My Favourite 25 Albums of 2011 - Part Two

Just Music That I Like’s Twenty Five Favourite Abums of 2011 aka The Best 25 Albums of the Year Part Two

Direct Links to Albums: 25 - 21 // 20 - 16 // 15 - 11 // 10 - 6 // 5 - 1

20. She Keeps Bees - Dig On
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She Keeps Bees released their third full length (although 'Minisink Hotel is sometimes ignored) 'Dig On' in July, the album only slightly deviates from the formula of previous album, 2009's 'Nests'. 'Dig On' does take a more slow-burning approach to the Brooklyn duo's (although I've seen them play a few shows as an expanded three piece this summer) beautifully stark and melancholic sound.

Opener "Saturn Returns" highlights this, stunningly sparse and intimate, the signature SKB dirty, bluesy sound hits you right in the gut with its raw emotion and power. "Farmer" and "Found You Out" highlight a heavier, loud and abrasive sound, Andy's pummelling drum beat is the perfect accompaniment for Jess's aggressive, chunky guitar and wailing vocals, her stunning vocals seem effortless and are instantly capable of stopping you in your tracks with their heavily charged, fiery spirit and range.

"Vulture" is a definite stand-out, the guitar is laid down thick and moody, the drum beat is tribal and rhythmic, fast paced; it'll blow your socks off. Tempo changes are part and parcel of the SKB sound, never bettered than on the album stand-out "All or None/Dark Horse". Starting stripped back, just Jess's brooding whispers purring then slowly and gently it builds up to an emotional climax of angry guitar blasts and crashing drum crescendos.

Equally seductive, powerful, 'Dig On' is an album that slowly reveals itself and gets firmly under your skin.

Get the album from Jess and Andy direct here

Saturn Return by She Keeps Bees

19. Be Forest - Cold
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Italian post-punk / cold-wave trio Be Forest create dark and chilly guitar based soundscapes that sound like they were made in the 80's, conjugating atmospheres float between threatening rhythms and luscious melodies that are the perfect antidote for your next door neighbours repeated listens to 'Walking in the Air' (I kid you fucking not).

Their debut album 'Cold' came out in March via We Were Never Being Boring (also available digitally at bandcamp), a listen to the track that introduced me to the band, "Florence" possibly sums up their sound better than any words from me could; thumping dark drums nestle amongst waves of prominent bass and echoey guitar sparkles. The ethereal lead vocals and celestial harmonies contrasting, otherworldy, gorgeous.

Another stand-out is "Dust", a brooding mood maintained with a hint of malice in the drums and bass-line, the vocals, whispered soft and dreamy are beautiful glistening amongst icy guitar howls. "Wild Brain's" catchy riffs have single written through them and closing track "Screaming Prayers" is possibly the most powerful and compelling of all, gone is the shining breeze of the guitars. Here the reverberating whirlpool of guitar noise is dark and threatening.

A short album at just half an hour but 'Cold' offers nine tracks that leave you more than satisfied and one that promises much for the future of Be Forest.

Be Forest - Dust by morrisday

18. Emmy The Great - Virtue
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Emmy The Great's second album 'Virtue' signalled an increasingly polished, mature approach to her song-craft, the eleven tracks that make up the album are an intimate and personal account of her break up with a former boyfriend who left her to join the church, she retains some of the youth and energy of her exceptional first album but 'Virtue' is an altogether more richer, deeper affair. Take the opener "Dinosaur Sex", highly literate and poetic metaphors smartly coupled with cohesive backing guitars and bubbling synths make for a smart, alluring cocktail.

Emmy's voice is crystal clear and beautiful throughout, never better than on "Paper Forest", starting with a simple melody that builds up in urgency with swirling strings and Emma's glorious voice, the more subtle "Exit Night's" narrative is equally staggering, her lyrical abilities really are second to none, the song is carried forward by a repetitive drum rhythm and light piano while Emma's effortless voice is sincere, sweet, perfect.

Closing song "Trellick Tower", the most direct account of her failed engagement is also the albums best track, a change from the (wonderful) instrumentation displayed throughout to a simple, stark piano ballad and it works with beautiful results, a genuinely heartbreaking album closure.

'Virtue' is a wonderfully put together album from an incredible talent and comes highly recommended.

A Woman, A Woman, A Century of Sleep by Emmy The Great

17. Gazelle Twin - The Entire City
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(this is my original "review" posted in July here)
I decided I wasn't going to review Gazelle Twin's debut 'The Entire City', it has already received some fine reviews from reviewers (The Guardian 5/5, dis 8/10, FT 8/10 and even NME 8/10) far more capable and articulate than myself, instead I'll just do a piece highlighting why you should buy it. I'm crap at reviews anyway.

I first fell for the mysterious charm of Elizabeth Walling after hearing her debut single "Changelings" and a cover of Prince's "I Wonder U" late last year, its eerie atmospherics created a beautiful, mysterious experience. Hazy synths glide over Elizabeth's ethereal vocals, electronic processing shifts her voice to a ghostly whisper. Magnetic, immersive and stunning.

The follow up "I am Shell I Am Bone" was even better, undulating rhythms and pulsing drum-beat drive the track, equal parts dream and nightmare. Now with her debut full length Gazelle Twin has constructed her own otherworldly universe, to be consumed as one, 'The Entire City'. Dark and weird, stark and disturbing, bold and fascinating. For those with even a passing interest for surrealist, gothic artistry 'The Entire City' is a transfixing experience.

Third single "Men Like Gods" confirms her rite of passage, ominous and edgy. Then there are the harmonies on interlude "Far From Home" and "Bell Tower" and "Obelisk", one of the stand-outs, with a soul shivering chill that I can just picture sound-tracking a monochrome sci-fi film. It's not difficult to put Gazelle Twin in the same left-field visionary status as Fever Ray and Planningtorock. Add choral harmonies as beautiful as Dirty Projectors' and military percussion as precise as These New Puritans and the unique mind of Gazelle Twin and you've just created one of 2011's essential albums.

I think that non-review turned into a bit of a review, still, the point I'm making is the same - buy the fucking album. Self-funded throughout, it's the least Elizabeth deserves.

Gazelle Twin - Men Like Gods

16. Blouse - Blouse
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I've been following Blouse since they put the hypnotic "Into Black" on their bandcamp page about a year ago now, it's still as gorgeous and seductive as when I first heard it, the outstanding piece of retro-futurism is unsurprisingly one of the highlights of the Portland trio's debut, self-titled, LP.

From the eerie shimmers of opener "Firestarter", awash with chunky synth beats and reverb heavy guitars to the sultry, retro feel of "Videotapes" 'Blouse' sounds like it could have been recorded for an 80's Commodore game, combining minimal chill-wave beats with woozy dream-pop led by the alluring power of Charlie Hilton's icy, nonchalant voice, "Videotapes" urgent, bass-driven rhythms is one of their finest tracks on the album.

"Time Travel" is more dark wave than the dream-pop tag I earlier labelled them with, shadowy synth blares, pulsating percussion and deep bass-lines combine with the slightly detached feeling of Charlie's soft whispers, after "Into Black! it's probably the choice track from the album. The echoey "Ghost Dreams" brings more haunted, melancholic moods led by chilly keyboard and rhythmic beats and "Fountain in Rewind" is a darker, mechanical dance number, slightly sinister yet compellingly beautiful.

Throughout skewered melodies, detached vocals and hazy ambience create an immerse beauty you can lose yourself in, you won't regret it either.

Firestarter by BLOUSE