Another year almost at an end and there’s been a lot of music to dig into. Doing our High Voltage due diligence, Chelsea pointed out 5 of her favorite albums that may have escaped your notice in her 5 Albums You May Have Missed in 2011; check it out. Here are 5 more albums that rocked my ears that I believe are worthy of your attention.
Vanaprasta– Healthy Geometry
Released: November 11, 2011
#1 of my year (actually they tied w/ Cold War Kids “Mine Is Yours,” my friends; that says a LOT). It took three tries to get this thing right for this eclectic five-piece band from the Silverlake section of Los Angeles and they created something ambitiously beautiful with ridiculous fine guitar work. The album title/track refers to the shapes and patterns that form in our lives making us who we are and what we’re destined to become with relationships explored from multiple angles. Steven Wilkin sings with epic range and lungs of fire to where you can all but smell the burn of sex in the room when he rips “G-“ a new one, but there are so many shifts in this 9-track album that it truly can be labeled “progressive.” Nothing stands still, much is elemental- even sensual (“NineEqualsNine,” “Come On”)- as these five guys tap psych rock, R&B, soul and keys-driven pop to bust out a debut they can be truly proud of. Swing. Hit. It’s outta the park, people. Are these guys signed yet? No? WTH?
The Features– Wilderness
Released: July 26, 20011
If these guys are under your radar, then you’re missing out on Nashville’s the Features- not breaking radical new ground- but more reinforcing what they do best: serving up their signature sound in layers of vintage and lo-fi sound (as well as rhythm and blues) that make the melodies in songs like “Content,” “Rambo” and “Offer Up” mature indie gems along with a groovy danceable one in “That’s How It Starts.” Matt Pelham’s vocals are warm and rangy and as on point as his lyrics are: Dig into “Big Mama Gonna Whip Us Good,” a damned thoughtful fist of global warming in the face of non-believers. The Features are yet another example of the UK latching onto quality long before the US gets a clue but, hey, we’re dumb like that sometimes (often). If you’re a fan of the Whigs or Kings of Leon, lean your ears towards the Features.
Rival Sons– Pressure & Time
Released: June 28, 2011
Blues/rock ala the bell bottomed 70’s lives on in the form of Los Angeles’ Rival Sons’ second full length album, Pressure & Time. Front man Jay Buchanan possesses a lungful wail that stretches the corners of classic rock, gospel and soul simultaneously while the band throws down meaty rhythms and grooves thick with the appreciation of Detroit funk cut by rips of edgy electric guitar. It’s sexy: guys will go all air guitar and girls will dance like it’s their g-string clad day job. Theirs is the sound of keeping a vintage torch alive through fresh blood and it translates with authority in title track “Pressure & Time,” “All Over the Road” and the ballading of “Only One.” Fans of the Black Crowes, Led Zeppelin, Cream and/or simply the pure punch of raw and classic rock and roll, this one’s for you.
Explosions in the Sky– Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Released: April 26, 2011
Not everyone has a head for the instrumental album, but if you possess that wonderful “open-minded” bone in your body, take Explosions in the Sky for a ride. Literally. Find an open road, put it in your car, and let the beauty of guitar squalls, indecipherable sonics, and creative veers into the atmosphere be your guide. They’re from Austin, TX and take the business of experimental/instrumental rock as seriously as any. At 46 minutes and 6 tracks, Take Care,… is a lofty aspiration of soundscape and those aspirations are achieved on high in moments of sheer guitar delicacy to the sounds of science to outright crash and bombast. Take a step into EITS with “Last Known Surroundings” and chances are you’ll stick around for more.
No love from me for Neon Indian and James Blake is cool in my book, but the sheer dreaminess (as well as actual instrumentation) quotient gets upped by a factor of five in the hands of Pat Grossi aka Active Child. Babies could very well be made to You Are All I See and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. Seriously though, sexy time is in effect with this album of electronica/synth-washed pop, all warm and incandescent with every falsetto choirboy note out of Rossi’s mouth and pluck of his harp. Yes, harp. Just when you feel as if things are all angelic and holier than not, “When Your Love Is Safe” and “Playing House,” form intimate space and when he declares that he’s “in your church tonight”…get a room. And feel free to worship there.