of upvotes and comments, despite the “this is our first track” title. Curiosity made me check it out and, like the rest of the community, I was absolutely floored. It was good. Really good. With that one track, I was excited at the prospect of a full album and, three months later, it is here.

The arid, atmospheric tracks on Caster have a texture and sound unlike anything else I've heard this year. The dark, electronic, low-frequency-filled melodies of the album are what I was missing from other artists in the electronic/idm genre this year and I couldn't be happier to have found it in the debut of two very obviously talented musicians.

You can download Caster's debut album at a pay-what-you-want rate (with no minimum) on their official Bandcamp. For the love of Christ, do so.

Here's an album where I feel slightly conflicted with in a way that doesn’t really affect how terrific it is. Army of Mushrooms is significantly more reserved than any other Infected Mushroom album before it, with sounds and rhythm a bit more reminiscent of modern electronic music. The beats are more straightforward, there’s less complexity in most of the tracks, and there’s probably more hints at dubstep than one might expect or appreciate.

In the hands of others, this could have made for a potentially disastrous follow-up to a terrific line of work. Infected Mushroom has, however, made an album that’s not only a good refresh of their sound but stands out in electronic music on its own. Their previous work is a bit less approachable than Army of Mushrooms is and if you’ve ever been curious to know about the magic of psytrance at work, this is the perfect entry point for you. “Never Mind” is about as tricky as the album gets and the remake of “The Messenger” puts a new take on one of their best songs to make it a version I like infinitely more.

The speed and general intensity of the album might be a little intimidating but it’s definitely worth checking out if you never have. If you’re not accustomed to psytrance, you’ll still enjoy the energy of the album. It’s frantic and fun, if not a bit ridiculous at times. And even better? Fans of Infected Mushroom won’t be disappointed by this either. It’s a terrific follow-up and even if it does play it a little safer than older albums, it still has their mark on it. That it can pull in a new direction and please two different crowds in such a niche genre is... well, that’s pretty rad.

You can buy Army of Mushrooms for $8.99 on Amazon MP3.

Only two years coming! Supposed to be a “sequel” of sorts to Orion, she finally decided to release Electric Girl in November and... yo, it’s pretty great. It’s a bit lacking in the creativity department, but it’s a lot punchier than his previous work-- something I appreciate much more this time around.

My problem with it, though, is the same reason why I love it. It’s pretty straight-forward, meaning there are essentially no interludes whatsoever. It’s one track after another, one full of the same energy as the last. There’s little-to-no downtime in the album, which Orion and Coloris both had plenty of. It helped establish a bit of a pace throughout them, but also made the harder hits fall flatter than they should have. Electric Girl does the complete opposite, omitting interludes to give a much more energetic pace... but the composition of it feels messy because of it. There’s little structure to the album, and the lack of breathing room in it makes it feel like a mish-mash of sounds, albeit all of them being great. The individual tracks are all, really, pretty terrific. Headshot is easily one of my favorite tunes this year, but as an album, it’s a little disorganised.

Which isn’t to say I don’t like it. Like I said, the individual tracks are all terrific. It’s not some of his best work, but it’s up there. I just wish the album were a bit more structured. If it had that, it’d probably be in my top 3.

You can buy Electric Girl on Amazon MP3 for $8.91.

I’d be lying if I said how to write anything about Eighty One. It’s an album that was thrown to me saying I needed to listen to it, so I did. And I loved it. It’s a pretty album in a genre I can’t exactly say I’m fluent in. ... Seriously, I’m struggling for words, here. It’s a really nice listen, especially if you’re travelling. I tend to flip to something else if I have it on whilst working, but most of my listens with it were either on public transit or in a car, and it suits both really well. There’s an airiness to it that makes it equate more to those situations, to me.

Really, it’s kind of an impressive feat that the entire thing is composed by a single person. Despite being the softest type of electronic rock, there’s plenty of reason in Eighty One to be excited for Yppah’s next album. The quality of work here is nothing short of stunning.

You can buy Eighty One on Ninja Tune's (its label) website digitally for around $8 USD, as well as a bunch of other formats suited to your liking.

The first of two white knights in the electronic umbrella of music. When I started the list, I had originally omitted EPs from it because, well, they aren't really albums. And this was supposed to be an album list. Only even back in its original form, I still included Metropolis Pt. 1 on this list, pretty much in the same spot. If anything else, The M Machine are a clear example of why electronic music is doing just fine and will continue to do just fine, despite the sore spot it’s in right now.

What I mean by that is relatively simple. As it stands now, there are three dominant sounds in popular electronic music. 1: Your typical dubstep (or brostep, if you’re an asshole) like Skrillex, Datsik, and Knife Party. 2: Your typical complextro like Mord Fustang, Archie, and Farleon. 3: Your typical electro house like Wolfgang Gartner, Zedd, and Gemini. The problem with all three of those is that while there are still its breakouts like Feed Me, Porter Robinson, and Madeon, they stick to their respective guns and don’t explore very much, if at all. This year has been a notoriously repetitive year, with some of the brightest artists releasing middling records that recycle the same sounds and flow as their previous work. It’s tiring and it’s occurring far too frequently. It’s effectively making me loathe a genre I really, really loved.

But then in came Metropolis Pt. 1. Having formed a little over a year ago, The M Machine delivers what is the most creatively inspired release of any of the aforementioned genres. Although exploring similar territory to their peers, Metropolis Pt. 1 has a variety of freshness to the familiar sounds that I found incredibly comforting and reassuring. From the aggressive start of “Immigrants” to the wobbly end of “A Shadow in the Rose Garden”, the six-track EP feeds the need of its respective genres while bringing creativity and melody to increasingly tired ideas. It’s not perfectly executed, with the middle falling short of its start and end, but it’s easily worth the listen if, like me, you feel electro is quickly becoming a shadow of its former self.

You can purchase Metropolis Pt. 1 on iTunes for $5.99.

And in comes the second white knight! In a year where I realised I’ve officially become really fucking tired with complextro comes a complextro album that completely fucking rocks my socks. I’d be lying if I said I was expecting much out of Nhato after the bevy of average remixes he’s produced over the years. Maybe it’s the lowered expectations that’s made the its mark on me so prominent, but even still, Etude is an album well worth listening to if you’re a fan of anything electronic, aggressive, punchy, and synthy.

There’s an energy to all of the tracks on Etude that I’ve had trouble finding in any other album this year. From the start, it just fucking goes and doesn’t stop ‘till it’s over. Even in tracks like “Asuka” where the music starts to die down a bit, it immediately resumes the pace tenfold with a sound that will just refuse to let go until your feet are tapping. That energy comes in a variety of sounds, some bordering a bit more of the trancey side, especially with tracks like “Chameleonic” and “Moonquake”, but the end result is an album that will inject some of the most infectious sounds into your brain. The long-form tracks all evolve, ending in a completely different manner from which they started, opting to get you moving instead of introducing subtlety where it’s not necessary.

I can only hope all of Nhato’s future productions are as powerful as Etude is. The 10-track album is, alongside the previous list item, one of the strongest arguments in favor of electronic music’s constant evolution. The critical mass may be drowning in a sea of repetitive dubstep and sample-heavy electro house, but there’s still hope.

You can purchase Nhato's Etude album on Beatport for $9.99.

I can’t say much of 2012 has been strong for IDM to me. Either by being a little disappointing or simply not being released, the genre’s left a weird mark on this year and it’s made me have to dig a bit to find stuff to listen to. Fortunately, this is the path that led me to Kashiwa Daisuke’s Re: album.

I missed his first album, 88, (Which should also be checked out. It’s a terrific piano album.) and Re: comes as his first full IDM release. It features some re-works of older compositions (namely, the “april” tracks) and some completely original ones, and both form together to make what is the most well-composed album I’ve listened to all year. It ends with a finish just as strong as its opening, both seamlessly transitioning from piano to glitch. Everything in between is a transition from the start to the end, with the album becoming more and more complex with hints of experimenting along the way. What starts as “Jazz pour une infante defunte” ends in a much more aggressive “Ajanagar”, before coming to a close “april.#20”.

… ouf. I sound pretentious. The album is beautiful. Here’s an example of it. Go listen to it, especially if you like some glitchiness amidst your piano compositions. You won’t be disappointed.

You can purchase Re: on iTunes for $9.99.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t really much care for metal, or variations thereof. I’ve always preferred synths and plugins over actual instruments, and that preference has made it so that the severity of the instrumentation found on a metal album has always been lost on me. Who cares if it sounds heavy, right? It’s just a louder sound with dudes yelling. Whatever.

That preference is probably what made my absolute love for Epicloud even more poignant to me. It’s obviously not as intense as most other metal I could be introduced to, (which, please, don’t) but that’s not why I enjoy Epicloud. Why the album is so goddamn amazing to me is because it’s fun. It’s an absolute blast to listen to because of how it’s structured, how it’s mixed, and how it’s presented. It’s not a metal album about metal shit. It’s a metal album love, emotions, life, fear, and confidence. “True North” immediately lets you know what you’re in for, “Lucky Animals” lets you know how serious it is, and “Liberation” lets you know how loud it’s going to be. The instrumentation is not something to run home about, but it’s the presentation that makes everything with Epicloud. Every track is mixed to sound massive, like you’re listening to it on a sound stage the size of a city block next to a crowd of 300,000 people. It’s just so energetic. Every time I hear the chorus in “Grace”, I want to just jump out of my chair and yell with my hands in the air in time to the shouts.

I don’t know if I could really like anything else other in the genre, because what I love about Epicloud seems so very specific to the album itself, but I am also perfectly fine with that. I don’t know if I would want anything else to be like it, really.

You can buy Epicloud for $9.49 on Amazon MP3.

I don’t think I could have ever fathomed that I would place an album like Shrines so high up on my list, let one take the top spot. There’s an appeal to indie-like electronic music that’s never really catered to me until about halfway into this year, where I just found some albums that really clicked with me. Out of all of them, however, Purity Ring’s debut stands above the rest. The 38 minute-long album is one of the best full listens I’ve had in recent memory, with an atmosphere and sound I just can’t stop listening to. It’s a sound I could see some find a little repetitive by the end, but it doesn’t work like a regular album would to me. Instead of extending through a variety of sounds to form one cohesive listen like a regular album would, it feels like a single image to me. It’s just one that’s interpreted multiple ways throughout its run. The end of the album feels like the start, only with the distinct sense that you’ve fully examined what was presented to you. The percussion, vocals, synths... they all have a striking resemblance with one another from song to song, yet it always feels like a different and new take on what you’ve been introduced to previously. It’s... like repetitiveness done the right way? I suppose that’s what makes a full, non-stop listen to it so incredibly enjoyable.

(Alternative youtube link for those with country restrictions)

That’s probably an awful way of describing it. Regardless, I absolutely adore it. The vocal work is masterful and it is mixed perfectly throughout its entirety. Some of its percussion work could be a bit more creative, and it has its low-points, (one track, thankfully) but Shrines is about as close to a masterpiece as I can think of for this year.

You can buy Shrines for $5.00 on Amazon MP3.

-------------------------------------

And that's my top 10! Woo! Hope you've found something interesting in there, and if not, then... eh. Wh'evs. Opinions! I'd love to hear what were your favorites of the year-- I'm always up for discovering new stuff. If you'd like a look at my actual (and relatively long with 66 items on it) list of favorite albums this year, I have a list up on RateYourMusic that you can gawk at.

Thanks for reading, and see you guys next week for really stupid game of the year stuff! :'D

18 Comments
19 Comments
Posted by aurahack

Oh god, this is the first thing I've posted here since June. :| Uh... hey, guys. How's it going? Good? Great! I've been busy. Really busy. I'm in the final semester of my program and it's fucking killing us. Fortunately, it's winter break (5 weeks!) and though I've spent some of it sick, I also have been writing/making stuff for end-year listings. Hooray!

I've been meaning to do this for a while now but haven't because, previous to this year, my library has been lacking in the variety required for this. I'd find it a little shortsighted to compose a top 10 list if all I listened to was 10 albums and all of them were electro/dubstep. Alas, this year has brought many changes, some better than others, and one of them is that I've expanded my taste in music by leaps and bounds. It's made for an incredible year of discovery, one which I really want to share with everyone. Maybe I can introduce you to some really cool stuff, too! For each album, you'll find a Youtube vid of a song I find noteworthy on the album and a link to where you can purchase it. Have fun reading!

I originally did not want to include soundtracks on my list because OSTs work a little differently than a traditional album does. While some soundtracks can stand on their own really well, (see: Shatter’s soundtrack) the score is usually there to accompany and support a game, not to be the star of it. This year has some soundtracks I found to be really notable, so I included a few on my collective list (see: bottom of post later on) to make sure they got their due recognition.

It should probably speak some amount to how much I love the Journey soundtrack that I would place it above nearly every other album I've listened to this year. The multiple renditions of Journey’s cello theme is as beautiful a listen as you’ll have with any soundtrack this year, and the closing theme’s vocals will haunt you in the most profound way. The feeling will resonate so much more if you have played the game but even if you have not, the closing tracks of the soundtrack will bring emotion in you unlike anything else you could listen to this year.

That it is the best soundtrack this year in gaming alone is worth as much praise as it can get. That it can stand alone as a beautiful composition of music despite being an original score... that’s something special, and something I find to be incredibly deserving of the spot it’s at.

You can purchase the Journey Soundtrack digitally through iTunes for the fucking bargain-theft price of $4.99.

I cannot express how happy I am that my most anticipated album of the year turned out to be every bit as awesome as I expected it to be. I found out about Caster through Reddit, where one of the two band members posted their first ever track on r/electronicmusic. I rarely listen to self-posts on there because most people’s work is, well, average at best. It’s cool they’re trying but you can only hear so many FL Studio stems before you start to lose it.

That said, Caster’s post of “Wayward Youth” had a ton of upvotes and comments, despite the “this is our first track” title. Curiosity made me check it out and, like the rest of the community, I was absolutely floored. It was good. Really good. With that one track, I was excited at the prospect of a full album and, three months later, it is here.

The arid, atmospheric tracks on Caster have a texture and sound unlike anything else I've heard this year. The dark, electronic, low-frequency-filled melodies of the album are what I was missing from other artists in the electronic/idm genre this year and I couldn't be happier to have found it in the debut of two very obviously talented musicians.

You can download Caster's debut album at a pay-what-you-want rate (with no minimum) on their official Bandcamp. For the love of Christ, do so.

Here's an album where I feel slightly conflicted with in a way that doesn’t really affect how terrific it is. Army of Mushrooms is significantly more reserved than any other Infected Mushroom album before it, with sounds and rhythm a bit more reminiscent of modern electronic music. The beats are more straightforward, there’s less complexity in most of the tracks, and there’s probably more hints at dubstep than one might expect or appreciate.

In the hands of others, this could have made for a potentially disastrous follow-up to a terrific line of work. Infected Mushroom has, however, made an album that’s not only a good refresh of their sound but stands out in electronic music on its own. Their previous work is a bit less approachable than Army of Mushrooms is and if you’ve ever been curious to know about the magic of psytrance at work, this is the perfect entry point for you. “Never Mind” is about as tricky as the album gets and the remake of “The Messenger” puts a new take on one of their best songs to make it a version I like infinitely more.

The speed and general intensity of the album might be a little intimidating but it’s definitely worth checking out if you never have. If you’re not accustomed to psytrance, you’ll still enjoy the energy of the album. It’s frantic and fun, if not a bit ridiculous at times. And even better? Fans of Infected Mushroom won’t be disappointed by this either. It’s a terrific follow-up and even if it does play it a little safer than older albums, it still has their mark on it. That it can pull in a new direction and please two different crowds in such a niche genre is... well, that’s pretty rad.

You can buy Army of Mushrooms for $8.99 on Amazon MP3.

Only two years coming! Supposed to be a “sequel” of sorts to Orion, she finally decided to release Electric Girl in November and... yo, it’s pretty great. It’s a bit lacking in the creativity department, but it’s a lot punchier than his previous work-- something I appreciate much more this time around.

My problem with it, though, is the same reason why I love it. It’s pretty straight-forward, meaning there are essentially no interludes whatsoever. It’s one track after another, one full of the same energy as the last. There’s little-to-no downtime in the album, which Orion and Coloris both had plenty of. It helped establish a bit of a pace throughout them, but also made the harder hits fall flatter than they should have. Electric Girl does the complete opposite, omitting interludes to give a much more energetic pace... but the composition of it feels messy because of it. There’s little structure to the album, and the lack of breathing room in it makes it feel like a mish-mash of sounds, albeit all of them being great. The individual tracks are all, really, pretty terrific. Headshot is easily one of my favorite tunes this year, but as an album, it’s a little disorganised.

Which isn’t to say I don’t like it. Like I said, the individual tracks are all terrific. It’s not some of his best work, but it’s up there. I just wish the album were a bit more structured. If it had that, it’d probably be in my top 3.

You can buy Electric Girl on Amazon MP3 for $8.91.

I’d be lying if I said how to write anything about Eighty One. It’s an album that was thrown to me saying I needed to listen to it, so I did. And I loved it. It’s a pretty album in a genre I can’t exactly say I’m fluent in. ... Seriously, I’m struggling for words, here. It’s a really nice listen, especially if you’re travelling. I tend to flip to something else if I have it on whilst working, but most of my listens with it were either on public transit or in a car, and it suits both really well. There’s an airiness to it that makes it equate more to those situations, to me.

Really, it’s kind of an impressive feat that the entire thing is composed by a single person. Despite being the softest type of electronic rock, there’s plenty of reason in Eighty One to be excited for Yppah’s next album. The quality of work here is nothing short of stunning.

You can buy Eighty One on Ninja Tune's (its label) website digitally for around $8 USD, as well as a bunch of other formats suited to your liking.

The first of two white knights in the electronic umbrella of music. When I started the list, I had originally omitted EPs from it because, well, they aren't really albums. And this was supposed to be an album list. Only even back in its original form, I still included Metropolis Pt. 1 on this list, pretty much in the same spot. If anything else, The M Machine are a clear example of why electronic music is doing just fine and will continue to do just fine, despite the sore spot it’s in right now.

What I mean by that is relatively simple. As it stands now, there are three dominant sounds in popular electronic music. 1: Your typical dubstep (or brostep, if you’re an asshole) like Skrillex, Datsik, and Knife Party. 2: Your typical complextro like Mord Fustang, Archie, and Farleon. 3: Your typical electro house like Wolfgang Gartner, Zedd, and Gemini. The problem with all three of those is that while there are still its breakouts like Feed Me, Porter Robinson, and Madeon, they stick to their respective guns and don’t explore very much, if at all. This year has been a notoriously repetitive year, with some of the brightest artists releasing middling records that recycle the same sounds and flow as their previous work. It’s tiring and it’s occurring far too frequently. It’s effectively making me loathe a genre I really, really loved.

But then in came Metropolis Pt. 1. Having formed a little over a year ago, The M Machine delivers what is the most creatively inspired release of any of the aforementioned genres. Although exploring similar territory to their peers, Metropolis Pt. 1 has a variety of freshness to the familiar sounds that I found incredibly comforting and reassuring. From the aggressive start of “Immigrants” to the wobbly end of “A Shadow in the Rose Garden”, the six-track EP feeds the need of its respective genres while bringing creativity and melody to increasingly tired ideas. It’s not perfectly executed, with the middle falling short of its start and end, but it’s easily worth the listen if, like me, you feel electro is quickly becoming a shadow of its former self.

You can purchase Metropolis Pt. 1 on iTunes for $5.99.

And in comes the second white knight! In a year where I realised I’ve officially become really fucking tired with complextro comes a complextro album that completely fucking rocks my socks. I’d be lying if I said I was expecting much out of Nhato after the bevy of average remixes he’s produced over the years. Maybe it’s the lowered expectations that’s made the its mark on me so prominent, but even still, Etude is an album well worth listening to if you’re a fan of anything electronic, aggressive, punchy, and synthy.

There’s an energy to all of the tracks on Etude that I’ve had trouble finding in any other album this year. From the start, it just fucking goes and doesn’t stop ‘till it’s over. Even in tracks like “Asuka” where the music starts to die down a bit, it immediately resumes the pace tenfold with a sound that will just refuse to let go until your feet are tapping. That energy comes in a variety of sounds, some bordering a bit more of the trancey side, especially with tracks like “Chameleonic” and “Moonquake”, but the end result is an album that will inject some of the most infectious sounds into your brain. The long-form tracks all evolve, ending in a completely different manner from which they started, opting to get you moving instead of introducing subtlety where it’s not necessary.

I can only hope all of Nhato’s future productions are as powerful as Etude is. The 10-track album is, alongside the previous list item, one of the strongest arguments in favor of electronic music’s constant evolution. The critical mass may be drowning in a sea of repetitive dubstep and sample-heavy electro house, but there’s still hope.

You can purchase Nhato's Etude album on Beatport for $9.99.

I can’t say much of 2012 has been strong for IDM to me. Either by being a little disappointing or simply not being released, the genre’s left a weird mark on this year and it’s made me have to dig a bit to find stuff to listen to. Fortunately, this is the path that led me to Kashiwa Daisuke’s Re: album.

I missed his first album, 88, (Which should also be checked out. It’s a terrific piano album.) and Re: comes as his first full IDM release. It features some re-works of older compositions (namely, the “april” tracks) and some completely original ones, and both form together to make what is the most well-composed album I’ve listened to all year. It ends with a finish just as strong as its opening, both seamlessly transitioning from piano to glitch. Everything in between is a transition from the start to the end, with the album becoming more and more complex with hints of experimenting along the way. What starts as “Jazz pour une infante defunte” ends in a much more aggressive “Ajanagar”, before coming to a close “april.#20”.

… ouf. I sound pretentious. The album is beautiful. Here’s an example of it. Go listen to it, especially if you like some glitchiness amidst your piano compositions. You won’t be disappointed.

You can purchase Re: on iTunes for $9.99.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t really much care for metal, or variations thereof. I’ve always preferred synths and plugins over actual instruments, and that preference has made it so that the severity of the instrumentation found on a metal album has always been lost on me. Who cares if it sounds heavy, right? It’s just a louder sound with dudes yelling. Whatever.

That preference is probably what made my absolute love for Epicloud even more poignant to me. It’s obviously not as intense as most other metal I could be introduced to, (which, please, don’t) but that’s not why I enjoy Epicloud. Why the album is so goddamn amazing to me is because it’s fun. It’s an absolute blast to listen to because of how it’s structured, how it’s mixed, and how it’s presented. It’s not a metal album about metal shit. It’s a metal album love, emotions, life, fear, and confidence. “True North” immediately lets you know what you’re in for, “Lucky Animals” lets you know how serious it is, and “Liberation” lets you know how loud it’s going to be. The instrumentation is not something to run home about, but it’s the presentation that makes everything with Epicloud. Every track is mixed to sound massive, like you’re listening to it on a sound stage the size of a city block next to a crowd of 300,000 people. It’s just so energetic. Every time I hear the chorus in “Grace”, I want to just jump out of my chair and yell with my hands in the air in time to the shouts.

I don’t know if I could really like anything else other in the genre, because what I love about Epicloud seems so very specific to the album itself, but I am also perfectly fine with that. I don’t know if I would want anything else to be like it, really.

You can buy Epicloud for $9.49 on Amazon MP3.

I don’t think I could have ever fathomed that I would place an album like Shrines so high up on my list, let one take the top spot. There’s an appeal to indie-like electronic music that’s never really catered to me until about halfway into this year, where I just found some albums that really clicked with me. Out of all of them, however, Purity Ring’s debut stands above the rest. The 38 minute-long album is one of the best full listens I’ve had in recent memory, with an atmosphere and sound I just can’t stop listening to. It’s a sound I could see some find a little repetitive by the end, but it doesn’t work like a regular album would to me. Instead of extending through a variety of sounds to form one cohesive listen like a regular album would, it feels like a single image to me. It’s just one that’s interpreted multiple ways throughout its run. The end of the album feels like the start, only with the distinct sense that you’ve fully examined what was presented to you. The percussion, vocals, synths... they all have a striking resemblance with one another from song to song, yet it always feels like a different and new take on what you’ve been introduced to previously. It’s... like repetitiveness done the right way? I suppose that’s what makes a full, non-stop listen to it so incredibly enjoyable.

(Alternative youtube link for those with country restrictions)

That’s probably an awful way of describing it. Regardless, I absolutely adore it. The vocal work is masterful and it is mixed perfectly throughout its entirety. Some of its percussion work could be a bit more creative, and it has its low-points, (one track, thankfully) but Shrines is about as close to a masterpiece as I can think of for this year.

You can buy Shrines for $5.00 on Amazon MP3.

-------------------------------------

And that's my top 10! Woo! Hope you've found something interesting in there, and if not, then... eh. Wh'evs. Opinions! I'd love to hear what were your favorites of the year-- I'm always up for discovering new stuff. If you'd like a look at my actual (and relatively long with 66 items on it) list of favorite albums this year, I have a list up on RateYourMusic that you can gawk at.

Thanks for reading, and see you guys next week for really stupid game of the year stuff! :'D

Edited by StarFoxA

Okay, I can honestly say I haven't heard of any of these artists except for she (from when I listened to a lot of chiptunes), Austin Wintory, and Purity Ring. New music to check out! Also, I love the design of this blog, and it's impressively detailed and well written, can't wait to give some of these a listen.

A few albums I liked this year:

Posted by Animasta

if you liked epicloud, than plenty of devin's other work might appeal to you; ki is less heavy than his usual stuff, Addicted! is fairly similar to epicloud, and ghost is basically just him, an acoustic guitar, a flute, and a lady, very low key an what not; he is very eclectic but if you like one fo his albums then you will likely like at least one more.

Posted by Sploder

Big brofist to you for the Townsend love. Good blog.

Edited by aurahack

@StarFoxA: Godspeed You!, Kishi Bashi, and The xx's new albums are pretty much the last things on my list that I need to give a listen to. I've heard really good things about them but have never actually listened to either bands. Suppose I should get on that!

@Animasta: ki and Addicted have both been recommended to me a lot, yeah. I wanted to get through my bucket list for this year before I got around to checking out his other stuff. If they're half as fun to listen to as Epicloud, I'm down.

@Sploder: Thanks. :'D I'm rather surprised how many people that I come across end up being DT fans. He's got a way bigger following than I anticipated.

Posted by FLYmeatwad
  1. Cool list, I'll have to check some of these out. I'm not huge in to instrumental only music (good for writing, but not something I tend to listen to for pleasure unless it really floors me), so my list is more lyrical in nature.

    1. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

    2. Willis Earl Beal – Acousmatic Sorcery

    3. Ab-Soul – Control System

    4. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light

    5. Death Grips – The Money Store

    6. Joey Bada$$ - 1999

    7. the Mountain Goats – Transcendental Youth

    8. Kendrick Lamar – good kid m.A.A.d city

    9. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

    10. Schoolboy Q – Habits and Contradictions

Edited by MarkWahlberg

Sweet list. I love it when someone puts together a 'best of' and I've never heard of any of them (except anomie belle, cuz she was in the Alan Wake soundtrack). Getting to dig in to completely new artists is so much fun.

Also, welcome back to the forums!

Posted by Jace

Trilogy- The Weeknd.

Posted by Teoball

Thanks for this. I haven't even heard of most of these artists. but I really enjoy your musical taste (except for Devin Townsend, which I just can't get into).

I usually just scour the top 100 lists on beatport.com every couple of months to find new music but you have widened my horizon!

"I’ve always preferred synths and plugins over actual instruments" describes me to a T too, but I somehow I fell in love with "ALT-J - An Awesome Wave" this year.

Online
Posted by ThePickle

Holy shit. Love the effort!

  1. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel
  2. Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city
  3. Frank Ocean - Channel Ocean
  4. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
  5. Aesop Rock - Skelethon
  6. Kinny - Can't Kill A Dame With Soul
  7. Kishi Bashi - 151a
  8. David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant
  9. Death Grips - The Money Store
  10. Lambchop - Mr. M
Posted by granderojo

Caster and The M Machine were really nice. I need to listen to more of their albums from 2012...

Posted by Brodehouse

I know one album here and it's Shrines. I heard it in the Giant Bomb plug.dj room and yeah, it's pretty sweet.

I think I probably only have three albums from 2012... Shrines by Purity Ring, Visions by Grimes, and The Sticks by Mother Mother. Oh, and I guess I did buy PSY's album five minutes after I heard that song. There's actually one track on it that sounds like a Korean Tupac slow jam.

Edited by ze_ro
Posted by Darkstorn

1. Silversun Pickups - Neck of the Woods (really digging this band since I discovered it)

2. Mumford & Sons - Babel

3. The Shins - Port of Morrow

4. Rage Against the Machine - XX (reissue but it's just that good...)

5. Threshold - March of Progress

6. The Lumineers - "

7. Tame Impala - Lonerism

8. Black Prairie - Feast of the Hunter's Moon

9. Schoolboy Q - Habits and Contradictions

10. Arjen Anthony Lucassen - Lost in the New Real

2011 albums: Pain of Salvation - Road Salt Two, Black Milk/Danny Brown - Black and Brown, Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire, A$AP Rocky - LiveLoveA$AP

Posted by SecondPersonShooter

1. Death Grips- The Money Store

I first listened to Death Grips last year with the release of their mixtape, Exmillitary, but it wasn't until this year with the Money Store that I really understood what was great about them. The instrumentals are great, and if you can get into MC Ride's unique brand of cathartic primal-screaming, than this album is fantastic. It would have been number one before I even started diving into the lyrical content, but if you're willing to take that journey, man, there is a lot to dissect here. It's a portrait of a schizophrenic man in what can only be described as the most realistic portrayal of insanity ever put into music.

Best Tracks: "The Fever (Aye Aye)", "Blackjack", "Hacker"

2. Kendrick Lamar- Good Kid, M.A.A.D City

It's hard to top an album as great as Section.80 was, but Kendrick did it easily with this years release. Take off Real and Compton, and you have a damn near perfect concept album here. Given, I'm a sucker for concept albums in general, but listening to this album from beginning to end is just such an amazing experience. Even out of context, every track here shines. This is the best hip-hop album of the year.

Best Tracks: "Money Trees", "M.A.A.D City", "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst"

3. Death Grips- No Love Deep Web

Death Grips's second album of the year sees a shift in their sound to something darker and more ambient. It's not the best entry point for them, but if you're already a fan, it's great to see them evolve over such a little amount of time. MC Ride is more introspective than ever on this release, and some songs are so heavy sounding it gives me chills.

Best Tracks: "No Love", "Bass Rattle Stars out the Sky", "Artificial Death in the West"

4. Animal Collective- Centipede Hz

I was never a huge fan of Animal Collective, but really you just kind of have to force yourself to listen to them over and over again until you can get a feel for the intensely layered sound they have going. You can listen to a single track by them dozens of times and still not have it mastered in your head. Centipede Hz is a fantastic collection of songs from them, and largely more accessible than a lot of their previous work

Best Tracks: "Applesauce", "Monkey Riches", "Amanita"

5. The Shins- Port of Morrow

James Mercer perfects his songwriting on this album, giving the same indie-pop feel that you would come to expect from the shins while giving the lyrics more of a melancholy edge that blends seamlessly into the style. Track for track, this is the best Shins album ever

Best Tracks- "It's Only Life", "Bait and Switch", "Port of Morrow"

6. Frank Ocean- Channel Orange

Franky blew the fuck up this year, and good for him. He is an amazing storyteller, and that's in full effect on this album as he taps into the minds of over a dozen different characters, narratives flowing smoothly under his amazing voice. Frank Ocean is a gifted man, and he will only continue to improve.

Best Tracks: "Super Rich Kids", "Pilot Jones", "Bad Religion

7. Odd Future- Odd Future Tape Volume 2

Fuck the haters, Odd Future is still a good hip-hop group. Yeah, obnoxious 13 year old kids got a hold of them and kind of ruined their public image for the rest of us, but when it comes down to the music, they still make solid, dark hip-hop. When Tyler's production is at it's best, he rivals the best production that Pharell did for Clipse, and that is nothing but a good thing.

Best Tracks- "p", "Sam is Dead", "Oldie"

8. Brother Ali- Mourning in America, Dreaming in Color

Brother Ali is one of my favorite rappers of all time, and he had not released a full album since "Us" back in 2009, so I was extremely hyped for this release. In the end, it is a very political album, and while Ali is a very political person, I would have preferred a little more variety. Tracks like the titular "Mourning in America", while heavy hitting, don't tread any new ground when it comes to underground hip-hop. However, when he is on, he is as good as he has ever been.

Best Tracks- "Work Everyday", "Won More Hit", "Fajr"

9. of Montreal- Paralytic Stalks

of Montreal are a weird band. They change their style damn near every album, but still have an aesthetic that is completely unique to them. Paralytic Stalks is much less accessible than last year's "False Priest", but it still provides a cathartic journey into the recesses of Kevin Barnes's mind while providing some very listenable music that you're unlikely to find anything like anyplace else.

Best Tracks- "Dour Percentage", "We Will Commit Wolf Murder" "Spiteful Intervention

10. Beach House- Bloom

Beach House delivers more of the airy dream-pop you would come to expect from them. If you already like Beach House, you will like this album, not much else to say here.

Best Tracks- "Myth", "Lazuli", "Wish",

Honorable Mentions:

G.O.O.D Music- Cruel Summer

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis- The Heist

Captain Murphy- Duality

Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Ab-Soul- Control System

Schoolboy Q - Habits & Contradictions

Also, Bat for Lashes- The Haunted Man, which I didn't listen to until after I made this list

Posted by Hyperglide

Nice to see the M Machine get some love from your top 10. It was in my top 10 too. Haven't heard any of the other albums though.

Edited by HaltIamReptar

Holy moly, Purity Ring is so incredibly different from what I usually listen to, but I love them so goddamn much. Thanks for the heads up, duder!

Posted by aurahack

@MarkWahlberg: It really is! I've discovered so much new music this year and I can't wait to do the same next year. I've never enjoyed having the problem of opening iTunes and not knowing what to listen to until now, because everything in there is so great!

@FLYmeatwad: Lots of Fiona Apple love in here. I should check her out, I suppose. And I walk the line between the two. It really depends. If I'm writing or playing games I put instrumental stuff on because the vocal work distracts me, but I usually have some good vocal stuff whenever I do art. Mostly so I can sing along.

@HaltIamReptar: I know, right? It's infectious!

@Hyperglide: You should certainly check out Nhato's Etude if you like M Machine. It's a little more synthy, but it's amazing electro house none-the-less!

@SecondPersonShooter: I have, surprisingly enough, never heard of any of the musicians you mentioned here. I suppose I have some more exploring to do!

@Darkstorn: I should have made a little part for 2011/2010 music, too. :( A couple people I know also bought up Schoolboy Q. I think I should check that out.

@ze_ro: Oh shit, that's really good. Checking that out in full later!

@Brodehouse: PSY 6 Pt. 1 EP is really good, but I think I liked his fifth album better overall. Visions is still in my folder waiting to be listened to. :( So much other music to get to.

@thabigred: You'll be hard pressed to find anything else from Caster, considering it's their first release ever. M Machine's got another EP before Metropolis Pt. 1, though!

@ThePickle: That's a pretty solid list. I wish I liked Godspeed You!'s album more than I do, though. It's really good, but there's just something about it that keeps me from revisiting it.

@Teoball: Thanks! I try to stick away from Beatport's Top 100 since most of the stuff on there tends to gel in the same areas, but I heard Mat Zo and Porter Robinson's new track is at the top. That's pretty rad. If you're a redditor, you should check out r/electronicmusic for some pretty varied sharing. I found out about Caster and many other bands I now listen to through there!

@Jace: My friend really likes The Weeknd. I wish I could share his enthusiasm for his stuff. :< Just not my thing.

Posted by Cianyx

Huh, didn't know Kashiwa Daisuke had a new release.