An article by The Silent Ballet staff

50) Goddamn Electric Bill | Topics for Gossip
United States


With a plethora of solid sophomore efforts this year, it might have been difficult to give each the attention it deserved. Goddamn Electric Bill’s second release, Topics for Gossip, is one that no one should have passed over, and anyone who did owes himself a trip back to it. The album is, as Tom Butcher best said, all about layers. While songs may not come off as complex and over-the-top, that is solely due to the way that Jason Torbert manipulates each sound like a modern day musical magician. The end result is a release that beams happiness and good feeling, precisely what is needed during times of a plummeting economy and daunting utility bills. (Erich Meister)

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49) September Malevolence | After this Darkness, There's a Next



After This Darkness, There's a Next is all about sadness and is almost a depressing effort, if only taken at face value. With this release, September Malevolence have seemingly opened themselves up to the audience, drawing them in to a point where they can really feel the emotion behind the band. The reason this bare-all attitude works so well is that, from a technical standpoint, the album is near perfection -- nothing stands out too much and everything is heard. The band has finally mastered the use of its vocals as an aide for their perfect percussion and guitar work. Leaving listeners with a morsel of sadness filled with hope, After this Darkness, There's a Next should not be neglected. (Erich Meister)

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48) Grails | Doomsdayer's Holiday

United States

Temporary Residence

The cover art, the opening sound of an old television actress screaming, and the tenor of a band gone mad all match up beautifully with the new analogies of Grails as a “noir rock” band. These guys are straight up haunted. With souls wicked enough to touch the world softly and hands so caring as to crush that same world lying underneath Grails' sonic fingerprint, Doomsdayer's Holiday polymorphs into something of an idol to be worshipped in an orgasmic movement of spirits. It is a mouthful to say, for sure, but I can’t stop talking about this band. Even though it is their second release of 2008, it sounds like they stepped out of a time warp between albums. (Gabriel Bogart)

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47) no.9 | Usual Revolution and Nine


Liquid Note

No.9’s latest finds him in an interesting position. Although most of the songs are still marked by his trademark blend of traditional instruments and restrained electronica flair, Usual Revolution and Nine also offers a newer, more classical approach. Even though this does tend to make the record feel a little unbalanced, in terms of absolute songwriting, the album is right up there with the best of them. Regardless of which hat he’s wearing, No.9 remains an extremely skilled composer who still manages to bristle with potential for better things. Five excellent albums into his career, most other artists would never even hope of such a thing – but then again, Joe Takayuki is not most other artists. (Tom Butcher)

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46) Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra | Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra

United States

Thrill Jockey

Somebody call the doctor: ESO forgot to take their lithium. In the world of free jazz, there is spastic, there is energetic, and there is downtempo, but this, their collaboration with the legendary Bill Dixon, is just plain crazy. Materializing like a manic-depressive hurricane, with whorls of screaming trumpets, fields of smoky double-bass, and a smattering of free-form vocalizations (plus one pretty cool monologue), Exploding Star Orchestra has now released an album that lives up to its evocative moniker. Last year’s We Are All From Somewhere Else introduced us to the creative ensemble from Chicago, but it is this year’s album that will have them remembered as classics in the field of avant-garde jazz. (Tom Butcher)

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45) Thisquietarmy | Unconquered



Eric Quach has been in the hearts of instrumental music fans for quite some time as a founder of the critically acclaimed band Destroyalldreamers. This year saw the release of his first two solo LP's as Thisquietarmy (Unconquered and Blackhaunter). Unconquered amazes through the adventurous, daring experimentations it makes within the realm of ambient drone music. Breaking away from the frustrating immobility the genre currently finds itself in, this album witnesses Quach's complex guitar soundscapes joined by some of the most understated drum work heard all year, and even clean, quiet vocals at times. Contrary to its name, the album will quickly conquer any who happen upon its marvelous sounds. (Samy Bennaoui)

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44) Svartbag | Svartbag



Veering drunkenly between ambience and unfettered intensity in a contradictory state of turbulent stasis, Svartbag seem unwilling to decide whether to pacify or disturb their listeners throughout the course of this magnificent release, and so they have opted for both in equal measures. From the shimmering drones of “Loop #9” to the deliciously leering guitar lines of “The Flutist,” this album constantly throws out more and more clashes and contradictions, every single one of which is made to effortlessly coincide with another in a bizarrely harmonious fashion. For those fed up with the more mainstream aspects of the instrumental circuit, Svartbag is a must. (Fred Bevan)

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43) Her Name is Calla | The Heritage



Described by Tom Butcher as being everything A Silver Mount Zion should have done this year, and perhaps moving to the point of actually being better than anything said band have written since 2003, Her Name is Calla’s The Heritage stands out as a reminder that amazing instrumental music and creativity do not discriminate the use of voice (one full of passion, to be sure), tight composition (less time per song, but each minute entirely significant and entirely worth it), and a violence so sublime it’s only comparable to natural disasters and, like the cover suggests, the dark fantasies of a symbolist painting. Few debuts impressed as much as Her Name is Calla, who have just shown the tip of the iceberg. (David Murrieta)

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42) Helios | Caesura

United States


There’s something more to Caesura than what lies beneath the emotional surface, but even after much time has been devoted to discovering the album's inner secrets, it might still prove difficult to decipher its je ne sais quoi. It may well be Helios' full and feminine sound, tricking us into thinking it is somewhat tangible, or maybe the perpetual flow, spiraling down and forging deep into the very core of the most sensitive of melodies. Despite one’s inability to grasp it at once, this is not an album that cries for attention. If anything, it is one that lends itself to neglect and then a sudden warm embrace and rediscovery of those first euphoric impressions. (Diana Sitaru)

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41) Jacaszek | Treny


Jacaszek's music contains some of the most finely spun compositions on the market today. The Polish artist takes the listener on a journey through Treny, a superb effort that lingers between ambient and majestic, electronic and acoustic, hesitant and deeply emotional. The eleven tracks are really one long saga -- a slow train we can't disembark until the last stop. Catering to a gigantic array of sentiments, the album is the perfect catalyst to a long, introspective moment, all the while being complex and soulful enough to make for a great session of focused listening. Jacaszek's strings and electronics will infinitely seduce the audience, making Treny an irresistible selection for the year. (Samy Bennaoui)

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