Monday, 26 December 2011

What is Music? - Best of 2011 List

Ok, I should basically start out by saying that I've already written a list for Classic Rock Presents: Prog, and will be writing a quick one for the SSD blog, but this is going to be different to both. This is mainly due to an unhelpful mixture of forgetfulness, stupidity, and not having to choose from only records reviewed in Classic Rock...!


So, that's the disclaimer out of the way - time to talk about some records!


Top LPs




1. Tao of the Dead - ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
A punk record with the attitude of a prog record... or is it the other way round? Either way, it's without a doubt the most accomplished, and let's face it, downright cool record of the year.




2. Route One Or Die - Three Trapped Tigers
In terms of 'originality', or indeed anything even remotely approaching it, there's only one real contender - Route One Or Die. Bizarre, challenging, angular, but melodic as fuck - it's totally thrilling. 




3. Gangs - And So I Watch You From Afar
When this came out, it looked like the album of the year was theirs... but then 2011 has been an exceptional year. Up there with the finest instrumental guitar records I've ever heard, Gangs combines virtuosic guitar playing with finely-honed songwriting, expressed in a traditional band format. It's geeky, it's esoteric, but it's equally accessible - and that's why their stumble at the end of this year was so tragic. For ASIWYFA, this is likely to be the apogee of their career. 




4. Sans Souci - Brontide
Led Zeppelin do math-rock, channel Oceansize, rock harder than is reasonable. If you don't have this record, you need it. 




5. The Magic Place - Julianna Barwick
All vocals, all looping, all the time. Jokes aside, Julianna Barwick's new album really does create something truly mesmerising out of her improvised sound collages. It's not going to be for everyone, but it's worth checking out. 




6. Helioscope - Vessels
A winner for Stuart Warwick's contribution to 'Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute' alone, Helioscope marks Vessels out as serious contenders on the post-rock scene, and wipes the floor with their sometimes aimless d├ębut White Fields and Open Devices. Brilliant. 




7. Relic - Matt Stevens
More instrumental guitar, this time in a downtempo way. Matt Stevens' work ethic with TFATD is admirable, and to bedroom musicians the world over he's an inspirational case of the triumph of true artistry through hard work and talent. 

Dananananaykroyd - There Is A Way by WorkItMedia

8. There Is A Way - Dananananaykroyd
In a word: FUN! RIP Dananananananananananananananan.....




9. Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will - Mogwai
'George Square Thatcher Death Party'; need I say more?




10. H-p1 - White Hills
Drones, drones and more motorik beats than you can shake a stick at. 'Paradise' may well be the most hypnotic track of the year. 




11. I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone - Maybeshewill
Though the album as a whole wasn't as good as some of its high points, Maybeshewill continue to go from strength to strength, and their word-of-mouth fanbase deservedly continues to grow. That said, this is only a record for those of the post-rock persuasion. 




12. The Big Roar - The Joy Formidable
Grunge meets shoegaze meets post-rock. What? Those all came from the same bands? Well I guess they've come home to roost then. Apart from the drumfail in 'A Heavy Abacus' (where's the double-time chorus, guys?) I don't have a bad word to say about this record.





13. You're An Ocean Deep, My Brother - Firesuite
Picking up where Failure left off, or Cave In circa Antenna, at their highest peaks Firesuite marshall something elemental in their furious, atmospheric (or should that be trans-atmospheric?) space rock. 




13. Violet Cries - Esben and the Witch
Sinister as hell, but beautiful all the same. A marmite record which will either sound like drifting fog in Winter committed to tape or a painful, pointless dirge. 




14. Poor, Poor Grendel - Fairewell
Though it has its eccentricities, there are some touching moments on Fairewell's bedroom record. Strong when soundscaping, weaker when attempting the dream-rock, it'll be interesting to see what Jonny does next. 




15. Grievous Bodily Harmison - Casino Zone
The first thing approaching a full-length these noisy bastards have yet concocted, I'm sure some would consider it worthwhile for the name alone - but songs like 'Fuck Numerals' and 'Complete Artistic Failure' are harrowing and beautiful as they lash out with angsty brutality. 


Top EPs


It's now 11pm, so each of these will get three words to sell it to you. 


1. Victims and Vultures Alike - In Casino Out / FULL ON ROCK
2. Mindhammers - Hawk Eyes / GRR YES MELODY
3. Whoa Whoa, Hey Hey - The Calimocho Club / TRASH BLUES WIN
4. Vasco Da Gama - Vasco Da Gama / MATH POP INSANITY
5. Freak Show - Always the Quiet Ones / CLASSIC ROCK GRUNGE
6. The Institute of Modern Love - Part I / OLD SCHOOL PROG
7. Big Fat World - SPC ECO / PRETTY PRETTY PRETTY
8. Valour - Pure Reason Revolution / RIP PRR X
9. In Honour of Today - Pilot:X / FRESH POST PROGRESSIVE
10. Are You Friendly - Kid For Today / ODD POP AWESOMESAUCE
11. Crystal - Younghusband / FUNTIMES WITH SHOEGAZE






Notes:
Trojan Horse - Trojan Horse counts as last year and so isn't here. If you want, you can count the remastered edition, but...
The Octopus - Amplifier featured on my list last year as I received my copy before Christmas 2010.
Battleships did not release a named EP this year, so they have nothing admissible.


Tweet me @hipsters_unite if ya wanna argue x

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