Finally it’s happening. In such a busy year and with just over a month of reflection I bring you my top albums of twenty eleven. It wasn’t overly the greatest year in music but I find if you look and listen hard enough there is always something old or new to discover.
20. Psychic Paramount – 11 (Public Guilt)
A relentless and barraging record, this would have to be my ‘metal’ record of the year.
Released February 22, 2011
19. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light (Interscope)
It’s never easy four albums into your career in this current musical climate to keep a loyal fanbase. Having said that, TV on the Radio have released another set of stellar songs. With the death of band member Gerard Smith the band decided to roll on. I got to see them play at last year’s Harvest Festival rolling out some of these grand tracks.
Songs – Second Song, Will Do, Repetition, Caffeinated Consciousness
Released April 11, 2011
18. White Denim – D (Downtown Records)
This like many other records this year came as an unexpected pleasure. I’d read some good things about these guys and after time I fell in like with their unorthodox tracks. It was on their 4th effort and at the 44 second mark of opening tack ‘It’s Him’ that initially caught my attention. Catchy chorus’s and creative verses add to the timeless sound of White Denim and can be heard throughout this album.
Here’s an interesting excerpt from the wiki .
“According to Rolling Stone, White Denim are “…like a jam band that refuses to be boring”, mixing sublimely “psychedelia, hard blues, boogie, prog rock and fusion riffs like inspired kids weaned on 64GB iPods and 64-ounce Slurpees” in a way that “often recalls late-Sixties Grateful Dead, when their songs still had garage-rock drive but were exploding every which way.” “The freakouts are mathematically calibrated, come with joyous hooks, and can coalesce into something conventionally heroic,” notes Uncut magazine. The album has been described as “White Denim’s most thrillingly off-kilter record to date” and “another joyous rampage through rock’s dusty attic” by Mojo and Q critics, respectively”
Songs – It’s Him, Burnished
Released April 24th 2011
17. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain (Vice Recordings)
Black Lips have now well and truly established themselves as lo-fi rockers of the garage kind. If you didn’t dig their last few records then you will definitely not be a fan of this though it’s definitely a great jump on point for new fans. The album is inconsistent but when they hit they really hit. Does anyone feel the Ramones on ‘Raw Meat’? It’s great. Mark Ronson produced with Lockett Pundt (Deerhunter) stepping in for tracks ‘Bicentennial Man’ and ‘Go out and get it’.
Songs – Family Tree, Raw Meat, Bicentennial Man, The Lie
Released June 7th 2011
16. Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care (Temporary Residence Limited)
It upsets me that every time I listen to this album It reminds me of the night I could have checked out their gig in my home town a few months back. This atmospheric instrumental rock band from Austin, Texas hit back with some of their most finest tracks in awhile. From the blistering opener in ‘Last Known Surroundings’ to the very end. They are a band that knows how to keep it interesting within the realms of their own vision without selling themselves out.
Songs – Trembling Hands, Be Comfortable, Creature.
15. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – Mirror Traffic (Matador Records)
One artist to progress comfortably after the ending of one of the bigger bands of the indie rock movement Pavement continues to progress in style with his fifth outing. The album is less jammy than the last album ‘Real Emotional Trash’ while being more comparable to that of the template of Wowee Zowee. Perhaps, is it the production from Beck having some part of influence with the change of direction? MT is Stephen at his most sardonic and chirpiness with plenty of poppy hooks thrown in with some fine song writing moments.
Songs – Tigers, Brain Gallop, No One Is
Released August 23rd 2011
14. Low – C’mon (Sub Pop)
Album number 9 for Mr Sparhawk and his crew. Sadly I didn’t respond well to last album, Drums and Guns as the record before it The Great Destroyer was my first Low love. Here after several listens Im back on board. I also probably need to get back and give the D+G’s another shot. Though Low is not a band for all times and moods but this just hit me at the right time and the song craft throughout here is superb.
Released April 11th 2011
13. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost (True Panther Sounds)
A truly unique recording this one, taking a bright shiny tone on most tracks, some with a poppy feel others a more serious edge. Throw in a heavy rocker in ‘Die’ and candidate for the best song of the year in ‘Vomit’ which is a combination of the two and you have Christopher Owens brainchild.
Songs – Vomit, Alex, Honey Bunny, Magic
Released September 7, 2011
12. Wye Oak – Civilian (Merge Records)
I’d be surprised if I was the only one who had picked up on this wonderful band in 2011. If you got in earlier I commend you. To describe Wye Oak is not an easy task. I decided to be a smart ass and used taste kid as cheap way to sell the band but really, not a lot of those artists sound similar in the way that leads you from being interested in one band to another without ripping them off. So to break in down for you Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner spend their time throughout this album displaying their talent with blending their fondness for blaring guitars to the softest moments, with the poppy overtones riding throughout without sounding like anyone else, that’s merit right there.
Songs – Holy Holy, Dogs Eyes, Civilian, The Alter
Releaed March 2011
11. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions)
Erikia M Anderson otherwise known as EMA, full of attitude and luckily enough she has the songs to support it. The album is her second and it’s full of slowburning tracks covered in murk. The opening track ‘The Grey Ship’ along with Girls ‘Vomit’ are two of the better songs of the year in the way they build up to these brilliant climaxes and if ‘California’ doesn’t inspire anyone to form their own band I’d be surprised. The album clocks in just under 40 minutes though there’s a lot here to appreciate. I can assure you myself and many others will be quietly awaiting her next set of tracks that’s for sure.
Songs – The Grey Ship, Butterfly Knife, Milkman, California, Breakfast
Released May 10 2011
10. Radiohead – The King of Limbs (Self Released)
Announced on the 14th February and released a few days later. I remember sharing dialogue with my friends about the sudden release. Radiohead still know how to spark interest. Few days later I attempted to wrap my ears around the new songs and there was never an issue of disappointment. Though mixed reviews started popping up everywhere and out came the comparisons to In Rainbows and their former work but I’m a still a great believer in the band and feel the band is still in top form.
For those who haven’t seen it Lotus Flower. (d.Garth Jennings)
Songs – Little By Little, Codex, Give Up the Ghost, Lotus Flower, Bloom
Released 18 February 2011
9. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Sub Pop)
What can I say about Mogwai that any post-rock enthusiast hasn’t already mentioned? Fitting in the catalogue nicely across from Mr Beast and Hawk comes the 7th outing for Mogwai. This is a band I’ve had the pleasure of following personally for almost a decade and I will say that there’s never been a time when I can say they’ve disappointed whether that being live or their studio work. The creative flame is still burning bright with every release a delight to take in.
Songs – White Noise, Rano Pano, Mexican Grand Prix, San Pedro, Letter to the Metro
Released February 14th 2011
8. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Hailing from New Zealand and pumping out the lo-fi rock numbers with pscyh overtones brings former Mint Chick man Ruban Nielsan to a whole new audience. The lyrics seem somewhat thoughtless but remain overly fun suiting them musically to a T. I purely admire the aesthetic and feel that in time the band will become more relevant with every release.
Songs – Thought Ballune, How Can You Luv Me, Nerve Damage, Strangers are Strange.
7. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (Island Records)
This was PJ’s year. With taking out the Mercury Prize (thank Christ for beating Adele). LES featured heavily in many prominent ends of year lists. It’s good to know there’s still room for this kind of record without being dominated by the sudden popularity of the likes of ‘chillwave’ and ‘dubstep’. I’m led to believe the album was recorded in a church somewhere in England and it shows through its stark energy. I probably wouldn’t recommend this as a jump on point for PJ but there are some great tracks here and it seems even some major establishments have really pimped out her tracks in “Maketh Murder”. This album will definitely be talked about for some time.
Songs – Let England Shake, Glorious Land, Words That Maketh Murder, In the Dark Places, Bitter Branches
6. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi (Domino Records)
It was a friend who initially recommended me this English songstress to me earlier in the year, I took the advice on board and never looked back. Copping endorsement from the likes of Nick Cave and Brian Eno this is a must listen. I came across an article at some point earlier this year likening her guitar skills to that of Jimi Hendrix, this girl has enormous skill on a fret board. Among the nominees for the annual Mercury Prize, Calvi offers lovely song craft drenched in elegant guitar work.
Songs – No More Words, The Devil, Blackout, Suzanne and I
Released January 14th 2011
5. The Antlers – Burst Apart (Frenchkiss Records)
Number four for this Brooklyn 3 piece and second since establishing themselves as a prominent act. The biggest question on most people’s minds is does this effort trump their breakthrough record ‘Hospice’? but I’m staying neutral and stating that this album was a great direction for the band.
Songs – I Don’t Want Love, Hounds, Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out, No Widows, Rolled Together
Released May 10 2011
4. The Horrors – Skying (XL Recordings)
On the back of the impressive Primary Colours, the Horrors deliver another dose of their shoegazish rock. What we have here is 10 tidy and confident tracks to get lost to if you don’t get lost in Faris Badwan’s captivating voice beforehand. A band in control and I’m hoping for every success. Fuck off Kasabian this is the good stuff.
Songs – You Pick
Released 11th July 2011
3. Boxer Rebellion – The Cold Still (Absentee Recordings)
I honestly don’t really remember why I invested time into this record. It may have been that Drew Barrymore showcased their material in one of her films and remembering the tunes not being too bad. It took me awhile to come around to Nathan Nicholson’s voice but suiting the style of their emotional rock, it’s a perfect fit. The album received a number of mixed reviews but I think this deserved more. I remember walking around the streets of Manhattan with this playing, it suited and still does.
Songs – Step out the Car, Locked in the Basement, Caused for Alarm, The Runner
Released 7th February 2011
2. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)
Wow, what can I say. I’m sure if you asked anyone in 2011 if they could sound like anyone it’d be this band. Yes there is elements of Kurt Vile and the Springsteen but somehow main man Adam Granduciel make’s this completely his own, stepping out of Vile’s shadow. Recorded over a number a years and finally securing a release in 2011. Here we have 12 wholesome tracks that sound so unique it inspires, that guitar tone? Shiiit.
Songs – Brothers, I Was There, It’s Your Destiny, Baby Missiles
Released August 16th 2011
1. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo (Matador Records)
IT took me a few listens but after that I’ve forever been impressed. His voice, his skill, the lyrics it all seems so effortless. This is an indication of a true troubadour. Please if you haven’t jumped on the Vile bandwagon and im mean that with all sincerity, please start now. It’s a worthwile trip.
Songs – Jesus Fever, Society is my Friend, Baby’s Arms, Puppet to the Man, In My Time, Peeping Tomboy
Released May 8th 2011