JEREMY STEVENS: SUB-EDITOR
5. Atoms For Peace – Amok [XL Recordings]
A very honourable mention goes to Bonobo's The North Borders. It is a masterpiece. But I must concede Mr Yorke and co. a spot here with Amok. If you've been doubting the man lately, Yorke's solo performance of Ingenue on The Jonathan Ross Show will rekindle an appreciation for his songwriting. Amok is full of scattery percussion and agitated synths, all held together by Yorke's voice and Flea's particularly impressive bass work. While the space between accessible hooks, like on Default and Judge, Jury and Executioner, makes this an initially difficult release to swallow, tracks like the densely looped-up Unless show the band can craft pay offs that truly count too.
4. The National – Trouble Will Find Me [4AD]
Some people find The National boring. They think they're too morose, too gloomy, and too dull. I respectfully disagree, mainly because the thought of a world where we all listen to jimmy jangle San Cisco pop all day sounds fucking terrifying. Trouble Will Find Me is a great piece of work from a band that consistently surpasses most others in quality. Their arrangements sound beautiful – in particular, stand out Humiliation – and as always, Bryan Devendorf's exceptional drumming holds most pieces together. But there is nothing here more beautiful than Fake Empire, with as much unbridled, explosive fire as Mr. November, or quite as heartbreaking as Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. A small part of me feels disappointed; most of me knows I ask far, far too much. Here, The National is incredible, as I imagine they always will be.
3. Toro Y Moi – Anything in Return [Carpark Records]
Anything in Return makes me want to dance, and artists have to work damn hard to get that. Everything about the album feels right. Chaz's clear pop hooks slide right into his interesting structures, and they encourage you to dig just a bit deeper. The production is pushy and doesn't fit the airy, sparse style many producers now champion (I think we can thank The xx for kicking that into overdrive). And the grooves don't stop coming. A friend once criticised So Many Details on its percussion-dominant mix, but I've come to think that's exactly why it's so good. It's doesn't fit the 'perfect' mould. It doesn't have to be smooth, it doesn't have to be light, and it doesn't have to be instantly accessible. And that's what makes it so damn incredible.
2. Los Campesinos! – No Blues [Wichita Recordings/Turnstile Music]
Los Campesinos! seem to either resonate with people and turn them into raging obsessives, or not click at all. That's understandable. They take bright, catchy pop, and lather it in doom and despair and broken hearts. No Blues sees them further refine this juxtaposed mix into a fine art. 'We’re too much sugar, too much salt, and it’s no-one else’s fault/ We are beautiful but tragically we’re doomed,' Paul Heaton writes in the liner notes to We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, the band's second release. As it turns out, No Blues doesn't have too much salt or sugar – and they certainly sound relatively less doomed this time around. With a wink and a grin, they've crafted one of their best releases yet.
1. Karnivool – Asymmetry [Cymatic Records/Sony]
Karnivool continually surprise me. After putting together the sleek, tight, critically acclaimed Sound Awake, they've shaken things up – and you only need to look at their Facebook page's comments to see just how polarising the shake up has been. Asymmetry sounds aggressively real. Production is less shiny, and the band's playing is significantly more complex and harder to catch onto. While Sound Awake took a good ten plus listens to click, Asymmetry calls for a complete rewiring of expectations. Beneath its surface sits a very subtle and fierce anger, and it's certainly uneasy in many respects. But if you let it take you over, it's an album that will pulse through your body until it becomes something you physically crave – and I don't know any other band that can produce an effect like that. Karnivool is on top of their game, and where they go next is anybody's guess.