Anxious Sound

Albums of the Year

2017 / 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013

headroom-head-in-the-clouds-cover.png
2016radiohead.jpg
2015newbermuda.png
2014protomartyr.png
2013iceagecb.jpg

Intro


SCROLL DOWN

Intro


Albums of the Year

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


2017

Laughter
Tiny Vipers

“...something wholly original — a kind of field recording from the unknown — that speaks of a new creative vision for Tiny Vipers.” 

2016

What One Becomes
SUMAC

“...a no-nonsense collision of opposing forces: darkness and light; catastrophe and grace; creation and destruction. There is a gravity to this record that is often so forceful escape seems impossible.” 

2015

Noyaux
Benoit Pioulard

“...sonic, cinematic transport. A powerful and 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.”

 
headroom-head-in-the-clouds-cover.png

Best Albums of 2017


2017

Best Albums of 2017


2017

The best albums of 2017
In a valley filled with flowers unseen in the dark

— “Night-Blooming Cereus” by Protomartyr


cinderland-high-plains.jpg
11

Cinderland
High Plains
headroom-head-in-the-cloudsw.png
10

Head in the Clouds
Headroom

tim-darcy-saturday-night.jpg
09

Saturday Night
Tim Darcy
bad-posture.jpg
08

Bad Posture
John Andrews & The Yawns
Not the complete album

ulrika-spacek-modern-english-decoration.jpg
07

Modern English Decoration
Ulrika Spacek
Avey-Tare-Eucalyptus.jpg
06

Eucalyptus
Avey Tare

primitiveman.jpg
05

Caustic
Primitive Man
bell-witch-mirror-reaper.png
04

Mirror Reaper
Bell Witch

great-ytene-locusw.jpg
03

Locus
Great Ytene
protomartyr-relatives-in-descent.jpg
02

Relatives in Descent
Protomartyr

tiny-vipers-laughter.jpg
01

Laughter
Tiny Vipers

Jesy Fortino, a.k.a. Tiny Vipers, is a Seattle-based musician best known for two LPs released on Sub Pop: LIFE ON EARTH (2009) and HANDS ACROSS THE VOID (2007). LAUGHTER is the first Tiny Vipers release since LIFE ON EARTH, and with eight years between them, the two works share very little stylistic or sonic commonality. Where LIFE ON EARTH and HANDS ACROSS THE VOID offer quiet, serene acoustic guitar and hushed vocals, LAUGHTER is largely an organic construction of moody soundscapes and ambient keyboard sketches. There is no acoustic guitar and scarce vocals. It is woven of a different fabric entirely.

The word “laughter” tends to evoke thoughts of carefree joviality, so it's somewhat amusing that an album by that title would contain no such sentiments. Rather their opposites. The mood on LAUGHTER often feels unsettled, gloomy, and ponderous. Affability is absent.

Album opener “Boarding Charon's Boat” begins with haunted vocals floating nervously, as if trying to escape, above a pulsing, shifting electronic landscape that scrambles, agitated, into something akin to mania at its climax. Then the sudden segue into the disarming calm of “Crossing The River Of Yourself” — a track of such resonant beauty that it often echoes in my head unprompted. LAUGHTER's third track, “Living on a Curve”, has a wayward anxiety reminiscent of the most esoteric, lyricless tracks from Bowie's Berlin trilogy. It could probably sequence on the autistic second side of LOW inconspicuously. Elsewhere, the scare-synth on “K.I.S.S.” and the album's title track evokes portentous unease suitable for a horror score, like a John Carpenter theme reimagined.

Fortino's Sub Pop output garnered a devoted, if largely independent, following as well as some critical acclaim, and I could see where fans of those albums — and who aren't aware of her foray into brooding ambience with Mirroring, a collaboration with Grouper's Liz Harris — might be surprised by LAUGHTER's stylistic about-face. But there is no cause for disappointment here. With LAUGHTER, Fortino has given them, us, something wholly original — a kind of field recording from the unknown — that speaks to a creative vision far more interesting (IMO) and vast in scope than the more traditional singer/songwriter fare of her earlier work. Once you hear it it doesn't let go.


2016radiohead.jpg

Best Albums of 2016


2016

Best Albums of 2016


2016

The best albums of 2016
The white room / By a window / Where the sun comes / Through

— “Daydreaming” by Radiohead


lightlesswalk.jpg
11

A Moon Shaped Pool
Radiohead
10

When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired
Mothers

09

Masterpiece
Big Thief
08

Rheia
Oathbreaker

a4014619799_10.jpg
07

Sleep Cycle
Deakin
06

Freaks Of Nurture
Holy Wave

05

Too
Klara Lewis
04

The Wink
Tim Presley

03

The 1966 Live Recordings
Bob Dylan
02

Relaxing Death
Useless Eaters

dfhvn-newbermuda-cover-f-rgb.jpg
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.


2015newbermuda.png

Best Albums of 2015


2015

Best Albums of 2015


2015

The best albums of 2015
Sitting quietly in scorching reimagined suburbia

— “Luna” by Deafheaven


dfhvn-newbermuda-cover-f-rgb.jpg
11

New Bermuda
Deafheaven
10

Sonnet
Benoit Pioulard

09

Sun Coming Down
Ought
lightlesswalk.jpg
08

Lightless Walk
Cult Leader

07

Have You In My Wilderness
Julia Holter
loubarlow.jpg
06

Hermits on Holiday
DRINKS

05

Self Portrait
Loma Prieta
04

The Deal
SUMAC

03

The Agent Intellect
Protomartyr
02

Viet Cong
Preoccupations

01

Noyaux
Benoit Pioulard

For many months in 2015, I was convinced SUN COMING DOWN by Ought — my 9th ranked album — would end the year atop this list; so strong 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.

2014protomartyr.png

Best Albums of 2014


2014

Best Albums of 2014


2014

The best albums of 2014
Who's gonna empty me out / In the lake in the heart of the valley?

— “Bells of Paonia” by The Fresh & Onlys


11

Love
Amen Dunes
barragan.jpg
10

Barragan
Blonde Redhead

firstdemo.jpg
09

First Demo
Fugazi

unwound_no_energy.jpg
07

No Energy
Unwound
blackhours.jpg
06

Black Hours
Hamilton Leithauser

teenage.jpg
05

Teenage (OST)
Bradford Cox
vc.jpg
04

Cassette
Viet Cong

MEX162.jpg
03

House of Spirits
The Fresh & Onlys
undercolorofofficialright.jpg
02

Under Color of Official Right
Protomartyr

whitefence_ftrfi.jpg
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.


2013iceagecb.jpg

Best Albums of 2013


2013

Best Albums of 2013


2013

The best albums of 2013
“I'm dying.” / “Is it blissful?” / “It's like a dream.” / “I want to dream.”

— “Dream House” by Deafheaven


11

Fix It Alone
Heavy Times
10

Hypertension
Useless Eaters

09

Mug Museum
Cate Le Bon
08

You're Nothing
Iceage

theeohsees_cover.jpg
07

Floating Coffin
Thee Oh Sees

white-fence.jpg
05

Cyclops Reap
White Fence
Broadcast-Berberian-Sound-Studio-e1351698559328.jpg
04

Berberian Sound Studio (OST)
Broadcast

Deerhunter-Monomania.jpg
03

Monomania
Deerhunter
whitefencelive-590x590.jpg
02

Live In San Francisco
White Fence

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.