Jennifer Juniper Stratford
  • Stones Throw
  • Image: Jennifer Juniper Stratford
For as long as I've been compiling music lists—for at least 20 years now—I get to work the minute I hear a record that sounds like a contender, so this year I began with Cate Le Bon's CYRK, which means I started in January.

Every time another album makes an impression, I add it to the master list, which entails a lot of shuffling and re-shuffling. I don't go through all this effort for anybody but myself—I enjoy list-making as a matter of course—though I would like to think that a few people might find it of interest.*

Since I'm beholden to no one's deadline but my own, I wait until the last day of the year to organize everything, allowing me more time to listen to more music, unlike the poor sods who have to wrap it all up in November, and this month has offered up a greater store of musical riches than usual, though I never count December out anyway. If film writers don't, why should music writers? Granted, the majors may be waiting until January to crank up the machine again, but the independents never sleep, and that's all I really care about—especially in a year when they didn't issue anything that captured my interest (other than one particular release that appears on an independent-minded subsidiary of EMI).

* If that includes you, my 2011 list lives here. #1: Total Control's masterful Henge Beat.

I prefer the album version, but this Matthewdavid mix isn't bad.

And this leads me to Chrome Canyon's full-length debut, Elemental Themes, which will definitely find a place on my list. I still don't know where, but it doesn't hurt that band leader Morgan Z's videos provide a perfect counterpoint to his analogue aesthetic, though those who find his flights of keyboard fancy bombastic and overbearing will probably feel the same way about their visual component.

Unlike his self-made efforts, an outside director receives credit for "Pluze," though Jennifer Juniper Stratford—someone has a thing for Donovan—did her homework, and the trippy clip is of a piece with Morgan's spacey, yet serious image. Nice bonus: his sparkly shirt looks like something Keith Emerson would've worn in his ELP daze, while the song sounds like Vangelis and Clara Rockmore dueting on a lost John Carpenter composition. Or something equally esoteric.

Elemental Themes is out now on Stones Throw...who had a very good year.