Anxious Sound

Anxious Sound / Albums of the Year

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Intro


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Intro


Albums of the Year

An annual accounting of the year’s best new music, curated by Anxious Sound fanzine.

2016
What One Becomes
SUMAC

“...a no-nonsense collision of opposing forces: darkness and light; catastrophe and grace; creation and destruction.” 

2015
Noyaux
Benoit Pioulard

“...a hauntingly beautiful experience that elicits emotions that are seldom felt, or that maybe were never before known.”

2014
For the Recently Found Innocent
White Fence

“...Presley's most fully-dressed album to date, but one that doesn't distance itself from the early sparse, lo-fi offerings that introduced White Fence.”

2013
Sunbather
Deafheaven

“...an album of beautiful ferocious melody — at times blistering and discordant, otherwise tranquil and contemplative.”

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Best Albums of 2016


2016

Best Albums of 2016


2016

The white room / By a window / Where the sun comes / Through

“Daydreaming” by Radiohead

2016.17
A Hand Through The Cellar Door
Luke Temple
2016.16
Always
Hidden Ritual
2016.15
Schmilco
Wilco
2016.14
January Tape
Cut/Copy
 
2016.13
Crown Feral
Trap Them
2016.12
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A Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead
2016.11
A New Wave Of Violence
Head Wound City
2016.10
When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
Mothers
 
2016.09
Masterpiece
Big Thief
2016.08
Rheia
Oathbreaker
2016.07
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Sleep Cycle
Deakin
2016.06
Freaks Of Nurture
Holy Wave
 
2016.05
Too
Klara Lewis
2016.04
The Wink
Tim Presley
2016.03
The 1966 Live Recordings
Bob Dylan
2016.02
Relaxing Death
Useless Eaters
 
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2016.01

What One Becomes
SUMAC

SUMAC is Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) on drums, Brian Cook (Russian Circles, ex-Botch) on bass, and Aaron Turner (Old Man Gloom, ex-Isis) on guitar and vocals; three musicians with impressive resumes and who seem perfectly suited for this band, to the point where its very alchemy would dissolve if any one of them was swapped out for someone else. SUMAC may have begun as Turner's singular vision, but the two albums to date, THE DEAL (2015) and WHAT ONE BECOMES, proclaim a brilliant command of atmosphere, mood, and negative space that arguably could only have emerged from the sonic collision of these three specific players. Each contributes something irreplaceable to the band's dynamism.

Like its predecessor, WHAT ONE BECOMES is an exhilirating, no-nonsense collision of opposing forces: darkness and light; catastrophe and grace; creation and destruction. Nowhere is this more evident than on the album's colossal fourth track, “Blackout”, which swells and breaks across a landscape of sky-is-falling doom for 11 minutes, before errupting into a melodic expression of hope for its 6-minute coda.

It's rare to find a metal album that is both fraught and introspective, but WHAT ONE BECOMES is what it sounds like. There is a gravity to this record that is often so forceful escape seems impossible. Its heavy, deliberate pace seems to consume the listener completely. The result is more an experience — tension and release made audible — than a mere collection of songs, and, for me, its unique and prodigious impact was unequaled by any other album in 2016.

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Best Albums of 2015


2015

Best Albums of 2015


2015

Sitting quietly in scorching reimagined suburbia

“Luna” by Deafheaven

2015.17
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A Year With 13 Moons
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
2015.16
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Barrow
Cemeteries
2015.15
The Republic
Sam Prekop
2015.14
Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper
Panda Bear
 
2015.13
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New Bermuda
Deafheaven
2015.12
Fading Frontier
Deerhunter
2015.11
Sonnet
Benoit Pioulard
2015.10
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2015.09
Sun Coming Down
Ought
2015.08
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Lightless Walk
Cult Leader
2015.07
Have You In My Wilderness
Julia Holter
2015.06
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Hermits on Holiday
DRINKS
 
2015.05
The Deal
SUMAC
2015.04
Self Portrait
Loma Prieta
2015.03
The Agent Intellect
Protomartyr
2015.02
Viet Cong
Preoccupations
 
2015.01

Noyaux
Benoit Pioulard

For many months in 2015, I was convinced Crosss' LO — my 10th ranked album — would end the year atop this list; so strong and abundant was the year's new music. Ultimately, though, the highest ranking could only go to NOYAUX, one of two new recordings released by Benoit Pioulard this year (the other, SONNET, also made this list).

NOYAUX seemed to come out of nowhere — I wasn't expecting it. Nor could I have expected its visceral impact, which, for me, was profound. NOYAUX offers ethereal, wordless soundscapes, in a vein similar to Olan Mill, but with slightly more dissonance. Possibly, this is the sound of the universe expanding. Or the sound of loss. Or the sound of the past unfolding. However you might interpret it, NOYAUX is pure sonic, cinematic transport. It's a powerful and hauntingly beautiful experience that elicits emotions that are seldom felt, or that maybe were never before known. That is the purpose of all art, of course, and here Pioulard has done it, and with only four tracks and twenty five minutes, and without words.

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Best Albums of 2014


2014

Best Albums of 2014


2014

Who's gonna empty me out / In the lake in the heart of the valley?

“Bells of Paonia” by The Fresh & Onlys

2014.17
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Heartleap
Vashti Bunyan
2014.16
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Tomorrow's Modern Boxes
Thom Yorke
2014.15
Bloodmines
Baptists
2014.14
Salad Days
Mac DeMarco
 
2014.13
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Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Angel Olsen
2014.12
S/T LP
The Ar-Kaics
2014.11
Love
Amen Dunes
2014.10
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Barragan
Blonde Redhead
 
2014.09
2014.08
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First Demo
Fugazi
2014.07
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No Energy
Unwound
2014.06
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Black Hours
Hamilton Leithauser
 
2014.05
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Teenage (OST)
Bradford Cox
2014.04
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Cassette
Viet Cong
2014.03
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House of Spirits
The Fresh & Onlys
2014.02
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Under Color of Official Right
Protomartyr
 
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2014.01

For The Recently Found Innocent
White Fence

White Fence is the music of Tim Presley, a California-based musician who played previously in the hardcore punk band The Nerve Agents and the more psychedelic leaning Darker My Love. As White Fence, Presley has been incredibly prolific, releasing six "studio" albums in the span of only four years (seven if you include his collaboration with Ty Segall, HAIR; eight if you further include the amazing WHITE FENCE LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO). The sound might be typecast as lo-fi, psychedelic, folk-rock, and/or garage-rock. (The word "studio" appears in quotes above because Presley reportedly self-recorded all but his latest album in his apartment.) A roll call of its influences might include, but certainly not be limited to: Syd Barrett's solo work, The Monkees, The Byrds, Count Five, The Electric Prunes, and Gram Parsons. I hear reminders, too, of many not-so-distant acts, like GoGoGo Airheart. White Fence might recall these and other similar acts, but it is not derivative. Presley takes his myriad influences and fuses them with his own distinct imagination and incredible songwriting ability to create something unique and unharnessed to any one sound or genre. White Fence is undeniably his.

FOR THE RECENTLY FOUND INNOCENT seems to build off the momentum of the wonderfully raucous full-band sound caught on LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO, and that was hinted at with HAIR and last year's CYCLOPS REAP. Segall mixed FOR THE RECENTLY FOUND INNOCENT, and his exterior input complements these songs nicely and gives them added presence. It still sounds like music made by a man alone in a room, but the room feels larger and it's filled with new things for him to play with. The result is Presley's most fully-dressed album to date, but one that, thankfully, doesn't distance itself from the early sparse, lo-fi offerings that introduced White Fence.

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Best Albums of 2013


2013

Best Albums of 2013


2013

“I'm dying.” / “Is it blissful?” / “It's like a dream.” / “I want to dream.”

“Dream House” by Deafheaven

2013.17
The Man Who Died In His Boat
Grouper
2013.16
Fix It Alone
Heavy Times
2013.15
The Terror
The Flaming Lips
2013.14
You're Nothing
Iceage
 
2013.13
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Defend Yourself
Sebadoh
2013.12
Hypertension
Useless Eaters
2013.11
Mug Museum
Cate Le Bon
2013.10
The Blind Hole
Dead In The Dirt
 
2013.09
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Floating Coffin
Thee Oh Sees
2013.08
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Julia With Blue Jeans On
Moonface
2013.07
2013.06
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Cyclops Reap
White Fence
 
2013.05
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Berberian Sound Studio (OST)
Broadcast
2013.04
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Monomania
Deerhunter
2013.03
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Water Park (OST)
Dirty Beaches
2013.02
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Live In San Francisco
White Fence
 
2013.01

Sunbather
Deafheaven

Sometime in the Spring of 2013 an image appeared on the Instagram feed of the independent record label Deathwish. The image was beautifully sparse, with only a single word — SUNBATHER — spelled out across three rows of text in elegant, minimal type against a soft orange-pinkish background. Whole stems, crossbars, and shoulders of letters seemed to disappear completely into the soft tones behind them. I assumed it was an album cover though it didn't look like any album cover I had ever seen. I was mesmerized. Further reading revealed it was the cover art (designed by Nick Steinhardt of Touché Amoré) of the forthcoming album by the band Deafheaven from San Francisco. Somehow the band had eluded me to that point, but they now had my attention.

When SUNBATHER was officially released, on June 11, 2013, I listened to it as soon as I awoke (I somehow summoned the willpower to avoid all prior leaks). I was immediately consumed by the opening track “Dream House”, with its cascading wash of guitars, frantic drums, and the tense, controlled screams of vocalist George Clarke. This was something incredible. Its formula — epic, genre-crossing crescendos of frantic, moody aggression, paced by impenetrable blast beats, suddenly braking to swells of disarmingly pretty guitar interludes — is replicated across SUNBATHER's duration. The result is an album of beautiful ferocious melody — at times blistering and discordant, otherwise tranquil and contemplative. It's an album with great emotional resonance equal parts devastating, haunting and lovely — the sum of which delivers a visceral impact that is immediate and relentless. It's the kind of album I always hope to discover, and that broadens my perception of what music is capable of in sound and vision.