It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times

In the now established tradition, Critic presents our end of year recap; the best of music in two thousand and eleven. Props if you picked up on The Simpsons reference in the title.

The Best Albums of 2011
Zomby – Dedication
A dense, dark and well-produced take of some of post-dubstep’s more engaging moments, the former Hyperdub artist producing a relaxed yet challenging statement on his 4AD debut. While the simple melodies and inherent ‘vibe’ mark Dedication as inappropriate for the club, his restless nature divorces it from simple background music.
Listen to: “A Devil Lay Here”
Yuck – Yuck
Showing that you don’t have to be innovative to be at the forefront of independent music, Yuck’s debut album can’t escape its Nineties’ obsession. The London four piece channel the slacker vibe perfectly, their sound distilling Pavement, Dinosaur Jr, Yo La Tengo and even a hint of Dunedin’s own 3Ds. Distinguishing themselves via their catchy emotive pop songwriting, the album’s optimistic tone compliments the white hot, almost synth-esque, lead lines.  Album closer ‘Rubber’ is drowning in distortion and sees the band questioning themselves and their audience in unison, “should I give in?” Answer: I would.
Listen to: “Rubber”
Tyler, the Creator – Goblin
Easily the most controversial artist of the year, don’t get preoccupied with Tyler’s inflammatory misogyny. While the content here is clearly offensive, there are also moments of intense beauty, pain and emotional truth. Musically, Tyler’s authoritative voice and unique production talent cement a polarising record, sure to either disgust or entertain. Kill people, burn shit, fuck school!
Listen to: “Yonkers” or “Sandwiches”
Thundercub – Thundercub
Realising I’ve referred to Thundercub’s guitarist Lee Nicolson as a “god” twice within these pages, I will attempt to show some restraint here. Actually, fuck it. Thundercub rule. Plain and simple. A must for any fans of local music, their electronically-minded rock is both innovative and expertly composed. With the band’s future now sadly in doubt, their debut EP may be the only source of experience left for the uninitiated. ?Head to to take a listen.
Listen to: “Cecil Turbine”
Beastwars – Beastwars
Although beginning life nearly five years ago, 2011 has proved the year of opportunity for this Wellington powerhouse. Following a typically leveling set during February’s Campus A Low Hum, Beastwars have honed and distilled their sound into their debut album. Released on gate-fold vinyl and CD, Beastwars (the album) is a local metal classic. Filled with turmoil, low-tuned guitars and a lyrical palate of fury and fire, Beastwars’ fusion of killer riffs and pounding grooves instantly captivates, its intensity to be feared and respected. Full of venom, snarl and swagger and with far more to offer than the exclusive and often alienating “metal” genre tag implies, this is possibly the best album to emerge from our shores this year.
Listen to: “Lake of Fire”
The Horrors – Skying
Continuing the aesthetic evolution set in motion on 2009’s Primary Colours, Skying sees the cinematic elements of the Horrors’ sound pushed to the fore. With their Birthday Party angst swapped for distinctly eighties synthesizers, Skying seems an appropriate title for the soaring and darkly moving tracks contained within. A blurred grey vision of the Eighties aligned with the post-punk Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ in its hypnotic sound, reflective nature and melancholy disposition.
Listen to: “Still Life”
Chad Van Gaalen – Diaper Island
With a prolific musical and illustrative output matched only by his passionate cult following, Chad VanGaalen seems on a mission to induct listeners into his own insular, idiosyncratic world. Populated with melancholy, melody and wonderfully off-kilter compositions, Diaper Island is a lovingly crafted piece in the VanGaalen puzzle. Veering with ease from folk-based ambience to jangling earworm riffs, VanGaalen’s skills as a producer are brought to the fore with simple, economic structures rendered beautifully by the album’s cohesive sonic texture.
Listen to: “Peace on the Rise”
Bass Drum of Death – GB City
With either the best or worst band name of all time, Mississippi two-piece Bass Drum of Death fuse garage and pop in a haze of stoned energetic brilliance on their debut album GB City. Fitting both the musical and social (ie they smoke weed and use Twitter) aesthetics of the current American garage revival ‘movement’, and recorded in a characteristically low fidelity (the entire album was recorded with one microphone), BDOD stay raw throughout. Here undeniably ‘pop’ hooks are layered in distortion, low-end floor tom and fuzz – GB City is chaotically excellent from start to finish
Listen to: “Velvet Itch”
Battles – Gloss Drop
Following the departure of enigmatic frontman Tyondai Braxton, New York math rockers Battles returned this year with their ambitious and unexpected sophomore release, Gloss Drop. By balancing angular, elongated instrumentals with some sparkling guest vocal appearances (including Yamantanka Eye and the legendary Gary Numan), Battles ultimately improved upon their esteemed debut Mirrored, providing us with the brightest, silliest, gooiest album of the year. Penis
Radiohead - The King of Limbs
As jarring as it is euphoric, as metallic as it is organic, and as locked as it is free-form, Radiohead’s unanticipated February release proved to be their most dichotomous album so far, as well as their most divisive. Relentless beats, neurotic finger-pointing and glacial keyboard loops knot throughout, creating a percussive and rhythmic entanglement that only diehard Radiohead fans would have patience for. Such patience, however, is soon generously rewarded. Penis
Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts
Effortlessly evolving from no-wave noise to soulful acoustic rock, Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore’s third solo effort Demolished Thoughts is a sleepy and autumnal affair, a sonic sketchbook of distant sorrow and unreciprocated affection. The warm and smoky production, courtesy of anti-folk master Beck Hansen, allows the meandering guitar lines and soft vocal cadences to become intertwined and interchangeable, forming an oddly organic atmosphere and giving glimpses of something infinite.
Gary Numan - Dead Son Rising
Bursting with industrial trip-hop beats, jagged metal riffs and floods of synthetic ectoplasm, Gary’s 20th full-length album Dead Son Rising isn’t just one of the best releases of 2011, but one of the best of his whole career. From the sadomasochistic electronic rock of ‘The Fall’ to the tearjerking piano ballad ‘Not The Love We Dream Of’, Dead Son is a momentous display from an old-timer who still has it all. Dark, brooding, sensual, atmospheric, atheistic and addictive.
Best Video – Ice Cream by Battles (directed by CANADA)
A seizure-inducing, eye-popping orgy of colour, surrealism and flashing hipster imagery. For fans of boobs, rollerskates and, erm, ice-cream.
Posted 3:29am Monday 17th October 2011 by Sam Valentine.