Please forgive this wilful seasonal predictability, but I’m on a mission to give a shout to my Top Ten Albums of 2011. Yes, I know there are a thousand and one top tens in the culture mag & tabs this time of year. I will deviate slightly from the norm in that I don’t have ten and I’m not rating them. Playing albums is no game of chance. They need to fit the moment and the mood, and more importantly be to hand when you need them. Far more has been than will be in my attentive lifetime so I’m sure I have played more old music than I have recent. But despite the constant callings of Bob, Pink, Neil & Jimi there has been plenty to rock the lobes.
So, marching on, in no particular order, here’s my favourite moments from 2011……………………..
REM – Collapse Into Now
The bands last studio album. I’ve been a fanboy of the band since seeing them on the Oxford Road Show singing So. Central Rain in 1984. It’s a little sad that they have stopped the box car rolling but I’m sure they will all produce more music worth following.
This is the best song from the album. A slow burner with a beautiful Stipe vocal.
Peter Gabriel – New Blood
The ‘Scratch My Back’ & ‘New Blood’ projects by PG both received some negative fan feedback. This was totally undeserved. PG has always stepped up to new plates and whether its other artists songs or revisits of his own he has such a stunning and emotive voice, and talent for song writing, that you can’t ignore his output. I saw the 3D show of the ‘New Blood’ performance and it raised some neck hair. I hope we get the promised ‘I’ll Scratch Yours’ album with some great covers of PG’s songs by the great & the good. Lou Reeds ‘Solsbury Hill’ is a great start.
Here’s a brilliant song from the Jools Holland show…
J Mascis – Several Shades of Why
The best guitarist in world. Don’t argue, it’s true. His first properly named solo album (except the Amma record & ‘Martin and Me’) and a real doozie. Great songs, amazing playing. I had a ticket to see J & the Fog but it was cancelled. There aren’t enough people who appreciate this man. Pay attention to this…
I Break Horses – Hearts
Getting close to my favourite album. Maria & Fredrik from Sweden released their debut album on Bella Union mid year. Its an absolute joy of stargazzy electropop and ambience. I hope they do a more pronounced tour of the UK in 2012.
Lanterns On The Lake – Gracious Tide, Take Me Home
Another Bella Union band but this time from Newcastle. I saw them in the Bodega and had to buy the album. Looking forward to more from them in the future.
Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow
As a male person of a certain age and socio/cultural background I am born’n’breed to give Kate my attention. Having watched ‘Wuthering Heights’ on TOTP back in my youth I’ll twitch to all new notes she drops. ‘Directors Cut’ was good and the new version of ‘The Red Shoes’ was worth the purchase, but to have a new-new album so soon after was a big surprise. It’s such an amazing album with incredible side shows and a stunning main act. Elton’s contribution has to be his best vocal in years and Stephen Fry’s alliteration and verbosity is engrossing and clever. Above all, Kate singing about her dreaming of humping a snowman and waking up with wet sheets & the snow flake animism of the opening song are worth the buy in.
This is a fan video of the song ‘Snowed In At Wheeler Street’.A great effort by someone who cares.
Tom Waits – Bad Like Me
Anything that Tom puts out is worth some time. 8 years since the ‘Mule Variations’ with ‘Orphans’ & ‘Glitter & Doom’ inbetween. A brilliant studio album with some of the best musicians playing along. The duet with Keef and the excellent Marc Ribot on guitar. Tom stays at the top of my bucket list of artists to see.
One of the best lyricists writting words like “what sounded like fireworks turned out to be just what it was…” No one else comes close to Tom.
David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time
There is so little to say about this. David Lynch is simply an artist who is in the enviable position od doing pretty much what he wants. Make a movie on betamax, open a night club, have prom party. ‘Crazy Clown Time’ is completly original, a little bit funny and totally scary. It’s jostling for No1 on here and is mental enough to get the top slot.
If you didnt know, DL is into TM. That probably has something to do with this. Listen carefully for the link between happiness and good dental hygiene.
John Martyn – Heaven & Earth
John’s postumous album. Part complete when he moved on and completed by friends. It’s not quiet there with is great albums but it has a wonderful mumbling beauty that no one else could ever achieve. I saw him live maybe half a dozen times and he was a uniquely talented artist. Phil Collins contribution is good and brings back memories of ‘Grace & Danger’.
Radiohead – King of Limbs
Predictable. Radiohead can do no wrong. I’ll buy thier extreme product versions for random amounts of money and indulge the albums, remixes, versions, YouTube specials etc etc. Because they are good, unlike Coldplop, U-aswell, Snowshovell etal.
Thom can’t even dance which is admirable…..
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
The second album by Justin Vernon owes a lot I think to Peter Gabriel. Really interesting production, a bit themeic/conceptual with some moments of elation amongst the angst. PG covered one of his songs on ‘Scratch’ and I hope he returns the favour on ‘Yours’.
JTP – Last of the Country Gentlemen
I guess he’s my No#1. I saw him live twice. It’s not the happiest record ever made. But there are so few other things it can be compared with. The playing is exemplary, the lyrics are so patently pawed over endlessly, the performance is dragged out from the bottom of a tainted soul. When he plays he breaks up the pain with blue jokes and prat falls, but nothing distracts from the huge talent that makes this happen. This is Josh T. Pearson on the shores of the Rivers of Babylon…..
So there you go.
My musical wishes for 2012 are …..
- Something new from David Bowie (please, please, please….)
- A Metal album from Josh T Pearson
- A tour from I Break Horses
- Finding the cash to see Tom Waits live if he plays ever…..
- A new Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds record
- An album from Liz Fraser
- The lost/last Sparklehorse album gets released
- X-Factor gets cancelled
Happy new ears tweeps……