Wednesday, 18 January 2012
Albums of 2011, Vol 2
Sorry this post is so late, I planned to have it up almost two weeks ago, but I have found myself with no spare time. Anyway, here it is; my top 10 albums of 2011. Once again, feel free to present your thoughts and feelings on the albums/ ordering in this list if you wish in the comment box below. You will notice that so far in the list, there have been some quite bad omissions on my part. For example, fantastic albums by Wire, Kurt Vile and Oneohtrix Point Never. You'll also notice that they don't appear in the list below. This is because I didn't hear them until too late in context of this list, or as is the case with the Wire record, I actually didn't like it for the majority of this year and only really just discovered what was so wonderful about it. Even so, I wouldn't make any changes to this list. In my mind, all these records are worthy of their place in the top 10. I hope you agree with me on at least some of them. Enjoy.
10. Suuns- Zeroes QC
In 2010, Suuns burst onto the scene with a sinister but undeniably brilliant and darkly sexy electro- funk disco bop by the name of "Arena" and the EP of the same name. All the musicianship and mind for adventure and sonic creativity was transfered across to the band's rather spectacular debut, "Zeroes QC" released in January 2011. At times adopting the spacious, weird and minimalistic electro pop of mysterious masterminds Clinic, at others taking a rather full- throttle groove in the vein of a more spaced- out Queens of the Stone Age, Suuns mined the very outer reaches of the solar system for influence and soundscapes, and returned with some absolute gold. If, by any chance, you're planning on travelling to a different galaxy any time soon, then make sure this is your soundtrack.
Key track: "Pie IX"
9. Esben And The Witch- Violet Cries
Mysterious, ethereal and enchantingly dark and terrifyingly inpenetrable, Brighton trio Esben And The Witch's haunting debut was perhaps the most underrated album of 2011. Building itself around electrifying and unbreakable walls of synth noise and hiss as well as scattering guitar lines and bewitching melodies, EATW approached a very modern sound in a peculiarly medieval fashion, and with it captured all the dark and disgustingly beautiful spoils that the middle ages had to offer. It was both eccentric and modern, and completely idiosyncratic. Initially it was hard to sink your teeth into, but if you were to stick at it for a bit then it would reveal itself as one of the most magical beasts to emerge from the murky depths of January 2011.
Key Track: Light Streams
8. Iceage- New Brigade
If there was one band intent on bringing the disjointed and brilliantly revolutionary spirit and sound of original post- punk back to become the new face of ugly in 2011, who would have thought it would have come from these four Danish teenagers? Bringing forth the sounds of early Wire, DNA and the angular judderiness of Joy Division, their violent but also brilliantly well- formed brand of noise not only seemed to re- vitalise a sound that had long been seemingly forgotten by bands who had twisted the post- punk sound into some ugly form of their own, but also possessed a fantastic sense of melody. At it's heart, "New brigade" was an album that harked back to the past in the most endearing way but was it's own fresh beast and take on the sound all the same.They're not quite a new version of The Fall, but on the strength of this in the future they more than well could be.
Key Track: You're Blessed
7. John Maus- We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves
Long- time Ariel pink affiliate and University professor John Maus proved that he isn't just a genius in the lecture room on his sophomore third album "We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves." With the '80s synth revival seeming to have died down since it's boost of energy from chillwave in 2009, Maus seemed intent on taking us back to the REAL, decadent '80s synth- pop sound and era, but also with a mind cast firmly in the future. Awash with layers of genius synth lines, bizarre imagery and stargazing electronics as well as often hilariously brilliant songwriting, from the likes of the tranquil and pensively jubilant piano ballad of "Hey Moon" through the plodding of marvelous synth- riff on "Cop Killer", "We Must..." reeked of cheese but in the most loveable and forward- thinking way. So many records in 2011 proved that looking to the past can sometimes be the best way to make something sound fresh and original, but Maus showcased it better than most.
Key Track: Cop Killer
6. The Horrors- Skying
Perhaps the Horrors' most wonderful trait is their ambition. The ethos that they want to change with every album and venture into new sonic pastures proved to define itself this year with their astounding third album "Skying." Whereas 2009's monumental "Primary Colours" showcased a clear love of Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine, "Skying" was once again a sum of it's parts but also a record that only the Horrors' could have made. Sounding like the product of a supergroup featuring members of Psycadelic Furs, Suede and funk purveyors The Politicians, it was certainly not an album you could label with "pastiche". "Still Life" was a glorious uplifting slice of sky- kissing euphoria and as the lead off single proved a wonderful taster of what was to come. Wonderfully enchanting soundscapes prpelled by stuttering guitar effects and enormous synth riffs as well as a newly openly percussive element, "Skying" saw The Horrors find a sound that finally sounded like it SHOULD be theirs. Never before had they sounded so content with the music they were making, or comfortable within their songs, and the exapnsiveness gave them more room to manouver and operate in new spaces and confines. Frontman Faris Badwan has said that nobody knows what The Horrors will sound like for sure until they release their next album, and as much as I can't wait to hear what it sounds like, I wouldn't half mind if they stuck with the glorious pop formula that made "Skying" their best album yet.
Key Track: Still Life
5. The War On Drugs- Slave Ambient
Having not released an album since 2007's "Wagonwheel Blues" and with Kurt Vile garnering most of the attention of scuzzy American throwback singer- songwriters, "Slave Ambient" was always going to be a huge statement from Adam Granduciel and Co. And boy, what a statement it was. With Glorious and lush nods to Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan with a distinctly modern take on their heartfelt grandiosity smothered in a lo- fi electronic haze, they produced perhaps some of the most uplifting and well- crafted songs of the year, especially in the shape of songs like the wonderful glacial assault of "Come To The City" and epic feeling of progression and lovelorn lyricism behind "Your Love Is Calling My Name". Even though "Smoke Ring For My Halo" was Kurt Vile's defining opus so far, "Slave Ambient" is good enough to make him wonder why he ever left The War On Drugs in the first place.
Key Track: Your Love Is Calling My Name
4. WU LYF- Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
Since revealing to the world that they were actually just four rather casual 20- year- olds from Manchester with an eye for strange artwork and a loudly voiced dislike for the press, WU LYF proceeded to proclaim that the UK music scene was entirely dead. It sounds like a big claim for a band so young and who until very recently seemed hidden in a shroud of pretention, but on "Go Tell Fire To The Mountain" WU LYF proved that they really were a band capable of re- igniting the flame in superb fashion. Original, expansive and extremely talented, the sound they made, a mish- mash of furious tribal drumbeats and off- kilter rhythms with post- rock- esque echoing and shimmering guitar riffs and glacial, gliding organ strokes from frontman Ellery Roberts ( also possessor of THAT bewildering vocal rasp), they were quite literally unlike any band to have emerged from the UK since Mogwai at least 10 years earlier. With all the brilliance that accompanied their extravagant sound, it's not hard to imagine many more bands impersonating WU LYF in 2012, and even seeing them become the new face of cool. The only thing is, only one band will ever be as good at what they do as they are... and that's WU LYF themselves.
Key Track: We Bros
3. Battles- Gloss Drop
""Gloss Drop" is not only an album that confirms that Battles are one of the most musically talented bands out there at the moment, but it's also a full- blown and upbeat showcase of the fact that they can push that talent in pretty much any direction they want and still make it all click and fall together in an amazing, colourful and creative mesh. By rights, this album should be your undoubted soundtrack to all your happy moments in 2011."
Key Track: Wall Street
2. Wild Beasts- Smother
"The sense of loss is kept throughout, most notably in the tear- jerkingly sad "Deeper," it's mournful tone and the vulnerability of Tom Fleming's vocals bringing that quivering sense of loss to the forefront in the most heart- clenching fashion. Some of the musical playfulness of "Two Dancers" is present and correct here still. "Bed of Nails" carries a Caribou- esque electronic rattle. "Reach a bit further" is a brilliantly percussive, almost dance-able offering, whilst the more subtle "Loop The Loop" wouldn't have been too far out of place on the second half of "Two Dancers."
Wild Beasts have created a masterpiece. In a way, it feels like the album they were always supposed to make. All the playfulness and eccentricity of their previous works have lead to what "Smother" is; A stunningly beautiful, near- perfect and tragic journal of when things go wrong."
Key Track: Plaything
1. Radiohead- The King Of Limbs
"The King Of limbs" is a masterpiece. When it's exploratory it's cold and dark, unnerving even. But all the while it's enticing and fervent. When the band stick to the conventional it just serves as a reminder of the Radiohead who can be comforting as well as frightening. At only 8 tracks long, it should leave you a little bit more wanting. But then, given the intelligence and beauty of this record, it should be more than enough for now."
Key Track: Little By Little
Here's to hoping we get just as much brilliant music out of 2012,