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Year in Review

Our verdict is in: This was the year's best music Add to ...

9. Weather, Meshell Ndegeocello

The singer-bassist broods sublimely and languidly, her chocolate voice dripping and whispering into your ears. Dark R&B elegance that soothes.

10. Slave Ambient, The War on Drugs

From Philadelphia’s Adam Granduciel, a narcotic and freewheeling style of indie-rock that glides its way to places Dylan and Tom Petty sometimes go. A new road-trip necessity.


1. Skying, The Horrors

Brit four-piece the Horrors have discovered the ingredient that eludes other quasi-psychedelic outfits: tunes. Their third album is drenched in effects and keyboards, but singer Faris Badwan channels elegantly wasted eighties crooners and holds it all together with bubblegum melodies worthy of the Brill Building.

2. Bangs and Works, Volume 2, various artists

The only aspect of footwork that’s more frenetic than the Chicago subculture’s adrenalin-addled Southern rap-like beats is the dancing. That’s not a slight toward cuts such as DJ T-Why’s Finished or DJ Solo’s aching What Have You Done, which aren’t merely fast but urgent.

3. Goblin, Tyler the Creator

If Tyler were a real person, I would hate him as much as his detractors. His vitriolic rhymes and broken-down beats, however, seem less like autobiography than the exaggerated inner monologue of a wildly intelligent, socially inept, frustrated young person. It’s ugly; so is growing up.

4. Fever, 2562

Dave Huismans’s nom de musique is harder to Google than the Dutch producer’s real name. Fittingly, Fever comprises eight bass-heavy dance tracks that also seem inside out and backward. The clanging melodies become brain-rattling noise, while the drum patterns stick in your head as though they were tunes.

5. Rare Forms, Woodsman

With all the pseuds in Brooklyn, Woodsman ought to have been worshipped as soon as they moved there from Denver. It might take a while, but the psych-rock quartet are on the right track with such hypnotically lush tribal jams as Beat The Heat.

6. Strange Mercy, St. Vincent

Fans dig Annie Clark for obvious reasons: her pristine voice, spooky lyrics (“Save me from what I want”), guitar heroics and China-doll looks. Clark’s third album balances her and her band's musical muscles with intimate atmospherics even better than before – which is to say, perfectly.

7. FabricLive 57, Jackmaster

From the first minutes of Scottish iconoclast Jackmaster’s mix, you’d think he was just another Detroit techno purist. By the end, you’ll have given up trying to pigeonhole him, since he blends so many diverse genres (booty bass, grime and others) that your head will have exploded long ago.

8. Pinch & Shackleton, Pinch and Shackleton

Every sound on this collaboration between two dubstep auteurs is smudged, shaded, or obscured. It feels like you’re at a rave blindfolded and tied to a chair – you can hear rattles and hums, you can feel the bass, but some vital part of the experience is tantalizingly held back.

9. FabricLive 59, Four Tet

Kieran Hebden's Fabric mix is a love letter to the U.K. dance scene that he’s just left for New York. It's a soulful set (check the Marvin Gaye sample in Crazy Bald Heads’ First Born) with hints of British garage, house and techno. All killer, no filler.

10. Fear Of God II: Let Us Pray, Pusha T

Rapping about cocaine is old hat for the superior half of Virgina duo Clipse – no moulds were broken in the making of this album. But Pusha's a craftsman, and his rhymes increasingly resemble the intricacy and reliability of a Swiss watch (“Bentley with the ragtop yarmulke / it says kilometres all on my speedometer.”).


1. Live at Birdland, Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian

The method was simple: Somebody (usually Konitz) started a tune, and the others followed. The set list was prosaic: a half-dozen standards, all decades older than Mehldau. And the results were spectacular – improvisations that revealed unimagined depths in tunes many thought long since played into exhaustion. Bop lives, reinvented as modernism.

2. King of Limbs, Radiohead

Static though it seems on the surface, with its looped beats and buzzing electronics, close listening reveals sly melodic twists, unexpected harmonies and a wealth of rhythmic invention. Subtleties of meaning lurk in every phrase, with depths so profound that even after months of listening, new treasures may be found. An album to get lost in.

3. James Farm, James Farm

In a much-debated blog post, trumpeter Nicholas Payton declared that jazz, as a word, was dead. On this debut, the members of James Farm argue that jazz, as a methodology, is dead, and replace it with a sound drawn from folk and pop, but blessed with the improvisational rigour that has always defined great jazz.

4. The Path of Totality, Korn

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