Monthly Archives: December 2011

Album of the Year, 2011 – Number Two

02. Björk – Biophilia (One Little Indian)

It's the insane one!

And it’s time to bring in ‘mad as a hatter on mind-bending drugs’ Björk and her latest, crazy offering in the year’s best of. Incidentally, this is also Björk’s highest outing since I started the charts (her previous best was third in 2001).

I distinctly remember commenting on an update by that man, Steve Duffy, when he mentioned listening to this and I said I was struggling with it. I was still struggling a few weeks later and this album has climbed, albeit slowly, from way down in the low 70s (the bottom end of the top 30) up to number two. I’m not sure she ever had enough in her to take the top spot but this album is a prime example of the importance of properly listening to music. And yes, whilst getting on my own high horse I am also aware I am guilty of this too (Tom Waits would have never won in 2002 had I given Lambchop and Is a Woman, the listens it deserved, the latter being one of my top five albums of all time).

But hey, Björk is a character, equally adept at providing us with masterpieces as well as utter tosh and listening to this album just reminded me of my students’ adverse reaction to her at the summer camp I was teaching at, showing she doesn’t appeal to the youf of today.

She’s been influential, provocative, naive, mental, aggressive and downright complicated over these last 25 years or so (yes, her first release was in 1977) and I’ve been bemused, entranced, and downright nonplussed by her in that time.

Tell you what though, she’s never dull!

[editor’s note – Maddoc thinks she’s terrible and Audrey loves her]

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Album of the Year, 2011 – Number Three

03. My Brightest Diamond – All Things Will Unwind (Asthmatic Kitty)

The mighty Sara Worden!

Shara Worden strikes again and anyone who knew she had released an album this year should really have been expecting her rather high up in the list. My Brightest Diamond is one of my most played artists since I started my whole Last.fm scrobbling saga (number six in the total played) and she’s had rather an impact on me, for her style, voice and wonderful, quirky lyrics. I’m quite sure a few of you have heard her but I’m also quite sure that many of you haven’t and it’s about time you did (you get a track here but also another on the best of for 2011).

Shara has that delectable mix of jazz, classical and pop/indie that I love and even though I said that Wild Beasts and Other Lives could have been in this position, to be honest this is where it belongs, it’s not good enough for either of the top two positions but holds its own against the aforementioned two.

So enjoy My Brightest Diamond and get ready for number two, coming soon!


Album of the Year, 2011 – Number Four

04. Wild Beasts – Smother (Domino)

A week ago it was number two in the chart and looking solid for that postion. The race intensified, the listening likewise and down it dropped. As with Other Lives, I could just as well imagine this as number three but I went with my gut hoping that my guts don’t have ‘shit for brains’.

Been reading today that this has been commented on by several reviewers as a likely candidate for album of 2011 and obviously I can see where they are coming from. This was one of Ian Stackhouse’s biggest follies, having them much lower than they deserved and I put that down to a possibility that he was not listening to them as much as he should. The album is arguably the most exciting and inspirational of 2011, and much as I try and convince myself that one of the lead singers’ voice is irritating I just keep on listening, keep on getting impressed.

This one will remain a classic for many years – get out and buy it people!

Number three is announced tomorrow and begins an unprecedented final three…


Album of the Year, 2011 – Number Five

05. Other Lives – Tamer Animals (TBD Records)

The first time I have had the privilege of listening to this band (it being their second release) and I was very quickly blown away by the sheer quality and majesty of it. I have already heard favourable comparisons with Fleet Foxes, which, although I can understand, I struggle to agree with. I have had a hard time getting my head around what is so good about the Foxes but not so these guys.

There’s a Floyd influence at work, which I love, (even picked up on by the wife) and although the album is only forty minutes long, it’s a very worthwhile and engaging forty, covering all the usual suspects with aplomb.

Tamer Animals, could have easily finished the year at number three, such was the difficulty in choosing between this and the next two up. Time will tell if I made the right decision, yet a decision had to be made.

Coming soon, number four…


Album of the Year 2011 – 10-06…The End is Nigh

And now we take it up a notch, with pretty much the hardest decision I usually have to make. This being which five albums make it through to the top five and which leave the race now. This year has been exceptionally difficult, as even though getting twenty albums together for the year’s best was difficult, the ten in here of a top class. But, as mentioned before, decisions have to be made and I’ve made mine here:

10. The Dodos – No Color (Frenchkiss)

One that will no doubt surprise Per Ericsson, as it’s one of his type of bands (American High School Music) and one that I don’t need to introduce to Ian Stackhouse, rather knock him around a little for having it much lower in his twenty of the year, yet for the rest of you these may well be new to you all.

The first time in a chart of mine and punchy drum beats got me from the off. If the album would have maintained the quality found in the last two tracks this one could have made it all the way to the top five. As it stands it is in a very lofty position at ten, much higher than it has been in any of the best ofs I’ve read so far. Maybe I’ve got a soft spot for this one, maybe it’s because I’ve been listening to it on and off since February this year, or maybe it’s just a top-notch album.

Have a listen and see what you think.

09. Radiohead – King of Limbs (XL Recordings/Playground)

Time for the first of a few of my traditionals in the top ten, showing another year of mixing between the old and the new, showing my loyalty to bands that are already established in my music spheres, whilst also listening to the new kids on the block (no reference to Marky Mark intended there).

Early contender for album of the year, with me getting it in March, before noticing a few cracks, not enough to keep it out of the top ten but enough to nudge it out of the top five. High points are that Radiohead are always engaging, always interesting, always hard to ignore. The album has several of their ‘classic’ tunes in Morning Mr. Magpie, Lotus Flower and Codex, but struggles a little for me with its shortness (I know they like their short albums) and staying power of one or two tracks.

Still it’s Radiohead and those who know me know how much respect I have for the band.

08. Tom Waits – Bad as Me (Anti)

A couple of twitterings have already predicted Tom at number one for me and I have to be honest and say there was never any danger of that happening. Tom is my hero and everything he does is a masterwork (well almost everything) but he appears to be suffering from a lack of inspiration in that pretty much every track on this album can be traced back to one on one of his last three studio albums.

The man is a genius but even I have to admit that genius may well be waning. Number eight may well be Tom’s lowest position since I started the album of the year in 1996 further strengthening that idea.

07. Elbow – Build a Rocket Boys! (Fiction/Polydor)

Extremely disappointed with this one when I first heard and for another ten listens it didn’t get any better. Yet, like any other Elbow album, you have to give it a worthy listen before judging it too harshly. As the number of listens increased, so did the score and it kept on climbing until hitting its biggest position today at number seven.

It’s an interesting Elbow album but yet has much to give and is easily better than their less impressive albums. It’s not up to the dizzy heights of their masterpieces but sits very solidly in the discography as a stand out album.

06. Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix (Island)

This album dropped out of the top five for the first time today, due to me giving really solid listens to two others in contention and finding them stronger albums. That this one was in the top three for most of the year is testament to how highly I respect this band and what they are up to. They are a class act and mixing the quality songs with that classic indie pop sound is no mean feat and these guys achieve it with aplomb!

Look out tomorrow for number five of 2011.


And then there were ten…Albums 15-11

I decided to take the first five of the fifteen in one go and will be naming numbers ten to six on Boxing Day too, before giving you the top five, day by day, finishing with the best album of 2011 on New Year’s Eve.

Although it ‘s hard to say goodbye to these five already, decisions have to be made and better albums have to take their place in the higher spots. I give you albums 15-11.

15. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions)

Punchy and harsh, this one, a very interesting album from a very interesting lady. I found it quite difficult in the beginning but it is a grower and several tracks are real classics.

14. John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves (Upset the Rhythm)

This is one of those albums that just jumps out at you. A little reminiscent of the Martin Grech début a few years ago it’s got a style that forces you to listen and make sense of the chaos it delivers. Needs listening to when you have the time to appreciate it.

13. J Mascis – Several Shades of Why (Sub Pop)

Of course those familiar with Dinosaur Jr, know that their former lead singer, J Mascis, has a cracking voice. However, like me, they may not have been expecting such a wonderful acoustic album. This one’s a keeper!

12. Deadmau5 – 4×4=12 (Ultra Music)

Definitely not my usual fare and I surprised myself by placing it so high. It’s a powerhouse of an album with block rockin’ beats and some cool electronica to boot. I’m impressed it made it this high, whilst Maddoc will be gutted to find that his number one album of the year ranks so low for me…

11. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Mute)

I was expecting a great album, as I’ve been impressed with the earlier releases but I’m not so sure I was expecting it to be this high in the ranking, just missing out on the top ten…

M83’s albums are like soundtracks for dreams and this one went one stage further and gave us the dreams in the concept and title. Nice one that man!

Have a lovely Christmas and look out for the next instalment on Boxing Day!


The Last Fifteen: Almost

It’s whittling down now and instead of being able to wow you with the best twenty albums of the year, it will only be fifteen. Fear not pop pickers, as these fifteen are rather fine and should make up for the missing five!

But that’s all coming soon of course, as first up are the last albums to be removed from the list. As I know there’s more than a few of you that are interested I thought I’d just go ahead and list them all, just so you can see where your favourites ended up…ha ha…only joking…for of course your favourites are in my top fifteen!

Fine albums but not mustard cutters:

One of the better albums that didn't make the cut: TV on the Radio and Nine Types of Light

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead: Tao of the Dead

Asobi Seksu: Fluorescence

Austra: Feel it Break

Beirut: The Rip Tide

Bon Iver: Bon Iver

Cage the Elephant: Thank you, Happy Birthday

David Lynch: Crazy Clown Time

Deerhoof: Deerhoof vs. Evil

Florence and the Machine: Ceremonials

Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact

Gomez: Whatever’s On Your Mind

Julianna Barwick: The Magic Place

Kate Bush: Fifty Words for Snow

Laura Marling: A Creature I Don’t Know

Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes

Marianne Faithfull: Horses and High Heels

Patrick Wolf: Lupercalia (winner in 2005)

Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What

PJ Harvey: Let England Shake

Stina Stjern: Days Like Waves

The Decemberists: The King is Dead

The Horrors: Skying

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: Belong

The Antlers: Burst Apart

Thrice: Major Minor

Toro Y Moi: Underneath The Pine

TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light

Wire: Red Barked Tree

Yuck: Yuck

Look out for the fifteen very soon!


Some weekends are better than others

And so what was so great about this weekend, especially seeing as I’m writing one of my rare posts about it?

Well the whole thing started as early as Friday night, when a group of friends came around for our monthly board game evening, resulting in a cracking game of Zombies!!!. I didn’t win but even that wasn’t enough to take away from the fact that it was a well played game (by all) with a nice mixture of chat and gameplay.

Not looking too bright for our zombie friend...

Friday was unsurprisingly followed by Saturday and a lovely evening at close friends, where I was served a scrumptious traditional English Christmas dinner. I’m still actually struggling to remember when I had a Christmas dinner in this way but I’ll come back to you on that (probably)!

The same evening involved meaty discussions and a viewing of the Only Fools and Horses Christmas special from the first series…triffic!

Triffic!

Sunday was buying the Christmas tree with the boy before the four of us decorated it and had some Christmas goodies before the kids went to bed and I watched some football.

Ours looks like this one

There was also some exam marking too but we’ll keep quiet about that eh?

So, what were you lot up to?


Album of the Year – 2011: The ‘rejects’

Rejected

I’m not sure I should be saying this, as it’s rather a harsh word for merely describing music that’s not my taste or not my thing…although, wait a minute, that means it is a reject, that it’s not good enough – for my music matters of course. Any reading this now might have different opinions/favourites and you’re entitled to them. If they’re not the same as mine though, they’re wrong – interesting to read but ultimately wrong…Oh you’re glad I’m back, I can tell…

Let’s start with a couple of obvious ones, that is albums that aren’t allowed in the chart, due to them being best ofs or discographies (a rule set up long ago) and in this small list we have Ladytron’s Best Of 00-10, which has actually had a bit of airtime this year. I’m not their biggest fan but this is a good album with some obvious foot-tappers in there.

Next up was an album that should really have been titled ‘The Worst Of’ rather than Director’s Cut, by otherwise rather talented artist, Kate Bush. Seeing as she also released another album this year, this one seems ill-timed. Even with the news that she was finally given permission to use lines from James Joyce’s Ulysses, she still manages to work seven songs and turn them into a kind of George Lucas project…rubbish I tells ya!

Iron Maiden’s From Fear to Eternity, and Amanda Palmer’s Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under, have also been played quite a bit but ultimately the live album is an issue for me too (see above).

Time to upset the locals now with some obvious albums (for them) that were not worth any kind of sustained listening as they just failed to hold my attention. They are: British Sea Power with Valhalla Dancehall, R.E.M. and Collapse into Now, for they are tosh when all is said and done, The Strokes with Angles, and The Low Anthem and Smart Flesh.

Now I’ve destroyed a few Christmases, I’d better move onto those that I either had no expectations of, or that I was quite sure I wouldn’t like anyway but wanted to keep an open mind with as long as I could. In this list are: Adele and 21, (told you), DJ Quik with The Book of David, Destroyer and Kaputt, Ice Age with New Brigade, Krallice and Diotima, (the last three a little trilogy of screaming vocalists). I wasn’t expecting much from Duran Duran’s All you Need is Now, but man that album is bloody awful.

Sorry to disappoint Andrew McKiernan but I did listen to the recommended Father, Son, Holy Ghost, by Girls and found it wanting. I can’t put my finger on it but one of my initial comments was ‘kitsch’.

And last, and maybe even least, comes: Liturgy with Aesthethica, and House of Balloons by The Weeknd.

Next up will be those not making it to stage three (probably early next week).


Album of the Year – 2011: The Beginning

Image

No, that’s not one of mine but the pic seemed appropriate at my lack of being able to fully organise my  album of they year charts for this year yet. Today I got my arse in gear and combined teaching administration with some good old listening and managed to confirm the eighteen albums that I would be leaving out of consideration for the year’s best album.

That leaves thirty six (at the moment) in the 70-79 category and four in both the 80-89 and 90-100 sections, so forty four albums left in the running – which is way below the usual Christmas run-in.

It might make life easier in sorting them out but makes me realise just how much I’ve missed this year and how much I need to prioritise this next year. It’s not about time, it’s about prioritising that time.

Life without music is a lot harder than with: it helps me think, work, cuts my stress and gives me a sense of well-being that a lot of other things don’t.

And so I’m off! Hopefully with news of what was given the boot later on today.

Stay tuned music peeps!