10 Can Kicker – “Disassociate Now”
The UK’s Can Kicker belt out intense, crisp grunge rock, in the old school vein of the punk-mindeds like The U-Men and Mudhoney, with tight grooves underlying the stylishly nihilistic vocals of the singer who just goes by the name “Luke.” ST LP will call to mind Iceage’s authoritative document in hardcore You’re Nothing, like a systematic murder of anticlimactic conformity.
9 altopalo – “love that 4 u – Live”
You know I can’t even remember what genre I found New York’s altopalo under on Bandcamp: I’d venture to say it’s jazz, with the organic percussion maintaining a strong spatial range with session guitarists. This is truly across-the-board music, though, juxtaposing, clean, pristine instrumentation with a proclivity for warped sounds and a legitimate sense of mourning, cutting through all the ostentation.
8 Dryad – “Bottomfeeder”
Iowa’s Dryad make blistering, annihilating speed metal their meal ticket on this year’s The Abyssal Plain, weaving in elements of hardcore punk, but owning to vocals that are so swathed in effect and obfuscating studio treatment that they sound like they’re being dispatched from the bottom of a coal mine. Such a position would lend itself to this band’s rather ornery disposition, too, as it were.
7 Malleus – “The Fires of Heaven”
Boston’s not typically known as a huge metal town but maybe this only behooves Malleus in their quest to rock out with a purpose and from a vantage point that’s truly singular and authentic. The title track on the magnanimous, booming The Fires of Heaven plots purposeful, methodical prog-metal grooves for the maniacal, almost diabolical vocals of some dude named “The Channeler.” This is very much music entailing the adoption of a Satanic persona for tickling, gratifying results.
6 Sunna Gunnlaugs – “The Heart My Race”
Icelandic pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs has constructed a full-bodied, disciplined colony of smooth jazz in this year’s Becoming, with “The Heart My Race” exuding some particularly dynamic sonic range, finding ambient cymbals whispering into the song’s introduction, for her spare, soothing piano runs to then take over and calmly establish some poignant beauty.
5 Gayance – “Nunca Mais – Extended Version”
“Nunca Mais” on the new Gayance album tiptoes in unassumingly, with some soothing, gentle synth stabs, before all-out pummeling into Gang Gang Dance territory to the tune of a rapid, punchy and verbose drum line. From there, any of various synths do war with each other all over Gayance’s mantra, repeated ad infinitum, like an amusing foil to the litany of electro stuff simultaneously presenting itself.
4 Reverse Death – “Water Orbit”
Reverse Death’s shtick of death and the infinite can’t help but call to mind their fellow Seattleites Built to Spill — like the idea of toying with this never-ending, monotonous expanse with which you may fill pretty much whatever you see fit, provided it takes up some time. Unlike BTS, though, Reverse Death actually have something new to say, in the ironic form of ambient, instrumental post-rock guitars which are like an enticing, psychedelic update on Tortoise, in a sense.
3 30/70 – “WITHOUT YOU, WITHIN ME”
Australia’s 30/70 pumps out jazzy, percussive soul music, lively in its virtuosic vocals and vital for its hypnotic grooves. This band, which technically masquerades as jazz, in fabric, though proviso of music that could play in Old Navy, also worked with an extensive production team on ART MAKE LOVE, enabling them to unleash trippy, heavily spliced vocals, and a mix that’s spicy and exciting, never stale.
2 Kelela – “Closure” feat. Rahrah Gabor
Kelela, on the overtly sexual “Closure,” flanks all of the dirty and naughty diction with some stable, disciplined phraseology and neo-soul futurism, with off-kilter beats and gorgeous synth baths compiling this music’s anatomical prowess.
1 Moufang & Czamanski – “Undercurrent”
David Moufang hails from Germany and, you might say, has quite the media team on his side: “If talent converted into record sales, David Moufang would be a very rich man.” Well, I’m not sure how many people out there these days are willing to spend money on techno music, but “Undercurrent” does push the genre’s boundaries out to a considerable extent with its physical dominance over the realm of sound, the impetus to deconstruct the element down to its rudiments and make it murky, dirty and real, like an ambient update on Four Tet’s more experimental work.