Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2011. The next list is from of the Top 10 Underrated/Overignored Releases of 2011 is by Matt Garman.
(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members’ picks.)
Madeline – Black Velvet (This Will Be Our Summer) BUY: Insound / iTunes
This latest album is a slightly more psychedelic, Southern Gothic approach to pop. Madeline’s greatest asset, however, remains her angelic Joni Mitchell-esque singing voice and strong songwriting ability.
The Lonely Forest – Arrows (Trans/Atlantic) BUY: Insound / iTunes
The third full-length from this Anacortes, Washington pop band is clean and smooth, crackling with arena-ready anthems that draw strength from lead singer John Van Deusen’s powerful voice.
Police Teeth – Awesomer Than the Devil (Latest Flame) BUY: Insound / iTunes
The third LP from this quartet is their best to date, a collection of melodic, catchy post-hardcore punk. Mixing chaotic heaviness with tuneful pop, you can hear the exhilarating influence of Superchunk, Drive Like Jehu, and the Wipers.
Cristina Bautista – Gold Parts EP (Local 638) BUY: Insound / iTunes
This is a punchy set of pop songs, hook-laden and earnest. Bautista’s greatest strength lies in her enormous voice, sounding occasionally like Neko Case and/or The Reputation’s Elizabeth Elmore, applying it to her irresistibly shiny power-pop compositions with dramatic effect.
Sandrider – Sandrider (Good To Die) BUY: Insound / iTunes
A huge polished slab of triumphant stoner heaviness on this Seattle band’s debut, a succinct recording of catchy riffage, booming drums, dynamics, and surprisingly melodic vocals. Even if you don’t like metal or heavy rock, you might want to give this a try…and yes, the name is a Dune reference.
Frank Ocean – “Novacane” single (Self-Released) BUY: Insound / iTunes
This R&B number was an insidious earworm for me in 2011. “Girl, I can’t feel my face / What are we smoking, anyway?” You can’t smoke novacaine, Frank. But you can sure feel numb if you rub your life raw.
Seacats – “We Don’t Sleep” b/w “Hard Truth” 7” single (Fin) BUY: Insound / iTunes
If “Novacane” was my jams for the second half of 2011, “We Don’t Sleep” by Seacats was there for the first. The song is simple pop catchiness, with moog synths and handclaps, all of it made by high school students. I’m not even kidding – these kids are literally kids. They wrote a song that is amazing!
Bone & Bell – Loom EP (boneandbell.com) BUY: Insound / iTunes
Chicago songwriter Heather Smith has a special talent for melancholy, precise folk songs that are instantly hummable and carefully crafted. Her music is regal and charming, possessing a literary feel.
Radiation City – The Hands That Take Us (Tender Loving Empire/Apes Tapes) BUY: Insound / iTunes
This is a mellow, lush exercise in pan-genre-pop: swirling atmospherics and chanting atop walls of guitar in one moment, cool soul in the next. As a means of combining eras and elements of various pop trends, from the quietly blipping drum machine percussion to the generous application of reverb and synths, this album is remarkable.
Slow Skate – Count the Days with Me (Parlour Trick) BUY: Insound / iTunes
Languid, ethereal Americana featuring reverb-infused vocal and guitar lines from married duo Caitlin Sherman and Jason Goessl. Slow Skate resembles a jazzy Mazzy Star playing a Beach House where Joanna Newsom meets Portishead.
Favorite New NOT Underrated/Overignored Release of 2011: Shabazz Palaces – Black Up (Sub Pop) BUY: Insound / iTunes
“The shit I pop is heated cuz I love it and I mean it.”