The AIAIAI Best of 2011 Playlist



Related links

Mishka NYC Blog
Simon Reynolds

Like us on Facebook

Here’s a look back at 2011 to make you dive head first into 2012. Ladies and gents, it’s the AIAIAI Best of 2011 playlist! So fresh, so clean.

2011 provided us with a serious amount of new, peculiar, immersive, inventive and just plain weird music. So much so that we have to admit we had a little trouble keeping up with it all. As you get older, your obsession with being first with the latest shit seems to dwindle, and this can take its toll on your music nerdery. Still, there were more than a few musical moments from 2011 that were memorable even to a bunch of ageing slackers like us. That is to say, we haven’t surrendered completely to fits of complaining about soaring cheese prices while shaking our fists at unruly teens…not just yet, anyway.

2011: The Year in Music

‘H-pop’ or hypnagogic pop was still alive and kicking in the shape of knob-twiddling eccentrics like Maria Minerva and Oneohtrix Point Never; British, post-dubstep bass music was on a serious winning streak and morphed into strange new hybrids that were as eclectic as they were tightly focused; we have it on good authority that Rustie’s ‘Glass Swords’ album melted peoples’ brains; Mike Paradinas’ Planet Mu label put out quite a few remarkably immersive, footwork-inspired records such as Kuedo’s Blade Runner-esque ‘ Severant’ and Machinedrums’s ‘Room(s)’; New R&B gave us some intensely soulful, new school jams in the form of The Weeknd, Frank Ocean and Devonte Hynes’ Blood Orange project; Nicolas Jaar’s album was another awe-inspiring highlight; Tom Waits was back with a new album that showed everyone just how relevant the old crooner still is; Copenhageners When Saints Go Machine surprised everybody (including us) by putting out an LP that struck the perfect balance between raw emotion and flawless production; young punk upstarts Iceage’s debut practically blew everything rock-related out of the water; and so on and so forth.

There was no shortage of fantasist/romanticising, hyper-real musical odysseys that could take us far away from the all too immediate drudgery /intensity of Facebook overload, catastrophes, and the all-pervading economic crisis that seemingly has no intention of ever ending. In the wake of this visceral mix of impressions, there were those who felt that something was missing . That popular music had through some barely perceptible mechanism been divorced from what was happening around it, and in this way rendered it unable to fully articulate the pressing issues of our time.

Author Simon Reynolds claimed that popular music was stuck in a collective, retrospective vacuum of sorts in his book ‘Retromania’ in which the famed writer mourned the distinct lack of cutting-edge newness in pop. Journalists and various stakeholders either welcomed or condemned the somewhat harsh critique, although we have a feeling that even the most hardened Reynolds critics will secretly admit that pop music needed a gentle kick up the backside to help clear out the dustiest sonic cobwebs.

Nevertheless, despite all the retrofetishist leanings in pop, 2011 was a still a solid year for forward-thinking music. As you can tell from this list, the diversity spawned by the internet is still creating extraordinary new music that’s annoyingly difficult to pigeonhole (although there’s never a shortage of journalists willing to try).

As you can probably tell I could go on for hours, which is why it’s best to cut the long-windedness short and give you the low-down. Dear readers, here’s a list of tracks we dug in the past year.

Tom Waits - Hell Broke Luce

We make no secret of the fact that we dig Tom Waits. Several members of the AIAIAI crew once traveled halfway across Europe by car to see him live when they were 15, and the latest record has done nothing to alleviate the madness of our Waits obsession.

Shabazz Palaces - Free Press and Curl

Ishmael Butler, the tripped-out rapper from Shabazz Palaces, was one third of Digable Planets who were quite possibly the best hip hop act of the 90s. Could Shabazz Palaces become the best hip hop act of this decade? It sure as hell is going to take one amazing record to top the Black Up LP.

Spleen United - Days of Thunder

There are naysayers among you who will say: 'hey, you're only including Spleen United because Kasper works for AIAIAI'. To them we say: 'get bent.' This track is tight as hell and we've heard the new album, 'School of Euphoria', which is the business too. An acid-tinged, new beat odyssey that'll have you dancing with tears in your eyes. Watch out for Spleen United in 2012.

Purity Ring - Lofticries

What the fuck is she singing? Actually, there's no need to know. The wraithlike cooing transports you to warped, unseemly places of bliss. Places you wouldn't necessarily tell your mother about.

Com Truise - VHS Sex

The genius of Com Truise is that it's actually hip hop. Come to think of it, why hasn't anyone put an MF Doom acapella over this?

Lana Del Rey - Blue Jeans

Yes, she's annoyingly ubiquitous now, but when Lana Del Rey sang "you fit me better than my favorite sweater" with that piercingly passionate voice and those perfectly imperfect, bee-stung lips it was the moment of the year in pop music.

Kuedo - Scissors

This track is so busy that it shouldn't work. But it does. Blade Runner meets the footwork genre in one of the tracks of the year by Kuedo.

Phreshy - Puff Puff Pass (Machinedrum Remix)

Machinedrum has had quite a year. Phreshy's original is so so, but Travis Stewart's midas touch turns it into the warmest, most euphoric weed anthem in the past ten years. In the hands of Machinedrum, the shitty rhyme:'realest shit I ever wrote I ever wrote in my Blackberry notes' turns into something so powerful that you have trouble comprehending what it is that makes it so great. It just is.

Gang Gang Dance - Glass Jar

"It's everything time." If Gang Gang Dance aquired the political urgency of Rage Against the Machine, they could become the next Nirvana.

Frank Ocean - Novacane

The smoothest member of Odd Future spins tales of depravity through soft vocals and great visuals.

Boddika - Underground

Boddika equals dark, uncompromising machine music with insanely sharp production values. If there was an underground in 2011, this is what it sounded like.

Nicolas Jaar - Don't Break My Love

Put on some good headphones (hint, hint) and let this beautiful mess of static and timbre play with your ears. Nicolas Jaar's full Length 'Space is Only Noise' was made #1 on Resident advisor and we're inclined to agree. But this has to be his number #1 track of the year. When those vocals come in around 5.00, you feel like starting a revolution. Albeit an ethereally mesmerizing one.

When Saints go Machine - Kelly

From one of the albums of the year comes one of songs of the year.

P.J. Harvey - On Battleship Hill

Like many of the other brilliant songs on Let England Shake, On Battleship Hill transports us back to the caved-in trenches of a WW1 Gallipoli battlefield, but more than merely transporting us back, it becomes a part of that intricate contemplation on the nature of war, of man and of… nature, which is Let England Shake. The battle and everything in between... We're definitely not alone in this, but looking back on 2011, it seems difficult not to see PJ Harvey in there.

Yacht - Dystopia

Armageddon never sounded so catchy! Kudos to Yacht for drawing much needed attention to the big issue of our time with a track that you can sing along to. It's not inappropriate. The DFA-signed duo have just taken heed of the mantra: "If you can't dance to it, it's not my revolution." If nothing else, it certainly made us take notice.

Happy New Year and the best wishes for 2012. Let’s make it a year to remember!