Monday, December 19, 2011

YPOIW TOP 25 ALBUMS OF 2011: 25-21

With 2011 coming to a close, YPOIW would like to take the week to showcase our favorite releases of the year. Monday through Friday will be a countdown of our top 25 favorite albums of 2011, starting with spots #25-21 on Monday and continuing until the final #5-1 on Friday. This weekend, we'll also be taking a look at some albums that we feel deserve an honorable mention but didn't quite make it on our list. Thanks for reading, and most importantly, enjoy!

25. Arctic Death - Arctic Death
I know "power" is a subjective (and probably vague) term, but Arctic Death's debut album is the most powerful release of 2011 for me. Many people will instantly hate this band because of the acquired taste that is John Crook's voice. It's nasally, squaky, and exuberant, but also completely unforgettable no matter what side of the fence you reside on. This album does a great job of highlighting John Crook's voice as its greatest asset. The instrumentation on this release tends to be quiet until a moment of catharsis on every track where John is really belting out a vocal and the band swells and explodes with him. It's a beautiful and staggering effect. It's simple music in nature, but it makes me feel something when listening to it. Conveying emotion through talent and songwriting in a genre like garage rock is not an easy thing to do and Arctic Death manages to pull it off anyway. It's a confident release from a young, unsigned band that should be trying to find their sound instead of perfecting it. I can only hope that they manage to gain enough popularity that they can continue to keep putting out records, because as long as they are I'll be there to hang on every brilliant vocal that Crook belts out. -Kyle Shoemaker


24. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong
As a huge fan of The Smashing Pumpkins growing up, I learned to fall in love with a really heavy and distorted brand of rock music. Right from the start of Belong it was basically like I was falling in love with that brand of music all over again. It’s not a surprise that Belong sounds a bit like The Smashing Pumpkins since this record was produced by Flood, who also produced The Smashing Pumpkins’ classic double album, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. Even though I’m saying that Belong sounds a bit like The Smashing Pumpkins, there are obvious differences. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart really employed some sugary sweet pop hooks on Belong that have kept me coming back over and over again; I just find it so infectious. I also adore the way that lead singer Kip Berman’s voice floats so airily over every track on this album. Belong does have a number of cheesy moments, but they fit perfectly with the light and airy pop nature of the songs. One of my favourite such moments is the opening line of the last song on Belong, "Strange". Kip Berman sings “When everyone was doing drugs, we were just doing love”. It’s one of the cheesiest lines that I’ve ever heard but I can’t help but smile every time I hear it. -Mark Gillis


23. Thundercat- The Golden Age of Apocalypse
The powers of smooth are making a comeback, but nobody in 2011 did smooth in such a way that felt quite as simultaneously nostalgic and fresh as Stephen Bruner of Thundercat.  The inventive funkiness of The Golden Age of Apocalypse is soaked with the soul of Motown greats like Stevie Wonder, but Bruner's virtuosic bass work and playful attention to songcraft makes this music a truly unique spectacle.  Anybody who plays bass needs to hear this album, and anybody who thinks the bass isn’t a “leading man’s instrument” really needs to hear “Fleer Ultra.”  The amount of expressiveness oozing from Bruner’s bass licks is the record’s driving force, but the near-omnipresent light percussion and synths with the occasional seasoning of strings or horns add wonderful color to each track.  Nearly every song is deceitfully complex.  There is so much to groove to, you may miss all of the surprising chord shifts and unexpected time signature changes, but your brain notices, and your brain enjoys.  You don’t have to be a musician to appreciate how funky The Golden Age of Apocalypse is, but musicians will find a lot of stellar technique and good ideas to keep them not only entertained, but intrigued throughout the regrettably short running time.  As an ambassador for smoothness, Thundercat has created the kind of retro-futuristic work that pushes music forward and gives listeners reason to be excited to hear whatever he has in mind for his next release. -Steve


22. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
This is pretty much the catchiest record released all year. No other release has had songs which just stick in my head like glue. Unknown Mortal Orchestra strike a unique middle ground where the melodies are not only undeniably catchy, but also quirky and strange. The verses on "Bicycle" seem to get ahead of the beat and finish before they really should, and "Boy Witch" has the oddest guitar melody at the end of the verse which completely shifts the tempo of the track. Unknown Mortal Orchestra seemed to have appeared completely out of thin air, but they actually come after the front man Ruban Nielson split from New Zealand band, The Mint Chicks, and moved to Portland, Oregon. The noise punk of The Mint Chicks is replaced by huge low end hip hop beats, funky guitar leads and just a handful of psychedelic pop (only remnant left remains on "Nerve Damage!").  The almost minimalist approach to funky psychedelic pop works well; there’s almost no reverb, no delay, no effects what so ever, just a really old sound with some newer ideas and production. -TTK


21. CANT - Dreams Come True
CANT’s Dreams Come True is very nearly my personal favorite record of 2011.  This solo project by Grizzly Bear’s very own Chris Taylor is a nearly perfect amalgam of things I like to hear.  As one of the most diverse electronicish albums of the year, Dreams Come True spans everything from R&B jams to Grizzly Bear-esque psychedelia to dreamy piano balladry to harshly sexy NIN-style experimentation.  One can detect the kind of relentless creativity that must have driven this album’s production.  Although it is an entity unto itself, I can draw a lot of stylistic parallels to Amnesiac and Radiohead’s early 2000s output overall, and it will be interesting to see if Taylor applies any of the ideas here to Grizzly Bear’s 2012 album.  Dreams Come True is just one of those records which produce a guaranteed entertaining 40 minutes for me. Its richly complex arrangements and stylistic variety aim for and achieve an aesthetic that is ethereal, dark, strange, and, most importantly, fun and unpredictable. -Steve

next (20-16)

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