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Album Reviews, Top 10 lists

Tracks Of The Year 2011

I have enjoyed a great many tracks this year, so please be assured that these top 30 are not merely songs I have liked (in a gay Facebook way), but absolutely LOVE.

30. Thunder Bay – Hudson Mohawke 

Who rules the Wonky roost? Who is the Aqua-crunk king? Err, I’m not sure… but however you choose to describe this deranged mashing of melodramatic synth blasts and alien-sounding horns, Hudson Mohawke undoubtedly delivered a healthy dosage of immature beats that I could not stop bouncing along to.

29. Told Me So – Socalled 

It’s not the full song unfortunately – and I’ve not the foggiest idea what this makeshift video is up to – but you can still revel in Katie Moore’s fevered vocals for a whole 1 minute 54 seconds. And that is surely more than enough reason to click play

28. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys

It’s not been out long but this song has etched itself deep into my unconscious mind with about as much force as the above geezer’s hip thrusts. Unashamedly catchy.

27. Pushing Onlys – Woods

It’s only taken 5 years for me to discover Jeremy Earl and his merry band of Woods dwellers but in 2011 I’ve been making up for lost time and then some. Pushing Onlys was a marvellous introduction to the easygoing irresistibility of this Brooklyn folk band.

26. The Words That Maketh Murder – PJ Harvey

Despite the sprightly auto-harp strumming this song along, it makes no attempt to sugar-coat its direct confrontation with war imagery – “soldiers fall like lumps of meat” – and swoops effortlessly into a grand finale, where PJ contemplates taking her problem “to the United Nations”. Powerful, blissful stuff.

25. Keep Me There – Nicolas Jaar

Wonderfully unlike anything else I’ve been listening to this year, this as good an entry point into the weird world of 20 year old New York producer Nicolas Jaar as any. I still chuckle along to it now.

24. Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes 

This song from the album of the same name perfectly encapsulates the gelling of their grand, ambitious folk sound with the down-to-earth themes of wanting to be “like the man on the screen”, having an orchard and working till you’re sore. A beast of a track

23. Wildfire – SBTRKT Feat. Little Dragon

Yukimi Nagano might be my favourite female of 2011. Her voice sparks this song into life in flamboyant fashion, slipping on top of SBTRKT’s syncopated beats like gravy over a freshly stuffed turkey

22. Make Some Noise – Beastie Boys

The star-studded video is great in itself, but Make Some Noise is mainly in here because this is the song that announced the Beastie’s comeback after a hiatus that left us with nothing but To The 5 Boroughs for 7 years. Proof that, really, being mature doesn’t have all that much going for it

21. Fuzzy Mornings – Polaroid 85

The title track from their gorgeous debut EP, you can expect to hear a lot more from this London collective in the coming months. The perfect song to stir you back into life after a heavy night on the town. Get their EP for FREE here:

http://polaroid85.bandcamp.com/track/fuzzy-mornings

20. Weekend – Smith Westerns

A song that screams happiness from its very core. Love the riffing, love the energy, love the sentiment. If only the rest of the album was as captivating.

19. Fictional State – To Kill A King

Lead song-writer / urban story-teller Ralph Pelleymounter doesn’t pussyfoot around, delving right into real-life issues like abortion and domestic violence, to a background of graceful acoustics, some marvellously executed swells of cymbals and brass, and then one corker of a cathartic ending.

18. Days Are Forgotten – Kasabian

I liked their 4th album Velociraptor! a great deal and this lead single off it especially.  With its primal Tarzan-like wailing and chugging riff, this is Kasabian in their element; Tom Meighan ranting out the verses in typically boisterous fashion, before rippling guitars underlay the perfectly nailed chorus.

17. You For Leaving Me – Colourmusic 

I would have stuck the official music video for this track in here if I didn’t think it would gross out too many people. I gotta admit, I’m not a fan of it. I am a HUGE fan of this song though. It’s crazy but it just about works. Choirs, unnecessarily long pauses, massive chorus, it’s got the lot.

16. Cruel – St. Vincent

Delightful video, delightful song. Fell in love with her album Strange Mercy and this song is one of the many highlights.

15. White Rune – Iceage

Brash, abrasive post-punk from Denmark. They’ve caused quite a stir this year with their debut album New Brigade and White Rune is the rousing, no-holds-barred opener.

14. Killer – The Canolas

Annoyingly this Leeds blues rock band haven’t uploaded my favorite track of theirs, Killer, so I’ve actually put up a live version of the also awesome, She’ll Leave You Behind. Confusing I know, but just go with it. If you’re a fan of White Stripes or early Black Keys you’ll love these guys.

13. NYC – Burial

Burial can keep making music exactly like this for the rest of his life, I’ll never tire of it. Off the Street Halo EP, this is the pick of a very strong trio of tracks. The vocal samples in this one are so yearning, so utterly distraught, it makes me want to track down the singer and give them a great big hug to make things better. Although, that could just make things worse…

12. Harmony – Dumbo Gets Mad

My obsession with 60s throwbacks Dumbo Gets Mad begins with this song, Harmony. Evidence that effective song-writing can produce the most marvellous effects on even the most budget set of instruments.

11. Mazes – Moon Duo

Talking of the 60s, if anyone is a fan of a small band called The Doors, go right ahead and open up this video and enjoy jamming out with Moon Duo.

10. Wrecking Crew – To Kill A King

The 2nd To Kill A King track to make the countdown. With Pelleymounter’s deep, mournful delivery and the shrill, hurtling guitar solos, this one actually reminds me a little of why I fell in love with early Interpol. The bass is also working wonders on this track, setting the tone for the songs relentless pace, as it crashes recklessly from one chorus into the next.

9. Secret Mobilization – Deerhoof

10 albums down the line and still Deerhoof never fail to engage me. This is a very good song for 2 minutes 40 seconds and then morphs into a bloody fantastic song when the power riff kicks in to clinch the track and see the song out.

8. Ice Cream – Battles Feat. Matias Aguayo

I love everything about Ice Cream, from Matias Aguayo’s grunts and groans that propel the song into its thrusting climax of an intro, followed fast by the twitchy understated kick-in, and then just the way it isn’t ashamed to let its repetitive jittery rhythm ride it out for the next four minutes.

7. Ritual Union – Little Dragon

Yukimi Nagano again, this time with her main project Little Dragon. She’s spent so much time enlivening the work of others (Gorillaz, SBTRKT, Maximum Balloon) that it was about time she took all the glory herself. With Ritual Union, the song and the album, she certainly does that.

6. Under Cover Of Darkness – The Strokes

The Strokes have divided opinion this year with their fourth LP Angles. I love it, even if I can understand why many people are cringing and finding it dubious. But I’m only hearing fun pouring out at me from the record, and from this song in particular. The riffs are edgy and engaging and the chorus is chant-worthy. And believe me, I chant it loud.

5. Lotus Flower – Radiohead

STILL haven’t fully made my mind up about The King Of Limbs. It took a while to warm to it but this song and this video most certainly helped. Together they are unstoppable.

4. Northern Lights – St. Vincent

Actually starts out sounding like a long-lost Rilo Kiley track, with its acoustic downstrokes and Clark adopting a very Jenny Lewis-esque singing style. But then the squishy electric guitar melody plants itself on top and we’re launched full-on into St. Vincent territory. The song builds impressively, with its persistent beat and this escalating ominous buzzing that engulfs the mix, gathering momentum through each manic interlude until we reach the wild rushing ejaculation of electronics at 2 mins 35 that the song’s been propelling us towards all along. It really is awesome stuff, both beautiful and brutal in equal measure

3. Plumy Tale – Dumbo Gets Mad

Love this, love this, love this! The soundtrack of my summer has come from Dumbo Gets Mad. This song actually became known in the middle of last year but because I discovered it at the start of this, and because the album itself was released this year, I’m not embarrassed to whack it in at number 3. A whole host of hilarious effects going on; check out the bubble generator at 2 mins 13.

2. The Bay – Metronomy

I still prefer Metronomy in their Nights Out form over The English Riviera but the beats are strong in The Bay. With synths swelling like surf all around them, they’ve managed to successfully conjure an image of the beach with nothing but cheesy electronics. A proud postcard from the English seaside.

1. Work With What You Got – Socalled

The genius of Socalled knows no bounds. Not content with his Hip-Hop / Jewish Klezmer fusions on the excellent Ghettoblaster from 2007, he’s come back in 2011 mixing all manner of genres into his hyperactive hip-hop melting pot. This song includes female hip-hop pioneer Roxanne Shante going head to head with Calypso legend The Mighty Sparrow… and his lyrical contributions are particularly enjoyable. I could go on about Socalled until I’ve bored you all to tears and and random acts of violence, but please don’t let my ramblings put you off. Click this link and start smiling!

Thanks for reading folks! Albums and EPs next week…

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