10 Great Albums You May Have Missed in 2011

10 Great Albums You May Have Missed in 2011
3. Bee Mask
Elegy for Beach Friday
Spectrum Spools

In its inaugural year, John Elliott's Spectrum Spools imprint repeatedly impressed. From must-have records by Fabric, Mist and Forma, we were forking over our hard-earned cash again and again to pick up everything the label dropped this year. But the Spectrum Spools release that left the biggest impression on us had to be the sprawling double-LP Elegy for Beach Friday by Chris Madak's Bee Mask. Hands down, this kosmische-loaded epic was both one of the darkest/most frightening records we heard all year, as well as the most strikingly gorgeous. Rarely do artists capture both ends of the spectrum (no pun intended) so well, and despite countless listens, we're still left trying to wrap our heads around this one. And that's always a good thing.

Elegy for Beach Friday's "Stop the Night":

2. Sabertooth
Making Light of a Shitty Situation
No Contracts, Just Trust

This is the kind of party-starting melodic hardcore that's well worth endorsing. Calgary quintet Sabertooth are secretly a bunch of scrappy kids playing rough-around-the-edges punk, so it comes as a slight surprise that these songs are so poppy. Still, don't expect Making Light of a Shitty Situation to win them FACTOR grants in the future. This is pop punk with an emphasis on the punk, made that much more grin-worthy with ample Simpsons sound bites. They've probably even shot-gunned some beers in your city, too, as Sabertooth made a respectable lap around the continent this year. There's really no excuse to ignore them any longer.

1. Ogre You Asshole

Last year, Japanese pop experimenters Ogre You Asshole took a prominent spot on our Top 10 EPs of 2010 list, and while it may look as if we're playing favourites by including them here, the band deserve some serious props for this year's Homely LP. Like so many great things Japanese, the trio's charm comes in the way they take a bit from everywhere, throw it together, and come out with something distinctly their own. In the case of Homely, that's art-damaged Talk Talk pop, electronic-minded Animal Collective experimentalism, Destroyer-tinted soft rock and sugar-coated J-pop, not to mention a whole mess of other musical influences. On paper, it may all sound like a complete mess, but Ogre You Asshole somehow turned this into a stunningly fluid listen on record, making for one of the year's most ambitious and cerebral pop records -- even if it never crossed your radar.