Sunday, 11 December 2011

Sound Influx - Albums of 2011 Part 1: 20 - 11

20. Summer Camp - Welcome To Condale

For two people who started off anonymously and claimed to be a group of Swedish teenagers, Summer Camp have come a long way. After releasing their debut EP Young late last year, the internet went berserk for comparing the band to 80s teenage movies and similar popular culture references. Who could blame them with song titles like ‘Veronica Sawyer’ and ‘Jake Ryan’ that directly reference cult films Heathers and Sixteen Candles. Welcome To Condale sees the duo ease up slightly on references and brings forth a concept album based on the fictional place of Condale, based in America and you guessed it, its set in the 80s. Elizabeth Sankey sings about getting rid of whoever it is she’s singing about for a large part of the album and there’s a fiery independence in Sankey as she’s not afraid to voice her true opinions. As with any couple who happen to form a band, there’s a song that showcases both of their musical talents and makes you audibly ‘aw’ and that happens to be ‘Losing My Mind’. Despite singing about leaving the other and not loving someone anymore, Sankey and Warmsley manage to sound like they’re talking about being loved up and in general, it’s hard to not to fall for the charms of a girl/boy duo. For an album that focuses on the comedown of relationships and unrequited love, Welcome To Condale remains to be incredulously catchy and hard to ignore. By Aurora Mitchell

19. The Weeknd - House Of Balloons / Thursday

Sleazy, heartfelt, heartbroken and euphoric; The Weeknd’s recorded output thus far has been a myriad web of clashing styles and grand ambitions. Abel Tesfaye’s damaged slow jams became a word of mouth sensation and provided the platform from which he could preach his bad-vibes sermons. Veering from heartbroken to creepy in the space of one track like on the claustrophobically intense "What You Need" or crooning terrifying come-ons over a fucked-up carnival waltz on "Life of The Party", Tesfaye taps into the stereotypical male hip-hop mindset and gets busy messing it right up. The albums (they’re referred to as mixtapes, but it’s obvious from the quality of the material that these are fully fledged albums) can be seen as hugely evocative mood pieces, two slow burning beasts that invite casual enjoyment and reward repeated listening. But they also exist as reminders that the boundaries between hip-hop, dubstep and mainstream pop can be blurred with relative ease, and that when they are, the results are simply gorgeous. By Ned Powley

18. Iceage - New Brigade

Punk is a genre easily abused. Its lack of grace can be used as a mask by artists without vision or talent, who see it as a shortcut through the complexities of functioning as a band in this day and age. Iceage are, from the outset, punk as fuck. Their debut lasts a breathless 24 minutes in length, previous live shows have seen frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt taking every precaution to cause maximum damage to both himself and every audience member present and they publish a fanzine, titled "Dog Meat". All of this could be seen a smoke screen. A diversion to draw people’s ears as far away as possible from the only thing that really matters: the songs. So thank the lord that Iceage can bring them on an unparalleled level. There have been punk bands before them and there will be punk bands long after they’ve gone, but Iceage have got something special. Maybe it’s meant to last or maybe it’ll all disappear in a pool of beer and a puff of off-brand fag smoke, but right now, they’re the most exciting young bastards on the planet. By Ned Powley

17. Johnny Foreigner - Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything

It’s difficult for me to summarise an album that is 17 tracks long and amazing from start to finish. Johnny Foreigner have proved that you can do quantity and quality in equal measure and execute something incredible. It’s been thrown around that it’s the album to "make them or break them" and if this album does not make them, then nothing will. From the heart breaking sounds "new street, you can take it" to the shout along lyrics of "if i’m the most famous boy you’ve fucked, then honey yr in trouble" this album has proved to be a masterpiece and it cannot be faulted. If you’ve never listened to Johnny Foreigner before, then there’s no doubt about it that "Johnny Foreigner vs Everything" will make you fall in love with one of the most dedicated, fan loving bands in the world. By Julia Christmas

16. Suuns - Zeroes QC

In an age where lines between genres are becoming increasingly blurred, it’s becoming more and more difficult for artists to well and truly break new ground. Trawling through the thousands of new bands out there making the same kind of lo-fi boring shoegaze influenced music often leads to nothing but apathy and the general feeling of wanting to smash your face into your keyboard. Imagine my elation then when I discovered Suuns, a Canadian band who make the kind of music that you daren’t put in a box. There’s no doubting that Suuns are peculiar, and are by no means an instant band for many. ‘Zeroes QC’ however is a collection of songs so broad in sound yet so distinctive it’s impossible not to get sucked into it. There’s the borderline incomprehensible mumbles on tracks like ‘Up past the nursery’ and ‘Arena’ that sounds like Clinic stuck in a washing machine. There’s mutated synth noise blasts like ‘Armed In Peace’ and ‘Pie IX’ the latter sounding exactly like what David Lynch’s Crazy Clown Time should have, unpredictable, haunting and very very weird. And if that wasn’t diverse enough there are furious math rock guitar anthems like ‘Maurader’ and ‘Gaze’ to quicken the pulse, and even a choice cover of lost Marc Bolan relic ‘Organ Blues’. A truly astounding album, from one of the most promising and perhaps overlooked bands around. By Toby McCarron

15. James Blake - James Blake

Whilst it appears likely that dubstep, a genre that felt like it could genuinely go in any direction and even reshape the face of pop as we know it, has been sabotaged by dreadlocked frat-boy cretins intent on creating music of such bludgeoning stupidity that even nu-metal bastards Korn have adopted it. James Blake’s debut appears to be one of the final reminders we’ll have of this era, so thank god it’s a thing of tremendous beauty. From the atmospheric overload of ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ through to jerky ballads like ‘To Care (Like You)’, Blake showcased technical proficiency and heart in equal measure, crafting an album that defied genre conventions whilst testing the very limits of pop. Treasure it, because we sure aren’t going to see a record like it for a very long time. By Ned Powley

14. Drake - Take Care

 In 2011, Drake returned to the scene with second album ‘Take Care’ and within moments of opening track 'Over My Dead Body', you knew he meant business. Lyrically, Drake has upped his game with the majority of the album centred around a past love that he's tried to replace by getting with many other women. Classy Drake. However, amongst the seedy bravado, a very personal and intimate side of the Toronto rapper comes out. This, coupled with production duties being mainly left to Noah "40" Shebib, brings out the best of the ex-child actor and helps the album one of the standout rap albums of the year. Stand out tracks include the Jamie xx produced title track and 'Marvin's Room', Drake's answer to the drunken phone call. However, with "bitches" and "niggers" still in heavy use, it's not the perfect album for the indie section to wilfully sing along to. By Robbie Baxendale

13. Florence & The Machine - Ceremonials

Florence + the Machine seemed to go from the darling of the UK indie scene to sensational superstar taking America by storm overnight. So it was understandable that fans might have been worried that Florence would go all commerical on us with her second album, Ceremonials. But we needn't have. Ceremonials is one of the most grandiose records you will have heard all year, complete with gospel choirs, strings and of course harps. Despite all this, it is still undeniably Florence, proving that she still has one of the biggest voices in the entire industry while at the same time writing songs which connect emotionally. It's more mature than Lungs, but no less brilliant. By Jessy Parker

12. Arctic Monkeys - Suck It & See

After the controversial release of ‘Humbug,’ it left fans and critics alike wondering where on earth Arctic Monkeys’ sound could go to next. Would they retreat back to the recording studio, tail between their legs, minds clouded with nostalgia and longing for the days when they wrote about pubs, clubs, girls covered in sticky fake tan, and scummy men? Two years later, they return from The States adorning leather trousers, enough hair grease to fry breakfast with and an album even more different than their first than the last. You can hardly deny that in true Arctic style they "stick to the guns, don't care if it's marketing suicide, won't crack or compromise…", with riddling lyrics, Helder’s relentless drumming and proof that all those cigarettes have only made Alex’s voice more alluring, ‘Suck it and See’ is a testament to good old fashioned rock and roll and an indisputable musical highlight of 2011. By Bella Roach

11. Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia

In 2011 the ever-evolving Patrick Wolf returned with his fifth, triumphant album, concentrating on love at first sight and showcased what a powerful and uplifting emotion love can be. However he never loses the quirks that mark him out from the mess of bland, autotuned rubbish out there. First, there's the voice, then there's the stellar songwriting, and then of course the multitude of instruments that appear on the record. This album is his most emotion filled and cohesive offering to date, and fully deserving of a place on this list. By Holly Read-Challen

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