Wednesday, 14 December 2011

My 50 best albums of 2011 part 3: 21 - 30

21. Oddisee - Rock Creek Park

A (mostly) instrumental hip-hop album, which is essentially a groove-based journey through the titular park. Part acid jazz, part soul, part funk, but always with a hip-hop mentality, this soundtracked many a lazy summer evening for me.

22. Other Lives - Tamer Animals

The world of Other Lives is slightly mysterious, slightly ethereal but one that's as warm and inviting as a womb. There are swirling strings, spaghetti western guitars, saloon-bar pianos and harmonized vocals at various points throughout the record, which combine to provide a unique sound and a unique feel.

23. Robert Lippok - Redsuperstructure

A stunning solo album form the frontman of To Rococo Rot, which at times can be sonically challenging and quite brutal, but also atmospheric and moving. From the pounding, morse code rhythms of 'sugarcubes' to the almost deep house-like 'nycycle' the album manages to move your head and your feet at the same time.

24. Saigon - The Greatest Story Never Told

An album that took years to be recorded and longer to get released, this has almost as much ambition as Kanye West's 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy'. The tracks flow together so well it's like listening to a mixtape, the music is inspiring and the lyrics are (mostly) intelligent and inspiring. Hands down the best rap album of the year.

25. Son Lux - We Are Rising

Recorded from scratch during February this year following a challenge from NPR Music, this brilliant album is full of complexities and intrigue, twisting its way from your head to your heart and back again. Proving almost impossible to categorize, the tracks range from darkly threatening to simple and melodic, while Ryan Lott's distinctive voice provides the one permanent feature as it floats above the music.

26. Peaking Lights - 936

A blend of lo-fi, dub reggae psychedelia from this Californian duo, which first emerged at the start of the year on Not Not Fun, before being recently re-issued by Domino offshoot Weird World. The album effortlessly takes you to a timeless place and deposits you in a hazy vista where the sun is permanently rising after a blissed-out all night session. Imagine a mixture of dubplates, 1960s hypercool film soundtracks and slowly getting stoned with your best mates - that;s what this album sounds like.

27. Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx - We're New Here

Take one elder statesman of music, who practically invented rap, add one super-hot musician and remixer, fresh from Mercury success and young enough to be his grandson, and you end up with this - a great re-working of Gil's 2010 which turns out to be even better then the original. As you'll know, this sadly turned out to be Gil's last album, but stands as a tribute to a man who was innovative until the end.

28. Moon Duo - Mazes

The second album from this San Franciscan duo is lo-fi surf-psyche-rock of the highest order. It's a deceptively simple but deep album full of brilliant guitar work. The songs are constructed over what sounds like  knackered old drum machine and some repetitive but catchy keyboard lines. The downbeat vocals leave plenty of space for the guitars to swoop and soar over the top.

29. Holy Ghost! - Holy Ghost!

The most unashamedly 'pop' album that DFA Records have ever released, this debut from Holy Ghost! soubd like Hot Chip if they'd been invented in 1980s America. While it's fair to say that there's no great depth to the lyrics, the style and quality of the songs shines through. Funky keyboard basslines and snappy riffs drive the songs on, and it's hard to resist the big guns at the end as the legendary Michael McDonald makes an appearance on the closing track.

30. Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

The most inventive and diverse Mogwai album for years. It's still undeniably a distinctive Mogwai sound, but there are distinct electronic flourishes and a more expansive, roomy sound. The bonus track 'Music For A Forgotten Future' is 23 minutes of cinematic greatness, plus the album has some of the best song titles of the year, including 'George Square Thatcher Death Party' and 'You're Lionel Ritchie'.

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