Aside from the first two albums on this list, December was, for the most part, spent catching up on other people's end-of-year lists in hopes of finding that perfect record that slipped past me in the last twelve months. I found a lot of great songs (some here, some to be listed tomorrow, some to be listed in my final EOY roundup of favorite 2011 songs, soon), and was compelled to pick up a handful of full-lengths for further investigation. Here's what I came back with, in the order I acquired them this month. I can't say, yet, whether I think any of these late-breaking additions to my listening year deserve a spot on my favorites of the year list—everything is still a little too fresh for me to decide—but at any rate there is some good stuff here.
Brian Eno: Ambient 1: Music for Airports
Dillard & Clark: Through the Morning, Through the Night
Not going to spend much time on these today. I already listed them as among my favorite new-to-me classic finds of the year.
Julia Holter: Tragedy
My friend Cameron might have summed this record up best on twitter: "approaches my fantasy Laurie Anderson/Sunn 0))) collabo, but retains a whiff of the collegiate." Tragedy is, for the most part, a unique and wonderful album, drifting between moody atmospheres and a larger, carefully considered structure—often in the space of one track (actual track divisions on the record are best ignored, in favor of a front-to-back listening experience). There is a mythological concept underlying the record, if you wish to pay close enough attention to the words when Holter's voice comes in. Personally I prefer not to—I like the record more for its sonic journey than for its literary aspirations. Tragedy has a lot to offer, not least of which is the hint of great potential. Holter has another album slated for 2012, and judging by the first available track, she is only getting better.
Julia Holter: Celebration
The Caretaker: An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
Leyland Kirby's release under the Caretaker moniker is possibly the subtlest album I've ever heard. That should be taken as a backhanded compliment, because there are times—lots of them, actually—where I wonder if the pleasure I find in this record has anything to do with Kirby at all. For this project Kirby loops extended passages from jazz 78s from the 1920s, and he emphasizes the crackles, pops, warps, and hisses of the records themselves. It's extreme nuance—and it's interesting!—but I'm fooling myself if I think the best parts of the tracks are because of Kirby. Rather, it's his source material. Which leads me to wonder if I wouldn't get just as much pleasure out of playing old, crackling jazz 78s. I like this record, but I don't know whether or not I like for the reasons Kirby intends. (n.b.: I've been advised to check out of some Kirby's releases under his own name, also from this year, which I've not gotten the chance to do yet.)
The Caretaker: The Great Hidden Sea of the Unconscious
Nicolas Jaar: Space is Only Noise
Of all the minimalist electronica I've been listening to this month, Jaar's album is certainly the most fun. It's low, bassy, relaxed, stoned, and occassionally silly. But don't let that come off as a knock. Compared to Holter and Kirby's serious-minded albums, Jaar's record might actually be packed with more ideas.
Nicolas Jaar: Space Is Only Noise If You Can See