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6. From Where You Are – Sunday Lane
Sunday Lane is such a talent so early in her career. Her folk-pop songs have a way of slipping into the cracks of the mind, unfolding and lingering in the later hours of night. The tough of grit in her voice lends a wisdom beyond her years that makes her compositions feel all the more sincere, like reminiscing with a friend over drinks. Lead single “A Little Too Young” could be the anthem of today’s twenty-somethings, laden with debt and navigating the bitter political landscape, while “Light Up” is an earnest and vulnerable plea for a love who’s walked away to grace the doorway once more. Imagine a grown-up Taylor Swift without the ceaseless boy-hating and quiet slut-shaming of the mean ol’ pretty girls stealing her man. Uncomplicated yet hardly simple, From Where You Are is an album that understands you — and hasn’t given up on the fight.
Highlights: “A Little Too Young”; “Light Up”; Painted Blue”
5. Not Your Kind Of People – Garbage
The return of Garbage was one of the musical happenings I looked forward to most at the end of 2011, and I am pleased the band didn’t disappoint. Garbage’s legacy of pop-kissed, industrial-leaning alt-rock is reborn in a fresh package that marries their scene-stealing beginnings with the mature eye of their latter years. Is it a perfect album? No. It’s a doorway back to when the music dominating the airwaves had substance, style and far more flavour than the reality-series, boy-with-or-without-band pap that the High School Musical generation begat. Garbage knows that their sound is not sucking the teat of the music industry machine and frankly, they’re happy right where they are. From the slam you against a wall punch of “Automatic Systematic Habit” to the whirling electro-melancholy of “I Hate Love”, it’s an album filled with energy and bursting at the seams. Of all their albums, this one feels like it was truly fun to make, and that’s what truly endears it to me.
Highlights: “Automatic Systematic Habit”; “Blood For Poppies”; “Man On A Wire”
4. Synthetica – Metric
The more I listen to Metric’s latest outing, the more I love it — something I can’t say for their previous work. Usually, I like what I like at first few listens and that never shifts down the line. It’s a testament to the growth of Emily Haines et al. and their ability to create an album that draws listeners in. Ironically a condemnation of the artificial while sounding breathy and futuristic – electronic, not acoustic – Synthetica reaches broader into a contemplation of celebrity impact on the audience, navigating fame, and struggling to keep one’s identity within a constellation of interpersonal and professional demands. Unlike many artists, Metric manages this dialogue without coming off as shallow, spoiled, whiny or ungrateful — just human. If Fantasies was the glory of creation, Synthetica is the guts keeping the artist true to the creation.
Highlights: “Youth Without Youth”; “Speed The Collapse”; “Synthetica”
3. Gossamer – Passion Pit
Given the natural obsession with celebrities and their breakdowns, it’s no wonder that the release of Gossamer, the follow-up to critically-lauded Manners, became overshadowed in some senses by the disclosure of frontman Michael Angelakos of the bipolar disorder he’s battled since age 17. On the flipside, however, the album is a treatise to the debilitating damage the disorder inflicts on someone, let alone the ripples throughout his or her circle of loved ones. Gossamer, for its airy cover art and ethereal title, is a heavy and difficult album to explore beneath the surface of the electronic whirlwind compositions. Angelakos holds nothing back, pulls not a single punch and lays himself bleeding and bare to the masses — literally, as he explores a suicide attempt and its aftermath to close the disc. As a social worker and someone with bipolar II disorder, this album is a tremendous achievement. It’s a doorway to understanding an emotional hell one cannot begin to articulate clearly, and yet, it’s not a hopeless journey. Love, marriage, healing — these, too, are part of Gossamer‘s sonic threads. Manners may have the hipster love and cred, but Gossamer is genius — and seems strangely overlooked on other Best Of lists. Maybe some are not ready to have the conversation Angelakos is offering.
Read OTM’s original review here.
Highlights: “Take A Walk”; “Cry Like A Ghost”; “Where We Belong”
2. Goodnight, My Dear… I’m Falling Apart – Amos The Transparent
Cited as a “record about us coming to terms with where we are as individuals as well as a collective”, GMYIFA is an album with a loose story, a series of auditory vignettes. One might also describe it as an album that feels so incredibly personal, the listener will stare at the speakers and wonder just how Jonathan Chandler crept into his or her head and stole her thoughts, dreams, and heartfelt truths. If Passion Pit is the harrowing highs and lows of bipolar disorder, Amos The Transparent is delivering the dark nights of soul-searching on the way back out of emotional hell. It’s a sonic novel: threads and themes weave in and out of the lyrics, pulling the narrative together without feeling like a full-blown concept album (I’m looking at you, Tori Amos). Captivating and honest, the songs sometimes come off as deceptively straight-forward; it’s only on second and third listen that nuances jump out at you, keeping the album fresh and engaging. I could wax poetic, but instead, I’ll retreat to my previous review of the album, where I believe I already said it best. There’s never been doubt of the band as a talent; this album, however, establishes their sound and better captures the live show feeling. Like any good wine, Amos The Transparent has improved with age. I highly recommend imbibing – frequently.
Read OTM’s original review here.
Highlights: “Says The Spark”; “Sure As The Weather”; “Convince The Mayor”
1. Loss:/self – Future History
At last, we’ve reached the top slot, where Markham, Ontario’s Future History takes the crown in a tough duel with Amos The Transparent. In the end, Loss:self won out because of its high marks across all criteria for evaluation.
Future History’s self-described “psychedelic love noise” is rooted in indie alt-rock lyrical composition and sensibilities. There are stories woven here, pulled together by a theme of loss — of love, of the life we lived or thought we’d live, and loss of ourselves in the machinery of a world compressing the humanity out us from every electronic angle. No wonder, then, that the band was recently nominated for Best Singer/Songwriter at the TIMAs. But the soundscape of this album simply refuses to be defined: it takes its 40+ instrument toolbox and runs from the eerie cyber feel of Radiohead’s OK Computer through the isolation/anger descent/rising of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and comes back to rest safely in the bosom of The Tea Party’s Transmission. And yes, that is one hell of a statement, and I am not exaggerating.
Loss:/self is a mental puzzle box: despite repeated listening, I am always finding a new little element to marvel at. It’s a work of auditory art and the best part is that we can all see a different picture and be absolutely correct. Loss:/Self is an album meant for the introspective listener, one who values music that can poke and prod at the mind and create images unique to oneself. I simply cannot recommend it enough: if you take one chance on this list of 12, make it Future History.
Read OTM’s original review here.
Highlights: “Surrounded By Faces”; “(Don’t) Let This Go”; “Hold On/Let Go”