Alistair Erskine has contributed to BMA Magazine for over five years; he is the radio host for 2SER in Sydney and possibly listens to more music that anyone I know - Allan "Bossman" Sko
To catch up on Alistair Erskine's top albums for 2010, click here.
10. Caitlin Park - Milk Annual [Broken Stone Records]
It was I Am A Nightbird, a B-side to her single Warriors With Wild Hearts that made me take notice of Caitlin Park, and golly am I glad I let that CD play through. Milk Annual really nails down the sweet sounds of the sombre folk she puts out, combined with the lovely, playful sample-based electronica she inserts. With tones, beats and words that kiss your ears and melt your heart but in the gentlest way possible... I can't get enough. People often ask me 'What's your favourite music?' and to be a wanker I usually say 'Well, I hate safe, ugly music, so dangerous or pretty music is my thing,' and for the most part that's true, but rarely do I come across an example of an album that
completely plays it well – this is prettier than a thousand pretty ladies on a sunny day, and the addition of such lovely, eclectic and unexpected electronica elements into it provides the danger I love to revel in. Stunning.
9. Inga Liljeström - Black Crow Jane [Groovescooter]
She has a humongous place in my heart just for being the vocalist on the classic Gerling house track Dust Me Selecta but when Black Crow Jane was sent my way this year, I knew Groovescooter were onto a winner – a singer-songwriter who excels at both writing the songs and
exceptionally singing the songs she has written. The type of music you know no-one except her could emulate. I really can't recommend this album more highly – dark, brooding, sultry, vivacious.
8. Black Lips - Arabia Mountain [Vice]
Can these guys make a bad record? No. Even with Mark Ronson on the boards (who else was waiting for the bossa-nova to creep in all record?) they couldn't go wrong. It's just killer wonderful garage rock. And totally one of my ten favourite records released this year. Garage rock, cow punk, whatever you want to call it. You cannot put this record on and not get slightly hypnotised by it. And keep asking your dad if he was into this type of thing when he was a kid (Hint: He wasn't).
7. Seekae - +Dome [Rice Is Nice]
When The Sound Of Trees Falling On People was released, I don't think anyone knew just how much people would take to the sounds. And finally! It's kind of weird that music like this has been made unpopular for ages, and golly it warmed the cockles to have kids requesting Seekae off me as I played DJ sets... This has increased twentyfold since the release of +Dome, their second disc of fresh-as-heck tracks, replete with more textures, tones, beats, flavours and colours than before, all ordered in a way to give your ears and mind the massage they so desperately deserve. It was a stellar year for young Aussie electronica (Collarbones was soooooo close to making this list), and this trio of pure awesomecore went into bat for the forces of good, and came home with the trophy.
6. Thundercat - The Golden Age Of Apocalypse [Stones Throw]
So the bassist that Fly Lo got to be part of his touring band gets some help from Mr Lotus, and puts out the coolest frikken record of this whole neo-soul revival thing. Whilst I find many of his peers –
your Aloe Blaccs and your Stepkids and Mayer Hawthornes - to be a little watery, this scores highly, achieving what neo-soul is meant to – sexiness, groove and relevance. AND throws some killer instrumental jams in there too. I defy someone to even try and front on this.
5. Com Truise - Galactic Melt [Ghostly International/Fuse]
I do love my electro, and great proper electro is hard to find. Maybe Disasterradio's album would be taking this slot more deservingly, but when I slapped on Cathode Girls after being handed the disc one week, I couldn't stop. Electro that harks all the way back to the '80s where synths were cool as heck, and there to be played with, not abused. The beats are what makes it – sliding kicks that make you fidgit with funk and smirk knowingly. Having this on your pod completely excuses your sunglasses still being on well after the sun has gone down. Synths. Beats. Complete radness.
4. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead [Capitol]
So yes, they are one of my three favourite bands (along with Sleater-Kinney and The New Pornographers). But The King Is Dead is a special record – it's where band leader Colin Meloy decided to ditch the sea-shanties in favour of the open range, and try and nail down some proper ye olde American roots music. As a 20-year-old I would have HATED this, but oh-me oh-my if this isn't THE porch sitting long player for the whole neighbourhood to adore. The highlight is
the most Decemberisty track of the bunch, Calamity Song, but the pieces that fit around it are grand too. Something to shock your parents with, as they didn't think you listened to music like this.
3. Belles Will Ring - The Crystal Theatre [Dot Dash/Remote Control]
I thought I didn't like Belles Will Ring. I blame an erroneous timetable thing from an inner-city street festival they were listed at, and obviously not playing, as they aren't a drab pseudo-reggae band at all. They are, in fact, a gorgeous psychedelic indie rock band, with a song writing prowess that is out of this world, a sentiment that is aligned with everything that is right and true about bands you fall in love with, and a catalogue that keeps improving. The Crystal Theatre gives you a couple of epics, a bunch of snappy numbers, and a whole dose of good times, and hasn't left my CD changer all year.
2. Sietta - The Seventh Passenger [Elefant Trax] PICTURED
Straight out of Darwin, Sietta have been that hype band ever since they announced themselves with their EP of three years ago The Come Back Easy Play. The duo of singer Caiti Baker and producer James Mahgohnig had announced themselves as ones to watch, and after a signficant delay, got their album out, signed by a very proud Elefant Traks crew. And it is stunning. From the bass of What Am I Supposed To Do? to the haunting Silence, there is no finer indie signing this year than the coup that Elefant Trax pulled off by getting this album for their label. Strong, unique, professional, vulnerable and addictive, this was an inch away from being my album of the year, and a must for any lover of bass, soul, beats, head nods and fun.
1. Yacht - Shangri-La [DFA]
In 2009, Yacht's album See Mystery Lights shone into my ears and heart – every play made me fall for the Portland duo that little bit more. Their Meredith performance that December cemented the love – a sprightly couple sent to provide a slightly alternate reality where the beats are kicking, the loyalty is strong and the friendship everlasting. Delightfully Shangri La, their 2011 album, is the best record I heard all year.
Identifying the stand-out track is difficult – this is a record where I have developed a new favourite every week. At first I was drawn to the potty-mouthed Dystopia (The Earth is on Fire), quickly jumping over to the excellently inclusive electro anthem I Walked Alone. The bass that punctuates Holy Roller stole my heart for a week or two; the excellent manipulation that is described in One Step grabbed me next, followed by the fabulous mission statement Paradise Engineering where Yacht announce to us all “that the world's last unpleasant experience will be a precisely datable event” and proceed to describe the heaven they know they can create and all that's required to allow this trancendency.
I've scoffed at people falling for the charms of a cult before, but some afternoons as I sit on public transport in traffic listening to this, I know I am only ten steps away from actually running away to join them.