My Favourite 25 Albums of 2011 - Part Three

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

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

15. Spotlight Kid - Disaster Tourist
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Spotlight Kid released their second album 'Disaster Tourist' (although the first in their current form) last month and despite a relatively low-key release deserves your attention, for it's an incredible album that combines all the best parts of a much maligned (not by me) genre, shoegaze. Luscious, sweet vocal tones echoes softly wrapped up in spiralling walls of guitars noise, reverberating, spiralling melodies that are equal parts dark, brooding and heavenly.

Lead-single "Forget Yourself In Me" is fantastic, delivered at blistering pace it offers a euphoric head-rush of driving drums, angry guitars and ethereal dual vocal harmonies. Similarly frantic is opener "Plan Comes Apart", heavier, with thick bass-lines and grungy guitars, it, like most of the album (and their emphatic live show), commands to be played loud, very fucking loud. Their are softer, beautiful moments, "Freefall" spends two minutes blissfully melting your heart before saturating it with endless waves of feedback and fuzzed-up guitars.

The album version of "All Is Real" cloaks Katty Heath's tender vocals in fuzzy layers of overdriven guitar, the stand-out though is "Haunting Me", at six minutes in length it never feels over long, pounding drums and fizzing guitars mould together to a celestial combination of glistening and sweeping soundscapes. 'Disaster Tourist' is an intoxicating blend of light and dark, eleven tracks seamlessly fit together to make this one of the most rewarding albums of the year from a band you really should fall in love with.

Spotlight Kid - Haunting Me

14. Planningtorock - The Breaks
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It's hard to believe Janine Rostron grew up in Bolton, though now a Berlin native her Planningtorock alter-ego is a bold visionary who through her electronically processed, prosthetic nosed wielding character has created quite the spectacular album. 'W', her second record is as left-field, original and damn right disconcerting, yet uniquely soulful, as it gets.

Opener "Doorway" is utterly mesmerising, combining doomy, threatening atmospherics and experimental soundscapes to spectacular effect, pulsating synthesisers, rumbling rhythms and hypnotic sax create an otherworldly air that is mystically alluring and weirdly danceable. On "The Breaks" a soulful groove sees Janine's passionate, melodramatic delivery result in the most commanding track on the album.

The unusual combination of saxophone, strings and synths make the hazy, funky stomp of "Living it Out" another obvious highlight, Janine's charged vocals fly around at all angles while frenetic strings and groovy, convoluting beats combine to make a track equally playful and fun and catchy. The same could be said about "I'm Yr Man", throbbing beats and distorted, catchy choruses.

There are many moods and tempos throughout the albums 12 tracks, as there are vocal styles, the aptly-titled cover "Janine", sees the PTR gender games continue, a distorted masculine track while “#9”, a slower paced ballad adds beautiful, sensual depth to this quite superb album.


13. I Break Horses - I Break Horses
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I Break Horses released their debut full length 'Hearts' via Bella Union back in August, the Stockholm duo (as a side note, perhaps the best packaged LP of the year too) have crafted a beautiful record of pulsating beats and luscious, glistening soundscapes, icy electronica shrouded in layers of ghostly guitars and subtle, atmospheric sythns.

"Hearts", for me at least, is the signature I Break Horses track, perhaps because it's what hooked me first, it's simply heavenly. Frozen beats sparkle while pulsating rhythms add a slightly sinister tone (my initial reaction was The Terminator theme way back in July 2010) all softly woven amongst echoey drums and the hushed yet, ethereal coos of Maria Lindén. Her voice, as beautiful as it is, acts as another layer of the instrumentation where the lyrical content matters little.

"Winter Beats" glistens like sun over a snowy landscape, where gorgeously dreamy synth pulses and reverberating layers of noise collide. Maria's vocals barely more than a whisper, it's celestial, otherworldly and undeniably beautiful.

The album continues in similar luxurious fashion, a sonic orgasm of swoon-some atmospherics. "No Way Outro" closes the album with dramatic effect, fast-paced drumming and the spectral fragility of "I Kill Love, Baby!" show a more refined style that is infinitely gorgeous. Though, I could have just as easily said "Cancer" and "Empty Bottles", this really is album that demands whole consumption rather than cherry picking, 'Hearts' is completely and undeniably luxurious.

I Break Horses - Hearts by Bella Union

12. St Vincent - Strange Mercy
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'Strange Mercy' the third album by St. Vincent and the first after the critically acclaimed 'Actor' saw Annie Clark confirm her talent and reach new levels of unadulterated fan-boy loving amongst people like myself, her combination of seemingly endless talent (personal opinion put her as the finest guitar player I've seen this live this year - over 150 gigs), incredible intelligence (read her interviews) and poster-girl looks combine to make her one of the most dazzling performers both on-stage and on record.

'Strange Mercy' is a fusion of what made her previous two albums so fantastic, vocals one minute beguiling strong, the next serenely sweet and dense inventive melodies prone to frenzied, rock spikes now with an added experimental, electronic edge. Take opener "Chloe in The Afternoon", part savage rock assault, part complex structures all brought together so fascinatingly by off-kilter rhythms and Annie's rich vocals, it can't but make you go 'wow'. The enchanting single "Surgeon" starts as beautiful as they come before the looping, guitar noodling closes the track in flawless manner, a track that brings genuine goosebumps.

The album continues in a consistently high standard where Annie's bold approach not to stand still is displayed for all to see, the poppy hook of "Cruel" and the softer moments such as the beautiful "Cheerleader" and the smoothly sung title track "Strange Mercy" are equally celestial and then she only goes and blows your socks off with the fuzzed up dirge of the full-on rocker "Northern Lights". Spellbinding.

St Vincent - Surgeon

11. Chelsea Wolfe - Apokalypsis

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We've been spoilt by two albums within just eight months by Pendu recording artist Chelsea Wolfe, the second 'Ἀποκάλυψις' / 'Apokalypsis' came out in August and is genuinely breathtaking, cloaked with mysterious, eerie melodies and beautifully sinister sounds taking its lead from the album titles two Greek meanings ("apocalypse" and "revelation") for amongst the droning electronics, reverberating ambience and thunderous rhythms are these delightful otherworldly moments, for tense and harrowing it maybe, it is also soothing and quite beautiful too

A dark and distorted organ intro gives clear intent, bone-chilling and hauntingly moody,  the desolate and distant drones of "Wasteland" combine a gentle drum machine beat and a windy howl to create an intense ambience all wrapped around Chelsea's ethereal whispers. Intense is definitely the right word to describe the listening experience, her craft and soul is laid bare for all to see. The vocal range is superb, equally capable of soft and delicate whispers and demented, intense cries.

Highlights are evident throughout, the exquisite "Moses" with its doom-laden drums, heavy guitar chords swathed in distortion, the equally slow paced "Pale on Pale" highlights the sinister foreboding atmosphere that Chelsea creates best and "Mer" with its hypnotic rumbling beats and creepy fast-paced guitar comes close to letting in sunlight amongst the gloom, but then I'm neglecting to mention the Gothic cries and off-kilter guitars of "Demons" and the sheer beauty of album closure "Movie Screen"

Get the limited edition vinyl from Pendu now. The debut LP 'The Grime and The Glow' is equally worthy of this slot (check out my album review here), it's vinyl release is now sold-out (although a CD repress is due) so don't dilly-dally for too long.