These may not be the “best” records of the year, but they are records that ended up meaning a lot to me, for one reason or another. Most were by women, perhaps because women have made the most interesting new music in the genres I follow most closely. This is in no particular order although the ones toward the top are records I spent more time with.
A voice from beyond the grave, a scraping, harrowing ballad
Why You Should Care:
Erika M. Anderson, who records under the name EMA, describes her new record Exile in the Outer Ring as a concept record about life in the struggling outer suburbs. In concert and record, the Outer Ring as she depicts it is a placeless American white trash dystopia of strip malls, opioids, online surveillance, DUI arrests, and political paranoia.
The harrowing “Blood and Chalk,” written originally for a soundtrack for a teen horror movie, is the record’s highlight — a scraping, haunted ballad for the generation of kids who grew up in the shadows of Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails and Eminem. It’s not an industrial track; Anderson plays thudding guitar and sings with only minimal electronic processing over droning keyboards. But something about it is lifeless and mechanical, in a very deliberate approach, from the funereal drumming to the scorched-earth singing.
It's finally here! We've reached the end of yet another year, and as is the custom it's now our duty to try and make some sort of sense of the good, the bad and the outright ugly and put it all into list form for your consumption. Why do we do this? A need for some sense of order? A byproduct of our secret desire to have bands fight it out Hunger Games style for the title of SUPREME MUSICAL OVERLORDS of the year? Who knows.
Now, here at ChunkyGlasses, we all have some wildly varying tastes. Sure there is a common ground, but the phrase "what in the f@#$" has been thrown around quite a bit this year (more often than not by me) as we've made our journey through the musical landscape that 2011 has presented us with. With that in mind you won't ever see an absolute top 10 list. We like too many types of music for that. Instead we're going to give you our individual lists and let you take from that what you will.
So let's get to it. First up we have Ethan's list for the best albums of the year.
Hope you've got your dancin' shoes on.
#10: EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints
Grungey, dark, emotional and hard hitting. EMA takes her time, this is an unrushed album so full of slow builders that it is hard to believe that it is only 37 minutes long. At times the pacing is maybe even a little too slow.
Abrasive. Gut wrenching. Delicate. Assured. Powerful.
These are all words that could be used to describe the force of nature that is EMA, but I’m going to use the most appropriate words I can think of to sum up Sunday night’s show at the Red Palace: KICK.ASS.
Playing to a room that was only half full (comfy, but shame on you DC), EMA took the stage to a wall of feedback that set the tone for the rest of the evening. Guitar screaming, dissonant clicks and pops being created by a handheld radio, the song “Butterfly Knife” eventually rose up out of that noise, and Erika M. Anderson (thus the “EMA”) settled in for the set.
EMA played The Red Palace last night and by the size of the crowd I'm willing to bet that most of you weren't there. That being the case we decided it might be best to do something about that for the next time she comes to town and give you guys a tastes of the awesomeness that you simply don't want to miss next time. Spun out of the dissolution of the band Gowns, and fronted by that bands Erika Anderson, EMA exists somewhere between Sonic Youth and Cat Power. Anderson's guitar is a ferocious beast in her hands, and it permeates every single moment of their album Past Life Martyrd Saints (one of Paul's picks for best of the year so far). This track from that album may be the band at their most volatile, and it's certainly the band at their very best.
EMA - California