“2010 was so much better,” I said throughout 2011, despite posting Salem’s “King Night” on New Years Eve to slam the door on that horrible chapter. I started dead-set on only doing a top five for a year where I barely spun anything released more than twice, but then I looked through my downloads and saw a lot of heavy-hitters, rookie all stars, and absolute disasters, alike, that seem to ride bits and pieces of the same vibe.  Let’s put them in conversation with each other:

Britney Spears' Femme Fatale

This is unfair because I fucking hate Lady Gaga.  That said, I used to fucking hate Britney Spears. Maybe my internalized homophobia makes me fucking hate all “divas” (except Mariah).  I’m really waving my pride flag uncomfortably high when I say this, but this album made me dance alone in my room.  I’m not even sure what her goals were on this, or what my expectations were, but from the moment I saw “Dance Until The World Ends,” I entered an apocalyptic middle school fantasia.  In all of its high-budget, heavily-sponsored glory, this album made me sure that she wasn’t “sad” or “crazy” when she shaved her head and beat a paparazzi car with an umbrella.  It was the truest to herself she’s ever been.

4. Atlas Sound (Parallax) v. Yacht - (Shangri-La)

Atlas Sound's Parallax

 

Little steps and spreads to progressing fairly non-experimental rock, Bradford Cox’s second solo album was a lot of fun, and he brought out the same guitar tempos woven with his signature subtle psychedelic twists.  I’m most impressed by this because I was on a Deerhunter kick when it dropped, and the range of rock he’s clearly capable of working (as opposed to just doing) is awe-inspiring. Yacht’s Shangri-La has the poppy catchiness I’ve learned to love from them, but still left something to be desired: an edge.

3. M83 (Midnight City) v. Cold Cave (Cherish the Light Years)

Cold Cave's Cherish the Light Years

M83's Midnight City

Tie: I don’t associate either of these bands with 2011, but their sound has remained true to the souls I heard on their first releases a couple of years ago.  I wouldn’t say they haven’t evolved, but they seem to be locked in a cage battle outside of time and space, in an epic battle for who can more conflate themes and motifs of the early 90s more earnestly.

2. Benoit & Sergio (Where the Freaks Have No Names EP/Slow Hands EP) v. CFCF (Night Bus II) v. Nico Jaar (Space is Only Noise)

Nico Jaar's Space is Only Noise

Nico Jaar is definitely the “honorable mention” of the above, but since he’s the only one who released a full-length, I’ll give it to him on a technicality.  Though I don’t care to hear his at-length, cocaine-fueled rants on the influence Derrida has had on his music, his beats are fantastic and his samples are always drawn from a vast number of historical (almost always American) places.  CFCF’s Night Bus II, a mixtape, was a warm reminder of his remix capabilities, but I think he’s better when he pulls from his harder techno roots.  Benoit & Sergio have become my favorite minimal artists and I really can’t wait to hear them play live, although I can’t think of the appropriate venue in NY.

1. John Maus (We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves) v. Washed Out (Within and Without)

John Maus' We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves

I don’t use the term lightly but John Maus is a genius. I’ll also say that the album title is my top pick too.  His slow step productions on Pitiless Censors defy the harder discipline of electro musicians (above) without, indeed, getting too washed out.  The chillness of Within and Without wasn’t enough for a year when it felt like everything was falling apart.  John Maus really spanned the gap between American politics and American music this year, a crucial move.

On that note, I will be posting on 2011′s Occupation movement in the coming day or so.  Similar Format.