It has been a great year for music and there’s been so many fine albums this, so much so that many which featured on the blog throughout the year didn’t even make the final cut. Without further ado, here is a personal selection of the top 25 albums from 2011. Feel free to recommend ones I have missed below and enjoy!
25. Squarehead – ‘Yeah Nothing’
24. Malachai – ‘Return To The Uglyside’
23. Cashier No. 9 – ‘To The Death Of Fun’
22. Crystal Stilts – ‘In Love With Oblivion’
21. The Rifles – ‘Freedom Run’
20.The Strokes – ‘Angles’
19. The Joy Formidable – ‘The Big Roar’
18. The Go! Team – ‘Rolling Blackouts’
17. Toddla T – ‘Watch Me Dance’
16. Modeselektor – ‘Monkeytown’
15. Miles Kane – ‘Colour Of The Trap’
Kane had already made quiet an impression during his time with The Little Flames, The Rascals and The Last Shadow Puppets, alongside Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys. His debut solo album saw the Wirral-born musician embrace his deep and abiding love for the ’60s whisking the listener on a whirlwind trip through a spooky ’60s parallel universe. It is a record which found a balance between the ladish swagger and pulse-raising rock’n’roll riffs and swooning heartfelt love songs.
14. Pete And The Pirates – ‘One Thousand Pictures’
It’s been about three years since they released their jangly upbeat debut Little Death and their forte remains well-observed, ditsy, easy on the ear indie. One Thousand Pictures is melancholic and beautiful, fragile and robust and rowdy and rousing without ever feeling forced or misplaced. Sanders timeless songwriting ability captures the everyday ponderings and personal portraits is comparable to Ray Davies in his pomp.
13. The Streets – ‘Computers and Blues’
Mike Skinner decided to retire The Streets moniker by bowing out with one last album, Computers and Blues. It turned out to be the most enjoyable listen since Original Pirate Material with Skinner sounding more relaxed and assured rhyming over a stunning blend of garage and hip-hop beats and some old school ravey undertones. A great way to sign off.
12. Hyde & Beast – ‘Slow Down’
Comprised of drummers from The Futureheads and Golden Virgins, Hyde & Beast, melted down all the best parts of ’60s/’70s rock to paint a swirling psychedelic vision of pop from another era. Slow Down meanders slowly, slinking through a wonderfully organic songs which while sounding retro it still feels remarkably fresh, new and timeless.
11. Siriusmo – ‘Mosaik’
Berlin based producer Siriusmo has been producing music for the best part of a decade yet 2011 saw him finally release a long-awaited debut album. Mosaik sees the exploration through the psyche of an enigmatic genius. It is an eclectic patchwork of electronic music, a rollercoaster ride where you can never tell what is coming next; dubstep to disco, hip-hop to house, electro and the experimental.
10. Arctic Monkeys – ‘Suck It And See’
Suck It And See saw a change tact for Arctic Monkeys, trading the kitchen sink approach for swooning swagger, it seems our Alex has found a certain romance and seems pretty content. No surprise the rasp has been reigned in, his vocals ripened into a honeyed croon on a record that oozes with warmth and a glowing feeling of sentimentality. Turner & co. continue to grow and evolve, proving if proof be needed, they really are something special.
09 The Kills – ‘Blood Pressures’
An undoubted talent, 2011 saw The Kills push the parameters of their guitar/drum-machine set-up to its very limit and finally produce an album we knew they had in them. A fantastic record seeping with clanking, sleazy and dark snarling blues/punk hybrid, from the chugging, dub-tinged skanking rhythm of ‘Satellite’ to the post-punk guitar riffs and aggression of ‘Future Starts Slow’, ‘DNA’ and ‘Nail in My Coffin’. It is the most complete record of their career.
08 Anna Calvi – ‘Anna Calvi’
One of this years big breakthrough artists, Anna Calvi’s debut is an enthralling collection of brooding and dramatic gothic pop-songs, sweeping multi-textured scores which feel almost classical at times. Intricately woven together they form an equally thrilling and chilling experience, her vocals are delivered with raw, primeval emotion time after time. Even though the themes explored may be dramatic and dark it is overwhelmingly uplifting, each piece of instrumentation is filled with a warm, fuzzy glow.
07 PJ Harvey – ‘Let England Shake’
An album of brooding and dramatic gothic scores exploring Englishness, perils of colonialism and the ravages of war. It’s both tragic and beautiful, and there’s obviously a message but it is not preachy, preferring to explore rather than lecture on these themes of war, death and loss. Let England Shake is a creative, emotional and fearless record, and one which needs to be listened to in full to be appreciated.
06 Gruff Rhys – ‘Hotel Shampoo‘
For over a decade and a half Gruff has been brightening our lives with his many musical projects. There have always been two sides to Gruff; the reckless experimentalist and the reflective, hazy, whimsical lover of psychedelia. Hotel Shampoo falls into the later striking a perfect balance between his desire to indulge his oddities, lyrical humor and touching sentiment while making it all sound so natural and effortless. His most complete and engaging solo effort to date.
05 SOnance HOtel – Don’t Look Behind You
The brainchild of Dubliner Brian Gallagher, SOnance HOtel is quite different from his previous work with Humanzi but no less compelling. Don’t Look Behind You is full of life, love and spirit unfolding in a haze of keyboards and subdued beats. While shrouded in a murky veil of melancholy it is a gentle, uplifting and beautiful blend of lush 90′s style indie as the melodies and guitars shimmer through the mist.
04 GhostPoet – ‘Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam’
Fitting somewhere between the everyday musings of Mike Skinner and the gruffness of Roots Manuva, he charts a journey through the daily toils of life in modern Britain, both personal and philosophical. Each track is graced with his drawl, hazy idiosyncratic slurred delivery with a backdrop of atmospheric beats and screeches. A very unique debut from one of the most exciting and thought-provoking artists to emerge this year.
03 Half Man Half Biscuit – ’90 Bis0dol (Crimond)’
For over two decades HMHB have inhabited a unique musical space. Satirical, sardonic, sometimes surreal but always witty, 90 Bisodol (Crimond) is another album (their 12th in fact) full of acerbic wit and intelligence. There is an air of darkness to Blackwell’s grim humour who’s wordplay and rhyming are par excellence regaling tales of a necrophiliac Betterware salesman ‘Excavating Rita’, scorned lover ‘RSVP’ and the dark themed ‘Tommy Walsh’s Eco House’ and ‘The Coroner’s Footnote’. This might be their most complete work yet, quite something after a distinguished 25 year career.
02. Pharoahe Monch – ‘W.A.R (We Are Renegades)’
W.A.R (We Are Renegades) has everything; great rhymes, wordplay and head-nodding beats while lyrically it’s hard-hitting, intelligent and insightful, providing a scathing attack on the industry and society. His wordplay flows effortlessly, slinking between the heavy gospel feel of ‘Let My People Go’, old school vibes of ‘Hitman’ and ‘ and the fiery anger of ‘W.A.R’. This is the work of a master, no doubt about it, a classic in the making.
01 The Horrors – ‘Skying’
There must have been a lot of pressure on The Horrors following the success and quality of last album, Primary Colours. The band’s approach and amalgam of influences remains much the same, but introduced is a surprising array of ’80s/’90s baggy tempos and kraut rock beats feature alongside swirling psychedelic shoegaze tendancies. If their were any lingering doubts about the talent these guys have it will have been well and truly put to bed. Skying is an absolute triumph and unquestionably the best album of 2011.
Mp3: The Horrors – Still Life [audio http://www.rollogrady.org/media/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/still-life.mp3] via rollogrady