As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sounds.
It occurs to me that I have never explicitly written an Agitated Atmosphere pertaining to my favorites from any given year (unless it’s been about cassettes — and that won’t change, just look for it in early 2012). As it happens, I also rarely write in first person. So I’m breaking two long-standing rules I’ve held for Agitated Atmosphere. Hopefully, you won’t think less of me.
It turns out that you already know some of my favorite albums this year considering I’ve written about them in this very column, but I think some bare repeating. At the top of my list is Through Donkey Jaw by Amen Dunes. It may be a cliché, but it’s a good one: the album is deeply layered and yet it’s so simple and earnest. I still appreciate music that speaks to me as a person without being wholly abstract.
Other favorites this year that were featured via Agitated Atmosphere include Fabio Orsi’s Stand Before Me, Oh My Soul, Portrait from Circuit Des Yeux, and the pair of releases from Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 and Dropped Pianos. They all continue to find their way onto my turntable or ending up on my digital playlists.
But some of my favorites didn’t make it onto Agitated Atmosphere. I couldn’t get enough of A Winged Victory for the Sullen and their self-titled debut, I continue to be amazed at the evolution of San Francisco’s Barn Owl, with Lost in the Glare my favorite album of theirs yet. And as close to mainstream as it may seem, Madness in Miniature from Cleveland’s mr. Gnome is the first real rock album that’s never let go of my attention (or my stones) since its release.
It was another stellar year for music. If your friends or acquaintances say differently, you have permission to kick them in the shin and tell them to get their head out of the sand.