Six months, six albums: 2011/1
Now, it’s a proper time to write again about all the good records released within the past semester, since it’s holiday and I’ve got more free time than… ever. I know June isn’t over yet, but I’m not going to review another album anyway unless Death From Above 1979 is releasing their post-reunion sophomore album before the start of July. Now that I’ve come to terms that a guy that only have the ears of an avid listener wouldn’t make any better review than any guy who could actually play, I’m keeping the opinion short and non-technical so it won’t swoosh over anyone’s head meaninglessly. 2011 was nothing short of memorable, as established bands are throwing in their follow-ups with good results in some, half-decent in the others. Some are my instant classics though, so I feel obliged to write about them since I always obtained their music through *ahem* piracy. Hell, nobody buys music legally in Indonesia. Six albums below are the most delightful of what I’ve listened through the ongoing year, in no hierarchical order.
The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
Epic, powerful, captivating. This noise rock/grunge debut from the Welsh band deserves all of the praises with tracks like ‘The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie‘ and ‘A Heavy Abacus‘ — a blend of anthemic wall of sound and robust yet feminine vocal with clever use of simple lyrics. If this is where rock music is heading, I’ll be eternally grateful.
Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
Post-rock is saturated, yes, I would second that. And it’s about time the giants of the genre break their way through. Mogwai, despite loathing the label of post-rock, has done it with their latest long-titled album, though not with a rhino burst on the restraining wall, but instead with a little synth touch here and there to spice up the genre, spearheaded with the definitive single ‘Mexican Grand Prix‘.
Wye Oak – Civilian
It’s one of the rare cases when what gets the band into the scene is their sophomore album. Wye Oak’s debut The Knot is at most a linear, plain album — but they surely are building bridges with Civilian. Bleak and haunting, Jenn Wasner’s singing guides us through lines of cryptic (and often weak) lyrics in a fuse of folk, rock and shoegaze.
Friendly Fires – Pala
In terms of making fun, danceable in the not so uhn-tiss-uhn-tiss way, Friendly Fires stands strong with the likes of Klaxons and Delphic — in fact this Hertfordshire outfit is exactly the 50:50 blend of the two. Infusing the electro element of dance punk into a refreshing record with their 2008 self-titled debut, Fires seems to be unmoved from the formula in their second effort — which is cleverly the right thing to do.
Brigitte – Et Vous, Tu M’aimes?
‘And you, you love me?’ (Said Google Translate.) There is definitely much to love about this album, a sexy pop record made by the two Parisians, Aurélie Maggiori and Sylvie Hoarau. Often slow and seducing, other times dance-inducing, this guitar-laden chanson française fits as an appropriate soundtrack for Bond films: feminine and exhilarating, but never weak.
Panic! at the Disco – Vices & Virtues
A Ryan Ross-less P!ATD will never be the same again forever, but that doesn’t mean Panic has ran out of geniuses that is Brendon Urie and with the release of Vices & Virtues, the now-duo is overturning wild expectations, although not in the best possible way. While the summer-poetry way Urie writes is just enough to please their more literate fans post-Ryan Ross, combining the powerful rock spirit of their debut album and the 70s endless-summer atmosphere of Pretty. Odd. has resulted in a solid pop album with touches of retro in every track or two.
Battles – Gloss Drop
Since the NYC quartet released their most talked-about debut Mirrored back in 2007, there has been a wild anticipation for their sophomore effort Gloss Drop, especially with the departure of vocalist Tyondai Braxton. Fortunately for Battles, vocals were never the headlining part of their music, and with a string of carefully chosen collaborators such as Matias Aguayo and Gary Numan, Gloss Drop has proven the playful element of their music never sets apart and weirder than ever (check out the ‘Ice Cream‘ music video).
Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
Having an already strong fanbase, it would seem anything Gibbard and Walla throw would be appreciated highly by their fans, and when they said Codes and Keys will be less guitar-centric it was a bit of a lie but still loved. While the guitars are still largely heard, keyboard takes the near-central part of constructing dark, richly layered songs with Gibbard’s voice seemingly in a distance. It’s not their best work, nor anything near their worst, it’s DCFC taking little steps away from their own convention. What’s not to love?
The Antlers – Burst Apart
Hospice is the outlier that brought us to the fact that an album plagued with depression can actually succeed when you write it thoroughly. With the sophomore effort Burst Apart, Silberman on his upper register again writes in a non-storybook, slightly more positive note, lyrically and musically, proclaiming love through lines like “So close up your knees / and I’ll close your parentheses“.
Destroyer – Kaputt
Finally my most favorite of all. Daniel Bejar is a long-running artist, having released 10 albums and 3 EPs throughout his 15-year career. His works consistently build a monumental path to the one finally considerable as a masterpiece titled Kaputt, a gentle pop record utilizing 80’s synth and saxophone to create the perfect city night drive music unlike anything Destroyer has ever done before, in the best possible way.
Did I say six albums? Well, I lied.