Justin Vernon's Volcano Choir, contrary to popular belief, actually outdates his vastly more famous Bon Iver project. It dates back to the summer of 2005, when Justin Vernon's DeYarmond Edison toured with Volcano Choir's other members under the moniker of Collections of Colonies of Bees. Unmap sees a return by Vernon to his long-running project and with it a return to the more experimental side of his songwriting. If you thought Bon Iver was an experimental project - Volcano Choir will give you no choice but to rethink. Volcano Choir make ambient post-folk, accompanied by the clinking of glasses, shutting of doors, and echoes of the wind, coated in note perfect five-piece choral harmony. Beautifully cluttered instrumentation drifts over harmonics and intermittent vocal cries; Volcano Choir sound like a choral jam-band - Fleet Foxes combined with the wisdom of ambient folk bands such as Mountains, or even parts of Bon Iver's own work. Unmap is the collection of these stunning recordings - to make quite clearly one of the best experimental releases of the year.
Volcano Choir - Husks And Shells (MP3)
Hospice is the second full length studio album from New York's Antlers, originally released in March, but re-pressed by Frenchkiss Records in August after the initial release sold an overwhelming number of copies. Lead singer Peter Silberman wrote the first album In The Attic of The Universe alone in his Brooklyn flat in 2006 - and later recruited Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci to help with EPs Cold War and New York Hospitals. Hospice is a concept album telling the story of a man losing a loved one to cancer. Through the medium of airy indie folk, lo-fi recordings and ambient, shoegazing background noise Silberman delivers his epic story with falsetto vocals and catchy, minor key melodies. Two, even if a little predictable, is The Antlers' masterpiece; Weighing in at nearly six minutes, it is both their catchiest and their most honest - with enough desperation to make it clear song of the year material.
The Antlers - Two (MP3)
Hospice on Amazon
Passion Pit - Moth's Wings (MP3)
Manners on Amazon
7. Fever Ray - Fever Ray (March 24, 2009)(Electronica/Darkwave/Dance)
Fever Ray - If I Had A Heart (MP3)
Fever Ray on Amazon
6. The XX - The XX (August 19, 2009)
The XX formed in 2005 after attending the Elliot School London (famous for schooling Burial, Four Tet and Hot Chip) and took four years to release their debut album, XX, on Young Turks. It was recorded at XL studios London, mostly at night, over the winter of 2008/9. XX is an album of dark, whispering boy-girl vocals muttering RnB influenced melodies over trip-hop and post-punk melodies. Most of the subtly picked guitar work is very simple, and, coated in heavy reverb, the whole album has a very withdrawn and personal feel to it. Stunning chillout vocals are dubbed low in comparison to the heavy bass riffs which leave a definite 'less is more' vibe about the songs. There are a lot of well placed silences on this album - which make this, as well as being a beautifully written pop album, a very sentimental and personal listen.
The XX - Crystalised (MP3)
XX on Amazon