Saturday, December 31, 2011

inspiration: the music of 2011 - my top 10 albums

Spoiler! #1 is Leaves' Eyes - Meredead
I don't really exist without music. So for an end of the year post, a little homage to the sounds that kept me together: my top ten albums released in 2011.

And I listen to a whole lot of everything, so I won't attempt to give this list any more of a theme than "I really liked these, you guys."

So... I really liked these, you guys.

Honourable Mention: Britney Spears - Femme Fatale (dance pop). Fave song: Criminal.
Sometimes (often) I need a little Britney. This album is totally my favourite of hers yet. Dance-pop bliss beginning to end.

10. Lovex - Watch Out! (glam rock). Fave song: Queen of the Night.
I liked their previous two albums more for reasons I can't really figure out--they were darker? Less brash? More sincere? I liked the gothy styling better than the new disco flavour? But Watch Out! is still a lot of fun with several awesome songs. Yay, sparkly glam.

9. Evanescence - Evanescence (alt rock). Fave song: Secret Door.
Long time no see, Amy Lee. (My high school self says hi!) This eponymous album feels, appropriately, really true to form, all emotionally fraught. It's much of a sameness, but a good sameness with some standout earworm moments, especially in the slow songs. And I just really like fraught. And Amy's voice. Being fraught.

8. Lady Gaga - Born This Way (dance pop). Fave song: Heavy Metal Lover.
I wish it had been a bit more like The Fame Monster, which remains my favourite Gaga, but BTW grew on me. There's super good stuff mixed in with the pretty good stuff (and the bit of facepalmingly unsubtle stuff). The variety of sounds she mashes together into one album is great, but I wish there'd been more songs like Heavy Metal Lover, because damn that's fabulous and makes the whole thing for me.

7. Elane - Arcane (dark folk). Fave song: Arcane Ride.
Each of Elane's albums have been such a lovely mix of ethereal, gothic, medieval and folk, and Arcane is no exception. It's a little less unified/more varied than usual, and a little more daring and adventurous too. Their songs are so beautifully vivid and feed the imagination like crazy.

6. Florence + the Machine - Ceremonials (alt pop). Fave song: Shake It Out.
Bit of a latecomer to the list. Took me a while to realize this had come out at the end of October. Nevertheless, though I haven't worn holes in it just yet like most of the others on the list, it's well on its way. It's the good parts from 2009's Lungs exploded into awesome layeredness and richness. Resonant organ and pounding drums and echoing choir and tinkly bits and of course Florence's voice swamping you all at once.

5. Faun - Eden (pagan folk). Fave song: Hymn to Pan.
I adore Faun. I didn't even realize they had a new album coming out this year because I've been so in love with their 2010 acoustic album (Buch der Balladen - Book of Ballads). Eden is just as amazing as ever, true to their sound yet still endlessly creative. And it's really long, which is awesome. Over an hour of being transported into a world of dark magic and wonder, where we dance all night and sleep all day.

4. VNV Nation - Automatic (synth pop). Fave song: Nova.
This is right up there with the hallowed Futureperfect as my all-time favourite VNV Nation albums. Their sound has always morphed from robotic to melodic from album to album, but I love them most when they get out the catchy hooks and really dig them in, like they do here. There's a very warm, cozy tone to the album overall. It's the Star Wars: A New Hope of dieselpunky futurepop.

3. Nemesea - The Quiet Resistance (symphonic rock). Fave song: High Enough.
The dark horse! Nemesea's album In Control from 2007 was solid and enjoyable, but it didn't grab me terribly hard. This one did. The band shines now, especially in the beautiful contrast of Manda Ophuis' fragile voice with the heavy guitars. Also, the cover art is in the Eowyn-style battle-maiden-with-sword vein. So, yeah, obviously, recommended.

2. Within Temptation - The Unforgiving (symphonic metal). Fave song: Faster.
Within Temptation has evolved from progressive/power metal to gothic metal to symphonic metal to The Unforgiving, which is... well, it's always been hard for me to pinpoint their sound. While The Silent Force era will probably always be my favourite, I really like the alt-rock stylistic turn of The Unforgiving; Sharon van Adel's voice is as wonderful on the poppier side as it is on the operatic side. I am just a big WT fan no matter what they do, and I love The Unforgiving from beginning to end.

1. Leaves' Eyes - Meredead (folk metal). Fave song: To France.
Not only my favourite album of the year but really damn close to favourite album of ever. I've loved Leaves' Eyes more and more as they've eased off on the growling and emphasized the gorgeousness of Liv Kristine's voice and medieval instruments. Their music is just as epic as ever on Meredead, but with the ratio of harshness to melody almost completely in melody's favour, it's also incredibly moving and lovely. Being thoroughly descended from various Vikings, Celts and Germanic types, I may be genetically predisposed to Leaves' Eyes, but whatever the reason, this is a very special album.

There's 2011's favourites. Can't wait to hear 2012. Especially as it's going to start with new Nightwish! ::reattaches headphones for the next 365 days::

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