"Art is not a thing; it is a way."

Elbert Hubbard

Monday, December 26, 2011

THE MUSIC OF 2011...20-11

'Wounded Rhymes'
Lykke Li

She’s a dynamo, riddled with angst and a backing track of drums so dense one can’t help but move when she enters the airwaves. She’s the continued example of Scandinavian pop and how that region’s music has developed from the hook-heavy days of 70s and 80s ABBA to something with considerable heft.

Black Joe Lewis And The Honeybears


Motown throwback, this Texas band brings a sincere and energetic honesty to this blues-soaked 2011 release. It’s as if Caleb Followill joined a big band and toned down his rock sensibilities and let the musicianship say as much as his boozey drawl. Joe Lewis combines that with his James Brown-esque vivacity to bring about one of the true toe-tappers of 2011.

When Saints Go Machine

The Danish electro-pop group arrive with their second studio album and deliver in absolute spades. It’s a perfect combination of folk-inspired electronic pop and the bizarre. Beautifully structured – it reminds of the sublime I Am A Bird Now by Antony And The Johnsons – it brings a real focus to the combination of the electronic beach-and steel-drum inspired sounds – Konkylieliterally translates as seashell – leaving the listener with a skip in the step that has significant heft. This is far from lightweight fare.

Young Galaxy

This moody album by the Canadian indie electronic-pop band brings to mind the synth-soaked eighties, the earnestness of nineties lyricism but with a completely modern sensibility. This is smart music that invokes a significant amount of support for the mantra that less is more. Good stuff.

'Diamond Mine'
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins

Stunningly beautiful, this collaboration between the Scot, Kenny Anderson, and the Englishman, Jon Hopkins, does wonders with sound as it constructs both a sense of place and space within both the lyrics and music. It’s a beautifully tempered piece of modern folk that speaks a language truly relevant to the music world of today. With a genius understanding of simple melody, this may be the prettiest album of 2011.

'On A Mission'
Katy B

She seems completely unassuming when looking at her and yet that voice that tells her story is one filled with such a nuanced balance of sex and mischief and plain excitement that one finishes up her album with a sheer sense that she is something to get excited about. There are classics amongst the lineup and whilst it doesn’t maintain that level of consistency throughout one can’t but argue that she is indeed on a mission and a mission worth completing.

'The Rip Tide'

Bringing their energetic big-band/carnival sound to this, their third, album, Beirut show once again why they’re an important part of the slightly left of centre sound of the once-again growing folk scene. Lyrically it harks back to the genius of The Decemberists’ Picaresque and it’s perhaps as grand in scale. A terrific addition to their canon and another reason why even a not-quite-brilliant Beirut album is still one of the best releases of any music year.

Zola Jesus

Diminutive in height only, Nika Roza Danilova is the epitome of that tried old saying that good things come in small packages. From the gravitas evident in her voice to the intelligence which she employs in creating a real sense of cohesion in her set, the brains behind her Zola Jesus are not in question. With Conatus we can see the potential in spades. Her next step will be to prove that she’s not a one-trick pony. It’s another of the great ‘modern’ releases this year.

'On The Water'
Future Islands

If Leonard Cohen and La Roux, both in their prime, had a baby it’d be called Future Islands and On The Water would be its defining words. Beautifully odd.

'The Year Of Hibernation'
Youth Lagoon

Trevor Powers out Bon Ivers Bon Iver and brings a beautiful weirdness to his melancholic musical journey. The Year Of Hibernation is that perfect combination of old and new finding its way through the growing mass of electronically tinged singer-songwriter albums to emerge as one of the more memorable LPs of 2011.

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