At only 6 songs, this isn’t technically an album, its an EP, but those 6 songs are SO GOOD that it qualifies at No. 7 on this list. We all know Alex Turner is a brilliant songwriter, he’s proved that on numerous Arctic Monkey’s albums, but until this EP, I never realised how wonderful of a singer he is too. When this was released I would play it really loud on my Bose headphones walking round London, his voice cuts right through you. The record starts with him saying ’1,2,3,4′ before launching into the Stuck on the Puzzle intro and his whispery tones send shivers down your spine and perfectly set you for the 6-track wonder of this record.
Each song is beautiful and delicate and perfectly produced. The songs are love songs and quite simple ones, which fits well with the film, but despite its simplicity, its perfect. I would love it if Alex Turner would do more of this, but the Arctic Monkeys are pretty great too, so we’ll let him off (for a while anyway).
Standout Tracks: Piledrivers Waltz, It’s Hard to get around the Wind, and Stuck on a Puzzle (intro)
Cloud Control were my No. 1 summer obsession. I saw them at The Great Escape, purely as I didn’t have anything else to go and see, fell quickly in love, and went to see there two other performances that very same day. I love there sound, its psychedelic pop, but brilliantly done. ‘There’s Nothing In The Water You Can’t Fight’ is a massive tune and the whole album is full of a mixture of perfect pop tunes and dark dreamy numbers.
Beginning with Meditation Song #2, you are set in the scene of the rest of the bliss of the album. Death Cloud and Gold Canary provide the catchy single songs, and songs like Hollow Drums and particularly bonus track Buffalo Country provide the chilled trace like points of the album. Hailing from the Blue Mountains of Australia, you can feel the chilled Aussie vibes move through the album. Their live shows are also great, go and see them!
Standout Tracks: There’s Nothing in the Water we can’t Fight, This is What I Said and The Rolling Stones
Florence & the Machines debut album ‘Lungs’ was released in 2009, to a Mercury Prize nomination, a No. 1, a BRIT win and much celebrated praise of this new talent. She had a lot to live up to on this album, she somehow though, managed to do it, and not just do it, but better her debut and make an absolute triumph of a record.
Some of that rawness and slightly spontaneous spirit of the first album is gone, but whats been left is much more polished songwriting, a better vocal and a tremendous album that managed not only to let Florence leave her artistic integrity in place, but also give her a huge amount of commercial success. Ceremonials from the opening song ‘Only If For the Night’ this album is full of massive hits, incredible power in the vocal and not a forgettable tune on the album. Florence is destined to be the next huge superstar act from the UK, and after such a brilliant year, releasing this album and selling out three dates in Alexandra Palace for March 2012.
Standout Tracks: Lover to Lover, What the Water Gave Me, and No Light No Light
I am not normally a dubstep person, nor am I a big alt. jazz fan. But after seeing Submotion Orchestra at the Soundwave Festival in Croatia, I was hooked. I purchased this and found myself absorbed in the dream world of the album. Fronted by Ruby Wood, the 7-piece orchestra from Leeds are fast becoming known as one to watch in the dance/trip-hop/’what ever you want to call it’ world.
The album, for me, evokes sunshine images, beautiful beaches and being relaxed and chilled. It could be compared to Morcheeba or Massive Attack, but at the moment, there isn’t much of this going on. So it’s wonderful to see a band doing it oh so well. Opening track ‘Angel Eyes’ quickly introduces you to Ruby Wood’s heavenly vocals. Her voice is completely divine and fits the style of the band so perfectly. A few of the tracks are instrumental, some playing the jazz hand more than others. It’s clear that this band is made up of very talented musicians.
Subomtion Orchestra are playing Scala in March, and should be releasing their second album in 2012. Check them out, you might surprise yourself.
Standout Tracks: Finest Hour, Suffer Not, and Always
This is the second post in my albums of the year. If you missed 20-16 you can catch up here. After this each of my top 10 albums will have its own individual post.
15. Grouplove- Never Trust A Happy Song
Grouplove win the award for the best album name of the year and its a brilliant album too. Super happy, fun and interesting pop music. Also one of the best live bands around at the moment. This is one of those albums you can’t really fault because it feels so perfect as a collection of songs, and every single one gets stuck in your head.
Standout Tracks: Colours, Lovely Cup, and Love Will Save Your Soul
14. Big Deal- Lights Out
2011 has definitely been the year of the boy-girl duos. Some got caught in the haze, but some triumphed, and Big Deal did just that. With just two guitars and two voices they manage to create a sound so unique and beautiful to them. Live, it lacks some spark, but this record is a perfect collection of excellently well written lo-fi pop songs with minimal production and stories of teenage love. It will be interesting to see where they can take this sound next, but a beautiful debut to begin.
13. Coldplay- Mylo Xyloto
Coldplay are a band that seem to divide music lovers. Are they credible? Are they boring? Well who cares, because I love them and they write some ruddy great songs. The melodies in Mylo Xyloto are no exception to the usual sing-a-long stuff of Coldplay. Paradise, Charlie Brown and Every teardrop is a Waterfall show just why Coldplay fill arenas and are hailed as such a perfect festival band.
Standout Tracks: Charlie Brown, Paradise, and Hurts Like Heaven
12. Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell- Kite
Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell are yes, another boy-girl duo, but of a very different breed. This is simply gorgeous melancholy traditional folk music. It’s quite a talent to make a whole album have a sad and dreary tone throughout it, but Jonny and Lucy manage to do it in such a lovely way. Such pretty lullaby-esque tunes, all produced by members of The Unthanks, who have always supported their careers. Also check out their debut EP ‘The North Farm Sessions’.
Standout Tracks: Green Leaved Trees, Down in Adarisville and Call Yourself a Friend of Mine
11. Summer Camp- Welcome to Condale
Summer Camp have been a BIG love of mine ever since the mysterious ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ was released online way back in 2009. This album brought together all the reasons why we all love Summer Camp so much, the summery, happy, romantic 80′s vibes and brilliantly catchy songwriting. Such a great band!
Standout Tracks: Losing My Mind, Down and Better Off Without You
Writing Albums of the Year lists is always a tricky one. It’s also one of my favourite tasks.
Unlike writers of major music magazines, I have not listened to every album released this year. Not even close. I can’t afford to buy heaps of CD’s, and go through each one and assess which is the best album. This list comes from recommendations, artists I have loved for a while and things I happen to stumble across, but most importantly, things that I have come to love this year.
Last year I did 10 albums, the year before I only did 5. I decided to increase this to 20, mostly because I felt there was too many great albums that deserved a mention, and also because I really like writing about things that I really like. It would make more sense if this was called ‘Anna’s Favourite albums of 2011′, but anyway, I hope you enjoy!
20. Mechanical Bride- Living with Ants
This album was a long time coming for 25-year-old Lauren Doss who had been on many bloggers radars since 2008. For me, she did not disappoint. This album is delicate, creative and possess a gorgeous stillness which is so difficult to master consistently through an album.
Standout Tracks: Magpie, Peach Wolves and Colour of Fire
19. I Break Horses- Hearts
I Break Horses is something which I fell in love with without realising so. I received this album from Bella Union and from the first play got drawn into the hypnotic beats and Maria Linden’s voice. Like a lot of music in 2011, this album was 80′s influenced, from a boy-girl duo, who are from Sweden. But I Break Horses do the 2011 thing better than most.
Standout Tracks: Winter Beats, Empty Bottles and Hearts
18. Ben Howard- Every Kingdom
This album didn’t get particularly amazing reviews, although good mainstream success, I think this is because there isn’t anything groundbreaking or new about it. But there is something so beautiful and so special about the sound of Ben Howard. I listen to this album a lot on the tubes and just walking around London and it slows everything down and if you close your eyes, you could imagine your in the Cornwall countryside. I think 2012 will also be a big year for him.
Standout Tracks: Only Love, Black Flies and Keep Your Head Up
17. Youth Lagoon- The Year of Hibernation
This album was recorded after 22-year-old Trevor Powers a.k.a. Youth Lagoon had his heart broken after a 4 year relationship and what he described as a year of hibernation which followed. Its dreamy and heartfelt built with gorgeous melodies and hazy lo-fi instrumentation. Over the last year its become a bit of a treasure of the underground and rightly so, a stunning listen.
Standout Tracks: Cannons, Montana, and 17
16. White Denim- D
This is White Denim’s fourth album, but the first one I have ever listened to. The psychedelic sounds and super catchy melodies are killer. It’s hypnotic and creative while being fun and the sort of thing you can dance to. I also love his voice.
Standout Tracks: Is and Is and Is, Drug and At the Farm