Even as the record industry crumbles and digital music is either saving or ruining music depending on who you ask, great music in 2011 was plentiful, as my empty wallet attests. Here are ten albums that aren’t going to be on the best-of lists currently making the virtual rounds, but they’re ones by artists whom people will be talking about for years to come.
ASVA. Presences Of Absences. Important.
Doom metal pioneer Stuart Dahlquist (Burning Witch; Sunn0)))) leaves the Sturm und Drang of the past behind with these lush, sprawling, organ-fueled hymns for nonbelievers.
The Babies. The Babies. Shrimper.
Trying desperately to escape their day job’s buzzband ubiquity and return to the garage, the Babies is a supergroup of sorts made up of members of the Vivian Girls and Woods. The result is a collection of gloriously ragged songs that recall a young X.
Dirty Beaches. Badlands. Zoo Music.
Taiwanese/Canadian greaser badass Alex Zhang Hungtai makes heartbreak/noir music all by his lonesome that evokes Nick Cave, Suicide, Link Wray, and the Cramps in equal measures. Live, he breaks hearts and bursts eardrums under a blood-red light.
Jeff & Jane Hudson. Flesh. Captured Tracks/Dark Entries.
Scene: couple makes arty synthpunk in early 1980s New York City, opens for Suicide, and is completely overlooked. Flash-forward: The goth enthusiasts at Dark Entries dug up everything they recorded, gave it a proper reissue, and now their music is getting long-overdue critical plaudits.
The Jesus and Mary Chain. Psychocandy: Expanded Edition. Darklands: Expanded Edition. Edsel.
The DNA of so much music today originated in these two classic 1980s albums by sunglasses-and-leather-wearing brothers Jim and William Reid. An arrogant mix of girl group sweetness and white noise; come for the albums, stay for the generous servings of rare bonus material.
John Maus. We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves. Domino.
Philosophy Ph.D. candidate Maus (no foolin’!) first surfaced as a confederate of the equally loopy Ariel Pink, but his own music is a ridiculously icy, catchy, danceable love letter to Joy Division and roller-rink-ready new wave.
Prince Rama. Trust Now. Paw Tracks.
Sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson impressed listeners with the 2010 Animal Collective‚ assisted album Shadow Temple, but it’s Trust Now that really seals the deal‚ a witchy mix of torch songs and tribal drumming that suggests an update of the Creatures and Dead Can Dance at their most ecstatic.
Various Artists. Local Customs: Pressed at Boddie. Numero.
In the 1960s, Cleveland couple Thomas and Boddie recorded and pressed records by hundreds of acts in gospel, soul, funk, and rock. No one was turned away. The sound archaeologists at Numero have assembled a starter kit of some of the best bits, and it’s jaw-dropping in scope and sheer joie de vivre.
Willie Evans Jr. Introducin’. High Water.
Permit me a moment of local pride. Jacksonville, FL, group Asamov should have been the next big thing in underground hip-hop around 2005, but it was not to be. Asamov alum Evans’s newest solo album stands up with the best hip-hop of 2011‚ imaginative beats and lyrics unafraid to big up Watchmen and You Can’t Do That on Television.
Wolves in the Throne Room. Celestial Lineage. Southern Lord.
This Olympia, WA‚ based black metal troupe fuse their feral, dizzying thrash with a dose of environmental activism and counterculture conscience. Remember when American black metal used to be a joke? Me neither.