5. Kormorany - La Musica Teatrale
At a sprawling 4+ hours (5 discs) long, Kormorany have produced a recording of staggering ambition. What's far more remarkable than the album's length however, is that Kormorany manage to keep your attention. They never needlessly indulge; every segment is carefully placed and equally jaw-dropping in its subtle, mulling rollover of ideas and flourishes of sound from a creaky backdrop. Instrumental variety creeps and twists throughout the entire affair, aiding a cycle through genres (generally hinged on a pleasant blend of post rock and jazz) that seems far more easy and natural than it should be. It's not until the 'okay, it's time for a quick break' 3rd disc that you'll likely begin to grow bored, but one relatively bland disc out of five is certainly nothing to scoff at.
4. James Blackshaw - The Glass Bead Game
The Glass Bead Game is quite possibly the most beautiful album of the year. Blackshaw employs a tastefully and methodically unleashed barrage of tumbling, frothing piano; stop-you-in-your-tracks melodies; and of course, his signature acoustic guitar, which finds it's place so naturally amongst a forest of orchestral arrangements, you'll forget to be impressed at the skill involved.
3. Mew - No More Stories
This album is truly, as cheesy at sounds, a musical journey. Mew is here to lead you by the hand through a musical landscape featuring a wider variety of moods and textures than they’ve ever explored, melodic crescendos that only Mew could have reached (well… maybe Sigur Ros), and a generally otherworldly aesthetic that will be ringing in your ears and bringing out the swooning little girl in you for months to come. Mew boldly continue on with their mission of delivering transcendent melodies and extraterrestrial riffs, determined to make as many fall in love as will give their music a chance.
2. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
The Flaming Lips are done fucking around, which means we finally get to hear them fuck around. Like a star quarterback in the clutch, Coyne & Co. seem to have instantaneously forgotten any past missteps and are now hellbent on delivering, no matter the risk. These tracks are raw, driving and frantic, the sort of thing you imagine a young group passionately running through in their basement while on acid and pissed. Combine this new found youthfulness with the skill and experience of The Flaming Lips, and you have a very special batch of demos that no other indie mainstay would likely dare to call a new LP. It's equal parts off-putting and intriguing, but most of all it's a gust of fresh air for not a only a band who seemed to be running the creative well dry, but for a music scene needy of true risk takers.
1. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Merriweather Post Pavillion should appeal to anyone with an appetite for exquisitely harmonized melodies, surreal arrangements, and general weirdness. No, cross that, “appeal to” isn’t the right phrase. Replace that with dazzle, astound and/or mesmerize, and you’re getting somewhat closer. Animal Collective continue to refine their skills, reaching astounding heights of melodic beauty, endearing quirkiness and gushing production. It’s rare that I can’t wait to get back to my room to listen to a song; it generally only happens once or twice a year, if that, that music genuinely excites me. Merriweather Post Pavillion is not only one of those times, but for this reviewer, it is an idealized vision of enthusiasm come true. Merriweather Post Pavillion is not just Animal Collective’s masterpiece, it's a masterpiece of modern music.