Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Albums of 2011, Vol 1


And so we come to it at last, The Riviera World's top 20 albums of 2011. First things first, I'd like to apologise for this being so late. The last few weeks have been an incredibly busy period for me, and so I haven't found the time until now to post this.

Secondly, some of the records mentioned on the list you'll find that I didn't review. This is either because A) I came across them too late and it sort of felt like the time had passed, or B) I simply haven't had time to review them. Nevertheless, I can asure you wholeheartedly that I have a very fixed idea in my head of how good these albums are and where they deserve to be in my list.

This was by no means an easy process, and was in fact seemingly infinitely time consuming. It's taken me weeks of listening and sorting and deciding to accumulate a list of the top 20 releases that have really won over my heart this year. So many different things make an album that, scores aside, deciding on where to place an album on the list was even more laborious, and on a number of occasions I would find myself quite stressed trying to make up my mind. But in the end I think I've come up with a list that most certainly is relevant to me and I'm happy with, but also one that hopefully is justified in your own mind. So here is the first part of the list, albums 20- 11.

20. The Field- Looping State Of Mind

Swedish dance outfit The Field take a great risk with the music they make. Both organic and patiently euphoric at the same time, it's music that takes time and build slowly into the lush pastures and soundscapes that it eventually conjures. "Looping State Of Mind" was no different. With every song breaching the 7 minute mark and built around repetitive and reverberating loops, at first it was hard to pinpoint exactly what was so good about it. But as you listen to it more thoroughly, the amount of depth and texture poured into this record becomes more apparent, and it begins to grow on the mind just how wonderfully crafted this piece of work is, not to mention the beautiful, often melancholic melodies, most notably on slow- burner "Then It's White." It's a record that needs time to grow, but one that is beautifully rewarding once it has.

19. Real Estate- Days

Slackerisms and the influence of '90s american indie rock are becoming more and more prevelant in today's indie scene, even on these shores in the UK. Few bands manage to capture the laid- back, lo- fi vibe but still managing a great sense of grandiosity as Real Estate do on "Days" however. The band's second album is more beefed- up than the first. It's more robust and has more texture, whilst still being delicately tuneful and happily hazy and wonderfully catchy in places. Songs like "Out of Tune" and the high- speed "It's real" showed that the band still maintained their wonderful ear for melody filtered through Smiths- esque picking and quietly driving drums, whilst "Green Aisles" saw them take up a new and more mature branch of story telling and lyricism. A clear and wonderful progression on from their debut.

18. Unknown Mortal Orchestra- Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Appearing out of New Zealand in a flurry of pills and a catchy soul- funk throwback called "How Can U Love Me?", Ruben Neil & Co. 's self- titled debut was a deliciously groovy serving of acid fried funk and rock that was an exercising in modern eclecticism just as much as it was in eccentricity. The lo- fi production and crackling haze was reminiscent of bedroom production masters Ariel Pink and Ernest Greene, but the music itself seemed to hark back to a time where psycadelia was much more organic but just as mind- bending, bringing to mind the likes of a more frazzled and stoned David Bowie and Talking Heads. It put an indebted but authentic and original face on pop music in 2011.

17. Panda Bear- Tomboy

Animal Collective have never been a band to rest on their laurels or dabble in simplicity for that matter, and mastermind Panda Bear's (real name Noah Lennox) music certainly takes throws those two things out the window even further. "Tomboy" was a kaleidoscopic mish- mash of psycadelic swirls and wooshes, beeps and clicks and a strange dislike for tempo. It may have been mind- melting, but beneath all the keyboard and computer virtuosity lay a fantastic sense of melody, with songs like "Slow Motion" and "Last Night At the jetty" showcasing all the brilliant pop capabilities of his band.


2011 was perhaps the most prominent year for a lot of London dance producers who went overboard (Actress, Zomby etc.) but the one man who undoubtedly won over most hearts this year was SBTRKT aka Aaron Jerome, and that newly found popularity was largely down to his full- length self- titled debut. Not particularly difficult but not overly accessible either, it held the middle ground and showed that Jerome was a master of computer- synth wizardry and production as well as great melodies, made more epic and catchy by collaborator Sampha's soulful croon. From the kaliedoscopic rush of "Sanctuary" to the minimal euphoria of "Pharoahs", it was an album to both dance your life away to and lose yourself in.

15. Mastodon- The Hunter

Ever since 2009's "Crack the Skye" Mastodon's path into a more accessible sound has left many alienated but also won over many others. "The Hunter" was the Atlanta, Georgia quartet's most accessible, sprawlingly expansive and emotional record to date. The title was inspired by the death of Guitarist Brent Hinds' brother, and what ensued was an album of variety and complex and incredible interplay rarely heard on metal records today. At times crushingly heavy and reminiscent of old Mastodon ("Black Tongue", "Spectrelight"), emotional ("The Hunter"), and at others startleingly bizarre ("Creature Lives") it was an album which saw Mastodon spread the entire territory held by their influences and turn it into something different yet undeniably Mastodon. They also managed to conjure up one of the songs of the year in the stonking and groovy southern- metal stomp of "Curl Of The Burl".

14. Cornershop Ft. Bubbley kaur- Cornershop and the Double O Groove Of

Remember "Brimful Of Asher"? If you haven't yet heard "...The Double O Groove Of" then be ready to cast any preconceptions based on that song out of your mind. Collaborating with Birmingham based singer Bubbley Kaur, the band recorded an electronic but wonderfully funky and well- crafted album of upbeat Asian psych- pop. Infectious and sticking true to it's Indian roots, it was one of the most danceable and happy albums of this year, a surefire way to put a light- hearted mindset on all the problems that society encountered this year.

13. Gnod- InGnodWeTrust

With WU LYF being the Manchester band gathering the largest proportion of hype this year, mysterious psycadelic four- piece Gnod were criminally overlooked. In terms of "InGnodWeTrust", there is no other way to describe the sound of this band than "What the fuck?". Two tracks long and clocking in at a monstrous 33 minutes, "InGnodWeTrust" was terrifying but wonderfully electrifyingly, despite generally being slow- building and, on first listen, hard to sink your teeth into. What inspired them to make the gloriously righteous racket they do, I have no idea, but rest assured it was one of the most excitingly creative things I heard all year.

12. Bon Iver- Bon Iver

Following up an album as critically acclaimed, emotional and spectacular as "For Emma, Forever Ago" was never going to be easy, but Vernon, back at his day job after prominantly appearing in various places on Kanye West's 2010 opus "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy", showed that him and his band still had plenty of emotion and wonderful musicianship left to show off. This time more focused on the musical aspect and with lyrics centreing around home, "Bon Iver" proved to be more powerful, epic and musically stirring that anything vernon had put his name to before. Swarmed in gorgeous melodies and beautiful, swirling symphonies and harmonies, it was wonderfully constructed and organically enchanting. The record was proof that, no matter how beautiful Vernon makes a piece of work, you should never doubt that he's got it in him again.

11. TV On The Radio- Nine Types Of Light

Up until the release of 2008's "Dear Science" TV On The Radio were perhaps the indie world's most underrated. "Nine Types of Light" kept all the old charms at heart; it was full to the brim with funky grooves, impeccably tight musicianship, political rhetoric and tales of heartbreak. But what was most prominent about "Nine Types Of Light" was just how happy it sounded. Straight from the off "Second Song" announced itself in a flurry of glorious horns and a melody to die for, Tunde Adepimbe's high- pitched and soulful vocals reaching the height of their capability. If it was never really realized before just how much fun TV On The Radio were having making their music, they more than made it clear on here.

Please Leave comments below. I hope to have 10-1 up by the end of this coming weekend.


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