My Favourite 25 Albums of 2011 - Part Four

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

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

10. Esben and the Witch - Violet Cries
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Esben and the Witch's debut album 'Violet Cries' (which came out way back in January via Matador) delivered ten tracks that combined to create a rich tapestry of dense and mystical fairytales delivered in a dramatic, uncompromising and bold manner. Equal parts stark beauty and deathly misery encompassed in an unsettling, atmospheric gloom and ethereal soundscapes.

Opening track "Argyria" hammers home the dark, intimidating mood, after an unnerving, slow building start it startles you with powerful drums and intense droning guitars wash over subtle glitches while gothic enchantress Rachel Davies' vocal incantations could bring blood to the boil. It's overwhelmingly bewitching, and utterly sublime.

"Marching Song" see Rachel's wailing cries play over hammering kettle drum, harsh guitars and shimmering, rich electronics building to a cacophony of unrivalled noise, the thumping basslines and eeriness reaches new heights on the outstanding "Chorea", where the repeated cries of "dance themselves to death" bring harrowing, plague-like epidemic comparisons to mind.

Though the paranoia of "Eumendies" is arguably even better, dream-like hallucinogenics combine with europhic sonic architecture to weave the biggest spell of all. before the desolation of "Swans" brings the album to a superb and naturally chilly ending, a truly stunning album from Brighton's finest act.

Esben and the Witch - Warpath

9. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
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The winner for most aptly titled album of the year is hands down Lykke Li, her second album 'Wounded Rhymes' is exactly that, an almost voyeuristic look into Lykke's personal account of broken relationships. Wrapped around her intimate, vulnerable lyrics are amongst the most beautiful songs I've hard this year combining sumptuous melodies, Lykke's gorgeous voice and pounding, tribal percussion, lots of percussion. Part Spector girl group, part Springfield soul and part Swedish fire.

On the starkly arranged "I Know Places" and "Sadness is a Blessing" we hear a heartbroken Lykke sing with sincere emotional tenderness of a victim of unrequited love, then the polar opposite on "Get Some" where she is at her most provocative and attention-seeking, danceable, rhythmic and with its lyrics "like a shotgun needs an outcome / I’m your prostitute, you’re gonna get some", easily the most aggressive track where the victim becomes a cock-sure tease.

"Silent My Song" drips with gorgeous harmonies and the voyeuristic themed "I Follow Rivers" use of tinpot drumming, hand-clapping and exotic flavours provides a further stand-out amongst an album of them, the pop album of the year? If you call this pop (the darkness of her lyrics and the emotions portrayed throughout lead me to think this has far too much emotional depth and beauty to appeal to your typical pop fan / x factor junkie) then unquestionably.

Sadness Is a Blessing by LykkeLi

8. Zola Jesus - Conatus
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The prolific Zola Jesus returns after last years incredible 'Stridulum' (II in the UK) with her latest offering 'Conatus', an incredibly polished offering that certainly sees ZJ expand upon her Gothic arsenal of electronic darkness. Powered by her unmistakable voice, Nika Roza Danilova is most definitely a creature of the night.

It's her operatically trained voice, powerful drums and propulsive industrial synths that drive the album forward, album preview track "Vessel" is the early stand-out, harsh metallic beats and Nika's colossal voice create an immediate, menacing atmosphere that's dramatic and chilly. "Seekir" is an upbeat, almost dance orientated track, electronic glitches and a pulsing synthetic beat, equally foreboding is "Avalanche", delightfully bleak, brooding and monstrous.

Though their are also some simply beautiful moments, the eerie "Hikkomori" fizzes away with more drama than in an episode of The Sopranos, yet the best of all is saved for the second side of the album, where Nika lets in more than a touch of lightness, the delightfully named "Lick The Palm Of The Burning Handshake" is melodramatic and wonderful. The intimacy of "Skin", a stark piano led ballad will send shivers down your bones and "Collapse" with its foreboding synth fizz, slow building drums and the quivering vocals close the album with two tracks of transcending, majestic beauty.

'Conatus' certainly sees Zola Jesus move away from her industrial lo-fi beginnings into epic scale dramatic pop territory, it's one that I think is her home. It's equal parts incredible and absurd to think that she's still just 22.

Zola Jesus - Seekir by souterraintransmissions

7. Still Corners - Creatures of an Hour
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Still Corners released their spellbinding debut 'Creatures of an Hour" via US label Sub Pop back in October, masterminded by Greg Hughes 'Creatures of an Hour' is exceptionally crafted from the outset, where film-noir aesthetics transport you through an expansive journey of kaleidoscope soundscapes that are undeniably alluring and gorgeous.

The singles "Cuckoo" and "Endless Summer" return and are as immaculate as ever, a graceful, melancholic mist wrapped around shimmering guitars flourishes, hollow drums and twinkling keys create beautiful dream-like warmth which is rounded off by the ethereal sweetness that is Tessa's angelic vocal. On the more energetic "Into The Trees" glistening 60's psychedelia, precise drum beats and shining guitars offer the perfect example of the wistful, romantic atmosphere so sumptuously crafted.

"I Wrote in Blood" adds an otherworldly, dark undercurrent (though with its title it's not that much of an undercurrent) amongst its eerie organ swirls and woozy, washes of reverb, haunting guitar and ghostly whispers that are equally noticeable on "Circulars". Mysterious synth perfectly complements slow, chiming guitars and trembling drums on "The Twilight Hour" and closing track "Submarine" are equal highlights in this quite simply, stunning debut.

Still Corners - Cuckoo by subpop

6. Veronica Falls - Veronica Falls
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Veronica Falls were snapped up by Bella Union for the long-awaited release of their debut LP which came out in mid October, the London / Glasgow quartet have been favourites of this blog since early last year and the release of their signature tune 'Found Love in a Graveyard', which now, some eighteen months later hasn't lost any of its immediate charm and finds itself as the lead track on the bands self-titled debut album. Any song that can sing about falling in love with a ghost in a graveyard yet sound as irresistibly catchy as a Cliff Richard Christmas song (joke!) is a winner in my book.

The outstanding and hopeful closure "Come on Over" is certainly one of the highlights of the album and contains just about everything I love about Veronica Falls, urgent pacing where cleverly constructed male/female vocal harmonies deliciously combine whilst infectious, head-nodding melodies which embed themselves around your brain. While eqaully catchy, yet somewhat more dark and brooding is the anti-feel good "Bad Feeling", a song from the same morbid scrapbook as Graveyard as well as another of the early singles, the formidable “Beachy Head” (a song about a suicide hot-spot) and new track “Misery” (a song about being generally miserable).

It’s not all high energy ramshackle guitars and self-wallowing lyrical matter, the slower paced “Veronica Falls” is a genuine highlight where Roxanne’s usual deadpan delivery changes to a soft, beautiful lullaby. In summary, this joyous album offer a melodic pop album with more energy than you can shake a stick at that revels in misery yet somehow manages to capture its essence into a joyous, uplifting affair that is certain to improve your mood.

Veronica Falls - Come On Over by Bella Union