Saturday, December 17, 2011

Only 25! - Part 1 (#25 - #11)

Alright, so I'm very motivated right now to finish my 2011 best of lists. That and I kind of want to read who everyone else is picking as their favorites of the past year. Sure, I'm willing to bet money that stuff I hated will get picked-- that's right, I'm looking at you, Bon Iver and you too, Fleet Foxes; yes and even you, Fucked Up. I don't know what it is, but their albums had no bearing in my life this year. It's no coincidence that 2011 was the year that I exorcised most all folky indie rock from BriPod. But it was also the year that my gothy side became too much to ignore. I think I may have even kept pointing out to everyone how a lot of the cool music to come out this year seemed a bit more goth. And yes, I realize that that's coming from the guy with a pretty intense collection of Cure records (both vinyl and CDs) and more than a handful of :wumpscut: albums. But I'm sticking to it.

Last year, I went a bit overboard and did my Top 50 Albums of 2010. I'll admit it was tougher for me to pick 50 great albums from this year. That's not to say that everything that came out last year was a bit better (OK, maybe that is part of the reason) but it's also because I found myself listening to things a bit more excessively. So the list might seem a bit streamlined but it's definitely not due to lack of quality music, just an overabundance of songs that called for my constant attention.

Before getting to the actual list, a couple of honorable mentions. First, I have to come out and say it: I really loved the Foo Fighters' last album, Wasting Light. Just the best straightforward rock record of the year. I'm actually ashamed of the fact that I haven't listened to it as much as I have, compared to the albums that made this list. Grohl is great. 'Nuff said. Also, I loved the hell out of the Beastie Boys' Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. Not many people did, but I thought it was their best since Check Your Head.

Now, onto the list:

DJ Brian L.'s Top 25 Albums of 2011 (#25 - #11)

25. Ninth - Peter Murphy
I swear, it's just a coincidence that all my goth talk this year was not some sort of elaborate plan to put a Peter Murphy on my best albums list. Yes, I am playing favoritism here a little. In my defense, this is his best album since Holy Smoke. But it's that voice that still takes center stage. Aged gracefully after all these years, as if we'd expect anything less from him.

24. Hearts - I Break Horses
I have a soft spot for Swedish indie pop. But I have an even softer soft spot for dreampop. I Break Horses fits the bill for being both of those and they do it very well. Shimmering and hypnotic, Hearts is this year's Teen Dream.

23. Lights And Offerings - Mirrors
I openly admit that I'm a total child of the 80's. So it's safe to say that I get annoyed when I see the term "synthpop" getting tossed about. I've seen it used both when it's appropriate (see: Neon Indian) and inappropriate, as is the case with, say, Com Truise who has more in common with the freak prog jamming of Battles than they do with the sleek electro of OMD. Thankfully, a band like UK's Mirrors can restore my faith in synthpop. Classic, yet at the same time cheekily futuristic, Mirrors' greatest strength isn't just looking suave but in putting as much emphasis on the "pop" as they do with the "synth."

22. An Open Door - Soft Kill
This is one album that I'm sure many will overlook. Soft Kill definitely plays up to my love of post punk and dark pop.  Fitting, since half the duo, the appropriately-named, Toby Grave, had just dissolved his former band, the dank, Joy Division-esque, Blessure Grave. Instead of making the move for full-on, shiny dance pop,  Grave and his wife, Shiloh Alia, are most comfortable lurking in the shadows. With An Open Door their music remains spiky yet darkly romantic.

21. Visits - Tammar
This one will be the toughest to write about. Mainly because I honestly know nothing about this band. I stumbled onto them thanks to a blog....or maybe someone (or more accurately, something) I follow on Twitter. Either way, I came across the track, "The Last Line" and it floored me. A little bit post punk, a little Krautrock, and a little Madchester- all things that I can't resist, all wrapped together on one song. As for the rest of Visits, the Indiana-based five piece (thanks, Pitchfork) manages to maintain a spacey, hypnotic groove giving songs enough room to build to soaring crescendos.   

20. Scarlet - 2:54
This band is my most recent obsession. 2:54 is a pair of sisters named after a specific moment in a Melvins song. How badass is that? I don't even like the Melvins and I'm already hooked to this. But seriously, this 4-song EP is instantly addictive. Smoky, fuzzed out indie rock like a sultry Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or PJ Harvey at her most seductive.

19. Zonoscope - Cut Copy
I'm thankful for a band like Cut Copy. Not only because I can brag about seeing them live when no one knew who they were (they were opening for Franz Ferdinand, at the time), but they're probably the only indie-electro band that has gotten bigger not by relying on a scuzzy lo-fi sound but by keeping their focus on actual pop songs that just happen to sparkle. On Zonoscope the Australian band keeps their cool not fussing over outdoing a smash ("Lights & Music") and making should-be pop gems like "Need You Now" and "Blink And You'll Miss A Revolution" sound effortlessly cool.

18. What Did You Expect From The Vaccines - The Vaccines
I like The Vaccines for the same reasons I liked The Strokes when I first heard them. They're scrappy but a little messy and they've got punchy, songs. What Did You Expect is all catchy garage pop capable of swelling to a noisy racket. And with only two songs passing the 4 minute mark, The Vaccines make the most of their time getting to the point quickly and confidently.

17. Burst Apart - The Antlers
Whenever I read that a band's next album is going to be "more electronic" I get a little nervous. It worked wonders for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose turn towards glitzy electro rock fit them like a glove, but the results can also be a bit shaky as they were for dapper post punks, Editors. Surprisingly, the move works well for Brooklyn's The Antlers. They could have easily fallen into the sappy pop territory (like Postal Service ripoffs, Owl City) but instead the synths add an icy texture giving more warmth and emotional weight to Peter Silberman's awesome falsetto.

16. Belong - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Their name may still cry out "WE'RE TWEE!" And with song titles like "Heart In Your Heartbreak" and "Girls Of 1000 Dreams" they're a bit guilty of living up to that tag. But for every sugary sweet chorus - and there are a lot on this album- the band balances it out with a constant rush of fuzzy guitars that seemingly come in right as things are about get a little too cute.

15. Wounded Rhymes - Lykke Li
Lykke Li grew up. I remember seeing her the first time she came through Boston supporting her debut album, Youth Novels. Back then she was decked out in a hoodie about two sizes too big for her tiny frame. Then I saw her during her most recent tour and the difference was light and day. This time she was bathed in bright lights sashaying in a tight black dress as flowy curtains adorned the stage. But honestly, one listen to Wounded Rhymes and the change doesn't seem so drastic. She gives 60's pop a dark twist but also seems coy and seductive especially on the steamy "Get Some" where she calls herself "your prostitute" before claiming "you're gonna get some." To Lykke Li, that's both a come-on and a threat.

14. Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes
Cat's Eyes is the collaborative side-project of Faris Badwan, lead singer of The Horrors, and Canadian opera singer and multi-instrumentalist, Rachel Zeffira. Based on that description alone, this sounds like the makings of a disaster. Instead, their great self-titled album is a rather surprising throwback to pop music of the past with influences mined from the 50's and 60's, Go-Going like Nancy Sinatra one minute  ("Face In The Crowd") and sounding like a theme song to a spy thriller the next ("Bandit").

13. Colour Trip - Ringo Deathstarr
Austin's awesomely-named noise-pop trio, Ringo Deathstarr wears their influences on their sleeve. Their first proper full-length, Colour Trip, is practically a love letter to shoegaze forefathers, The Jesus And Mary Chain complete with loads of feedback, distortion, and hazy vocals. And since My Bloody Valentine's long-fabled follow-up to Loveless keeps getting farther away, Ringo Deathstarr fills the gap with this collection of blissed-out near-perfection.  

12. I Am Very Far - Okkervil River
2011 was the year that I cut out Indie Folk from my life. One band that managed to avoid the Great Folk Purge is Okkervil River. On I Am Very Far, Will Sheff can still spin a tale, but now the band's musical palette has more in common with the big rock aspirations of Arcade Fire and Wilco and less with the flowery harmonies of Fleet Foxes. A great release from a band that has only gotten better with time. 

11. Blood Pressures - The Kills
The Kills is one of very few bands who was introduced to me by MTV. Believe it or not, it was their video for "Fried My Little Brains" that got played on Subterranean many years ago. I was instantly hooked. On  Blood Pressures, the duo of Jamie Hince and the electrifying, Alison Mosshart make their biggest-sounding album yet. An impressive feat for a band that's as stripped down as it gets. And just like their live shows, with Blood Pressures all they need is a drum machine, guitars, vocals, and a whole lot of sexual tension to make their infectious gutter blues come to life.

So there you have it. The first part of my Top 25 Albums of 2011. Hopefully, the motivation stays alive so we can get through the Top 10 tomorrow. Well, at least, that's the aim since I was met with a recent challenge from a friend to come up with a Mixtape For A Crush...and well, I can't back down from a challenge like that. Be'll be more Random Ramblings in these next few days than there has been in a while.

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