Tuesday, 13 December 2011

My 50 best albums of 2011 part 2: 31 - 40

31. Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise

A stunningly good debut album from the 20-year old Chilean expat now living in New York. Jaar inhabits his own world of snatched dialogue, atmospheric pianos and ambient noises mixed with electronic music that swings from deep house to techno. An album to immerse yourself in - once you've lived in his world for a while you won't want to leave.
32. Modeselektor - Monkeytown

Even without a certain high-profile guest this is a great album, mixing electronica and dance to brilliant effect, with the track featuring PVT a particular highlight. Of course, some will only have been drawn to the record to hear the two Thom Yorke tracks - of these 'Shipwreck' is the best, blurring the lines between Yorke's solo material and the recent batch of Radiohead remixes.

33. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Described by me earlier in the year as 'early Pink Floyd visits The Beatles on a journey with Sly Stone' , this is an album that draws its influences from each of the last 5 decades, and wraps them up in something that's both comfortably familiar and enjoyably unusual.

34. Deaf Center - Owl Splinters

The second full length release from the Norwegian duo, this could easily function as the soundtrack to Scandinavian TV drama 'The Killing' - it's equally dark and atmospheric, and evokes a big and brooding atmosphere. So cinematic it make you want to make a feature film to go with it.

35. White Hills - H-P1

A freaked-out behemoth of a record that defies genre categorisation - if there was such a thing as space-garage-psycho-prog-rebel-rock this would perfectly into its pigeonhole. According to the implausibly-named Ego Sensation, the band's bass player, the record is 'symbolic of the simplification of complex ideas to keep the masses from questioning the system'  - we're certainly not in candy-floss pop land here!

36. British Sea Power - Valhalla Dancehall

Sounding like a brilliant mix of all the best bits from their previous albums, this was BSP at their most polished, and also their most psychic. How else could you explain their foresight in releasing an album at the start of the year containing a song (Who's In Control) with the lyrics 'Everything around you's being sold, do you not care?', 'I'm a big fan of the local library', 'Sometimes I wish protesting was sexy on a Saturday night' and  'Would you ever go down to stand, to point and stand and fight'?

37. Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Nowhere near as critically or commercially successful as some of their previous releases, and criticised by many for not sounding enough like Radiohead and/or sounding too much like other people (e.g. Flying Lotus, or even Thom Yorke's solo stuff). But hey, even an average 'Head album is better than pretty much anything else around, and when we get to see it live next year I imagine there might be some people eating their words.

38. Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes

A duo (duos seem to be the big thing this year) formed by Farris from The Horrors and Rachel Zeffira, who bonded over a mutual love of vintage girl groups and 60s Italian pop. Curiously uplifting for an album featuring twice as many break-up songs as getting-together ones, this is an accomplished piece of work which deserves to be acclaimed as far more than just a side project.

39. Wild Beasts - Smother

Recorded in isolation in Wales, this album can have a similar effect on the listener, immersing you in its effortless beauty and dragging you away from the real world. At time sit seems almost too effortless - while tracks like 'Albatross' have a subtle power, others don't quite live up to expectations. For me, not as good as its predecessor Two Dancers, although I know many would disagree with me.

40. Crewdson - Gravity

A mixture of choppy beats, occasional slices of funk, and some unexpected jazz stylings, this is an organic mix of home-made sounds (no samples here) that come together in a hot soup of cool music. If Caribou bumped into Mount Kimbie, they went out for the evening and ended up in a jazz club, the result would probably sound like this.

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