Hammock's Chasing After Shadows... Living With the Ghosts

Few bands are as aptly named as Hammock, whose rapturous union of post-rock, ambient, and dream-pop sets an unhurried course for the misty horizon. Time must stand still in their idyllic destination, since Hammock’s remarkably productive 2010 offers this max-length disc and three additional EPs. Desert island music, sans desert.

"The Backward Step"

Kenseth Thibideau's Repetition

Inspired by ’70s German experimental music, Kenseth Thibideau’s lunar-themed solo debut gazes down on his pop, math-rock, post-rock, and indie rock past from a knowing distance. Repetition explores jittery rhythms in its moon buggy, hushed vocals from a lonely orbit, and ambient flicker as it drifts into deep, dark space.


Mike Patton's Mondo Cane

The Faith No More reunion headlined Mike Patton’s year, but Mondo Cane is equally noteworthy: a genre exercise worth hearing. These orchestral renditions of Italian pop songs from the ’50s and ’60s are the best showcase of Patton’s vocal dexterity, dramatic range, and sense of fun since Mr. Bungle’s California.

"Il Cielo In Una Stanza"

Like Pioneers' Piecemeal

Behold the ghosts of Flameshovel past! Members of Bound Stems, The Narrator, and Chin Up Chin Up revive their skills for longing yet uplifting pop on “Some People,” minimalist introspection on “Teakettles No. 1,” and up-tempo indie rock on “Crop Circles Plus Legs.” Please don’t vanish so soon this time.

"Crop Circles Plus Legs"


Thinking Machines' Work Tapes

Having forged mammoth blocks of indie rock as a three-piece, Thinking Machines’ addition of second guitarist Nate King isn’t for heft, but depth. Marvel at the parrying in “Parallax,” the slow-crawl boogie of “Titan,” and the exultant layers of closing instrumental “Loop.” Imagine what they could do with thirty guitarists.



Shannon Wright's Secret Blood

Is this a best-of? Secret Blood compiles the major impulses—eerie tension, aggressive thrashing, and muted calm–of Shannon Wright’s career. Her albums typically focus on two of those three motifs, but here the jagged, rocking “Commoner’s Saint,” the tensely dramatic “Dim Reader,” and the stately “Satellites” fit together seamlessly.

"Commoner's Saint"

Emmalee Crane's Formantine

Identifying specific instruments in Emmalee Crane’s mélange of ambient classical is challenging. Formantine presents heavily processed horns, strings, and piano as longing arcs on “Gight Vaunting,” optimistic crests on “The Queens of Carmen,” and sighing drones on “Inerosion.” These cloaking devices only amplify the end result: hauntingly beautiful fever dreams.

"The Queens of Carmen"

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Jason Noble and Jeff Mueller return from a five-year absence with blistering live set of (primarily) new material. Aside from the haunting instrumental “Half a House,” their usual moody passages have been swapped for bloody-knuckles aggression, black humor, and cutthroat economy. Shipping News has never been so focused or furious.

"The Delicate"


LCD Soundsystem's This Is Happening

Do I fault James Murphy for extending every song to 12" remix length? Sure. But even with that distaste for self-editing, This Is Happening is a splendid sign-off for LCD Soundsystem. Murphy’s combination of dance-floor electronics and ennui on “Home,” “Dance Yrself Clean,” and “All I Want” will be missed.


Errors' Come Down With Me

Voila! Errors’ particles of post-rock, math-rock, and acid house are no longer held in suspension. The palatable solution of whirring synthesizers, guitar arpeggios, and melodious programming goes down smoothly on the insistent “A Rumor in Africa,” the percolating “Supertribe,” and the loping “Beards,” so get ready to come down again.

"A Rumor in Africa"


Wye Oak's My Neighbor / My Creator EP

Few LPs stand as tall as Wye Oak’s all-too-brief EP. Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack explore new emotional and instrumental depth within the buzzing riffs of “My Neighbor,” the up-tempo alt-country of “Emmylou,” the gentle contemplation of “My Creator,” and the heartbreaking keyboards and saxophone of “I Hope You Die.”

"I Hope You Die"


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Opener “Nil Admirari” is scorched wreckage above a calming sea. Beneath this debris, the arpeggiated drones of “Describing Bodies” and “Stress Waves” sooth and renew. Only the garbled communiqué of “Returnal” guides you through layers of vintage German electronic music and modern noise as you push for the ocean floor.

"Describing Bodies"

The National's High Violet

The National’s aesthetic is so habitually manicured that the smudged guitar of “Terrible Love” seems sacrilegious at first. No cause for concern—High Violet surrounds Matt Berninger’s tales of thirty-something apprehension with deftly arranged strings, horns, piano, and background vocals, extracting grandeur from the circadian rhythms of the upper-middle class.

"Bloodbuzz Ohio"

Ventura's We Recruit

Ventura’s approach to the quiet/loud dynamic borders on perverse. “Brace for Impact,” “With Ifs,” and “Demons” offer placid preludes to the blunt-force trauma of their gut-punching riffs and octopus-armed drumming. As if rattling your windows weren’t enough, Philippe Henchoz’s melodic vocals weave dark humor and veiled pathos into the proceedings.

"With Ifs"

Tre Orsi's Devices + Emblems

Devices + Emblems is a rare beast: a debut LP marked by experience, craftsmanship, and patience. Credit the influence of Silkworm and Bedhead, but recognize that the passion and controlled dynamics of “The Engineer” and “Declaring Space” are purely Tre Orsi. At just twenty-seven minutes, it’s over far too soon.

"The Engineer"


Foals grow in all the right directions on Total Life Forever. Between the Talking Heads funk of “Miami,” the icy chill of “Spanish Sahara,” and the rousing stomp of “What Remains,” they now apply the patterns of math-rock to superior material and leave the limitations of dance-punk in the rearview.

"What Remains"

The Effective Disconnect officially soundtracks the documentary Vanishing of the Bees, but McBride’s emotionally charged drone symphonies are universal. No context is needed for the devastating chord changes of “Toil Theme Part One,” the somber piano of “Several Tries (In an Unelevated Style),” or the vast swells of “Girl Nap.”

"Toil Theme Part 1"


Medications' Completely Removed

Devin Ocampo and Chad Molter’s history of complex and melodic D.C. rock gains a logical entry point with Completely Removed. “For WMF” and “Seasons” exchange lead vocals with aplomb, while “Home Is Where We Are” and “Long Day” triumph with tricky guitar lines. Perfect for the springtime.

"Home Is Where We Are"


Marnie Stern's Marnie Stern

Stern downshifts her hyperactive blend of finger-tapped leads, chipper vocals, and spastic percussion just enough to expose the hooks and heart beneath. The result is a front-to-back success, highlighted by the battle for self-confidence in “Transparency Is the New Mystery” and the tremendous half-speed breakdown in “Gimme.” An absolute revelation.

"Transparency Is the New Mystery"

Don’t mistake consistent greatness for blind loyalty; Blood Under the Bridge easily rivals beloved predecessors Hammer of the Gods and Congress. Need proof? Consult the weathered wisdom of “Summerwind,” the biting disgust of “Late,” and the searing solos of “38 Souls.” In a just future, these songs will be standards.

"38 Souls"