M83 functioned at the absolute peak of dream-pop this year. Mastermind Anthony Gonzalez is no stranger to that place, having spent more than a decade perfecting a spread of electronic and atmospheric shoegaze, but his vision had never before felt this inclusive. A dangerously effective culmination, his 6th album took the teen spirit of 2008 release Saturdays=Youth and inflated it ten-fold, letting the cinematic spacing of earlier work return. Unapologetically excessive, the double album format gave Gonzalez a balanced canvas to fully frame imaginations and mirror them by giving each track a sister version on the second side. Ambitious mind games like that can get lost in the mp3 era (and yes, the sky-parting epic “Midnight City” did rule airwaves as a standalone), so it was nice to see such a grand idea executed so well. Did we ever actively navigate all of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming in one sitting? Maybe twice. Did we enjoy getting lost in it? Every time.
[Badge num="3" class="eleven"/] [BoxTitle]Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring For My Halo[/BoxTitle] [MusicVideo]http://heavy.com/music/music-video/indie-music-videos/2011/07/kurt-vile-babys-arms/[/MusicVideo] [Spotify target="blank"]http://open.spotify.com/album/32a7BrNNTAu7BVb6DcsMLP[/Spotify] [BuyNow]http://www.amazon.com/Smoke-Ring-Halo-Kurt-Vile/dp/B004I3U7SK/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1323898652&sr=1-1[/BuyNow]
Kurt Vile entered an unprecedented level of cool on Smoke Ring For My Halo, his 4th LP, with arrangements coming off both effortlessly catchy and technically brilliant. Cleanly mixed, his straight shooting yet still laid back one-liners and serious (but still clever) declarations never sounded so up front, trapping the listener in a cycle of half-laughs and heavier ruminations. The apathetic talk ran throughout; “I don’t want to give up but I kinda want to lie down” is delivered half-spent in the fingerpicked “Peeping Tomboy” and later, “Think I’ll never leave my couch again, cuz when I’m out I’m only in my mind” opens up a verse on the album’s finale “Ghost Town”. And we believed him, as the lines got wrangled up by riffs that lingered well past each spin, which would reveal a lovable complexity to these tracks, and Vile, to be perhaps the most prolific, detail oriented slacker of his time.
[Badge num="2" class="eleven"/] [BoxTitle]Handsome Furs: Sound Kapital[/BoxTitle] [MusicVideo]http://heavy.com/music/music-video/indie-music-videos/2011/07/handsome-furs-what-about-us/[/MusicVideo] [Spotify target="blank"]http://open.spotify.com/album/3iAhgPaqgnKT1Zw9Nueriz[/Spotify] [BuyNow]http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Kapital-Handsome-Furs/dp/B004YKB51A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323898584&sr=8-1[/BuyNow]
We’ve already outed ourselves as Handsome Furs fanatics, and credit Sound Kapital for officially taking us to that level. The Montreal electro-pop husband and wife officially shook off all comparisons to Dan Boeckner’s other (bigger) band, Wolf Parade, by shedding the key element that linked them: guitar rock. Instead they shredded primarily with synthesizers and drum machines, embodying the pulse of good 80s new wave and emotional spirit of good Bruce Springsteen. With all this synth, the destination was not necessarily the dance floor, however, unless that floor existed in some basement of a punk show turned riot. And the extra attention given to these stomping beats and keyed out laser beams only heightened those well-placed moments where Dan actually did take to his axe, something he teased throughout and finally splurged on in the album’s closing trio of “Repatriated”, “Cheap Music”, and the seven minute battle “No Feelings”, which ends in a colossal smoke of noise. No other sound combination was this destructive.
[Badge num="1" class="eleven"/] [BoxTitle]Real Estate: Days[/BoxTitle] [MusicVideo]http://heavy.com/music/music-video/indie-music-videos/2011/11/real-estate-its-real/[/MusicVideo] [Spotify target="blank"]http://open.spotify.com/album/43uj7422MLR9MRBXSki0El[/Spotify] [BuyNow]http://www.amazon.com/Days-Real-Estate/dp/B005HI7NSW[/BuyNow]
Heading into 2011, it seemed New Jersey’s Real Estate might have already mastered their brand of jangly porch pop. Then came Days, which bettered every aspect of the sound. It was something of an anomaly; a well-produced follow-up that didn’t over-polish the band’s strengths. Everything did have a sharper sheen, and deservingly so, as the material’s quality called for it; these were exceptionally written songs, each with such an amazing sense of melody. From the opening chords of “Easy” where Martin Courtney essentially states their entire mission with the line “Back when we had it, so easy, I would surrender, completely”, to the final reclined, instrumental stretch of “All The Same”, it all just feels like a Saturday morning in whatever your warmest, most relaxed idea of home may be, on repeat.