My Favourite 25 Albums of 2011 - Part Five

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

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

5. Austra - Feel It Break

Facebook / Order CD/LP

From my introduction to Austra, the dark, brooding beat driven "Beat and the Pulse" to the more pop-friendly hooks of the stylised "Lose It", 'Feel it Break' the brain child of Katie Stelmanis is majestic. First single "Beat & The Pulse" is certainly amongst the best tracks of the year, dominated by a dramatic, pulsating dance-floor energy that carries an undoubtedly sexy momentum throughout (thoughts of the Tasseomancy twins dancing in the live set don't help that!) it's probably the star of the show and it's no coincidence it was the first release from the record, it pulls you in like very few tracks I've heard this year.

Much of the album is much more shiny and light, than dark and Gothic, yes there are incredible empowered vocals which Katie's delivers pitch perfect and equally big, icy synths but 'Feel it Break' is full of potential pop hits too, rather than foreboding and menacing like an Esben and the Witch or Zola Jesus, Austra have made their enormous beats clean, polished and stylish, never more so than on "Lose it" and oblique sexual references on the glistening "The Future".

Other highlights are the enchanted melodies of "Spellwork", album opener "Darken Her Horse" which combines twinkling keys with an industrial rhythm and then "The Beast" which abandons the dance-oriented electronics in favour of a piano ballad which fully utilises Katie's powerful, operatically trained voice, the departure is starting and beautiful. In summation, it's an essential album.

Austra - Beat And The Pulse

4. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints

Facebook / Order CD/LP

Simply put EMA's first solo record, the 90's influenced noise-grunge 'Past Life Martyred Saints' is a absolute knock-out. From the outset, the frankly insane one / two combination of "The Grey Ship" and "California" you know you are in for something special, raw and emotional throughout, Erika portrays a tough yet equally brittle persona through scuzzed-up guitars, intense vocal cries and compelling atmosphere, absolutely everything is laid on the line over the course of it's nine tracks...

The first half of the seven minute wonder "The Grey Ship" is like sailing in a melancholic and woozy ocean, tranquil and calm, but then it suddenly crashes into a thunderstorm with the introduction of a throbbing bass-line, washes of droning feedback, over-amped guitar, crazed violin and thumping drums. "California" is beautifully stark, through grinding, droning walls of feedback, the opening line of "Fuck California, you made me boring" sums up Erika's defiance in one line and it's repeated refrain "I’m just 22 / I don’t mind dying" is almost triumphant.

"Butterfly Knife" is an unrelenting four minutes of pure dissonance, sharp guitar shredding that is frenetic and fuzzed to fuck while the brash "Milkman" uses a deep industrial drum beat to head towards its noise harbouring conclusion.

Though it's Marked" that is probably my favourite track on the album, raw and bruised with its repetitive cries of "I wish that every time he touched me left a mark", Erika portraying a vulnerable, intimate side amongst the powerful, confident cries and dirty instrumentation. In a year of stunning debut records, EMA's is easily one of the best.

EMA: Marked

3. Lanterns on the Lake - Gracious Tide, Take Me Home

Facebook - Order CD/LP

Another band I discovered mid way through 2010 and who've spent 18 months firmly in the category of 'favourite bands' are Lanterns on the Lake, signed up by the impeccable Bella Union at the turn of the year the sextet spend the first six months playing a few shows (included the spine-tingling shows I caught at The Great Escape and finalising their album 'Gracious Tide, Take Me Home' which was released in September

The album fulfilled every ounce of my incredible expectation, awash with natural beauty and elegance, the purposely restrained melancholia that shrouds the eleven tracks are the very definition of sensual, dreamy bliss. The soft, delicate whisper of Hazel's voice is enough to make you fall in love alone.

It's difficult to pick highlights, the album flows so beautifully it's best to sit and listen on one luscious sitting, windswept instrumentation sweeps and swoons while heartbroken melodies tug at your heart strings, the updated version of "I Love You, Sleepyhead" the perfection summation, genuinely gorgeous. Equally sumptuous is "If I've Been Unkind", a rich tapestry of intense beauty and arrangements from the heavens.

Another track revisited from the early EP's "A Kingdom" is fantastic, sweeping strings and galloping beat, Hazel's voice combines perfectly with Adam's while the graceful elegance of "Keep on Trying" provides more unrivalled emotional joy. Cinematic soundscapes delivered with such heart-tugging grace, it's simply to die for.

A Kingdom by Lanterns on the Lake

2. Josh T. Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen
Facebook / Order CD/LP

Josh T. Pearson, an absolute guarantee for my gig of the year (read my review of the first time I saw him and was left completely speechless here), ' Last of the Country Gentlemen', his first solo record and first release since an album with his then band Lift to Experience in 2001 is extraordinary. Everything about it is so compellingly heartbreaking, beautiful, transfixing that it's impossible to do it just in a brief review of about 200 words from a writer with zero ability, I feel pretty embarrassed just trying.

The flawless "Sweetheart I Ain't Your Christ" is a dark, morose and lengthy track of stark, honest Americana / Country, lyrical, melancholic, and incredibly intelligent, like the entire album is deeply intimate and bears the scars of Josh's failed relationship. It's a hard ride for some, I've read countless one star reviews, personally I think this is possibly the most moving album I've ever heard. His guitar playing varying from quite shimmering to raucous strumming in an instant, he's quite the exceptional player too as anyone who has seen him live with testify.

"Woman, When I've Raised Hell" follows in similar fashion, equally heart-wrenching and haunting beauty, weaving a long road of candid and confessional narrative and self-pity "Honestly, why can’t you just let it be / And let me quietly drink myself to sleep". The most stunning most though is on the devastating centrepiece "Honeymoon's Great! Wish You Were Her", the longest track in an album of lengthy numbers, at thirteen minutes it's raw, emotional and regretful "I’m in love with another woman, please don’t tell the wife / I cannot seem to stop it and it’s fuckin’ up my fucked up life" (in fact just read the whole lyrics here), a poetic lament to unrequited love and being stuck between two women. I'll repeat myself, an album of such heartbreaking fragility and beauty that I can't say any more than just listen to it.

Josh T. Pearson - Woman When I've Raised Hell (Radio Edit) by Mute UK

1. The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
Facebook / Order CD/LP

If you've been here before then this is amongst the most obvious (but also the most deserving) top spot I'll ever give, I'm some what of a fan-boy when it comes to The Joy Formidable and their debut full length 'The Big Roar' is hands down my album of 2011, the band have defined by musical tastes of the past eighteen months plus and continue to do so, I cannot wait to see them again next year (and again and again) and am more excited than a kid in a sweet shop about the follow up due next year.

I'm not going to review this album, I've written about the band countless times already (including a lengthy prose just last week; read through the label here if you'd like to see that and do make sure you've at least listened to the record, it will blow you away.

Whirring by thejoyformidable