Along with labelmate Grimes, Purity Ring were essentially an electronic restatement of the same qualities of 4AD’s indie forebears Cocteau Twins and Throwing Muses. Megan James’ breathy, high-pitched vocals that you can’t quite make out, evoking both natural and unnatural poetic imagery, were set to minimalist yet heart-bursting washes of electronica and crisp chains of MIDI-triggered beats arranged by bandmate Corin Roddick. While Shrines may not have been the most immediate of albums, the tracks’ shifting tempos had the power to disturb the unconscious mind. (Ed Biggs) (LISTEN)
A whole album born out of what was initially a deal to perform a single live show, David Byrne and Annie Clark discovered a world of original songwriting possibilities from the use of brass. A compelling, cerebral marriage of art rock and funk grooves, Love This Giant was able to be much more than just a musical footnote or curio, a fate that tends to befall collaboration albums. It unmistakably bore the fingerprints of both artists, and was certainly up to scratch with what fans had come to expect given their reputations, but the overall blend was distinctive enough to stand out in both of their discographies. (EB) (LISTEN)
Following hot on the heels of a series of EPs, Bethany Cosentino described Crazy For You as “about weed and my cat and being lazy a lot”. Half an hour of hazy, dreamy Californian guitar-pop drenched in reverb and lo-fi recording aesthetics, Best Coast’s debut may have been basic but it was one of the most charming independent releases of 2010. Aside from the glorious, unpretentious nature of the music, helping to fuel its unexpected mainstream success was a blogosphere that loved following Beth’s tweets, which were mainly about what her cat, Snacks, was up to. (EB) (LISTEN)
The debut record from the Australian dance rock duo Jagwar Ma was one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the summer of 2013. With an overt fondness for ‘90s “Madchester” bands including Happy Monday and The Stone Roses, it perhaps seemed appropriate for a revival with the two aforementioned heroes re-forming round about the same time. Jono Ma’s acid-fuelled inspiration and simple songwriting saw them capture big festival crowds, including Glastonbury, during 2013, and showed that it is possible that re-create a sound that is over 25 years old and make it sound refreshing and contemporary. Howlin was the sound of summer 2013. (Matthew Langham) (LISTEN)
Band Of Horses’ third album saw them deservedly find mainstream success in their native America, and word began to spread about them throughout the world. Now a five-piece band and with the backing of a major label, Infinite Arms was an update of the great Americana songbook, powered by Ben Bridwell’s yearning, timeless vocal style and inspired by Neil Young, Gram Parsons and Fleet Foxes in equal measure. Band Of Horses may be difficult to dissociate from their influences, but this album was the very definition of instant satisfaction. Who cares about true originality when a band can pull classic folk-rock moves and make you feel as if you’re hearing it for the very first time? (EB) (LISTEN)
Building on the hype following their 2009 debut All Hour Cymbals, rock-dance-electronic-whatever-the-hell-they-like weirdos Yeasayer delivered a follow-up with a much broader appeal. Like classic ‘00s albums by Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective, Odd Blood sat perfectly balanced between experimental adventure and pure pop pleasure. Packing in all manner of colourful synth sounds, tribal beats and quirky rhythms in its 10 songs and 39 minutes, no track illustrated Yeasayer’s ethos as much as the insanely catchy rave-up ‘O.N.E.’. Seriously, it’s been over five years and it still pops back into my head every couple of weeks. (EB) (LISTEN)
Honed during pretty much two solid years of intense touring and momentum-gathering, Leeds’ own Pulled Apart By Horses unleashed their lean, powerful and totally bonkers debut. The five-piece, following in the vein of Future Of The Left in their bass-heavy sound and giving the songs daft titles like ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’ and ‘I’ve Got Guestlist To Rory O’Hara’s Suicide’, combined fierce post-hardcore riffing with catchy pop-punk accessibility. Thus, Pulled Apart By Horses is now a party-starting classic that stood and delivered exactly what its fans wanted from it. (EB) (LISTEN)
It seems crazy to think it now, but in 2011 both Jay and ‘Ye needed a little something from each other. Despite its brilliance, Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy had mis-fired outside the US, and Jay needed some renewed credibility after the sell-out of The Blueprint 3. Working together for Watch The Throne gave them both what they desired: Kanye the exposure and Jigga the street cred. It also helped that it was a great album, filled with earthy, back-to-basics beats and bedroom production and embellished by compelling flows delivered by two of rap’s greats reconnecting with the founding principles of their art. (EB) (LISTEN)
We had to wait almost four years for Local Natives’ second album, but it was worth it when it arrived. Hummingbird was resplendent with smouldering guitar hooks, creative percussion patterns and slow, intricate rhythms. It was produced intelligently by The National’s Aaron Dessner to give a deliciously drowsy atmosphere perfectly suited to wintry evenings and boiling hot mid-afternoon festival sets alike. Despite resembling many other indie albums on the surface, Hummingbird had hidden rewards underneath for those prepared to give it multiple listens, and the songs had the staying power to remain inside your consciousness long afterwards. (EB) (LISTEN)
A very good list for 4AD so far – three of the ten records on the page have been released under the aegis of this impeccable imprint. In Halcyon Digest, Bradford Cox’s Deerhunter released their fifth and best studio album yet, dealing with “the way we re-write and edit our memories to be a digest version of what we want to remember, and how that’s kind of sad.” Hooking up with Ben H. Allen III, who would go on to produce some of the most popular indie records of the new decade so far, it contained as many radio-friendly pop-rock moments like ‘Memory Boy’ as sparse, elegaic art-rock ones like ‘Earthquake’, it demonstrated Cox’s commitment to sonic exploration. (EB) (LISTEN)
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