Calgary-born, Montréal-based outfit Braids score scores of Animal Collective comparisons, and they wear them well: a quartet of junior-high homies discovering a singular sound —songs long and flowing, unmoored to genre, unbound to structure— over years of communal jamming. But Braids stand apart from most Animal Collective acolytes by dint of Raphaelle Standell-Preston. Braids' front-dame has bona fide star presence: her thrilling, trilling, swooping voice shining bright amidst the babbling, bubbling jams. Standell-Preston's lyrical oeuvre largely revolves around a despised ex-boyfriend. "Have you f**ked/all the stray kids yet?" she sings, mid-"Lemonade," and hearing a voice so sweet spit something so salty is charmingly unexpected.
Scores of split records come out each year; mostly 7-inch singles, but often 12-inches. But when was the last time one was album-of-the-year worthy? Like, Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear in '93? Though its 'split' status doesn't make it 'pure' album, Dark Bloom's place on a best-records-of-2011 countdown can't be denied. Given the Grimes half holds some of the year's most exhilarating, beguiling, strange, and sweet music. The luminous "Vanessa" is the highlight, a piano-vampin' jam in which Grimes —Montréal wunderkind Claire Boucher— stacks her voice in layers of delirious pirouettes. The d'Eon side is less awe-inspiring but still awesome; early-'90s-R&B-esque crooning under a hail of hair-trigger beats and cell-phone interference. The two halves add up to something immense.