To Die By Your Side

My Favourite Albums of 2011

December 23rd, 2011

Okay, so before we go any further, I have to confess to making a little mistake. A miscalculation shall we say. For previously, where I said that this list consisted of 13 albums, it appears I counted wrong because there are actually 14. Clearly my maths skills aren’t what they used to be. Not that it makes much difference. These are still my favourite albums of 2011. So without further ado, I present to you, in alphabetical order, the 14 albums that stood out for me over the last 12 months.

Beirut – ‘The Rip Tide : In making an album less stylised than his previous releases, it’s possible that Beirut’s Zach Condon may well have made his most personal sounding record yet. By not being bound to a specific sound and style, the songs shine on their own terms. It sounds free from self imposed constraints and for my money, this is Beirut’s best album so far.

Santa Fe (live session version)

DJ Shadow – ‘The Less You Know The Better : Pitched somewhere between ‘Endtroducing’ and ‘The Private Press’, DJ Shadow returned with an album that may not have redefined hip hop in the way his debut did but one that had the coherence and flow that has been lacking since. With his eye firmly back on the ball and his ear on some great samples, ‘The Less You know, The Better’ was an unexpected surprise. One full of energy, wit and great tunes.

Dum Dum Girls – ‘Only In Dreams : With less emphasis on the Spector style Wall Of Sound, ‘Only In Dreams’ found the Dum Dum Girls making a far more individual record than I was expecting. Clearly growing in confidence and stretching their songwriting beyond the stylised limits of their debut, they struck a good balance between smother production, grander songs and enough fuzz and lo-fi distortion to retain their character.

Fleet Foxes – ‘Helplessness Blues : Okay, so it’s not as good as their debut but then few records are. Initially a tad disappointing, this album grew and grew and grew on me, building on the foundations the band had already laid. Filled with delicious harmonies, gorgeous melodies and some classic, if slightly less enigmatic songwriting, Fleet Foxes may not have reinvented the wheel but frankly, with a sound like this, they didn’t need to.

Battery Kinzie (live session version)

Girls – ‘Father, Son, Holy Ghost : If the idea of The Beach Boys jamming with Teenage Fanclub and Sonic Youth gets you salivating at the mouth, wait ’til you here this. Listening to this, you can’t help feel that mixing 60s guitar pop with mid 90s alt rock might just be the best idea ever. This album saw Girls taking about a million steps on from their last record in terms of everything. This is one of those albums that just sounds flawless from start to finish.

Honey Bunny (live session version)

The Kills – ‘Blood Pressures : If I’m honest, I was a little non plussed about this album to begin with. Yet something about it kept chipping away at me until it just sort of clicked. Listening to it now, I can’t understand what took so long as it’s probably their best and most consistent record since the debut album. Certainly it sees The Kills pull off a neat trick of stretching their grimy blues rock in a couple of  new directions without ever diluting their sound.

Pots And Pans (live acoustic session version)

Laura Marling – ‘A Creature I Don’t Know : Quite simply a lushly delicious record. One that saw Laura Marling maturing in sound and stature. This record pretty much saw here outgrow the folk tag with jazzy flourishes, a noisy almost rocker and some of the finest songwriting of the year. Frankly this record gets better with every play and never fails to reveal something new each time. That she’s only 21 is both astonishing in what she’s produced here and in what might well be to come.

Night After Night (live acoustic session version)

PJ Harvey – ‘Let England Shake : Considering how many words have already been written about this record, I’m not sure there’s much more to say about this record other than everything you’ve already read is true and it more than deserves the many awards it’s won. A brave, frank and honest look at wars past, present and undoubtedly future, ‘Let England Shake’ never shies away nor glorifies it’s subject, yet it’s most impressive feat is in being a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

The Words That Maketh Murder (live session version)

Radiohead – ‘The King of Limbs : It may be one of Radiohead’s least immediate albums yet it is also one of their most consistent, enjoyable and rewarding. Never ones to do what the fans expect, this album arrived amidst a flurry of online here-say and theories. While anyone looking for guitars was always destined to be disappointed, in truth ‘The King Of Limbs’ isn’t as difficult or obtuse as some would have you believe. For beneath the shuffling, jittering beats and electronic trickery lie some classic Radiohead songs.

Feral (live From The Basement version)

Ryan Adams – ‘Ashes & Fire : It’s only when you hear this album that you realise how mediocre Ryan Adams’ recent output has been. This album saw him firmly regain his  quality control and finally release an album worthy of his talents. It’s a focused, coherent, low key set of songs that saw him return to what he does best. Forget all that time spent rocking out with a band, this is Ryan at his heartbreaking, soulful best.

Invisible Riverside (live acoustic session version)

Thurston Moore – ‘Demolished Thoughts : In what may not go down as his best year on a personal level, 2011 saw Thurston Moore strip back the feedback and squalling guitars and produce my favourite of his solo records. With Beck at the helm, the acoustic nature of this record compliments the calm hush of Moore’s voice with the songs filled out by understated strings, flourishes of instrumentation and controlled moments of wild abandon.

Mina Loy (live acoustic session version)

The Vaccines – ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? : I wanted to hate this album. In fact, I hated this band before I’d even heard them. The amount of press drooling and sycophantic hype setting them up as the year’s next big thing just about set them up as targets ready to fail. Luckily, the band had the songs and the self awareness to counteract the inevitable backlash. From the album’s knowingly tongue in cheek title to the infectious punky, Pixies-esque energy and raw abandon, ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines’ proved that every so often, that much press is justified.

Wreckin Bar (live session version)

Veronica Falls – ‘Veronica Falls : This album couldn’t be more indie if it tried and I love it. Great songs, low-fi production, a bookish nature, lovely boy-girl harmonies and a sound somewhere between The Velvet Underground and Belle & Sebastian, the 12 songs here are simply wonderful.

Stephen (live acoustic session version)

Young The Giant – ‘Young The Giant : Normally you can guarantee  that any band Morrissey recommends are the aural equivalent of huge steaming pile of shite. Young The Giant are the exception to that rule. With stand out single ‘My Body’ being the only obvious hit, this is an album in the truest sense. One that needs and deserves to be heard as a whole. It’s a collection of songs that burrow their way under your skin. Rich with soulful, yearning vocals and tight performances from the band, ‘Young The Giant’ has lost classic written all over it.

I Got (live acoustic session version)

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Filed Under Album Reviews, Music

Rach posted the following on December 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm.

I have an odd number as well! 🙂 love the list! Some definite surprises on here.

josh posted the following on December 24, 2011 at 3:26 am.

I love it all except you left off Ben Howard’s Every Kingdom. Other than that…perfection 😉

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