10. Tim Hecker- Ravedeath 1972/ Dropped Pianos 12" (Kranky)
Tim Hecker is an ambient/drone musician from Montreal. On his latest album Hecker creates beautiful soundscapes by taking basic tracks of piano and organ and chopping them up and filtering them through layers of noise and distortion. The companion piece "Dropped Pianos" is comprised of the piano recordings used as the basis for a lot of the songs on Ravedeath. Both excellent releases.
9. Tombs- Path Of Totality (Relapse)
I've really enjoyed Tombs live and on record over the past year or so. Their second full length is a great listen. The band totally avoided the sophomore slump with this one. Blackened blasts meet downtuned riffs that collide with post-punk melody. Bits of weirdness are scattered throughout the album which gives you something different to listen for each time you put it on. I can't wait to see where Tombs take their sound next.
8. Lake Of Blood- As Time And Tide Erodes Stone (Human Jigsaw)
This is the first full length by SoCal Black Metal band Lake Of Blood. It's only two songs, but they're both quite long. Each song contains an albums worth of dynamics, shifting melodies and tempo changes. The song structures on this album will give you a headache if you think about it too long. Best to just take it all in. I saw them play three times this year and they were excellent each time.
7. FALSE -Untitled LP (Gilead Media/Howling Mine)
Debut release from this mysterious new USBM band. Like Lake Of Blood, this LP is comprised of two epic songs. This band balanced raw aggression with technical execution to perfection on this release. The song on side B, Sleepmaker, is one of my favorite songs of the year. The LP features intriguing and wonderful album artwork and a silk screened patch.
6. Zola Jesus- Conatus (Sacred Bones)
This album gets better and better with every listen, and I've listened to it a lot. Every track on Conatus is a winner and can easily get stuck in your head. Her voice is gorgeous and passionate and perfectly compliments the driving rhythms and pulsing synths that make up her goth-pop sound. All of these songs sounded incredible live when I saw her at the Independent. Dig "Avalanche" and "Lick The Palm Of The Burning Handshake."
5. Chelsea Wolfe - Ἀποκάλυψις (Pendu Sound Recordings)
Chelsea Wolfe is one of my favorite discoveries of the year. Since I first heard her, I was addicted. "Apokalypsis" is her latest offering and is one of my favorite records of the year. Her voice is haunting and I really dig the overall dark vibe to this album. I was able to see her live three times this year and each time was fantastic. Chelsea Wolfe is definitely expanding upon the 'doom folk' vibe of her last album and has evolved into something altogether more doom and less folk.
4. Leviathan- True Traitor True Whore (Profound Lore)
Working for CVLT Nation allowed me to hear this album in advance for review, and boy is it a ripper. Currently in Chicago, we Bay Area folk can no longer claim the musical genius that is Jef Whitehead aka Wrest. Even so this is an incredibly brutal and disturbing record. No one writes black metal, or any other type of music quite like Whitehead. This album was born out of some very serious controversy. I hope W. is able to get the proper representation he needs to avoid jail time and continue making Leviathan albums.
3. Wolves In The Throne Room- Celestial Lineage (Southern Lord)
WITTR remain one of my favorite bands. "Celestial Lineage" is the most lush and dense albums on my list. This record is packed to the brim with sound, but it's never overwhelming because the songwriting is so top notch. This album picks up on the sound that "Two Hunters" hinted at. Again writing for CVLT Nation allowed me to hear this album in advance for review, so I've spent some serious time with this record.
2. Bosse-de-Nage- ii (The Flenser)
This album is so close to being number one. BDN do melancholy like no one else. Their take on black metal may very well be my favorite spin on the genre so far. Bizarre lyrics manifest through an exasperated howl over tremolo picked bummer melodies. This band is more influenced by literature and early post rock than evil or Satanism. I saw them at a very rare live performance the day before my birthday with other Flenser bands, and they sounded just as epic live.
1. Deafheaven- Roads To Judah (Deathwish)
I might be a little biased on this one, but when it comes down to it the record I've listened to the most and always find myself coming back to is Deafheaven's debut "Roads To Judah." I was able to hear this album back in February, very early in the year, and it's been my soundtrack to 2011. So much has happened to me this year and this album sums up everything that's happened, the good and bad. This album has helped me through rough patches and been an anthem during the good times. The album is a source of hometown pride as Deafheaven hail from San Francisco. I've seen the band play numerous times throughout the year and worked with them on illustration products. Personal friendships aside, this is my favorite album of the year and 'Violet' is my favorite song of 2011.