For a while I had the feeling that 2011 was going to be a poor year for new music, then a late rush made it better all of a sudden.
So, from a longlist of 20+ here’s the top 12.
12 Wild Flag – Wild Flag
A riot grrl supergroup ? Yes please. Girl group psychedelia with half-familiar classic rock riffs? Definitely.
11 Tamikrest – Toumastin
Heirs to Tinariwen they may be but I preferred the younger band’s 2011 album for its driving energy and tone.
10 St.Vincent – Strange Mercy
Eventually 2011 offered up a string of superficially similar albums by distinctive, eclectic gorgeous-voiced solo females. Kate Bush, Zola Jesus, Lykke Li all came close, but it was St.Vincent’s delicate pop moments amongst indie quirks that won me over.
9 Luke Haines – 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s & Early ’80s
Does exactly what it says on the tin. Haines encompasses the best of Mark E Smith and Jarvis Cocker thus surpassing both. His ex-bandmate Sarah Nixey also released an album this year but she couldn’t match this gem.
8 PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
PJ’s albums always initially disappoint because I still want that raw rage of Dry and Sheela-na-gig, but though this is subtler, and more emotionally varied, it grows and may at last match her early impact.
7 Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter -Marble Son
I’ve long been a fan of Sykes voice, on Marble Son she gave it a workout to match Phil Wandscher’s epic psych guitar wigouts. Loud, layered, nuanced, hypnotic rock.
6 JuJu – In Trance
Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara, one of the tightest, grooviest bands I’ve ever seen live, finally get it on record. African riffs delta blues-style, haunting layers of melody, extended workouts. Trance is the right word.
5 The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
What I like most about The King Is Dead is not that it sounds like classic REM, as lazy commentators have it, but that it sounds like so much more. The Jayhawks, Neil Young, Dylan, Josh Ritter for a second or two.
4 Josh T Pearson – Last Of The Country Gentlemen
Long, dark, brooding brutal & romantic. The most intense, personal, guilt-stained, but beautiful album you’ll hear in a long time.
3 King’s Daughters And Sons – If Not Then When
The best new discovery of 2011 by a mile. Another alt-rock supergroup, this one based around Rodan, Slint, Rachel’s etc, guaranteeing sweeping post-rock classicism, but stunning with amazing harmonies and vocal leads. It came out on ChemikalUnderground so maybe no surprise?
2 The Walkabouts – Travels in the Dustland
Six years away, Seattle’s finest drifted back into town on cinematic keyboards, spacious drums, warmly peripatetic guitars, some of the most truly relevant arrangements in americana, and as ever the rich voices of Chris and Carla. Nominally a concept album, the true concept seems to have grown with this band for over 25 years now.
1 The Twilight Singers – Dynamite Steps
“Spread your legs insert your alibi” Greg Dulli came back again with 11 big soul rockers. Never afraid of the darkest corners, Dulli comes clean “a kiss, a curse, the law.” and smoulders throughout, never quite a conflagration, dangerously never quite fading out.
So there you have it, music to rock to, dance to, cry to, travel to, and fuck to. 2011.
Honourable mentions not already noted Fatoumata Diawara, Sonny Rollins, Bella Hardy, Mary Hampton, Saint Jude, BCC, The Civil Wars, Mastodon, Fleet Foxes, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Cats Eyes.
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