To Die By Your Side

Not quite my favourite albums of 2011

December 17th, 2011

Well it’s taken me a while but I think I’ve finally narrowed down my favourite albums of 2011 to a selection of 13. As ever, I’ll throw in the caveat that I make no claims for them being ‘the best’. It’s merely a list of the albums that I’ve enjoyed the most this year. Not that I’m going to reveal them just yet. You’ll have to wait a little longer to discover what made the cut I’m afraid. However if you keep reading, you’ll see what didn’t quite make the cut because this post is about 35 albums that were considered for inclusion but which, for one reason or another, didn’t quite make it.

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I forget that I know

November 14th, 2011

So this morning, I thought I’d share a track from the latest Wilco album with you. For no other reason than I really like this version of ‘Dawned On Me’. In fact, bar one track which I can’t decide on, I really like ‘The Whole Love‘. It’s an album that seems to find the band finding a nice middle ground between the experimentation of their mid period and the crafted songwriting of the last two albums. Bookended by two standout tracks, the album does suffer from a mid section thats seems to drag in comparison to how it starts and ends but in all honesty, that’s a minor quibble on what is a highly enjoyable album. It’s a record that finds Wilco in a comfortable position. While I wouldn’t say they were anywhere near running on auto pilot, you do kind of get the impression that Wilco can knock albums like this out effortlessly. It’s as though they’ve almost become so proficient at what they do that they’ve kind of become a slick songwriting machine.

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Keep on chasing down that rainbow

November 5th, 2011

So seeing as he’s featured in my most listened artists for the last few weeks, I thought I’d say a little bit more about Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds. Not that I’m under any impression that anything I write will change the opinion you already have. If you hated Oasis, you’re unlikely to have a road to Damascus moment here. While if you liked Oasis, it’s almost certain that you’ll enjoy this record. You see, Noel Gallagher hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel here. There are no wild shocks, no unexpected musical tangents taken, no dubstep mid eights. What there are however, are 10 good, solidly reliable songs and sometimes, that’s all you need from an album.

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It’s all slipping through your hands

October 8th, 2011

Despite being a huge fan of Suede, I’ve never really bothered that much with Brett Anderson‘s solo stuff. Which means I’m not best placed to tell you how ‘Black Rainbows‘ fits into that part of his career. What I can tell you, is that it’s a damn fine record, if you can take it on it’s own merits. Despite being touted as a return to the indie rock sound that he’s best known for, I think that’s a tad misleading. Especially considering he’s spent the last year or so playing gigs with a reformed Suede. To me, that statement suggests this album is riding on the coattails of that momentum and you’d be forgiven for expecting a glammed up bunch of arse whipping songs to come careering out of the speaker. What you get instead are 10 bittersweet indie songs that slowly unfurl to reveal an artist no longer trying neither to match up to nor run away from his past.

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There’s something else

September 3rd, 2011

I can’t remember if I wrote about them at the time but I first came across Airship when they supported Frightened Rabbit last year. While they didn’t blow the Scottish boys off stage, they were certainly impressive. In fact, they were probably the best support act I’ve seen in a while. So good that I sought out their debut EP and while it was quite a bit slicker than their live show, it certainly hinted at good things to come. Since then, they kind of fell off my radar and if I’m honest, I’d pretty much forgotten about them. Until now.

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Know that it won’t go

August 28th, 2011

Seeing as I’ve mentioned them in the last two posts, I reckon I ought to at least say a few more words about Male Bonding and their new album ‘Endless Now‘. Especially as it’s been on fairly high rotation since I got it. So here we go. Clocking in at just 36 minutes, ‘Endless Now’ is a zippy blast of fuzzy, scuzzy rock that’s owes as much to the early 90s alt rock sound as it does to the punks of the late 70s. Yet while their page on Sub-Pop’s site describes them as noise rock, I think that’s some way off the truth. To me, that suggests an impenetrable racket where in truth, beneath the buzzsaw guitar and lo-fi production, there are some great melodies and pop hooks at play. Not to mention the fact that the vocals have a dreamlike shoe-gaze haze to them which just makes the whole thing far more palatable than anything you could describe as noise rock.

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Light to dark can shift in an instant

August 7th, 2011

It occurred to me the other day that I hadn’t written anything about Bright Eyes‘ 2011 release, ‘The People’s Key‘. Don’t worry, that wasn’t a comment on the record’s quality. It’s more of an oversight on my part as it has been a record that I’ve found myself coming back to pretty regularly. In fact it’s probably the best thing Conor Oberst has been involved with since the double whammy of ‘Digital Ash in a Digital Urn‘ and ‘I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning‘. As much as I enjoyed ‘Cassadaga‘, it felt a bit too serious, mature and dare I say it, countrified. His solo efforts meanwhile, were okay but nothing more. They lacked anything that really stood out. Conor seemed to have calmed down and I think I always prefer him when he’s on the verge of spittting the lyrics out with that petulant anger of his earlier work. There seemed to be too much slide guitar and not enough frustrated rage. As for Monsters Of Folk, well, despite several attempts I don’t think I ever got much further than half way through that record. I think it’s fair to say that, like a bad meal, it just didn’t agree with me. So for me, ‘The People’s Key’ signals some kind of return to what I want from Bright Eyes.

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You offer no reason

July 22nd, 2011

In the last post I mentioned that I’d been listening a lot to She Keeps Bees so I thought I’d write a little bit more about them. Now while I’d not heard of them before, it turns out they’ve been around for a few years and indeed, ‘Dig On‘ is their third album. Obviously not having heard them before I can’t really say how this album fits with their back catalogue but taken on it’s own merits, it’s a great but minimal blues rock album. Due to the boy-girl duo dynamic of the band and their basic drum-guitar sound, it would be easy to draw comparisons with bands like The White Stripes and The Kills. However while there are similarities, those weren’t the first bands I thought of. As I said last time, early Cat Power springs to mind with a little bit of Sleater Kinney thrown in for good measure.

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Who said I would not understand?

July 10th, 2011

I started off not thinking very much about The Vaccines‘ debut album. I don’t know if it was a reaction to the tremendous hype that surrounded it’s release but I gave it one listen and pretty much consigned it to the pile marked unremarkable. The strange thing is though that it’s managed to worm it’s way into a pretty heavy rotation. What initially seemed like a pleasant but unremarkable bunch of short indie songs has managed to creep up on me and sound like a damn fine bunch of short indie songs. I mean sure, if you’re looking for the saviours of rock and roll, chances are you’re going to be disappointed. There’s nothing particularly new or innovative at work here. Yet this set of songs are far superior to the landfill lad rock that passes for modern British indie music.

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Life is just a flame

June 4th, 2011

I mentioned in my last post that I was really enjoying the new Thurston Moore album. More so with each listen. So I thought I’d post a couple of session version of songs that are on it. The album is a pretty understated acoustic affair but don’t worry because Thurston hasn’t exactly gone folk. Nor has his sound really changed that much from the day job of Sonic Youth. Rather, this album sounds how latter day Sonic Youth would sound if they didn’t bother plugging their instruments in.

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