Great Records from 2011 – listed in order of enthusiasm: Part 2

Son LuxWe Are Rising
The second album from New Yorker Ryan Lott, We Are Rising is an electronic opus that lays claim to a fertile musical landscape that’s largely neglected by the mass of modern electronic artists.  Created in 28 days as part of National Public Radio’s RPM Challenge, We Are Rising is beautifully arranged with heavy doses of classical elements (strings, woodwinds, brass, opera), chorus, and psychedelia artfully combined within an elegant & modern electronic amalgam.  ‘We Are Rising’ (featured below) is atypical pop built upon chorus and orchestra.  ‘Let Go’ is a captivating mantra that builds on pounding tympani and woodwind & violin arpeggios, and ‘All the Right Things’ deconstructs show tunes.  We Are Rising puts Ryan Lott not just on the musical map, but on an almost impossible trajectory.

Check Out: Rising [mp3]

Check Out: ‘All the Right Things’

Watch: The making of “We Are Rising” Album Artwork

The Smith WesternsDye It Blonde
Dye It Blonde is a collection of expertly crafted indie rock songs, well-polished, with a very clean, almost surreal production quality; quite impressive for a bunch of kids who can’t legally buy booze.  Singer Cullen Omari has a muted vocal style, but it’s appropriate accompaniment for the rich, vibrant song textures laid down by the band, and when they mash a guitar pedal, they get gushing, beautiful, warm tones.  There are elements of glam-era David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and 90’s brit-pop, and while the album has a classic rock comfort, it maintains a contemporary gravitas that keeps it from descending into derivative or nostalgic territory.

Check Out:  Weekend [mp3]

M83Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
Hurry Up We’re Dreaming was much-hyped by French musician Anthony Gonzalez (M83 – named after spiral galaxy ‘Messier 83’) before its release.  Comparisons were drawn to Smashing PumpkinsMelon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and the BeatlesWhite Album.  Despite this apparent attempt at self-sabotage, the double album exceeded many people’s expectations, myself included.  While it’s no White Album, it is a jubilant union of the genuine and the cheesy.  The album is replete with monolithic synth, gorgeous electronic melodies, fat electronic drums, and sweetly sincere vocals.  The whole affair suggests some sort of celestial ascendency and the dreamlike and nostalgic sensations do not relent over the course of 22 tracks.

Check Out:  Midnight City [mp3]

BraidsNative Speaker
Montreal band Braids made perhaps the best neo-psychedelic album of the year.  The seven songs on Native Speaker build upon layers of synthesizer and guitar with strong, propulsive drumming, and the sweetly cynical protests of singer Raphaelle Standell-Preston.  Equally capable of producing bliss-out ambiance and tightly wound medolic pop (often within the same song), Braids provide the atmospherics of Animal Collective with the clean lines of Radiohead.

Watch: ‘Plath Heart’

Sea OleenaSleeplessness
The self-titled album from Sea Oleena emerges delicate and ethereal in its aesthetics, but upon closer listen reveals to be mired in a drunken, anti-dream purgatory.  Charlotte Oleena describes the album as “three seasons’ worth of endless nights and half-lived days”.  The opening track ‘Southbound’ displays a pulsating warble akin to Wilco’s ‘I am Trying to Break Your Heart’, but gravitates towards unease rather than self-pity.  Ghosts pervade the songs, as niggling specter (‘Sleepless Fever’), furtive advisor (‘Untitled’), and metaphors for the agonist (‘Insomnia Plague’ and ‘Milk’).  ‘Insomnia Plague’ would fit nicely on the soundtrack of a new 28 Days Later movie, with the opening line “it’s been 60 days since that black sky opened up the flood gates” and the reprise “don’t be so afraid of the insomnia plague”.  Sounding somewhat like last years’ White Hinterland, Sea Oleena is exceptional music for creating an azure atmosphere within which to envelope yourself.  But, upon further examination the restless introspection and fuzzy guile of the album provide much more.  This splendid record is available on bandcamp (name your price).

Check Out: ‘Untitled’

Stream or Download [name your price]: Sea Oleena

One response to “Great Records from 2011 – listed in order of enthusiasm: Part 2

  1. Pingback: Great Records from 2011: Clif’s Picks Part 1 | The Dadada·

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