Album: James Blake
Artist: James Blake
Label: Polydor Records
Sounds Like: Coming from the genre ‘Post-Dub Step’ which he helped invent, James takes the subs from dub-step, and does the rest himself. Using his incredibly soulful R&B voice, he creates layers of tweaked vocals and minimalist electronic goodness.
Reason It’s the Best: For an album that came out at the beginning of the year, we’ve had an entire year almost to pick it apart, and it still comes out on top. Pioneering a new genre is no easy task, and with that James Blake helped open up avenues for tons of other artists.
Album: Strange Mercy
Artist: St. Vincent
Label: 4AD Records
Sounds Like: Etherial and haunting female vocals over very layered indie-electro-pop-rock
Reason It’s the Best: Annie Clark has really pushed herself on this album to experiment in stranger, darker, newer territory that she hasn’t quite ventured in before. With tempo changes, effects, pitch shifts, and layering she creates insane amounts of tension that elevates the mood and energy of each song. Plus, her voice sounds as beautiful as ever.
Album: w h o k i l l
Label: 4AD Records
Sounds Like: Indie-electro-pop a la Yaz and Annie Lennox,
Reason It’s the Best: Merrill Garbus really embraced production on this album, looping and sampling both her own voice and a wide range of instruments.
With lyrcics like “My country tis of thee how come I cannot see my future within your eyes” her songs could be the anthem of the occupy movement. Her music is very “now” lyrically and musically.
Album: The English Riviera
Label: Because Music
Sounds Like: A laid back Pop album, if that even gives it justice. Coming from two previous albums of niche electro-ness, Joe Mount kept some of that sensibility, and crafted an album full of lush bass, dreamy synths, and soothing melodies that you can’t resist but crack a warm smile to.
Reason It’s the Best: Dreaminess is definitely a theme throughout, with each song seamlessly slipping from one into the other. The variation of moods and energies that Mount creates without interrupting the flow of the album is what makes The English Riviera so great. From the dance-floor hit of ‘The Bay’, to the reserved yet head-bobbing track “The Look”, to the quirky electro closer of “Love Underlined”, you’ve got a journey worth taking over and over again.
Album: Let England Shake
Artist: PJ Harvey
Label: Vagrant / Island Def Jam
Sounds Like: Moden folk music
Reason It’s the Best: With her eighth album, Polly Jean talks about her homeland with both rage and grace. She delivers a piece of art that is very different from everything she’s done before. Contrarily to her ghostly pervious album White Chalks, this passionate album stands out with its lively imagery of war that resonated all through 2011.