Thursday, December 22, 2011

YPOIW TOP 25 ALBUMS OF 2011: 10-6

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!

10. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
When I first heard Fleet Foxes back in 2008, I was less than impressed; looking back I can see why, it's first impressions to me were just some floaty hippy jam that made me want to turn around and run straight back to listening to Reign In Blood. However, there was something about that album that kept me coming back, and it ended up being one of my favourite albums of that year. While Helplessness Blues was certainly not an album I disliked at first, it did have me coming back for days at a time throughout the year. The album pulls and sways like an emotionally charged ocean, tracks flowing together so cohesively that it almost feels wrong to skip tracks (not that you would want to). Even with that aspect, the majority of songs still stand comfortably on their own two legs, with the number of single-worthy songs encompassing most of the track list. Helplessness Blues builds around everything Robin Pecknold did with the first album, really showing off his chops as a songwriter and composer, with the almost orchestral arrangements and layering on nearly every track, or at least where necessary. After every listen you find a new detail or nuance to pick at and enjoy, a quality I feel too many albums lack. Aside from the quality of the songs, the sound of this album is something that moves Helplessness Blues from something good to something great. Robin wanted this to have a flawed, almost rushed feel, rather than doing take after take in order to get everything just right. In a way, this really shows the quality of the performers, as the album feels very natural without being highly polished. From a sonic perspective Helplessness Blues feels very warm and inviting, like the album is pining for the days when vinyl still reigned supreme. If this is what Fleet Foxes came up with to follow their self-titled LP, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. -Simon May


9. A$AP Rocky - LiveLoveA$AP
“You better recognize that shit ASAP! A-FUCKIN’SAP!” – Some angry person. With the release of weed smoking, cough syrup sipping anthem “Purple Swag” earlier this year it was pretty easy to “recognize” that Rocky was, yes, indeed a weed smoking, cough syrup sipping individual. In many ways, you can effortlessly box out A.S.A.P Rocky and simply tag him as another Wiz Khalifa, but in truth, this mixtape stood far apart from its peers in “weed rap”. Production-wise Live Love is stacked with young ambitious producers, sporting the likes of Clams Casino, Beautiful Lou, and Ty Beats. A$AP Rocky fully embraced the experimental hip hop production on this album, and walking on a thin line between being too assertive and being too tame,  Rocky did what many rappers wish they could do and created an equilibrium with his music. Live Love seems to have the ability to create a completely massive atmosphere at any moment, most apparent on opening track “Palace” where as soon as you hit play you’re immediately bombarded with a sea of voices. Stylistically speaking, Rocky is more of a contradiction to his own name, possessing a seamless flow while constantly dropping punch-lines that don’t actually punch, but serve more as padding to his own swagger. Live Love to me is one massive step for the rapidly expanding genre of hip hop and a true example of just how far the genre has come in the last few years. - Nelson Lopez


8. Battles - Gloss Drop
How fun can an album be? Gloss Drop pushes the question the max.  This is an album of joy, a real pleasure to listen to when you're in a good mood.  Battles is the only band out there right now making tunes like these. I was among the people who thought the depature of vocalist Tyondai Braxton would be hugely detrimental to the band. How many bands can lose their singer, then come out with the best product they've ever produced? Gloss Drop outshines its predecessor in almost every way I can think of. From the bouncy "Ice Cream" to the moody and sprawling "White Electric" Battles manages to show that they're capable of making a varied album, while maintaining their distinct style. This album is a blast to listen to, and works great as a soundtrack to any day spend wandering your town. It's encouraging to see music like this breaking more into the general consciousness, and as a big part of that, Battles should be recognized as one of the best instrumental-based bands out there. -Josh Custodio


7. Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
Throughout the years there have been many bands that have attempted to recreate pop through their own odd and experimental vision, one successful example being Gang Gang Dance. On the escalating opener "Glass Jar", Gang Gang Dance made it clear that their intentions were not still the same. Never has Lizzi Bougatsos sounded more ambitious and daring than on Eye Contact, where she showers each track with her stout voice. In 2011, Gang Gang Dance brought themselves to an approach rooted much more in alternative dance, creating lush, massive soundscapes with steady and smooth rhythms. Along with the departure of former drummer Tim Dewit, Gang Gang Dance also abandoned their more chaotic style of play, moving to a far more cohesive and dynamic style. Gang Gang Dance's attempts to mesh psychedelic synth pop into dance music culminated on "Mindkilla", where they use Dem Bow rhythm meshed in with a plethora of floating synth sounds to create a dance-able club hit. "Thru and Thru", another personal favorite, shows us stellar drum work from Jesse Lee intertwined with the rising synth melodies Gang Gang Dance creates. A relaxing, yet powerful track, it sums up all of the emotion of the album into its 6 minute length. In hindsight, Eye Contact takes the band's overall sound and spreads it to a wider audience. It makes me even more excited to what direction they're headed to. -Nelson Lopez


6. Braids - Native Speaker
At a glance, Braids look like your typical indie outfit with a standard guitar, keys, bass and drums combo. However, the music that comes from this Montréal band (by way of Calgary) is anything but ordinary. Native Speaker is only 7 tracks long but still clocks in at a solid 43 minutes. So, what we’re getting on this album are a lot of stretched out tracks that twist and turn so subtly that sometimes you don’t even notice changes are occurring. It’s that ability to be unpredictable that has really kept me coming back to this album for multiple listens. Listening to this album is more like going on a long and winding journey than it is just simply listening to an album. The tracks fill up space in almost a post-rock way that allows you to get completely lost in how beautiful it is. The way a track like the 8 minute "Native Speaker" sparkles and glistens is almost more like an ambient soundscape than anything else, and the abundance of quirky electronics and loops thrown into the mix adds another level of depth to an already stunningly beautiful track. The album also has its dark moments like on "Lammicken", a track that constantly builds tension until it bursts apart at the seams. Throughout the build of "Lammicken" vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston sings in her eccentric voice “I can’t stop it”. It makes me believe that this is a band that can’t be stopped because of how amazingly pretty and quirky their music is. Keep an eye on Braids because chances are they’ll be making huge waves soon enough. -Mark Gillis

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  1. Josh, your Gloss Drop blurb is great... but better than Mirrored? not on your life man! -Kyle

  2. Thanks for reading man!
    Definitely different albums, I prefer the looseness and general vibe to Gloss Drop better. Different strokes etc.

  3. I'm with Josh, but I'm probably cliche to think Atlas is still the best Battles song.