Albums of the Year

December 19th, 2011

It’s the time of year where I habitually start making a list of my favourite albums of the year. Closely followed by other random lists, because everything is better when it is in a list.

I started thinking about this list a few months ago and had come to the conclusion that I probably wouldn’t be able to get together a list of 10 albums that I would really recommend to other people. I’m not quite sure why I’d come to that conclusion as looking back this year has been yet another really good one for music.

I think I end up saying this every year but I think we are living through a bit of a golden age for music. Social networks allow us much greater opportunities to have things recommended to us and bands can get much more direct access to an audience. I know this year places like Bandcamp have had a big impact on the way I buy music. Actually this is the year where I reckon about 80% of my music has been purchased electronically so that says something. Mainly that I don’t have to increase shelves at the same rate.

One thing that has popped out at me is that I’ve been listening to much more folk music. This might be an unavoidable consequence of aging or it might be an improvement in folk music. I have a feeling it is likely to the former.

So here we go. My top 10 albums of the year. [edit] I should have mentioned that they are in some sort of order and count down from 10 to 1. I could have just edited this and added numbers but….[/edit]

John Grant – Queen of Denmark
The best way to find out about an album is someone texting you out of the blue and telling you about it. Though this only works if the album is good. If it isn’t we just all agree to not talk about it. This one is very good. The best way to sum it up is it sounds a bit like Midlake. I really like Midlake because they sound a bit like Fleetwood Mac. Weirdly I don’t really like Fleetwood Mac, I have no idea how this works.

Dissolved – Snowy Psychoplasmics
Through a deal I don’t want to talk about I’ve had access to all of the Daddy Tank Records releases over the last year or so. When I was given this I was explicitly told I wouldn’t like it. I haven’t added this to my list just to be awkward though I have a feeling that not many people would be surprised if I did. I’ve added this because I stopped listening to electronic music years ago and this changed my mind.

tUne-yArDs – Who Kills
What I still don’t quite understand how someone could sit down and think that any element of this album would work. In my mind “world music” has a really bad reputation. When people say world music it conjours up images of earnest yet insincere harmonies and irritating drumming. This album has nothing to do with world music but I always have niggling feeling that it could veer in that directions at any moment, it doesn’t. This the most inventive thing I have heard in many many years.

Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
I do make a habit of going through the Pitchfork reviews as more often than not they make me buy something that I’m really grateful for. This is an excellent example. I know nothing about them other than the fact that they’re not scared to throw in a guitar solo every now and then.

The King Blues – Punk & Poetry
Do you remember when the country was on fire and everyone wanted to listen to anarcho punk poetry with a hint of ukulele? Well I do. That sounds like the most atrocious combination of music that has ever been conceived but it isn’t. As far as I’m concerned no other band summed up the sentiment of the summer like The King Blues did. They are also really really angry, this is best demonstrated in their song We Are Fucking Angry.

St Vincent – Strange Mercy
Another Pitchfork recommendation. I initially bought it gave it a listen and thought I wouldn’t bother again. Then on a train journey I noticed it and decided to give it another go. This album is great. This would be what Goldfrapp were like if they were good. I don’t have anything in particular against Goldfrapp but their peculiar brand of bland means nobody has much more than a passing interest in them.

Many of the songs on this album sound very much of the Goldfrapp mould but then go offf in a crazy direction, I love them just for that.

Iron and Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
I’ve been reliably told that Iron and Wine are proper folk music. They don’t sound like it to me. They sound about as far from folk music as it is safe to be. This is a great album and I have no idea who to compare it to.

Battles – Gloss Drop
I love Battles. I loved Battles before I even knew who they were. They did the music to one of the levels on Little Big Planet and I’d always wondered who they were. It was @shymmetry mentioning them in Twitter that made me speculatively buy their fist album and discover it was a band I had been looking for. This new album isn’t that much of a departure from the first but  is a departure from everything else you’ve ever heard before. Unless you listened to King Crimson in the 80s. They do sound quite a bit like King Crimson but that’s not a bad thing is it?

This is also the band I most regret not getting to see this year.

Eddie Vedder – Ukulele Songs
I’ve been properly playing the ukulele now for nearly two years with Moselele. It’s strange that something that started off as an attempt to do ironic covers on an unusual(ish) instrument has now become and interest. Having said that it is the ukulele that made me aware of this album but it’s the quality of the songs that have made me listen to it as much as I have. I don’t really know Pearl Jam and wouldn’t say I’m great fan of them but this does give some insight into how some of their songs are written. Strangely I’m too lazy to bother to find out whether the songs on here are actual Pearl Jam songs or are just for the this album. At a guess, I reckon it’s a mixture.

This album does sound folky, well it would, it’s a man strumming a long on a tiny guitar.

White Denim – D
White Denim seem to have been round for a while and unusually I bought this based on hearing them on 6 Music. I haven’t really listened to 6 Music a lot recently so tend to get less stuff recommended to me through them. White Denim have definitely got a modern Lynyrd Skynyrd about them, yes I do realise that will put pretty well everyone off listening to them.

They differ from Lynyrd Skynyrd in that:-

1) They’re not dead
2) They are very musically diverse
3) They sound nothing like Lynyrd Skynyrd

So there you go. Not a hell of a lot between any of them.

If you want a taste from most of them then here is YouTube playlist with one song from all except Dissolved.



Posted in Music | Comments (3)

3 Responses to “Albums of the Year”

  1. Shimmetry Says:

    Great list Daz, Tune-Yards and White Denim are both in my top 5 this year, intensely
    stimulating listens. You get the world first of spelling my user name incorrectly. Did I tell you I saw Battles 3 times this year? They were Crimazing.

  2. Kim Says:

    It wasn’t a deal to be ashamed of Daz. You dance beautifully.

  3. Daz Wright » Blog Archive » 2012 – My Year in Albums Says:

    […] my commitment to keeping this blog updated. A quick glance at the dashboard shows that, since my Albums of the Year 2011 post I’ve only managed to write seven updates, and none since […]

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