FEATURE: Albums Of The Year – 2011

This is more a quick list of albums I’ve enjoyed over this last year than some kind of definitive I-went-through-my-entire-iTunes-library-and-ranked-everything-in-order list. I might have missed a couple of releases – all I know is I really liked all these ones. You might too.

So without further ado, Album of the Year goes to…

Los Campesinos - Hello Sadness

Los Campesinos!Hello Sadness

Hello Sadness sees Los Campesinos! trying to refine their output into a concise body of work. A structured and focused album. Gareth’s imagery is darker than ever, and hidden within the album are melodic hooks and intricacies that take a while to become apparent (the vocal crescendo in “To Tundra” is nothing short of beautiful). Brilliant, and another great release to add to their discography.

Other albums I enjoyed, in rough order of how much I enjoyed them, kind of. Just look.

Johnny Foreigner - Vs Everything

Johnny ForeignerJohnny Foreigner Vs Everything

A very close runner-up for AotY. Messy on the first few listens, it truly opens itself up after a few sit-throughs, and it gets better and better. Loud, fast, interesting, moving. Time will determine its longevity and significance in their discography, but it’s definitely a huge step in the band’s journey – hopefully one of many more to come.

Thrice - Major/Minor

ThriceMajor/Minor

Consistent and strong. Not one song feels under-baked. There are a lot of huge cathartic sing-a-long moments, and I don’t care whether or not you associate that as being a good thing or not with Thrice, but I think lyrically and musically this is an incredibly good album. Stunning. If you only listen to one song from Major/Minor, check out “Words in the Water”.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Bon IverBon Iver, Bon Iver

Intricate. Delicate. Evocative. This is a great album full of great songs, and they paint a picture unlike many musicians ever could. It’s easy to understand why it got Pitchfork’s Album of the Year.

Radiohead - The King of Limbs

RadioheadThe King of Limbs

Arguably a step back towards their more experimental work, this was a tough album to digest. It’s entirely possible that this album takes even longer to appreciate and understand than a year, and maybe with more time I’ll enjoy it even more. It definitely has its high points, and it’s full of interesting textures – but I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. It still gets a place here though, ’cause it’s quite good.

Grieves - Together/Apart

GrievesTogether/Apart

With the help of producer, multi-instrumentalist, and beat-maker – Budo – Grieves has released a great album here. Criticised by many (unfairly so, I believe) for his consistently emotive lyrics, Grieves tells stories of girls, drinking, anxiety, and those monsters under your bed, amongst everything else, and while it can feel like a long haul at times, there are a pile of gems on this album. If you needed any more proof that the Rhymesayers crew were some of the best out there, this shouldn’t take long to convince you.

The Weeknd - House of Balloons

The WeekndHouse of Balloons

This particular instalment of The Weeknd’s trilogy of 2011 releases is making my list not because I believe it’s the best of the three, but simply because I haven’t been able to give Thursday or Echoes Of Silence a fair go yet.
That aside, this release is really interesting. I’ve never really been into R&B in a huge way, yet The Weeknd drew me in. And it’s interesting because it paints a picture of a world so foreign that I struggle to find any personal connections. It almost feels voyeuristic to listen to. It’s intriguing at any rate, and was well worth my time. It’s free too.

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Foo FightersWasting Light

A great album from a rock band still going strong, after all these years. Consistent, full of energy, and another strong release from a band that really are going to stand the test of time.

These last few albums haven’t had as many listens as those above, but from the amount of time I’ve given them, I like them a lot. Very much worth mentioning here.

Example - Playing in the Shadows

ExamplePlaying in the Shadows

Slow ClubParadise

Phantogram - Nightlife EP

PhantogramNightlife EP

FEATURE: Albums Of The Year – 2009

1. Karnivool – Sound Awake:

An experimental outing relative to their debut, Karnivool have crafted nothing short of a masterpiece with this album. Put simply, this album is a grower. It’s one of those seemingly magical works that transcends logic by becoming more intriguing and enjoyable after every single listen. Rhythmically, Karnivool work on a level superior to most other bands I’ve heard. I’m not sure it’s possible to overstate how great this album is. Ian Kenny’s vocals are really something to behold. However if I was to recommend this band to someone, I would tell them to try their debut album “Themata” first. It’s more accessible and easy to get into, though it has many of the elements of “Sound Awake” in a slightly less experimental form. It’s a great stepping stone for approaching this amazing album.

Link to full review.


2. The Antlers – Hospice:

Hospice evokes a great deal of emotion in observant listeners through it’s tales of death, cancer, and relationships. A very moving album, it makes use of simplistic piano chords that resonate through low levels of ambient electronic noise, that contribute to the songs tonally. Lyrically it’s thematically similar throughout, though it’s incredibly well crafted. With lines like:

With the bite of the teeth of that ring on my finger,
I’m bound to your bedside, your eulogy singer.
I’d happily take all those bullets inside you and put them inside of myself,”

you just might wanna sit down and listen to this one carefully. It’s well worth the effort.


3. Taking Back Sunday – New Again:

Though nothing fancy and special, it’s a great catchy album full of typical pop-rock/punk songs. Nothing revolutionary, but it’s strong and fun, and I liked it. It’s as simple as that.

Link to full review.

~

Other honourary mentions, in no particular order of importance or worth:

The Temper Trap – Conditions:

A blend of catchy pop hooks and stylistically distinct vocals made “Conditions” the strong album that helped The Temper Trap achieve a moderate level of mainstream exposure across Australian commercial radio stations. Though this point is often associated as the beginning of a band’s downfall in terms of originality and livelihood – the fall into being controlled by industry giants in terms of creativity and sound – “Conditions” builds the foundations through which The Temper Trap can continue to grow and explore music. Hopefully they will.

Metric – Fantasies:

The electro-pop synths of Metric merge together with agile guitar hooks, all overlayed by Emily Haines’ entrancing vocal lines, to portray the confident sense of maturity inherent on this album. Moving from the dominating songs like “Sick Muse” to songs like “Twilight Galaxy”, which show a more delicate side of the album, helps display the diverse range of moods that are explored over the course of the LP. An engaging album that is an exciting look at what seemed like – to me – a stagnating style of music.

Passion Pit – Manners:

Infectious pop melodies dominate the debut from Passion Pit. The first 4 tracks are very good indeed. After that, it drops a bit, but manages to pick up before the end. “Sleepyhead” is short, but very catchy. Not a bad effort for their first album. I like it for the most part.

Future of the Left – Travels with Myself and Another:

Taking a raw, alternative rock sound, Future of the Left created an album full of simple and strong riffs, interspersed between harsh and powerful vocal lines. Stripping songs down to what seems like the essential qualities of fast, angry rock music, the album has it’s moments, with fills in-between that leave just a little to be satisfied. Despite giving it a score of 6.5/10 (maybe I was a tad harsh), it’s well built, and it’s just plain fun.

Link to full review.

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix:

Catchy french pop/rock with distinctive vocals. This album really propelled Phoenix into a musical limelight. It’s quite good, but hasn’t caught on with me as much as I’d have liked it to. It’s one of those odd times when I can recognise how good something is, yet still not feel compelled to listen to it for some reason. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty good album.

The xx – xx:

The xx make slow, relaxing, and dare I say minimalistic music, that gives off an aura of spaciousness, while still seeming defined and not coming off as some band’s attempt at improvisation. Though the songs do seem to lag a bit in the middle, and the first half of the album does seem great deal stronger, they’re worth checking out. Plus the first track, “Intro”, is actually a very good introduction, which sets them apart from those bands who have introductions that seem to contribute absolutely nothing to the album.