In his relatively young career, Kurt Vile has become one of the most consistent and impressive songwriters I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. There is no greater proof of this than this year’s So Outta Reach EP. Vile had already released Smoke Ring For My Halo towards the beginning of 2011, so the need for more material was minimal, but Vile delivered a succinct and enjoyable EP, the sort of above and beyond effort that is quickly gaining him a widespread following. So Outta Reach isn’t his most impressive material, as it borrows a lot from what Smoke Ring For My Halo accomplished, but there’s a certain comfort that comes from knowing exactly what you’re getting with a Vile release. He doesn’t reinvent his own wheel, and if you enjoyed even one song from his debut in 2008, you will probably love every track on So Outta Reach. I mean, he even made me want to listen to some Bruce Springsteen after hearing his cover of “Downbound Train.” It’s indescribable how Vile seems to retread lyrics and guitar patterns, and yet with each release, his music continues to grow into an even more organic and sonically gorgeous product.
– Erik Burg
Holy Other is just one of the artists to flourish from Tri Angle Records this year, in amongst a roster than includes oOoOO and Clams Casino (who produced most of the ASAP Rocky mixtape). Easily grouped with artists such as Balam Acab because of the atmospheric ambiance radiated, Holy Other’s debut EP With U is packed with wave motion synth pulses that lap over each other. What makes this EP so likeable is how easy it is to forget you’re listening to music and just get sucked into the atmospheric soundscapes that are created by the German producer. Packed with drum machine claps, sampled vocals and haunting synth bleeps, it’s easy to label this as a cross between chillwave and witch house, but it combines the elements of both that have made them so successful and builds upon them. With U is just one of several greatly appreciated outputs this year from Tri Angle Records.
– Aurora Mitchell
Toro y Moi
“Chillwave” is really a terrible genre tag. Sure, it’s one whose music evokes Instagram-ed pictures dotting your best friend’s Tumblr, or that hazy summer day reminiscent of something you’d see in Do the Right Thing. Lots of it sounds cheesy and cheaply made on laptops, but some actually goes above that and sounds like something a full band could get together and really do, as opposed to something produced by a laptop. Chaz Bundick’s Toro y Moi is the leading man of terrific music from this genre, adding a near R&B tinge to that nostalgia, on his albums Causers of This and later, Underneath the Pine. However, on Freaking Out, Toro y Moi goes for the ‘80s dancefloor funk, filling spaces accented by strobe lights and balloons. If anything, Freaking Out is going for irony in its title. This is dance music, laid back.
– Ryan Nichols
Though the band has described Nightlife as a “mini-LP,” the Saratoga Springs duo’s six-song collective is an EP both at its heart and definition. And like their full-length debut, Eyelid Movies, it is absolutely a must-hear release. Over the course of 2010, Eyelid Movies became one of my favorite albums, a go-to on dark, rainy days, where the elastic electronics and dream-like vocals meshed up perfectly with the less-than-ideal weather. But Nightlife, packed with thicker and peppier layers of electronics and a production quality that has taken clear jumps forward, defies just one perfect mood or weather (granted, we’ve only at the EP since November). It’s a versatile release that, especially in between true full-length albums, does a brilliant job of furthering the band’s aesthetic and sets them up for their next highly anticipated release, accomplishing exactly what these smaller releases should.
– Andrew Bailey
Archy Marshall aka Zoo Kid aka King Krule was born in 1994, I’m trying desperately to stop myself from calculating what age that makes him lest I be physically sick. Marshall is possibly the first of many promising young musicians that are going to spawn out of the age of music-on-demand. His music is an amalgamation of everything that’s popular right now, from introspective indie to atmospheric dubstep, and in King Krule’s slight 13 minutes he manages to traverse from one to the other, making reference to several other styles along the way. This is a kind of eclecticism that is common amongst young music fans these days, but it’s extremely rare to see this influence turned around to produce something so idiosyncratic. This young Brit has a lot of expectations resting on his shoulders currently, and this release shows that he has the potential to meet them.