Archive for December, 2011

December 19, 2011

The Cream of the Crop for 2011

A bumper year for recorded music, more thriving artists than I can ever remember!  So many bands on small labels producing a myriad of styles and genres, usually within the same song!  We are definitely in a golden age of hybrid music.  Although in amongst all the cross-pollination and post-everything outre there is a refreshing beauty in anything retro or analogue with a strong old-fashioned melody

Here’s my top 5

5.  King Creosote and John Hopkins – ‘Diamond Mine’,  A poignant and bucolic peaen to a boyhood town and romanticized youth.

4.  Washed Out – ‘Within and Without’, Euphoric but melancholic, assured yet searching, chilled while infectious.  So many contradictions in one album!   Forget M83′ s good but overblown long player, this is the definitive sound of Chillwave 2011.

3.  Wild Beasts – ‘Smother’, Scandalous that it didn’t even get nominated for a Mercury Music Prize, ‘Smother’ is an exquisite album full of poise, tenderness, sexual intrigue and lust.  Wild Beasts entered the realm of consummate artists with an album that perfectly encapsulates the thrall of sensuality, with spin-tingling effect.

2.  PJ Harvey – ‘Let England Shake’, So much has been written about this album and deservedly so.  This is PJ Harvey’s masterpiece and will be remembered as one of 2011’s classic albums.  With its harrowing portrayal of war, deprivation and human sacrifice it tapped into the current global dissatisfaction while addressing an age-old truth.

1.  Bon Iver – Astoundingly this album managed to achieve the near-impossible, a cut above the debut album – which many considered a classic in its own right – while creating a new template and never repeating the same trick twice.  An impressionistic tour de force that shimmered and radiated with a myriad of sounds.  This was an album that was undeniably 2011.  Making use of all things digital, the emotion was wrought from woven textures and distorted vocals.  Understanding was ambiguous,  this was all about feeling and the sense of time and memory, embellished with the beautiful spacial arrangements.

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December 17, 2011

The Sound of 2011

2011 has been a year of reflection, looking back with nostalgic eyes while trying to forge a new musical terrain from the myriad of influences.  Nope, this is no astrology reading but a review in the year of music,  heavily affected by the continual burden of the global debt where the meek and the mild are deemed responsible rather than the rapacious corporate world who deny everything and continue to feast on the rotting consumer corpse.  Sorry, let’s get back to the main agenda………!

Nostalgia blew heavy over us with the 20th anniversary of an array of landmark albums, certainly many more than presently released, creativity was in fine form back in 1991.  ‘Nevermind’ was the major re-release of the year but U2’s ‘Achtung Baby’ was arguably just as groundbreaking at the time , although not as cool!  The re-release of U2’s seminal album certainly got less fanfare than Nirvana’s, a symptom of U2’s current fall from grace.  Other notable 20 year anniversaries were: Primal Scream’s ‘Screamdelica’, My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Bloodless’,  Massive Attack’s ‘Blue Lines’ and Metallica’s ‘Black Album’.  Plenty of room for nostalgia with a line-up as strong as that.

Twenty years later we find ourselves on a similar paradigm, same old financial malaise, impending recession, global wars, widespread anxiety etc.  Much of this spiritual and existential tension was imbued into many of our daily soundtracks adding and soothing in equal measure.  Artists ventured into darker waters, introspectively or retrospectively.  From the radio (Arctic Monkeys, Lana Del Ray, Elbow) to alternative experimentalists (Nicolas Jaar, Oneohtrix Point Never, Dirty Beaches) there was angst and soul searching expressed everywhere through the medium of sound.  Regardless of the genre, the search for understanding and a wistfulness towards the past was palpable.  Memorable stand-outs were; Fleet Foxes (Folk), Metronomy (Pop), James Blake (Electro), Girls (Indie) and tUnE yArDs (Afro-Dub-Pop)

It was also the year of the female (noted in a previous blog).  Adele’s ’21’ sold like hot cakes; Florence & the Machine,Kate Bush, Feist, Lana Del Ray, Zola Jesus, PJ Harvey, Lykke Ly, Katy B and a whole host of other wailing banshees and shadowy chantuese dominated the music news but none more so than the death of Winehouse.  Notable  highlights were the ambient, circular sounds of Glasser, the dark electro funk of Planningtorock and another gem of an album from the not as young but still incredibly young to write such developed and narrative compositions, Laura Marling.

Watch this space for my top five albums of the year………….