Monday, 12 December 2011

Sound Influx - Albums of 2011: Part 2 10 - 1


This debut by masked producer Aaron Jerome was dance music’s adrenaline shot in 2011. On it, is a variety of treats spanning many contrasting yet compelling ways of looking at music. There’s soulful crooning by Sampha on ‘Hold On’ and ‘Never Never’, warped forays into contemporary dubstep and Drum ‘N’ Bass influence on ‘Wildfire’ and ‘Sanctuary’ and even a straight up house banger ‘Pharaohs’. For a record that could easily have been a messy shambles, SBTRKT is lean, focused and incredibly precise in his production, and most importantly is engaging and often danceable from start to finish. By Toby McCarron

9. Friendly Fires - Pala

I don’t know about you but I’d say friendly fires where without a doubt the band that sound-tracked my summer. ‘Hawaiian Air’ in particular – which filled the air with some much needed summer spirit, we usually crave all year round. The album as a whole when released was nothing but refreshing and fun to say the least. Pala features vibrant dance tracks with Friendly Fires’ indie take on neon pop, particularly on songs like ‘Hurting’ and ‘Blue Cassette’. And to top it off lead singer Ed Macfarlane’s dancing over the festival session gave the band some extra gold stars from the crowds. But yes they may love a bit of cow bell; however Pala has been a huge stepping stone for the band as they re-emerged with a new colourful side. By Ailsa Morris
8. Fucked Up! - David Comes To Life

David Comes to Life manages the rare feat of being at once a ridiculously plotted rock opera about industrial sabotage and lost love in a northern mining town in the late 70’s and also one of the most shamelessly fists-aloft, life embracing albums ever made. It’s a testament to Fucked Up’s knowledge of working the hard graft that they could undertake a project so enormous in scale without losing an ounce of credibility. Not only did this result in the creation of a record 78(!) minutes in length but also an album of songs recorded by the band in the guise of numerous bands dwelling in the fictional town that the action is centred around. Throughout it’s 18 tracks, the album loses none of it’s velocity or power. The decision to drop The Other Shoe, a powerhouse that builds from a lone female voice to a crescendo of noise so overpoweringly wondrous that the listener is forced to simple relinquish their grip and embrace the totality of it, only fourth in the tracklisting shows the band had no fear about the unbridled energy that drips from every corner of the album. By Ned Powley

7. Slow Club - Paradise

Paradise is 11 perfectly crafted pop songs with pounding pianos, boy girl harmonies, dance inducing drum beats and the occasional saxophone solo. Sad lyrics about broken families, lovers that are hard to forget and the fact that "no-one really is a mystery" are accompanied by Rebecca’s dreamy voice to create something truly magical. Songs like "Two Cousins" and "Where I’m Waking" have the power to make you get up and dance. That not your thing? Well songs like "Earth, Air and Ash" could make you break down in tears. On paper "Paradise" sounds like there’s too much going on but it works so well and successfully pulls at the heartstrings whilst making you tap your feet. Slow Club proved everyone wrong with Paradise and shed themselves of their "twee" label. Paradise is Slow Club. By Eden Young

6. Yuck - Yuck

Mixing a typically indie sound with both grunge and pop, Yuck are a band like few others. Born out of the demise of Cajun Dance Party and adding a few members in, Yuck have formed a tight ship and created an album that’s slowly proved itself over time as one of the best crafted of the year. From the blissful heartbreak of Georgia to the painfully beautiful Rubber via the statement of intent that is Get Away, it’s an album that goes down well with a drink in the summer and at the same time doesn’t feel too out of place when it’s snowing due to the full sound of that guitar noise. Let’s hope that they stick around a little longer than their previous suggests and we might just have a genuine indie contender on our hands. By Braden Fletcher

5. Wu Lyf - Go Tell Fire To The Mountain

Shrouded in mystery, WU LYF ’s approach to being "more than just a band" has been copied many times. The difference being that WU LYF, and only a couple of others, have managed to back it up with exciting music. Go Tell Fire to the Mountain may have been overshadowed by some of the bigger releases of the year, but it should never ever be overlooked, especially considering its brilliance throughout. The incendiary howl of opener "L Y F" and the gang rebellion of "We Bros" flow seamlessly to the adolescent revolution of "Dirt" and the sonic explosion of closer "Heavy Pop". Go Tell Fire to the Mountain contains blistering melodies, an abundance of references to fire and crowns, and choruses that should be shouted from rooftops. This is an album that has made music exciting again. By Calum Stephen
4. Bon Iver - Bon Iver

Back in 2006, Justin Vernon secluded himself in a cabin in Wisconsin, in an attempt to "hibernate". Three months in solitude had created For Emma, Forever Ago, beauty and anguish shown in every song. Five years later, Bon Iver was released, and Justin Vernon seemed like a new man. From the opening 30 seconds of "Perth", its as if Bon Iver would pick up where For Emma…’ left off. But a military drum beat foreshadows what sounds like war, a frantic closing to the albums opening track, one of many highlights. Vernons ability to write gorgeous vocal melodies is shown best in "Holocene" and "Michicant", both are breathtaking from start to finish. On the albums closer "Beth/Rest" Vernon cites Bruce Hornsby as a major influence, the track containing 80s synthesizers and saxophones. Bon Iver is a magnificent album, one that can be listened to countless times until Justin Vernons next release, which is an incredibly promising thought. By Calum Stephen

3. Battles - Gloss Drop
 After the departure of Tyondai Braxton from Battles, the first version of their second album had been scrapped as the newly trio went back to the drawing board and produced Gloss Drop, one of the most outside-of-the-box records this year. Featuring Kazu Makino, Gary Numan, Yamantaka Eye and Matias Aguayo, they’ve taken a similar approach to bands like Gorillaz who featured several prolific artists on Plastic Beach. Although without these collaborations, Konopka, Stanier and Williams each portray their musical idiosyncrasies with ease and that’s what makes Gloss Drop, as well as Battles, so loveable. Peppered with glitch, electronica and the obvious experimental instrumental elements, Gloss Drop manages to captivate throughout. Especially on ‘Futura’, showcasing an looping synth and Stanier’s beastly drumming skills that tide you over for just over 6 minutes without any sign of vocals and instead of the usual constant anxious waiting that often accompanies listening to an instrumental track, for the first time; you stop waiting and just enjoy the song. The experimental trio have proved that they’re so much more than ‘Atlas’, and for many people who were looking for the same of old, the album no doubt disappointed. By Aurora Mitchell
2. Wild Beasts - Smother

As Wild Beasts’ career has progressed, they’ve become even more grandiose and overly confusing to some. Although, to others, myself included, their crazily genius concepts and excessive naturalistic metaphors are endearing and make their music close to an art form. Smother embodies the concept of the word ‘smother’ and the two interpretations of which they decided to form the album around, the literal smothering, like that of a pillow and the kind of smothering you get from a feeling. The former inspired the artwork, designed by Matthew Cooper and Jason Evans, as it depicts different coloured feathers merging together and this theme has continued onto all of the singles taken from Smother. Thorpe’s crooning falsetto resonates throughout the album and surrounds itself like a warm bath around the smoothly flowing instrumental. Thorpe’s vocals are delivered precariously as if he’s over thinking the meaning, which reflects the lamented nature of the lyrics that feature on the album. Full of off-beat percussion, woozy synth loops and repeated guitar riffs, Smother is the perfect start point to get into Wild Beasts and a natural continuation from Two Dancers for already adoring fans. By Aurora Mitchell

1. Metronomy - The English Riviera

And so, our album of the year is the third album that shocked and delighted so many in 2011 from Devon resident/electronic visionary Joe Mount’s band Metronomy. Where second album Nights Out dealt in melodies in abundance and youthful energy, The English Riviera is sophisticated and grown up and a truly stunning listening experience created by Mount’s love of his upbringing on the Devon Coast. The best thing about the album is that there isn’t a single weak moment. There’s the trademark bouncy indie-pop Metronomy became known for on secret hit of the summer "The Look" and the exceptionally ludicrous yaucht-rock romp "The Bay". Yet there’s also the tender quirky love songs such the sultry "Loving Arm" and the boy/girl heart-warming tale of young love "Everything Goes My Way". Metronomy matured without losing their spirit, something many young bands right now can hope to aspire to, but good luck reaching this standard. By Toby Mccarron

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