My Top 10 Albums of 2011: Album Reviews
Yep, it’s that time of year again to look back on the previous 11-and-a-half months and think, “I need to tell everyone what my favourite albums are…in 150 words or less!
So please, if you feel the urge to do so, have a flick through my first five albums of 2011 – in no particular order – followed by another 5 to round out the top 10. Your comments are most welcome, as are your own nominations of the year’s finest releases.
The Kills – Blood Pressures
Blood Pressures was my first real introduction into The Kills, and from the first listen I couldn’t help but sit in awe of how polished a piece of work this was.
Part blues, part folk, part reggae, part sequenced dancepop, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince really hits their stride with their spintingling harmonies, rivaling that of Iggy Pop and Kate Pierson on Candy.
Tracks like My Heart is a Beating Drum and DNA show how adept this duo are at producing stylish and sexy blues-inspired mayhem, while at the same time showing off their emotional maturity with Future Starts Slow, Baby Says and the heartbreaking The Last Goodbye.
Suck It and See – Arctic Monkeys
These Sheffield lads have been around long enough now to have learnt a thing or two, and their coming-of-age is reflected in their fourth studio album Suck It and See.
Where once they wrote songs about dancefloors and running away from the ‘boys in black’, they’ve now settled on more mature songwriting territory, resulting in a far more slick and polished sound, which is a nice departure from the twangy clean-tone sounds they once relied so heavily upon.
Brick By Brick and Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved your Chair are finely-crafted rock tunes, while the poignant Love Is A Laserquest and Suck It And See boast a refined edge that they seem to have recently mastered.
Rome – Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi
Rome is a salute to the days of the Spaghetti Western soundtrack, made by a couple of guys who simply loved the music too much to not make a record in its honour. Taking over five years to create, Danielle Luppi and Danger Mouse reportedly traversed the Italian countryside to not only recruit the original players on soundtracks like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but sought to borrow authentic musical instruments and recording equipment armed only with bottles of wine.
Bring in two of the most diverse performers of the decade – Jack White and Norah Jones – and you have the recipe for the most strikingly vivid records of 2011. The Theme Of Rome captures the essence of record, and it’s sounds are so crisp that you actaully believe that you could be watching a real movie. While Jack White’s efforts are commendable, it’s Norah Jones here who steals the show with the likes of Season’s Trees and the delectable Black.
Gotye – Making Mirrors
Nothing this man does surprises me anymore. The weight of expectation must have been quite a burden after the resounding success of Like Drawing Blood. However, Making Mirrors is more than enough proof that Gotye is serious about making damn fine music.
With rad hits like Easy Way Out, motown classic I Feel Better and the dorky-but-very-likable In Your Light to offer support for Eyes Wide Open and Somebody That I Use To Know, Making Mirrors avoids falling into messy obscurity in between songs, with the real magic on Making Mirrors being hidden gems like Don’t Worry, We’ll Be Watching You, Giving Me A Chance and Bronte.
J Mascis – Several Shades of Why
Several Shades of Why - J Mascis’ first acoustic album - had reportedly been a long time in the making, with the folk over at Sub-Pop had been trying to get this out for 10 years. However, it seems every ounce of their persistence has been validated because Several Shades of Why is a sublime journey into the fertile and creative landscape of Mascis’ creative vision.
This wholesome collection of tunes are a blend of folky, punchy, mournful and charming ditties that are perfected with Mascis’ broken vocals. They’re so friendly and familiar that you could be forgiven for thinking he’s sitting in the living room pening the songs for the first time.
Listen To Me and Is It Done feature Mascis’ laconic and unflustered vocal delivery floating atop of some delightful undistorted fretwork, while the title track and slowburner Can I are simply beautiful. Several Shades of Why is proof that Mascis is more than distorted guitar and catchy riffs.
Rounding out the Top 10 for the year – again in no particular order – are the following titles:
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Self-titled
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks – Mirror Traffic
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
Bon Iver – Self-titled
Jebediah – Kosciuszko
Camille – Ilo Veyou
The Jezabels – Prisoner
Gareth Liddard – Strange Tourist
Floating Me – Self-titled
The Antlers – Burst Apart