Favourite albums of 2011

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15. Feb. 2012, 2:26

15. The Antlers - Burst Apart
14. The Black Keys - El Camino
13. Wild Beasts - Smother
12. Braids - Native Speaker
11. Radiohead - The King Of Limbs

10. Fucked Up - David Comes To Life

80 minutes of the most visceral hardcore punk, Fucked Up slap you on the face 17 times and then KO you with Lights Go Up, a simply amazing ending to an amazing album.

9. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

A collection of 12 fine songs. From beginning to last it demands your attention, thanks in part to a huge change in production and a more risky vocal performance by PJ.

8. Bill Callahan - Apocalypse

Bill Callahan's niche lies in making the most poetic lyrics sound ploddy - Baby's Breath for example contains amazing lyrics and a magical staircase-like acoustic guitar line, but Callahan keeps it firmly rooted in the normal and banal with his vocals. This is not a bad thing though - his delivery is often humorous, but can also capture aggression or anger without raising his voice. In actual fact it can often make things sound even more ethereal - take the closer One Fine Morning for example - his beautifully simple voice fits the beautifully simple guitars perfectly, allowing one to rise to bliss in a way that feels totally and utterly natural.

7. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

"I heard you on the radio; I couldn't help but smile". Fleet Foxes are a band who capture modern life so well - simple in appearance, yet so complex in themes and feel. Robin Pecknold has one of the most compelling voices in music today, able to make the most average of songs appear simply magical.

6. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy


Bjork lite? Maybe, but it's mesmerising to hear. Whereas indie rock often takes a step too close to the boring, St. Vincent is rarely nothing but fascinating, with instrumental frills and touches to make even the most devoted listener hear things anew on listen 10. It's a shame it comes to such a curious end - the comedown after the scintillating first 7-8 songs is just too short in my opinion, leaving it feeling out of breath.

5. Dum Dum Girls - Only In Dreams


Dum Dum Girls take a turn to the more serious when compared to I Will Be, with Dee Dee's voice being the main beneficiary - whereas before it was sexy and sassy, young and full of attitude, now it develops a real warmth, which really works with this batch of songs. Thematically it also takes a huge step forward - while I Will Be can be seen as the seduction, Only In Dreams is the difficult, the breaking-up, the loss of self, and the often slow drums and hazy guitars can even go so far as to give a shoegazy feel, as in the epic Coming Down.

4. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde


Beginning with the hugest earworm of the year in Weekend, Dye It Blonde is simply a supercharged set of anthemic songs. Do not be fooled into thinking they're cheap empty hits though - as can be seen with the (brilliant) last three songs, they're a band who can create atmosphere and emotion, and are something to look forward to in the future.

3. Destroyer - Kaputt


A sound which merges Brian Ferry with old greats like Dylan and Bowie, the jangly glitz of the world which Dan Bejar creates in 9 tracks is simply mesmerising, with hits of soft disco, jazz and the easy listening of 80s new wave. I find it difficult to even imagine such a mix in my head, but it really does work - with a little help from some magnificent drumming and a mysterious female voice, he pulls it off handsomely.

2. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost


Girls take a huge step from their last offering with Father, Son, Holy Ghost, with songs verging on 10 minutes, and a style which leaves all the songs feeling confused and half finished, yet utterly self-contained. The backbone of the album is of course in the middle, with the quartet from "My Ma" all the way to "Forgiveness" really stretching the listener with epics which sound like nothing the band's done before.

1. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo


Deeply personal, Kurt Vile develops a level of heart which is rarely seen anywhere. That he manages to make 5+ minute songs without the listener ever developing boredom is testament to his ability to really create feeling in his songs, despite its strange and reluctant sounds. From the slightly abrasive start with "Baby's Arms" to the wonderfully catchy "Jesus Fever", from the despair of "Peeping Tomboy" to the doozy confusion of "Ghost Town", Smoke Ring For My Halo is wonderfully sequenced with a level of consistency throughout its ten tracks that put it right up there with the best.

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