June 19, 2013

Review: Some of the Best Albums of 2011 to present

You know, one thing comforting about studying (when I was in Universiti Malaya) was actually the fact that I absorbed pretty much more efficient while listening to sound - be it jazz music, unintelligible prattling by people surrounding, irresistible, mostly maniacal tunes by Asking Alexandria or even the faint sometimes distracting air conditioner motor noise - which I deemed as my “sleeping pills” due to the fact that it sounds so calming it eschewed my insomnia. So, the only way to help me cement my inevitable repellency towards hitting-the-book rituals was actually listening to music. It’s sort of multitasking you see, tapping books and notes while listening and reviewing new music, which ostensibly makes me musically precocious – getting easily bored with new music and unwittingly vexed with people tweeting the same damn lyrics with the infamous hashtag “np”, feigning they were infatuated with girls at the front row  and whatnots or simply self-loathing.

Even though there are a number of great EPs but for this purpose, I’ll be listing some of my personal favorite records which I think, are significantly notable and noteworthy.  They may not be the ones released few hours ago, but will definitely be some of the finest pieces of music today.

Note that these albums are in no particular order.

Bon Iver, Bon Iver
There’s no question that Bon Iver are the undisputed band when it comes to producing ethereal, mysterious, addictive music and this is reflected in this record. Much likely of their personal journal compiled aesthetically in an album (with a dope cover art I suppose), I personally think that this album surpasses “For Emma, Forever Ago” with its rendition of minimalist and mind-solacing tracks such as “Holocene” and “Towers”. My favorite track of the album is “Beth/Rest”. Simply a classic.

The Vaccines, Come of Age
Man, I’m a big The Vaccines fan. You may have heard “If You Wanna” from FIFA games and this album pretty much sounds like it. If you have no knowledge about the band when you first listen to the song, you may expect that it is something from the 80s and the music video will be showing some afro dudes playing guitars and drums in black and white. The Vaccines’s signature has always been their vintage and old-fashioned sounds which is mainly the reason why I will never get tired of their music. Songs like “Aftershave Ocean”, “Teenage Icon” and “Ghost Town” will never cease to boost your euphoria and make you dance like no one’s watching with their sick beats and The Beatles kind of style lyrics. A reincarnation of The Ramones really!

Ellie Goulding, Halcyon 
I don’t care if I come in biased with this one but I always have a huge boner on Ellie Goulding. Musical boner, if that sounds more decent. Halcyon is indubitably one of the 2012 best albums. She apparently was still a novice in Britpop as she tend to sound more indie back then. This album for me, completely removes her indie signature and makes her sound more electronic instead, which may not be surprising due to the fact that Skrillex is one of her album producers and Calvin Harris is featured in one of her songs.  Her vocal is breathtaking in “Don’t Say a Word”, “Explosions” and “Joy” and the crazy, addictive tunes in this album by the collaboration of many, make songs like “Figure 8”, “Anything Could Happen” and “Only You” even more ridiculously good. The only let-down is her “I Need Your Love” music video which mainly is all about her fornicating with a white guy. That actually made me bang my head against a wall inside my room. No kidding. Only that I actually wore my brother’s samurai forehead protector at that time.

Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience
No one ever thought that Justin Timberlake will be making music resurrection until he eventually turned to be a ‘Mad Man’ in his latest album. Needless to say, his two opening singles are beyond classy. “Mirrors” for instance, is not a stereotypical song which you get hooked up by its catchy melody and get tired of it two days afterwards. That song will most probably, be staying evergreen. What hits me is actually its infinitum “You are, you are, love of my life” line that makes it kind of evolved in my brain for quite some time. “Let the Groove Get In” and “Pusher Love Girl” offer a composition of catchy and evocative melody that will indirectly make you shake your booty down to the ground. To put everything in one word, this album is a “masterpiece” and by far, his greatest work.

Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox
Prior to listening to this album, I detest Bruno Mars for his melodramatic songs and the fact that most of them are covered by Glee. Nevertheless, his latest album sounds exactly like what it says on the can. Bruno Mars’s “unorthodox” attempts to experiment in this album are quite evident, such as trying to sound a bit like Michael Jackson in songs like “Moonshine” and “Treasure” and making most songs carry sexual innuendos and are sometimes profane like “Gorilla” and “Locked Out of Heaven”. But that’s the best part of it to say the least. All songs are worth-listening and it is pretty amazing that after you listened to the whole songs, you‘ll find them neatly written and arranged with no apparent reason. They are perfect to listen to when you are having a retro kind of skinny dipping or even when you’re somewhere stuck in traffic. This album is definitely ten times better than Doo-Wops & Holigans.

Imagine Dragons, Night Visions 
I knew Imagine Dragons is going to make a big breakthrough when I first listened to “Lost Cause” which was featured in Frankenweenie Unleashed. With his powerhouse and rememberable vocal, frontman Dan Reynolds for me, is the key person that pushed the band to the mainstream audience mostly by the release of the first single “It’s Time”. Vocalists like Reynolds, Gary Lightbody, Julian Casablancas and Matthew Bellamy are those kind whose voices are so good and so authentic that they eventually become the very signature of their own bands. Up till now, I can’t help but to envision this kind of dark, disturbing, uneasy, nuclear- radiation- kind-of-scary feeling when I listen to Night Visions. You know, the exact feeling when you watch Scary Movie and Resident Evil. But really, I think all of the songs are fantastically written and performed even though my personal favorite is and will always be “Radioactive”.

Daft Punk, Random Access Memories 
This record, by far, gets my highest votes. The opening single “Give Life Back to Music” is so fun and funky that makes me want to dougie all day long. I found “Within” on the other hand quite emotional considering the voice featured in the track tend to sound like a resented clown grieving about his long lost candy. “Get Lucky” by far topped the chart which may not be shocking at all due to the fact that Pharrel is featured in the song. Out of all the tracks, I enjoy listening to “Instant Crush” the most.

These are some of my recommendations. Surely there’ll be a sequel for this. In case you haven’t listened to “The One That Got Away” by The Civil Wars, I now command you to do so. Slap me thrice and hand me to me mama, this song for me is the exact epitome when Angus and Julia Stone meets The Band Perry meets The Watermark High. So good on many levels. Let’s wait for the release of the whole album this very soon.

Or to be more precise, let’s wait for the leak.