Song, by Toad’s Albums of the Year 2011: 11-20
Right, all the amateurs have had a go, and we’ve seen disturbing amounts of Bon Iver and PJ Harvey on lists from Bradford to Boston this year, but it’s time for those of us who really know what’s good and what isn’t to step up and set the record straight.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the definitive list of what’s been good this year, so you can all stop pretending to care what Drowned in Sound or Pitchfork think, and find out what you should really be thinking about music.
That’s all bollocks of course, and I am not stupid enough to believe that my list is any better than anyone else’s (apart from not having PJ Harvey, Bon Iver or Fleet Foxes on it of course), this is just a list of what I have been enjoying the most in 2011. As I’ve been listening to a lot of DIY garagey stuff, I’ve actually listened to an awful lot of EPs and mini-albums and stuff like that, so I’ve been pretty loose with my definition of what an album actually is, so you might well think a couple of these picks are cheating a little bit.
20: Horsecollar – You’ve a Big Heart, Sweet Tiger For a DIY pop album recorded on what appears to be the tiniest of budgets, this record more than makes up for its technical shortcomings by having charm, wit and pathos all engagingly interwoven to produce an album which is both hummable and incredibly likeable.
Horsecollar – Courtland Street
19. John Knox Sex Club – Raise Ravens I actually think this record is slightly uneven, which may enrage a few people I know who think it is entirely brilliant. When these guys hit the heights, though, they are absolutely spellbinding, both on record and live.
John Knox Sex Club – Katie Cruel
18. The Quiet Americans – Medicine Alright, alright I know that I suppose I should strictly call this an EP, but I told you I was going to be a bit loose with that particular definition on this list. I bought this on tape a month or two ago and it has hardly been out of the van stereo ever since: simply awesome pop tunes, and that’s why it’s on this list.
The Quiet Americans – Be Alone
17. Edinburgh School for the Deaf – New Youth Bible These guys have rather inevitably gone a little quiet since they lost a guitarist to the charms of London earlier in the year. Nevertheless, before he left, they fortunately found time to crank out this ambitious, epic bit of grumbly shoegaze.
Edinburgh School for the Deaf – Love is Terminal
16. Dirty Beaches – Badlands This is perhaps the pinnacle of my fad for unlistenably muddy recordings, which has rather dominated my listening this year. It’s murky as fuck, but there’s something enthrallingly obtuse about it at the same time which, even months later, I still can’t put my finger on exactly.
Dirty Beaches – Sweet 17
15. Powerdove – Be Mine This is an incredibly beautiful record of wonderfully constructed music. A combination of the skeletally minimal arrangements and the whispered, barely audible vocals just draws you in, to the point you’re almost staring at the stereo. Also, unlike a couple of other albums which employed this approach this year, it is short enough and varied enough to be constantly engaging from start to finish.
Powerdove – Impact
14. Former Bullies – Golden Chains Former Bullies have been around for a good few years now, and I am admittedly rather late to the party. They are part of a Manchester scene which I have really, really enjoyed exploring this year, and this album couldn’t have been better timed. It’s as lo-fi as a lot of their contemporaries, but less garagey or loud, opting more for a laid back pop vibe instead.
Former Bullies – Golden Chains
13. Earth Girl Helen Brown – Story of an Earth Girl The first song I heard from this release dazzled and thrilled me in equal measure. Following up on how the record came about introduced me to Sonny and the Sunsets, to The Sandwitches, to the 100 Records project, to Endless Nest and Empty Cellar, and was as such probably the single most effective mp3 emailed to me by a PR person since I started the blog. And as for the album/mini album/EP/whatever itself, well it really is just fucking brilliant.
Earth Girl Helen Brown – Hit After Hit
12. FOUND – Factorycraft It’s hard to tell what I actually think of this album. I’d already danced like a fool to most of these songs so many times by the time the album came out, that it felt entirely familiar pretty much from the word go. But we had friends visit recently, and played them this, and it was the act of playing it to people entirely unfamiliar with the band that I remember exactly how good this record is. It is straightforward indie, by FOUND’s standards, but by anyone else’s it’s a really fascinating pop record, full of surprises and weird bits, but still, crucially, hooks as well.
FOUND – I’ll Wake With a Seismic Head No More
11. Sonny & the Sunsets – Hit After Hit This is one of those titles which almost entirely sums up the record itself: one pop gem after another. I described it in my review, if I remember, as ‘Hill Valley 1955 doesn’t give a fuck’ because it is an odd combination of soda pop funtimes and a weird, slacker undertone which is maddeningly hard to pin down. Neverless, with tunes like this it can be what it bloody well wants, because this album is excellent.