THE WEEKND – HOUSE OF BALLOONS
You don’t visit this blog for it’s R&B expertise. However, you don’t need to be an expert to realise that this artist is making something special in a genre that’s drowned in it’s own self-obsession for years. For it’s cross-over appeal, blurred boundaries and excellent production, no other album this year has sounded so 2011.
GOTYE – MAKING MIRRORS
It seems Walter De Backer finally located the pop sound that he was always searching for with this album. Whether he’s at a walking pace on tracks like Somebody That I Used To Know, or running along on Eyes Wide Open, he never lets go of your hand in a reassuring journey through his unique pop landscape.
M83 – HURRY UP WE’RE DREAMING
Albums don’t get much bigger than this, not in the commercial sense, but in the epic, theatrical performance sense. It’s so bloody huge that it would have the 1980s that it’s so clearly channelling quaking in it’s little leg warmers.
TUNE-YARDS – WHOKILL
As random as raindrops and just as refreshing, this album from Merrill Garbus is a spaghetti junction of ideas, in a recipe only she could create. Layered and multi-faceted, she’s a proper songsmith, as each tune comes bursting out of her in an explosion of creativity. This was the sound of an imagination in over-drive.
WASHED OUT – WITHIN AND WITHOUT
Ernest Greene might have made us wait longer for his debut album, dowsed in the genre of glo-fi, or the ill-fated, more commonly used piss-take name, chillwave, but our patience was rewarded with a vibrant album that surpassed all others from the genre. By skipping the genre’s potholes of boredom, or it’s often pedestrian pace, he delivered a consistent album that glowed brighter.
HOORAY FOR EARTH – TRUE LOVES
You could argue that this style of synthetic indie is now a little dated, best left on the shelf with MGMT and Empire Of The Sun, but this is a far richer album, with a proper beating heart. They aim their synths at adults, rather than kids, and by doing so have designed a more palatable, mature piece of work.
METRONOMY – THE ENGLISH RIVIERA
This band didn’t just change it’s members, by introducing Anna Prior and Gbenga Adelekan to the outfit, but the new additions also seemed to free up Joseph Mount’s slick song craft. It still feels like a less-is-more-policy, but although their signature moves of separating out everything are maintained, we still get pop warmth in Joe’s lament to his beloved country. By mixing up experimentalism and classy pop, this was 2011′s most Bowie moment.
THE HORRORS – SKYING
This is a proper chrysalis album if ever there was one. The emergence from their style-over-substance gothic origins saw the band return with more substance than anyone else. This was the sound of a band discovering their integrity and, quite frankly, cheering up, leaving all the other pretenders, such as Munich, The Lyrebirds and Chapel Club, now looking like they’re driving in the wrong lane with flat tyres.
WHEN SAINTS GO MACHINE – KONKYLIE
Mixing up fearless electronics with perfect pop, this album delivers with every listen. Like a Scandinavian swallow, it twists and turns, often soaring skywards. It’s an album that reveals many satisfying surprises throughout, and if your foot doesn’t tap along (involuntarily or otherwise) to the anthemic Kelly then we suggest you need re-wiring!
AUSTRA – FEEL IT BREAK
Like all the best albums you are arrested from the first song. Opening with Katie Stelmanis’s solo vocals on Darken Her Horse was a fine introduction to an album that shines with her exceptional, individual skill. She’s in a class of one with her classically-trained vocals and they peak repeatedly throughout the album. What follows is a beautifully-balanced group of contradictions, that shine on several moments, even beyond the masterpieces that are the singles, Lose It and Beat And The Pulse. She mixes up light and shade in an album that perfectly juxtaposes the genres of gothic and pop. Often ice cold to the touch, like the best bits of The Knife, yet it isn’t without warmth either, as she talks of love and yearning. Beyond the vocal skills, we find a punchy industrial crunch, but it’s softened by keeping the pace at a thrilling disco beat. Their marriage of the synthetic with the ethereal delivers us an album that feels like the sound of a machine with a heart. It’s music for serious grown ups, who like to dance, and dance we did. We feel it’s a mature album that deserves celebrating, and just like all the classic albums of the past, it’s definitely one that we will return to time and again.