Album of The Year
Chvrches – Every Open Eye
I cannot overstress how much I love this album. Hell, I even like the tracks where Lauren Mayberry doesn’t sing. It is an extremely catchy album from start to finish.
Don’t Call it a Comeback award
New Order – Music Complete
Dogged by rumours of a breakup, a public (and frankly kind of childish) rift between a few of the founding members, and a few decent-but-not-great albums since their glory days of the late 80’s, I really didn’t expect much from New Order anymore. But Music Complete is probably their most solid work since 93’s Republic. A few weird tracks, sure, but “Singularity” and “Plastic” remain some of their best work since the 80’s.
Okay, Call it a Comeback award
Conjure One – Holoscenic
Rhys Fulber’s solo project had a stellar debut, a sort of “meh” second album, a decent but forgettable third album, and the new fourth album seems to represent more of a return to what made the first album interesting – pop hooks and vocals interspersed with the ambient synth bleeps.
Cover Album of the Year
Ryan Adams – 1989
I won’t lie, I enjoyed Taylor Swift’s mega-blockbuster “1989.” It was pure pop, and not especially deep, but it was damned catchy songwriting. I also generally find Ryan Adams somewhat annoying. HOWEVER. His front-to-back cover album of Swift’s album is astonishing. “Out of the Woods” and “Welcome to New York” play like lost Smiths tracks, and there’s a distinct, low-key Springsteen vibe to “Shake It Off.”
Best Album By A Guy Who Stood Up At My Wedding
The Dark Clan – Hall of Fame
As usual, Dan, Mercy and Lane run a dizzying gamut of genres, rolling soaring power-pop with industrial dance, gritty synth-funk and arena rock, and yet it all flows and makes sense. It’s some of their best work yet, a fun singalong album with a distinct vein of melancholy.
Second Album Reinvention Award
Purity Ring – Another Eternity
I really enjoyed their first album, “Shrines”, but the claustrophobic pseudo-witch-house production didn’t leave a lot of directions in which to go. Instead, for their sophomore effort, they made an angular synthpop album. Elements of pop-EDM creep in, but are twisted in odd ways; a rave-cliche hoover lead becomes a distant accent, and trap-like beats take a backseat to sweet vocals and shimmery pianos.
HEALTH – DEATH MAGIC
If you had told me last year I’d think an album by an experimental noise-rock band was one of the year’s best, I would’ve thought you were crazy. But this assault of screeching noises, hammering beats, and distressed guitars is anchored by melodic vocals, odd little depeche-mode-y synth flourishes, and tempered by some solid hooks.
Best Single I Released All Year
Null Device – Wardrobe
Mirror Universe Award
Grimes – Art Angel
In the “Mirror Universe” of Star Trek, it’s likely that Claire Boucher’s project has multiple #1’s on the radio, and Taylor Swift is some sort of indie darling. And they both have goatees. But Art Angel is weird, wonderful, off-kilter pop music, as though a normal radio hit were slightly modified and then sung by a pixie coming down from a cocaine jag.
Slow Burn Award
Metric – Pagans In Vegas
Every Metric album has slightly underwhelmed me at first listen, but always proven to be pretty great on subsequent listens. Pagans in Vegas is no exception.
Old Guys Makin’ Beats
JM Jarre – Electronica One: The Time Machine/Giorgio Moroder – Deja Vu
Two venerated giants of electronic music’s formative years came out of semi-retirement with remarkably good albums. Moroder continues to do what he’s always done – make infectious dance music with a driving bassline. Jarre collaborated with everyone from Pete Townshend to Vince Clarke and M83.
Best Matt Fanale Album
Beauty Queen Autopsy – Lotharia
Somehow, a guy with two kids and two jobs managed to release 5 albums this year. And my favorite was his collaboration with Erica “Unwoman” Mulkey, a gritty, noisy electronic noise-pop album. Like a funhouse mirror reflection of shoegaze and industrial rock, Lotharia features a lot of adult topics, and naturally, a Placebo cover.
Disclosure – Caracal
Young Galaxy – Falsework
MS MR – How Does It Feel
Shamir – Ratchet
IAMX – Metanoia
The Continuing Commodification of Ellie Goulding
I really liked her first album. She has a unique voice, and the vaguely alt-synthpop sensibilites of that album made it stand out from other radio-friendly pop of the time. “Halcyon” was decent, and had a few really good tracks, but ultimately it began to sound like a lot of EDM-inflected pop music. The tepid “Love Me Like You Do” and “On My Mind” continue to iron out anything unique about her voice and music and shove it into a bland template.
The feud between Peter Hook and the rest of New Order
Man, that got nasty quick.
Morrissey’s Sex Scene
“Bulbous salutation?” The hell?