A year of albums worth reviewing

Journal editors pick their favourite albums of 2011, both mainstream and indie

Thrice - Major/Minor
Dustin Kensrue isn’t content to sing about anything less than the big questions of life and the fervour with which he writes spills over into his singing. The drum lines are irregular and ensnaring — it’s heavy without getting messy.

Mother Mother - Eureka
Eureka is synth-heavy pop-rock that drives like a getaway car. Tracks range from toe-tapping sing-alongs to moody, dragging confessions. Incredible vocal work from the band’s front man Ryan Guldemond is almost dwarfed by the awe-inspiring pipes of the band’s newest member,
Jasmin Parkin.

Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math

They’ve defined their sound by creating highly personal songs around front man Andy Hull’s battles with bipolar disorder, alcoholism and physical abuse. Simple Math is no different, with catchy guitar riffs that barely cover the rage and pain beneath the surface. Evocative lyrics like “I want to rip your lips off in my mouth” will send a shudder through your body.

James Blake - James Blake

Off-kilter time signatures provide the backdrop for the electronic meditations of James Blake’s self-titled album. Songs are melancholic, bitter and haunting. Tracks like “I Never Learnt To Share” build slowly from a single lyrical phrase into a
digital breakdown.

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes’ flawless harmonies paint the background for a battle between idealism and acceptance of the paralyzing ambiguities of the adult world. This aurally lush album is beautiful from start to finish, despite reaching an uncertain answer to all its questions.

- Andrew Stokes

Jill Barber - Mischievous Moon

Jill Barber’s ability to pull at my emotions in French — a language in which I can barely
understand — speaks to the strength of Mischievous Moon. Each song offers a catharsis, whether it’s a release of pent-up aggravation in “Tell Me” or an outburst of hope in “A Wish Under My Pillow.”

Adele- 21

She will most likely be on every Best of Music list this year and with good reason. In a top-40 world obsessed with creating sex symbols and catchy lyrics, Adele brought heart-stopping melodies and impassioned lyrics to the top of the charts — it was about time.

PS I Love You - Figure It Out

Having an up-and-coming, noise-rock band take on a cover of the Queen of Pop, Madonna’s,“Where’s The Party” was bound to create musical heaven. Add in an appearance by glamour pop singer Diamond Rings on “Leftovers” and you have a whole other side of PS I Love You.

Arkells - Michigan Left

Michigan Left is the reason the repeat button was invented. Addictive beats and even more addictive lyrics in “Book Club” and “Where U Goin” get you dancing along. The music is so consuming that you find yourself uncontrollably pulling the worst dance moves — but that’s just where the music takes you.

The Darcys - The Darcys

It may have taken them years to make, but who can complain when they produce such an indescribable sound, truly representative of their live performance. “House Built Around Your Voice” puts you in a musical coma that you struggle to come out of.

- Alyssa Ashton

Foster the People - Torches

“Pumped Up Kicks” gained overwhelming popularity, but the rest of Foster the People’s debut album doesn’t disappoint. Filled with MGMT-inspired electronica gems, Torches is a successful infusion of indie and dance-friendly beats.

Drake - Take Care

Take Care shows a vulnerable and sensitive side to this hip-hop star. Even with the overdone theme that deals with the plight of sudden celebrity, Drake still elicits sympathy. But the R&B inspired Take Care isn’t just a solo effort — appearances by pop favourites Rihanna and Nicki Minaj give a refreshing female flavour to the work.

Adele - 21

The release of Adele’s 21 saw the creation of a common public enemy through the damning portrait of her ex, in songs like “Rolling in the Deep” and “Someone Like You.” While lyrics should probably not be taken literally, her stunning vocals provide a backdrop to universal themes of devastation, heartbreak and rejection.

The Strokes - Angles

Any Strokes fan is well aware of the challenges the band has faced. But after a five-year hiatus, the band’s fourth release finally restores hope in their ability to be alternative-rock legends. Guitar riffs and Julian Casablanca’s snarling vocals are ever-present, recalling the brilliance of their game-changing debut, Is This It?

Florence and the Machine - Ceremonials

You’d think it next-to-impossible for her to top the brilliance that was Florence and the Machine’s Lungs, but Florence Welch’s new release contains the combination of powerhouse vocals and melancholia we’ve come to expect. With a slightly darker thematic tinge, Ceremonials confirms that Florence and the Machine’s not going anywhere.

-Jessica Fishbein

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