I’ve always wanted to write for a music magazine. It would be one of my dream jobs just like it was for John Cusack in ‘High Fidelity’. Like his character I also love making tapes for people. On the same note, another film that comes to mind is ‘Almost Famous’. I wish I was that kid.
I also have what I call a ‘DJ complex’ and am always checking other peoples record collections, exchanging, copying, or simply playing them, wether I’m in a pub, a cafe, someone else’s house or car or even public transport. Some people hate me for that, like real DJ’s at clubs because I’m always making requests. I have DJed a couple times too, at pubs I like and when I actually used to run a bar, playing music was one of my favourite parts of the job.I still want to have my own radio show and if things happen this 2012 I will have one, or something similar. What can I do, I am a frustrated musician and music is such an important part of my life.
So writing a list of my favourite records of the year is one of those things that I love doing. I did last year but never published it (this blog was on diapers back then and that would’ve been the first post as a matter of fact).
So here it is, in no order whatsoever. These are simply records I really liked and listened to a lot the past year and all of them were published during 2011. I have included links to videos of the singles or to cool live performances. Hopefully you will like them too.
- LET ENGLAND SHAKE/PJ Harvey
I can’t believe it was February when I downloaded this album and loved it! I honestly thought PJ had nothing else to give but the woman surprises yet one more time and manages to sound like nothing she’s done before. And she sounds so good. A strong record with a constrict rage and an open statement of what is happening in England. Maybe the first record that speaks so openly of themes related to globalization and loss of culture in a nation that is pretty much the mother of modern world as we know it today. PJ is the Lars von Trier of music, always controversial and able to reinvent herself.
Check a live video of ‘The words That Maketh Muder’ here:
- IN THE MOUNTAIN IN THE CLOUD/ Portugal. The Man
Yeah, their name…
I heard ‘So American’ once on the radio without knowing who it was or what was the song’s name. Thank God now Iphones have that application that tell you who! I was instantly hooked on the good mood of the tune.
This band of psychodelic rock has made a record with so many happy, catchy tunes that it’s really hard to put it down. Potentially every song is a single. This confirms my idea that music today recycles stuff we’ve heard before and though I had something against that before now I’m sold. I fact most records on this list have that element. Don’t think that Portugal are new though, this is their 7th record and that’s why it’s so good, cause they seem to have found their best sound after experimenting for 10 years of record-making.
See the video of ‘So American’ here:
- HELPLESSNESS BLUES/ Fleet Foxes
Good blues and folk that has the power to transport you to another time. These guys sound like Bob Dylan´s backing band. That is if Bod Dylan had had a band during his first years. There´s some quiet peace and a something delicate about their music. Some nostalgia that reminds me of Mumford and Sons first record. Not sadness, pure nostalgia is what this is. I gues that’s why it’s called ‘blues’. Thanks to Elena for the tip on the Fleet Foxes!
Watch the video for ‘Grown Ocean’ here:
- EL CAMINO/ The Black Keys
Ah, the vintage sounds that pour out of the imagination of these two! And how does Danger Mouse manage to be the producer of so many great records one after another? When I got ‘Brothers’, the Keys previous album, their songs became quickly the most listened to in my Ipod. ‘El Camino’ has the same potential, road music to drive tirelessly listening to full volume good ol’ rock. Watch the video for ‘Lonely Boy’ here:
- ANNA CALVI/Anna Calvi
While listening to Calvi I couldn’t help but be reminded of Jeff Buckley. That may sound like blasphemy but she does have a similar guitar technique and sometimes her voice sounds similar too. Maybe the obvious resemblance would be with PJ Harvey since they share Rob Ellis as producer, and in fact Calvi sounds like Harvey (on her first records) but it’s undoubtable that she has a talent of her own. So, if she sounds a bit like Jeff Buckley that is if he reincarnated in a woman after actually being in hell. Listen to Calvi and you will understand what I mean. Watch ‘Suzanne and I’ live here:
and ‘Love Won’t be Leaving’ here:
- METALS/ Feist
There’s nothing metallic about this album. It’s more like a long whispered melody. A low, introspective look into the delicately crafted world of Leslie Feist. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes pop or blues, her music has no hurry to please or to explode. Her beautiful voice fills the songs with life and movement as if a faery was singing you a bedtime story. Listen to Graveyard, The Circle Married The Line, Cicadas and Gulls.
Watch the video for ‘How Come You Never Go There?’ here:
- UNDERNEATH THE PINE/Toro Y Moi
The future of electronica is here and sounds like Toro Y Moi. Like their name, I don’t know what to make of their music. It sounds like listening through the stethoscope to the sounds of a living organism from another planet, some sexy alien trying to flirt with me. Reminiscent of Stereolab’s sound experiments. Once again thank you Elena.
Watch the video for ‘New Beat’ here:
- SUCK IT AND SEE/Arctic Monkeys
When I read on an interview that the last record from the Monkeys was perhaps their best, I was sceptical. After their first record the 2 that followed were disappointing and had only good moments. But I gave them a chance because I heard ‘Black Treacle’ on the radio and I liked the shift in sound. And guess what? It’s true! Arctic Monkeys are back in full form with music that matches perfectly the witty lyrics of their vocalist. And guess what also, they are recycling music too! With a sound that is reminiscent of the 50s and 60s in spirit they sound a lot better than on their harder experiments.
- WHAT DID YOU EXPECT FROM…/The Vaccines
I couldn’t resist it, The Vaccines made it to this list actually on the last minute. I listen to ‘Post Break-up Sex’ and can’t help to think of The Smiths or Belle And Sebastian. Maybe that’s what’s got England rendered to their sound. Such misery and beauty altogether. The future of rock is on this guys and I believe this could be the best rock album debut of the year.
Watch ‘Post-break Up Sex’ video here:
- KING OF LIMBS/ Radiohead
Just when you thought Radiohead couldn’t get any weirder sounds from their pocket they surprise you again. At this point these guys have already settled themselves comfortably in a style (a league if you prefer) of their own. Just the other day I was listening to The Bends album and it was actually hard to tell myself that that was the same band that released this record. King Of Limbs is a work closer to In Rainbows than to Hail to the Thief. Don’t be alarmed by the few songs, the record is 40 minutes long and each song is a gem, some are electronic, some are acoustic, but they all sound like Miles Davis (Bitches Brew phase) was producing . The question now is what (and when) will Radiohead sound like next.
Watch the video for ‘Lotus Flower’ here:
- PULL UP SOME BLUES & SIT DOWN/Ry Cooder
Does Ry Cooder need any introduction? well, you’re not gonna get it from me…This bluesy, folk, mexicano music is the ultimate protest record. If ‘Let England Shake’ talks about problems there, ‘Pull Up Some Dust…’ is a mosaic of what’s happening in the USA: economic crisis, immigration, drug trafficking, racism, a political system not representative of the people, etc…Cooder is a radical. He was not on the wave of making a record against Bush some years ago, he’s been riding on that wave for long (he was investigated for openly going to Cuba to record with Buenavista Social Club and has an open posture againts the embargo on the island). He is not an Obama suporter either, he is old enough to know Obama is just another guy in a corrupt system (listen to ‘John Lee Hooker for President’). Cooder’s lyrics have the wisdom of a Noam Chomsky who sings the blues.
Watch the video for ‘Quicksand’ here: