Category Archives: top albums of the year

old waver top 25 favorite albums of 2014

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This blog is hardly a blog anymore, but that doesn’t preclude me from posting a hastily assembled year-end album list. 2014 wasn’t the strongest year for music, at least in my humble estimation, but I was able to pull together 25 list-worthy releases. Keep in mind these are personal favorites of stuff I’ve actually listened to, not necessarily the “best”. I’ll leave that kind of definitive deconstruction of art to the experts.

If you don’t have patience for the countdown, there’s a Spotify playlist and a quick list for reference at the bottom of the post.

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old waver's top 50 albums of 2012

 
2012

The blog has taken a back seat to my doomsday prepping lately, but I felt obligated to join the fray of year-end albums lists. A few caveats up front: I’m sure I forgot stuff or missed stuff or didn’t like stuff I was supposed to like. This is an incredibly subjective, absolutely biased and honestly somewhat random list of what I enjoyed over the past year.

Feel free to agree, disagree or add your selections in the comments, and log into Spotify to listen to full album streams of the entire list. Thanks and enjoy!

50. Metric – Synthetica
Perfectly polished Canadian synthpop:

49. Ringo Deathstarr – Mauve
Austin shoegazers with a ridiculous name and sweet pedalboards:

48. Lower Dens – Nootropics
Jana Hunter’s hypnotic krautrock outfit from Baltimore:

47. Man Without Country – Foe
Up and coming synthpop duo from Wales who recently toured with M83:

46. Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse
One of three 2012 releases for the prolific Bay Area throwback:

45. Toy – Toy
London psychedelic shoegaze following the lead of The Horrors:

44. Blondes – Blondes
Impressive full length debut from Ohio electronic duo:

43. Melody’s Echo Chamber – Melody’s Echo Chamber
Paris musician Melody Prochet’s bedroom pop fleshed out with the help of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker:

42. Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action At A Distance
Jangly solo experimentation from Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt:

41. Hammock – Departure Songs
Ambitious, gorgeous double album of ambient shoegaze from Nashville:

40. Orbital – Wonky
The techno pioneers returned with their first new album in 8 years:

39. The Men – Open Your Heart
Bombastic release from snot nosed Brooklyn post punks:

38. Grimes – Visions
Some moments of brilliance from one the year’s quirkiest new personalities:

37. Violens – True
Impeccably produced 80’s tinged guitar pop from NYC:

36. A Place To Bury Strangers – Worship
Sledgehammering noise from the church of Jesus and Mary Chain:

35. The Sea And Cake – Runner
The tenth studio album from Chicago’s art rock stalwarts:

34. Trust – TRST
Grimy, gothy synthpop from Toronto:

33. The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know
An electronic turn for the chronically depressed Scots:

32. The Soft Moon – Zeros
Shrouded in darkness, it’s a magnificent collision of synthpop and goth:

31. Ice Choir – Afar
Breathy synth side project from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s Kurt Feldman:

30. Stars – The North
A bit of an electronic evolution for the Toronto indie veterans:

29. Tamaryn – Tender New Signs
Lush, sultry shoegaze from San Francisco via New Zealand:

28. Twin Shadow – Confess
Often overwrought, but undoubtedly inspired:

27. The Raveonettes – Observator
Maybe not a step forward for the Danish duo, but consistent as ever:

26. Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend
Densely layered dream pop from Italian-born, New York based songwriter Mauro Remiddi:

25. Holograms – Holograms
Angst ridden punks from Sweden with a sound straight out of Factory Records:

24. Errors – Have Some Faith In Magic
Glaswegian experimental electro rock with moments of mind blowing ecstasy:

23. John Talabot – Fin
Diverse debut from the Spanish DJ/producer:

22. Hot Chip – In Our Heads
Dialed in synthpop bliss from the current masters of the genre:

21. Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
Natasha Khan’s electro chamber pop is powerful in its grandeur:

20. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Lost Songs
After a muddling mid period, they’ve fully regained ass kicking form:

19. Soulsavers – The Light The Dead See
Organic and soulful, the arrangements work perfectly with guest vocalist David Gahan’s familiar baritone:

18. Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits
Dan Boeckner is the true hero of this indie “supergroup”:

17. Grizzly Bear – Shields
Intricate, progressive Americana that gets better with each listen:

16. School Of Seven Bells – Ghostory
Their first album as a duo and the strongest yet:

15. Cat Power – Sun
A stylistic leap for the enigmatic Chan Marshall:

14. Django Django – Django Django
Cheeky Brits in the spirit of The Coral and The Beta Band:

13. Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory
Gritty, muscular maturation from Cleveland prodigy Dylan Baldi:

12. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart Sweet Light
Jason Pierce survived two years of experimental chemotherapy for liver disease — this is the result:

11. Crystal Castles – III
Ethan Kath insisted on recording everything direct to tape, creating a new level of urgency and intensity:

10. Chairlift – Something
Uplifting art pop that beguiles thanks to the irrepressible Caroline Polachek:

9. The Cribs – In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull
The Jarmans carry on without Johnny Marr and return to their more rough and tumble roots:

8. DIIV – Oshin
Nevermind the phonetic spellings, this is brilliant jangle pop with dense guitar orchestration:

7. Liars – WIXIW
Pronounced “wish you”, it’s a detour into haunting electronic weirdness for veterans of the New York scene:

6. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Two dudes from Vancouver, who had almost broken up, ended up releasing the soundtrack to summer:

5. Frankie Rose – Interstellar
A pitch perfect love letter to 80’s guitar pop:

4. Beach House – Bloom
Not quite as arresting as Teen Dream, but still achingly beautiful:

3. Wild Nothing – Nocturne
Terrific sophomore effort from a bedroom project turned full band:

2. Tame Impala – Lonerism
The modern day masters of swirling psychedelia:

1. Chromatics – Kill For Love
Moody, spacious double album that bridges the gap between the future and past:

old waver's top 50 albums of 2011

 

As 2011 is the first full year of Old Waver’s existence, putting together a list of my favorite albums was a bit of a challenge. Quite simply, I heard more stuff I liked, so the list grew from 30 in 2010 to a nice, round 50 this year.

This is a solo endeavor, so personal bias was the number one criteria in selecting the list. There will no doubt be notable absences because I either didn’t care for them or they don’t fit the loosely defined scope of this blog. However, I hope you’ll be pleased to see some of your favorites and perhaps discover some new ones. That said, here we go…

50. Iceage – New Brigade
Danish kids with an affinity for Joy Division and playing 100 miles an hour:

49. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Adventurous yet tuneful psychedelia from Portland that’s either endearingly or annoyingly lo-fi:

48. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Tao Of The Dead
Austin’s Trail of Dead pulled the trick of producing a ‘concept album’ while getting back to raw basics:

47. Sloan – The Double Cross
A Canadian treasure, they’re still vital after 20 years:

46. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
Maybe the best title of the year, and definitely the best Mogwai album in a decade:

45. British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall
Released way back in January, this return to form deserves to be remembered:

44. Hooray for Earth – True Loves
Sweeping Brooklyn synthpop that rides waves of percussion to epic heights:

43. Cults – Cults
The buzz eventually subsided, but Cults still managed an impressive debut:

42. Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines
Seattle power pop genius Michael Lerner is right at home on the legendary indie label Merge:

41. Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo
The Super Furry Animals frontman created an album of blissfully breezy baroque pop:

40. Sondre Lerche – Sondre Lerche
Lerche finally struck a perfect balance between his unplugged and plugged-in personas:

39. Violens – Nine Songs 2011
An unconventional release, parsed out over the course of the year, but completely engrossing 80’s influenced jangle pop:

38. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
Suddenly grown up effort from 2009’s buzz band from Chicago:

37. Miles Kane – Colour Of The Trap
Alex Turner’s collaborator in The Last Shadow Puppets impresses with his solo debut:

36. Neon Indian – Era Extraña
Alan Palomo amped up his chillwave formula to excellent results:

35. Junior Boys – It’s All True
The album I’ve been waiting for from the Canadian synthpop duo:

34. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
This Wales trio makes a way bigger racket than you’d ever expect, with massive hooks to match:

33. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
NYC electronic experimentalists are hypnotically odd:

32. Cold Cave – Cherish The Light Years
A fully realized marriage of synthpop and goth that hooked me immediately:

31. Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
The second album from Dan Boeckner and his wife almost made me forget about Wolf Parade:

30. Friendly Fires – Pala
Maybe a guilty pleasure, but absolutely pure, unabashed pop songs:

29. The Black Keys – El Camino
I’m obviously buying in too late, as these dudes are about to get huge:

28. Young Galaxy – Shapeshifting
This Canadian shoegaze outfit reinvented in the image of New Order, which is fine by me:

27. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Belong
The second album from the Brooklyn dream pop collective completely goes for it, and largely succeeds:

26. Wye Oak – Civilian
At times simple and other times electrifying, this Baltimore duo are always beautiful:

25. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
The Swedish songstress took a more electronic and ultimately effective turn for album number two:

24. Wild Beasts – Smother
Divisive but impeccably recorded britpop:

23. White Denim – D
These Austinites keep getting tighter and more prog with every release:

22. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Another Texan, Annie Clark, is impossibly talented and pretty adorable:

21. The Antlers – Burst Apart
A bit more upbeat than its predecessor, Burst Apart is still very atmospheric and affecting:

20. Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!
While I prefer it when Guy Garvey and co. ‘rock,’ there’s no denying the epic beauty of this record:

19. Noel Gallagher – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
As if there was any doubt who the ‘talented’ one was:

18. Destroyer – Kaputt
A sort of Roxy Music concept album, Dan Bejar makes you wonder if he’s smiling:

17. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – It’s A Corporate World
Another electro duo, these Detroit guys keep their sound organic and vocals soulful:

16. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
Can’t really put my finger on why this grabs me, but boy it does:

15. The Raveonettes – Raven in the Grave
Sune and Sharin’s latest creative direction is squarely in my wheelhouse, and I love it:

14. Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!
They’re poised to take the DFA dance rock mantle from LCD Soundsystem:

13. The Rapture – In The Grace Of Your Love
…That is, unless The Rapture do it first:

12. Atlas Sound – Parallax
Seems Bradford Cox can do anything he sets his mind to:

11. Real Estate – Days
There’s some lovely, dare I say Marr-esque, guitar work here:

10. John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves
I think John Maus might be from the future:

9. Metronomy – The English Riviera
This is so English and so damn good:

8. Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
Took some getting used to, but it’s still Radiohead:

7. Yuck – Yuck
All the best of 90’s indie rock distilled through a 20-year-old kid from London:

6. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See
With their fourth album, the Monkeys have cemented themselves as britpop icons:

5. Future Islands – On The Water
More restrained than In Evening Air, but somehow more intense:

4. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
A steady grower, great headphones album and most deserving of its Grammy nod:

3. Washed Out – Within and Without
Quite the debut for Ernest Greene, just two years removed from inadvertently sparking the ‘chillwave’ scene from his bedroom:

2. The Horrors – Skying
They just keep getting better, and are quickly becoming my favorite band:

1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
I didn’t think Anthony Gonzalez could top Saturdays = Youth. I didn’t think he could pull off a double album. I was wrong:

Get all 50 tracks in a Spotify playlist if you’re so inclined. Here’s the full list for reference:

1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
2. The Horrors – Skying
3. Washed Out – Within and Without
4. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
5. Future Islands – On The Water
6. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See
7. Yuck – Yuck
8. Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
9. Metronomy – The English Riviera
10. John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves
11. Real Estate – Days
12. Atlas Sound – Parallax
13. The Rapture – In The Grace Of Your Love
14. Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!
15. The Raveonettes – Raven in the Grave
16. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – It’s A Corporate World
18. Destroyer – Kaputt
19. Noel Gallagher – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
20. Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!
21. The Antlers – Burst Apart
22. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
23. White Denim – D
24. Wild Beasts – Smother
25. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
26. Wye Oak – Civilian
27. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Belong
28. Young Galaxy – Shapeshifting
29. The Black Keys – El Camino
30. Friendly Fires – Pala
31. Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
32. Cold Cave – Cherish The Light Years
33. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
34. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
35. Junior Boys – It’s All True
36. Neon Indian – Era Extraña
37. Miles Kane – Colour Of The Trap
38. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
39. Violens – Nine Songs 2011
40. Sondre Lerche – Sondre Lerche
41. Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo
42. Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines
43. Cults – Cults
44. Hooray for Earth – True Loves
45. British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall
46. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
47. Sloan – The Double Cross
48. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Tao Of The Dead
49. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
50. Iceage – New Brigade

top 30 albums of 2010: 10-1

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed albums 30-21 and albums 20-11 of our year-end list. Look for the complete rundown of all 30 picks at the end of this post.

Now it’s time for what we’ve all been waiting for…  the unveiling of the top ten. Please forgive me if you’re a huge fan of Kanye, Sufjan, Robyn, The National or Vampire Weekend. I wish them all the success in the world, I just don’t wish them to be on my list.

That said, here’s part three of Old Waver’s Top 30 Albums of 2010:

10: Jonsi – Go
Sigor Ros on Mountain Dew and Mini Thins

“Go Do”

9: Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History
If Phoenix were from Ireland and had a more juvenile sense of humor

“I Can Talk”

8: Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles II
This Canadian duo are just scratching the surface of their potential

“Celestia”

7: The Radio Dept. – Clinging To A Scheme
Swedish dream pop that’s sweetly defiant and casually awesome

“Heaven’s On Fire”

6: Wild Nothing – Gemini
From bedroom tapes to full-on band, Wild Nothing is a marvel of 80’s nostalgia

5: Caribou – Swim
Dan Snaith’s synths gurgle and squeak in new and imaginative ways

“Odessa”

4: Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Completely over-the-top, but in a good way

“Ready To Start”

3: Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Bradford Cox is establishing himself as a postmodern auteur

“Helicopter”

2: Beach House – Teen Dream
This Baltimore twosome create some of the most enthralling, exhilarating dream pop

“Zebra”

1: LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
If James Murphy really is putting LCD on hiatus, he’s going out with one of the most memorable albums of the last ten years

And as promised, here’s the entire list for quick reference:

1.     LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
2.     Beach House – Teen Dream
3.     Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
4.     Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
5.     Caribou – Swim
6.     Wild Nothing – Gemini
7.     The Radio Dept. – Clinging To A Scheme
8.     Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles II
9.     Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History
10.  Jonsi – Go
11.  Twin Shadow – Forget
12.  Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
13.  Foals – Total Life Forever
14.  Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
15.  Yeasayer – Odd Blood
16.  Wolf Parade – Expo 86
17.  Girl Talk – All Day
18.  Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
19.  Crocodiles – Sleep Forever
20.  School of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire
21.  Frank (Just Frank) – The Brutal Wave
22.  Adam Franklin & Bolts Of Melody – I Could Sleep For A Thousand Years
23.  Small Black – New Chain
24.  Hot Chip – One Life Stand
25.  Errors – Come Down With Me
26.  Future Islands – In Evening Air
27.  Wavves – King of the Beach
28.  Violens – Amoral
29.  Tamryn – The Waves
30.  Thieves Like Us – Again and Again

Part one: albums 30-21
Part two: albums 20-11

top 30 albums of 2010: 20-11

Yesterday we joined the fray of year-end lists with albums 30-21. Today, the list gets meatier and perhaps more controversial with spots 20-11. Feel free to disagree, for I am just a humble old waver who doesn’t understand your autotuners and your world beats.

Anyway, on with part two of Old Waver’s Top 30 Albums of 2010:

20: School Of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire
NYC trio-now-duo channeling Cocteau Twins, Stereolab and My Bloody Valentine

“Babelonia”

19: Crocodiles – Sleep Forever
Noisy JAMC disciples from San Diego

“Hearts Of Love”

18: Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
If Band Of Horses had stayed relevant

“Wide Eyes”

17: Girl Talk – All Day
A 100-car-pileup of pop culture references that bemuses with its brilliance

“Get It Get It”

16: Wolf Parade – Expo 86
This could be the swan song for the enigmatic Canadians

15: Yeasayer – Odd Blood
Uplifting, experimental and oddly arresting

“Ambling Alp”

14: Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
Throwback psychedelia from Australia

“Solitude Is Bliss”

13: Foals – Total Life Forever
These Oxford lads added some soul to their math rock formula

“Miami”

12: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
Pink’s DIY nostalgia pop takes a more accessible turn

“Bright Lit Blue Skies”

11: Twin Shadow – Forget
George Lewis Jr’s alter ego is the new wave of new wave

Part one: albums 30-21
Part three: albums 10-1

top 30 albums of 2010: 30-21

Before we get into the list, a disclaimer. Unlike that of your “legitimate” music blogs — with a staff of writers, editors and contributors weighing in — this list is one man’s opinion. A prejudiced, narrow and significantly uninformed opinion.

That said, this list represents the releases of the past year that tickled an old waver’s fancy. Maybe it was a gooey synth, a shoegazey guitar, dreamy vocals or some other Pavlovian trigger, but something in all of these albums took me to my happy place.

So, with apologies to Kanye, here’s part one of Old Waver’s Top 30 Albums of 2010:

30: Thieves Like Us – Again And Again
A guilty pleasure of Swedish synthpop goodness

“Never Known Love”

29: Tamaryn – The Waves
New Zealand’s principal shoegaze export

“Love Fade”

28: Violens – Amoral
Elaborate New Romantic pop from former members of Lansing-Drieden

“Acid Reign”

27: Wavves – King Of The Beach
Less lo-fi with a full-fledged band, but Nathan Williams is still a train wreck

“King Of The Beach”

26: Future Islands – In Evening Air
New Order basslines and dramatic vocals are the hallmark of this Baltimore trio

25: Errors – Come Down With Me
Frenetic “post-electro” from Glasgow

“A Rumour In Africa”

24: Hot Chip – One Life Stand
A grown up and fleshed out effort from the stalwart electropop outfit

“I Feel Better”

23: Small Black – New Chain
First full length from Brooklyn “chillwavers”

“Photojournalist”

22: Adam Franklin & Bolts Of Melody – I Could Sleep For A Thousand Years
His most vital solo work since Swervedriver

“I’ll Be Yr Mechanic”

21: Frank (Just Frank) – The Brutal Wave
A chilly coldwave duo from the south of France

Part two: albums 20-11
Part three: albums 10-1