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Tag Archives: Gang Gang Dance

2011 Albums of the Year

John Maus

I’m not a great blogger that is for sure. The start of the year witnessed my streak of blog posts and reviews, until summer came and my time and resources went elsewhere. Now, at this year’s end I am back to give you my input of 2011 in music:

2011 was a fruitful year, although this year lacked a definitive “best” album (like last year’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) it featured numerous quality releases. The list I’m writing for you here was limited to just ten, leading me to leave several albums I found great off of this list. Trends that began in past years continued, specifically the small-imprint trend, growing in quality and quantity. The exodus from bedroom to studio has continued from bands in the independent music scene, few artists are releasing anything that sounds like it came from modest production efforts. Listen to the production in albums like Bon Iver or Father, Son, Holy Ghost, they’re deep, round, and spacious. Yet on another hand, artists are still borrowing sounds of the past and re-appropriating them as their own, although now in ways that blur the past and the present. An example would be John Maus’ release; We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, this album sounds natively 80s, but, is it really? Despite synthesizers turned all the way up, nothing in the 80s could be related without argument. Better yet is Daniel Lopatin’s Oneohtrix Point Never project, in his latest album, Replica, he samples 1980-90s daytime/late-night television commercials (which sounds like) straight from VHS. The final result is a creation that romanticizes one’s feeling of nostalgia.

Here are my top albums of 2011…

*Best of 2011*

10) Girls
Father, Son, Holy Ghost
[True Panther Sounds]
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09) Drake
Take Care
[Cash Money]
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08) Shabazz Palaces
Black Up
[Sub Pop]
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07) Bon Iver
Bon Iver
[Jagjaguwar/4AD]
Bon-Iver-Album-Cover

06) Gang Gang Dance
Eye Contact
[4AD]
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05) Atlas Sound
Parallax
[4AD]
alb_Atlas-Sound_full

04) Destroyer
Kaputt
[Merge]
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03) Future Islands
On the Water
[Thrill Jockey]
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02) Oneohtrix Point Never
Replica
[Software/Mexican Summer]
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01) John Maus
We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
[Ribbon Music]
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Here is a list of my twenty favorite songs from 2011. These are listed in alphabetical order.

A Winged Victory for the Sullen – Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears
Atlas Sound – Te Amo
Cass McCombs – County Line
Death Grips – Guillotine
Destroyer – Blue Eyes
DJ Diamond – Horns
Drake – Doing It Wrong
Ford & Lopatin – Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me)
Gang Gang Dance – Glass Jar
Girls – Alex
Jay-Z / Kanye West – Otis
John Maus – Hey Moon
Kids on a Crime Spree – Trumpets of Death
Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
Laura Marling – Sophia
Nicki Minaj – Super Bass
Oneohtrix Point Never – Up
Thee Oh Sees – The Dream
Tom Waits – Bad as Luce
2 Chainz – Spend It (Remix) (Feat. T.I.)

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Eye ContactApropos that Gang Gang Dance start their latest album with the words “I can hear everything/It’s everything time.” Eye Contact, Gang Gang Dance’s first album released on 4AD, sounds just like that, a collection of influences and genres strung together to create a weird, exciting, and otherworldly headphones album. Perhaps I wanted Tomboy to sound thusly, but, Gang Gang Dance, who have been around for the better half of a decade, now just put together the best album in their catalog. There hasn’t been a release yet this year that sounds so much like the current times while borrowing so much from previous decades.

The album opener “Glass Jar” is enough in itself to create an EP. This 11-minute epic starts slowly, perhaps like a space shuttle with its engine firing, then near the 5-minute mark it blasts through the atmosphere to not return. Arpeggioed keys augment an emphatic bass bump, which has been used to a strong effect at their live performances, is first heard here on one of their studio albums. The tone that is set from this first track does not let up throughout the rest of the album. Although there are intermittently and exquisitely placed interludes, any track with a written title (essentially, I do not want to take aback the interludes) has areas to explore, to dance to, or to just let wash over you in the sun or under the stars. Perhaps the latter is befitting for Eye Contact.

Liz Bougatsos’ voice sounds better than ever on this album as well. Her gentle coos from Saint Dymphna are still here but on other tracks it’s distorted in ways we haven’t heard. “Chinese High” is a song that sounds like Kate Bush and it features guitarist Tim Koh, from Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. His reverberated guitar, plus Bougatsos’ childlike voice, and a pop-song structure allows it to be the most accessible track. “MindKilla” follows “Chinese High” and it is more dance floor-ready than even “Glass Jar.” It has enough 808s, synths, bass beats, horns and alarms, a fucking lullaby, and exasperations. To elaborate more on these two songs, on the LP version of the album these tracks are the only two on side 2 (of 3). They play just like a single would, let’s say that “Chinese High” would be the A-side and “MindKilla” as its B-side. These two tracks aren’t just standout tracks on this album; they are standout tracks for this year.

The album’s final side starts with the second interlude, “∞∞,” this brings the listener down from the serotonin-overloaded “MindKilla.” It is perfectly placed because “Romance Layers” has the laid-back duet of Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor and Liz Bougatsos exchanging melodies amidst keyboard chimes and electric guitars. Later is “∞∞∞” which forebodes the album finale. Gurgling water, the refrain of “I’m so high/Can’t seem to find my way” plus the raising tempo of a tribal drum beat leads to “Thru and Thru.” An Arabian melody that is segmented with a voice sample yell, followed by a tribal percussion beat that leads into, for a lack of me not knowing what to call it, a muezzin’s call.

Eye Contact is an extraterrestrial re-imagination of genres and influences we didn’t know could be re-appropriated in such a manner. Although their previous albums were certainly weird, Eye Contact remains accessible, but not enough to steer away fans from Saint Dymphna or God’s Money.

(Reviewer’s Score 4.2/5)

http://www.ganggangdance.com/widgets/glassjar.swf

Following this link will bring you to the widget that plays Gang Gang Dance’s latest song, titled “Glass Jar,” which will be on their forthcoming album Eye Contact (due to be released 5/10 on 4AD). When I last saw this band, nearly two years ago at the Bug Jar in Rochester, NY, the band was starting to explore the material that comes to fruition in this amazing 11-minute track. At that show, they played just two tracks from Saint Dymphna and then went into long playing disco/house jams (they did play “House Jam” too). “Glass Jar” has a long intro but near the five-minute mark, the percussion rolls in to give the song a sense of pace and structure to back-up the synthesizers and arpeggioed keys. Also, Liz Bougatsos’s gentle coos sound better than ever in this house-y track that will allegedly be the album’s opener.