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Staff Lists: Top Five Albums Of 2011 By Nolan Siegler

By Nolan Siegler

1. THE EMBASSY – LIFE IN THE TRENCHES

Although Life in the Trenches is technically a compilation of non-album singles and rare tracks, the melodic flow of the songs can fool almost any listener. Tracks like “You Tend to Forget” and the gritty rendition of “Information” reminds listeners why The Embassy fathered today’s Swedish pop. Read my full review here.

2. CRAFT SPELLS – IDOL LABOR

If there was one record label that exemplified ambition in 2011, it was Captured Tracks. Along with reissues of classic post-punk albums and the launch of their “Shoegaze Archives,” the Brooklyn-based label also had a knack of presenting some of the best new albums of the year.

Idol Labor by Craft Spells was one of those albums. Strong compositions with shimmering synths had many declaring Craft Spells as the second coming of New Order and earned them positive reviews from a few music publications. Their new live configuration will make for an interesting sophomore release.

3. THE DRUMS – PORTAMENTO

Even though I wasn’t a jaded “Let’s Go Surfing” fan, I was a huge supporter of The Drums’ self titled debut. My initial disappointment with Portamento can be attributed to this. But in retrospect, The Drums’ sophomore release does contain many elements that makes for a great album.

The release of “I Can’t Save Your Life Again” allowed me to accept Portamento for what it was. It demonstrated a unique songwriting chemistry between vocalist Jonny Pierce and guitarist Connor Hanwick and revealed an overall sense of collaboration on Portamento. The future looks bright for this New York trio. Read my full review of Portamento here.

4. XENO & OAKLANDER – SETS & LIGHTS

With organic analogue sounds meshed with a bleak atmosphere, it’s relatively easy to understand why many categorized Xeno & Oaklander into a genre known as “Dark Wave.”

Xeno & Oaklander’s latest release, Sets & Lights, continues their theme of analogue darkness with an improved sense of composition. Highlights include songs “The Staircase” and “Blue.”

5. YOUNG PRISMS – FRIENDS FOR NOW

If Friends for Now wasn’t the best album of the year, it was definitely the most interesting. Released on Mexican Summer, Friends for Now retained a shoegaze aesthetic without typical thick guitar sounds. Instead, an aquatic and wispy approach was utilized to present unique pop songs. Tracks “If You Want To” and “Feel Fine” exemplify weightlessness.