10 Altin Gun – “Kara Toprak”
Excuse me, I lost my train of thought in the groove! This is undeniably infectious music, reminiscent faintly of the cool-dude funk rock of Khruangbin but with a little more of a tropical feel, buoyed by some funky George Harrison keyboard, bongos and of course, the fact that all the lyrics are sung in Turkish a slightly less than ubiquitous language.
9 Chrizpy Chriz – “Compulsion”
Canada’s Chrizpy Chriz bequeaths to us a robust slab of busy, jarring techno that harks back to Autechre and maybe to Ikonika a little bit on “Compulsion,” Ikonika having written music originally designed for video games but that banged too hard to be confined to that sim. territory.
8 Fergus McCreadie – “Across Flatlands”
Fergus McCreadie’s debut album Cairn continues in the tradition that started to pronounce itself more emphatically last year of music that’s aesthetically “jazz” but actually takes on the chordal and emotional landscape of folk, or even bluegrass. It might have been just as simple as a visionary with a rustic mind getting his hands on these refined rudiments and polished methods of record production. The result blossoms, anyway.
7 Harry James – “The Strut”
Bandcamp credits Harry James, whose debut album Buy the Numbers is out this year, with having contributed to the reservoirs of “experimental electronica and punky afro beat to MPC-chopped jams and jazz-inflected post-rock,” which truly seems more encapsulating of Buy the Numbers as a whole than the shocking, subsequent tidbit that on the album you can find him “limiting his instrumentation to upright piano and percussion.” That is, this music, which comes across as “DJ” for the heavy drum lines and muffled, warbled sounds, is full and rich enough to betoken a confluence of these abounding genres, and it’s funky enough to where you have to ask, “There’s gotta be a bass in there somewhere, right?”
6 Work, Money, Death – “Dusk”
The sheer title of the album housing “Dusk” is probably a story in and of itself: The Space in Which the Uncontrollable Unknown Resides, (sic) Can Be the Place from Which Creation Arises. Don’t worry though: although this nonet adopts Fiona Apple’s trademark of paragraph-long album titles, this is not an hour straight taken straight out of Rikki Lake, but rather soothing, hauntingly minimalist jazz that was perfect for sinking into the winter day I enjoyed a month ago while first encountering it.
5 Sunnata – “A Million Lives”
Polish metal band Sunnata takes a relatively grunge approach to making albums and songs, preferring a methodical, conceptual strategy of layering one part on another, rather than allotting one part the responsibility of “shredding” or “taking over” the song. The result is music that comes across as strictly genuine and gratifying, with Szymon Ewertowski’s vocals almost warped down to obscurity, for maximal effect.
4 Om Unit – “Treading Earth”
Bristol, UK’s Om Unit takes form here for his fifth LP, a full meal of clever, hooky IDM electro with a profuse knack for warping and warbling sounds into something adamantly his own. “Treading Earth” assumes a synth riff that’s almost comedically simple and repetitive, but still defies you to try to get bored with it.
3 Bobby Lee – “Fire Medicine Man”
It’s rare to hear one lead instrument spearheading so much of a song’s identity in both melody and also sonic texture as Bobby Lee’s pedal steel guitar does in “Fire Medicine Man” — this thing has so much plangent, aching personality that you barely notice the clear, pristine acoustic being plucked in the background or the ambient bass. This is instrumental post-rock turned completely on its head and infused with an invigorating essence of rockabilly.
2 REMOTEWORKER – “Arid Environments”
Apparently not adverse to the art of mythmaking, California’s REMOTEWORKER bills himself as just that vividly with the press release diagramming “Three years of travel through the outer limits (that) culminates in a journey through sound and texture.” Of course, it makes you wonder if this dude will ever be capable of living in civilization again, but his album cover is a life form of its own with a booming, sultry Death Valley sun, and this is electronica music that’s as aching in its polymorphous, liquid sound as it is busy and piston-like.
1 Juggaknots – “Mentore” feat. DJ Spinna
Obviously there’s a lot of time still to go but the new album from Bronx hip-hop trio Juggaknots is a relentless masterpiece of rubber-tongued flow and disparate topic that’s hard to imagine not vying for top album of the year in addition to going down as an undeniable classic. The track “Mentore” is something too that I’ve definitely never heard anybody do before: an active dialogue set up like a “battle” between an old-school, conscious erudite of rap, per se, and a young, up and coming cat with a mind for violent confrontation and dissing anything that’s too complex.