10. Deerhoof - Breakup Song
There is indeed a “robot on the dance floor,” as Satomi Matsuzaki sings, but the ghost of Captain Beefheart was seen fiddling with its control panel. Only Deerhoof could produce such cracked and gloriously undanceable dance party songs.
9. Eve Risser, Benjamin Duboc & Edward Perraud - En Corps
This free jazz improvisation trio of prepared piano, bass, and drums is searching and restless and so strangely unsettling that you feel it en corps. Encore.
8. Aaron Dilloway - Modern Jester
Three years in the making, this glorious album offers nothing less than painstakingly composed loops of noise.
7. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
“This album was created entirely by Jamie and Mike”: that’s hip-hop veterans, El-P and Killer Mike’s way of saying that they closed the studio doors behind them, put up career numbers, and they know it. Now you know it.
6. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Words Will Ever Do
Here are impeccable and obsessive falling-out-of-love songs built out of equal parts piano, percussion, and spite: “I just made a meal for us both to choke on.”
5. Mount Eerie - Clear Moon
From plaintive folk songs smooth as stones to textured drones and crushed death metal monotones, Clear Moon sounds like the fibers of solitude brushed to a high mortal sheen.
4. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
“Remember that night you were already in bed / Said fuck it, got up to drink with me instead?” Yeah, it’s that kind of romantic indie rock album, but so thrillingly stylized and big chorus big that you find yourself believing that every nostalgic word of it will have been true.
3. Neneh Cherry and the Thing - The Cherry Thing
This covers album pairs the 90s pop singer with the European free jazz trio that was inspired by her stepfather, Don Cherry, and produces a highly satisfying combination of avant-garde jazz and rock. The last cacophonic minutes of their cover of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” are worth the cost of admission alone.
2. Death Grips - The Money Store
The Money Store's glitchy, abrasive hip-hop at first strikes one as incomprehensible, even repulsive, but eventually it creates a new itch that can only be scratched by itself. The best way to listen to this for the first time is certainly the tenth time.
1. Scott Walker - Bish Bosch
The twenty-minute centerpiece of this album allegorizes the relationship of the artist to the state by exploiting the coincidence that Zercon, Attila the Hun’s jester, and SDSS1416-13B, the coldest sub-stellar body yet discovered in the universe, are both “brown dwarves.” Against the backdrop of sleigh bells, the last track imagines Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu taking a personality test while meditating on the fact that his executioners didn’t even wait until “fire” before they shot him on Christmas morning. Then commences the most deadpan bar of “Jingle Bells” ever heard. Are we having fun yet? “O Not so much / O Very much.”
David Rando is an associate professor of English Literature at Trinity University with articles published on Thomas Pynchon, George Saunders, David Foster Wallace, and Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane over the Sea.