Ashley Thomson is a regular BMA Magazine contributor and has been particularly prevalent across our music review pages this year. He's also very nice to his Mum - Bossman Allan Sko
10. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation [Fat Possum/Lefse]
A quiet, simple album. Voices echo through steady ebbs of synth as if from the bottom of a well. "Don’t stop imagining / The day that you do is the day that you die". Gentle licks on guitars and xylophones, prods on piano keys and catching percussion pull you in. You find yourself humming down to the person in the well and rising to the surreal crescendos before you even realise.
9. Pharoahe Monch – W.A.R. (We Are Renegades) [Duck Down Records]
"What you are hearing... is a warning." The opening words of Monch’s third album. The beats are huge and Monch is bigger, a one-man army standing against a broken future already collapsed on the audience to which he speaks. It’s heavy, raw shit but not without its gospel rays of sunshine. If there’s a place in your heart for something you can turn up and let make you want to point a gun at a politician, this album has a place in your ID [Bossman's Note: BMA Magazine does not recommend you point a gun at a politician. Ever].
8. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost [True Panther]
This album is simply solid alt indie rock on the surface and yet somehow, in every way, it’s so much more. The songs are surprising, thematically and instrumentally diverse. Just listen to it, I guess. It’ll surprise you.
7. Saigon – The Greatest Story Never Told [Suburban Noize Records]
If you’ve never heard of Saigon, sort that shit out. Saigon, a one-time inmate, has been doing the rounds for a decade. He has unceasingly demonstrated astonishing flow, a gleaming social conscience and a penchant for the hard stories that only the truly gifted rapper can pull off in the telling, and yet this is his studio debut. The best way to find out why and make up for it is contained in this record. It’s a life’s work.
6. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo [Matador]
Vile is at the peak of a very lazy, nonchalant genre of songwriting. This is his fourth album and he’s perfected his craft. Without wanting to tie him to everything that once was “grunge,” there is an undeniably unwashed quality to Vile’s middle-American sprawl tracks. It’s driving music, lazy and broad but purposeful and crafted. This is about as pleasant a listen as you’re likely to find.
5. Beirut – The Rip Tide [Pompeii]
Easily the most focused album from Beirut to date. Still baroque, still Balkan and still Zach Condon’s genius working full bore. Truly beautiful in parts.
4. Tom Waits – Bad As Me [ANTI-Records]
"'No good', you say? Ha! That’s good enough for me!" howls Waits at one point. Waits has always been a force of nature. Sometimes this meant that you accepted the reeking bile with the genius. Not on this album. Stumbling with poise from cutthroat jams to delicate love songs, Waits has delivered a finished project. There are no sharp edges except the ones that he left pointy on purpose.
3. Action Bronson – Dr. Lecter [Fine Fabric Delegates]
Action Bronson is an enormously overweight white guy from New Jersey with a fat red beard. He is also a genius. For his debut album, Bronson has combined the funkiest ride-along beats with his baller, fluid rhymes to take you on a romp through his East coast playground life. This year, when it was all about Tyler and the Odd Future crew, Bronson delivered the most solid East coast debut in years. "Fuck that sittin’ down rap type shit. I stand up cos’ I’m a motherfuckin’ man. And I’m motherfuckin’ hot, yeah." True dat, Bronson.
2. tUnE-yArDs – W H O K I L L [4AD] PICTURED
I have never heard anything like this. Ever. How often can you say that about music these days? Real name Merrill Garbus (the poor woman), W H O K I L L is an explosion of musical noise that samples horns, ukuleles and her own hermaphroditic voice, cutting them into intricate loops and layering them on top of infectious thumping beats to build songs that get your weirdest parts jumping dementedly. When I saw her live she began building the songs right in front of us (no small task) and she stopped for a moment to say, “I can’t play any instrument very well. I just sample all of them a little bit to make one big noise.” Get some noise.
1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver [4AD/Jagjaguwar]
Bon Iver’s second album is The Godfather: Part II. It’s so beautiful it’s monstrous. It hurts. It’s that scene in Up where the roof bursts open and thousands of balloons come cascading out to carry that man away to the place of his childhood dreams.