With the release of the 8th and final Harry Potter installment marks the official middle of the summer. A little over half the year has passed already and mind sets are slowly changing from the lackidasical dreampop antics of summer to the fearful realization that school is coming up far too quickly.
At this time of year, I like to reflect back on the last 6 or so months in the music world and declare my top five albums of the year so far. When I make my Top 5 list at the end of the year, I like to see what albums have stuck with me for the long haul, and which albums were booted for something better.
While I am still trying to decide if 2011 is beating 2010 with great releases, I have still found some albums that I have been playing over and over again and feel need as much recognition as possible. They are as follows:
#5- Bright Eyes â€˜The Peopleâ€™s Keyâ€™ (2/15/2011)
I will start this off very bluntly: I hated this album on the first listen. I hated it the second listen. I still hated it the third time around. It was so different from the Bright Eyes I loved in my angsty high school years. It seemed to combine the mistakes from Digital Ash in a Digital Urn with some of the same sound and lyrical topics asCassadaga. The fact that it was a supposed â€˜fairwellâ€™ album made it all worse. I gave it a chance though, and it grew on me, just like Cassadega did before it. It was really cinched for me when I saw them live in Denver back in June. The songs were brought a whole new life on stage. They really were beautifully written, and up to the standards Conor Oberst had set for himself in my mind 6 years ago. Seeing the album performed live completely changed my mind about it. I did a complete 180, and for that this album makes my top 5 list. My top tracks from the album? Shell Games, Haile Selassie, and Ladder Song.
#4- Gardens and Villa â€˜Gardens and Villaâ€™ (7/5/2011)
If John Hughes would have loved Gardens and Villa. Had they been around with their debut album, relased only a few weeks ago, back in 1986, it is quite possible that as he was walking across the football field after a long day of detention and finally scoring Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson would have raised his fist to Gardens and Villa as opposed to Simple Minds. Gardens and Villa captures the appeal of quintessential 80â€™s pop alluding to the sounds of the Psychadelic Furs and Tears for Fears and wrapping it up in a nice low-fi, 2011 synth-pop package. For someone like me, who curses the day I was not born in 1977 so I could have grown up with that music and those movies, Gardens and Villa is the perfect band. They give me everything I wish I could have experience first hand. I only wish John Hughes was still around to hear them. My top tracks? Space Time, Star Fire Power, and Cruise Ship.
#3- The Vaccines â€˜What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?â€™ (3/14/2011)
Just as I am a sucker for 80â€™s pop culture, I am a sucker for britpop. I grew up listening to bands like Blur, Oasis and Ash and that created a platform for my musical taste in my teen years. The Vaccinesâ€™ debut album fell into my lap, later, to my utter delight. To sum up The Vaccines perfectly, I am going to borrow some lyrics from a song off of The Clashâ€™s album â€˜Sadinista!â€™ The song is Hitsville UK and has a part that goes like this:
They say true talent will allways emerge in time,
When lightening hits small wonder – Its fast rough factory trade,
No expense accounts, or lunch discounts
Or hypeing up the charts,
The band went in, â€˜n knocked â€˜em dead, in 2 min. 59
The Vaccines are incredibly talented as well as concise. With a handful of the songs on the album clocking in under 3 minutes, they deliver their power-pop hooks quickly and effectively. This album is the perfect soundtrack for the summer, with some nice slower songs just in time for the sunset. It is hard to choose, but what are my top 3 tracks? Wetsuit, Post-Break Up Sex, and A Lack Of Understanding.
#2- Foster The People â€˜Torchesâ€™ (5/23/2011)
At this time last year, I declared Sleigh Bellsâ€™ debut album â€˜Treatsâ€™ my favourite album of 2k10.5 and the most versatile album of the year. â€˜Treatsâ€™ held on to a spot in my Top 5 of the year list as well. Foster The Peopleâ€™s debut alubm â€˜Torchesâ€™ is this yearâ€™s â€˜Treatsâ€™. Each song is a little different but they are all memorable. From track to track it is impossible to predict what will come next. They take dark subject matter and pair it with pop melodies to create the perfect mix. And their live shows are even better. I have never been speechless after seeing a live show, but Foster The People did just that. I already knew they guys were talented, but after watching them play musical chineses firedrill in between songs, switching instruments, I can tell they are more talented than they let on. The entire album is gold, but I narrowed it down to 3 tracks: Warrant, Waste, andHoudini.
#1- Arctic Monkeys â€˜Suck It and Seeâ€™ (6/7/2011)
It was no question which album would take the number one spot on this list. â€˜Suck It and Seeâ€™ is Arctic Monkeysâ€™ fourth studio album. Their third album, â€˜Humbugâ€™ was hard for me to swallow. It took a lot of listens and a lot of coaxing for me to realize how incredible of an album it is. I was wary when â€˜Suck It and Seeâ€™ was released. I knew I would grow to love it, but I wanted to love it right off the bat like I did their first two albums. â€˜Suck It and Seeâ€™ was everything I wanted it to be. It is catchy and unique. Turnerâ€™s lyrical poetry shines through the perfect melodies. The album has two distinct halves. The first part has a harder rock sound with fast guitar chords and loud drum beats. The second half slows down a bit, the melodies sweep a little more and the lyrics take the front seat. For the already established Arctic Monkeys fan, this album is a sigh of excited relief and for the new listener, it is the perfect album to bring you into the world of the Sheffield foursome.
I am already pleased with the music releases from the year so far, and I am excited to see what else is to come. There are of course some honourable mentions that did not quite make the cut. Some of those artists include: The Postelles, Cults, and Givers.