Thursday, 15 December 2011

My 50 best albums of 2011 part 4: 11 - 20

11. Connan Mockasin - Forever Dolphin Love

A fantastically non-commercial, creative and original album that will completely suck you in & reward you more & more each time you listen to it. It's childishly imaginative, dreamlike, trippy, jazzy & at times unbelievably beautiful. Sounding like it's been beamed in from another world, it's become a word of mouth sleeper hit as more people become aware of it. Mockasin even gives you live versions of the tracks as part of the package just to confound your expectations even more.

12. Balam Acab - Wander / Wonder

From the opening sound of an ultrasound scan and a baby's heartbeat, to the closing sound of water and a fragile vocal line at the end, this is a beautifully crafted album. Defying labels like 'witch house' and 'chillwave' it includes r'n'b influences, ambient loops, and an eerie, haunting loveliness. An outstandingly good album that belies the age of its creator, 21 year old Pennsylvanian Alec Koone.

13. Ghostpoet - Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam

A worthy nominee for this year's Mercury Prize, this almost perfect debut album updates UK hip hop in the same way that 'Original Pirate Material' and 'Maxinquaye' did before it. Mixing bites of British culture with stream of consciousness lyrics this is a hugely confident, stylish and successful record that deserves the wider audience that a Mercury win would've got it.

14. Mondkopf - Rising Doom

Recorded in various locations in Toulouse and Paris, this is a record that comes soaked in dark Gallic vibes, full of fear and anger, but also with moments of light and hope. From the glam-rock swagger of 'Deadwood' and the monstrous , insistent bass of 'Day of Anger' through to the slower, more introspective 'Sweet Memories', Rising Doom is an awesomely powerful record that manages to convey the anger, angst & spiritual poverty of our time.

15. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

In which Dave Grohl takes the best bits from all of the previous Foos albums, distils them in his garage under the watchful eye of producer Butch Vig, and comes up with the most potent batch of homebrew the world of rock has heard for many a year. It's a record that's not ashamed to take the best parts of its heritage and celebrate them in a life-affirming way.

16. Benjamin Shaw - There's Always Hope, There's Always Cabernet

The best release from the Audio Antihero label this year is deep, moving and highly enjoyable. A record full of sad tales of love and loss, of tedium and despair, which also contains possibly my favourite lyric of the year - "You shouldn't blame it on the Tories even if they're vile, and you shouldn't fill their lungs with water just to make me smile".

17. DJ Shadow - The Less You Know, The Better

A much more cohesive release than his previous release 'The Outsider', in this album Shadow has tried to reflect his true spirit an all he likes about music right now. He's not afraid to take risks and experiment with musical styles - old school hip-hip sits back to back with rock guitars - but everything here is working towards the same goal. It's an enjoyable listen and an album which should add to his legacy as one of hip-hop's great innovators and creators.

18. Rob St. John - Weald

The first album from Rob St. John is named after an old English word from which the concept of a 'wild', 'wooded' and 'dark, dangerous' place emerges. It's a fitting name that takes a tradition of balladry and story telling in song, and ties it to a modern, atmospheric soundtrack. There's real emotion and feeling in these songs, that conjure up images of of haunting landscapes and bleak lives.

19. Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire

I'm probably almost as surprised as you are to find this album in here, but this is a genius collection of songs that is not only comparable with the best of his previous work, but also with the brilliant Gram Parsons. Undoubtedly his best work for years, this is the sound of Adams rediscovering his mojo, apparently inspired by listening to Laura Marlin. It's a work of great maturity that rewards more and more with each listen.

20. The Horrors - Skying

Produced by the band themselves, the songs are much more open and accessible than on previous records. With songs sounding sometimes like they're from northern England in the 90s, these are big, expansive tunes, with the best vocals Farris has committed to tape. Their most mature and mellow album to date, this is the sound of a band becoming comfortable with what they can achieve which, on this evidence, is pretty much anything they want to.

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