An article by The Silent Ballet Staff


50) Atticus Ross - Panoramic
The idea of an instrumental artist or band "soundtracking the end of the world" certainly has become cliché around these parts. Atticus Ross skirts the bleak, desolate outlook that many of these musicians tap into and instead presents something a little more poignant. Although not exactly "uplifting", "Panoramic" suggests a hint of optimism in new beginnings. This is not a post-apocalyptic future where the world is overrun by virus-infected zombies and any survivors are essentially just counting the days before they become zombie food; rather, here is a scenario where society has been given a chance to rid itself every conceivable thing that is dragging it down and start anew. The story portrays a hero who struggles between hopelessness and staunch determination, which is captured gorgeously by Ross' powerful ambient work. (Jordan Volz)

49) Hidden Orchestra - Tired & Awake
Reminiscent of the pseudo-jazz styling of California's The Drift, Scotland’s Hidden Orchestra released a sleeper hit with Night Walks, an album chock-full of terrific tracks. "Tired & Awake" showcases the very best that this type of genre infusion can offer. It is an upbeat yet simultaneously morose acoustic/electric masterpiece that dazzles the listener from start to finish. Straddling a multitude of styles and making all of them fit together perfectly is never easy, but Hidden Orchestra makes this all the more impressive with the undeniable panache with which it is executed. This truly is a beautiful piece of music and an utterly masterful display of the skills that make Hidden Orchestra one to watch out for in the future. (Barry Smethurst)

48) Sparkle in Grey - L'innocence du Sommeil
Translating to ‘the innocence of sleep,’ “L’innocence du Sommeil” is an appropriate title for this gentle, meditative track. One of two long compositions contributed by Sparkle in Grey on the Italian group’s split LP with Tex La Homa, Whale Heart, Whale Heart, the track features a violin weaving around the fragile acoustic arpeggios and subtle rhythms of the plucked bass. Matteo Uggeri’s field-recordings and more abstract cut-ups are deftly restrained so as to perfectly augment the acoustic instruments. Among Sparkle in Grey's best work, "L'innocence du Sommeil" demonstrates that the band is just as apt at crafting gorgeous, delicate soundscapes as it is at more traditional post-rock excursions. (Joseph Sannicandro)

47) The Non - Pigeon Force
Math rock has a tendency to tread a fine line between upbeat, melodic brilliance and over-the-top masturbatory tedium – yes, it is very impressive when a guitarist can play his scales extremely fast, but how about trying something tuneful? Thankfully, The Non has its musical philosophy routed in the former, with Tadaima a shining example of the finer side of the genre. This is particularly evident on “Pigeon Force”, a barnstorming jaunt of complex riffs, guitar effects, and crashing drums that would please even the most traditionally-minded listener, proving that math rock can be simple and brilliant at the same time. (James Ould)

46) Crystal Castles - Empathy
Crystal Castles' second record continues to develop the duo's signature rising and falling array of simple synth stabs and blunt-but-nuanced percussion. “Empathy” begins with a characteristically simple lead, this time run through a stuttering, motoric filter, giving the track a sense of propulsion from the get-go. Vocalist Alice Glass begins with a drained, distant chant that, just around the one-minute mark, modulates to an icy, unmodified voice in tandem with a haunting and weighty bass hook. As the line, “cities fall down on me” repeats in the background, it becomes impossible not to get swept up in the svelte trance that Crystal Castles has previously mastered, but now adding an introspective, meditative element that showcases the depths of mood the duo is capable of evoking. (Bryan Parys)

45) Booka Shade - Teenage Spaceman
Despite More! being less of a minimal album and more full on electro, “Teenage Spaceman” harks back to those glorious early days of the German duo. A slow build makes way for a gloriously melodic synth riff that rises until the euphoric breakdown, before everything kicks back for maximum effect. It is the sort of track that sounds like it was created with a darkly lit Berlin dance floor in mind, getting dropped into a set at 5 A.M. as the sun rises over Alexanderplatz. Essentially, when Booka Shade is on form, no one can create minimal techno that sounds this good, this simple, and yet, this effortless. (James Ould)

44) On the Tundra - The Axe
"The Axe" is the feel good track of the year! Fast paced with beautiful melodies and lively drumming, it sticks to the head and, regardless of the occasion, one cannot help but end up with a smile on his/her face upon the track’s completion. A reason why people try to avoid joyful songs is because they are often filled with clichés and lack any ingenuity, and the search for one song that combines all these elements tends to be quite fruitless. Thankfully, “The Axe” makes up for a whole year’s search. Being the first track on the band's debut, this is as powerful a statement by the band as any, more than an okay start. (Mohammed Ashraf)

43) Son Lux - Weapons V
Ryan Lott released a hodgepodge of music with debut album At War with Walls and Mazes, but his instincts told him that much of the source material was still workable, and thus the "Weapons" remix project was born. Lott then goes on to steal the show from iron-hot Nico Muhly and makes the best remix of his own work (something that is historically a difficult feat to accomplish). "Weapons V" is thus Lott's statement to the world: it is a track where genres are torn to shreds and the listener has no option other than to bask in the marvelous spectacle of Lott's playful music. The stage is now set; Ryan Lott has made his initial mark on the music industry and his next album will be eagerly anticipated. (Jordan Volz)

42) Daft Punk - Derezzed
Even though some were disappointed that Daft Punk's score for Tron Legacy levitated closer to traditional soundtracking practices than the musicians' own groundbreaking repertoire, the French house enthusiasts were sure to sneak a few treats in there for loyal fans. "Derezzed" is one such surprise. The short track is everything fans have come to know and love Daft Punk for, and it shows that even after two decades in the game few can match the duo's awesome ability to churn out the hits. The track itself fits magically with the film, evoking an 8-bit framework to tie into the digital world's video game-inspired themes. Love it or hate it, the Tron Legacy contains ample proof that Daft Punk has not forgotten the basics. (Jordan Volz)

41) Red Sparowes - Giving Birth to Imagined Saviors
As a major force in the post-metal world, Red Sparowes reasserted its mastery over instrumental music with the release of The Fear Is Excruciating, but Therein Lies the Answer, but the track “Given Birth to Imagined Saviors” might best illustrate why it is one of the best instrumental bands today. Its warm, nostalgic mix of guitars, drums, and sonic effects show how music can be accessible and experimental at the same time. Its crescendo-building instrumentation of triumphant and ominous atmospheres makes it an apt presentation of Red Sparowes’ irresistible talent for making cathartic instrumental music. (Tom Meagher)


Top Albums: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

Top Tracks: 50-41 | 40-31 |30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1