Here, a selection of our music contributors put forward what they consider to be the best musical offerings of 2011. But who are we to put them in order? So here they are, lined up as equals and open for your interpretation. Feel free to defend, argue or add your own favourites in the comment box below – Because there’s nothing quite as contentious as an end of year list…
[TRACK] NY Is Killing Me by Gil Scott Heron and Jamie xx from the album We’re New Here.
An outstanding rework album, We’re New Here exhibits new Electronic music’s capability to be confessional, injected with pathos, and still able to flood a dance floor with sub- bass and addictive manipulated vocal samples. Now a tribute to the late Gil Scott-Heron, this album is a template for minimalist perfection – affirming that the clock is ticking on populist Dubstep. Mixed seamlessly NY is Killing Me in particular is a credit to Jamie XX. With a drop that Skrillex’ ugly sound could only dream of, and a soul that exudes 1960s provenance; this is how Electronic music should be done (MJ).
[TRACK] Bed of Nails by Wild Beasts from the album Smother.
A hint of Twin Peaks about it, Wild Beast’s third release, Smother marks a move towards the ethereal. Bed of Nails exemplifies this new musical manifesto; smouldering lyrics, murky vocals and a haunting electronica pulse –part of a new breed (The Horrors, The Rapture, Outfit) in a sea of tired pop. Maybe Domino Records’ first great release since the mid-noughties’ indie alternative blitz (Franz Ferdinand, et al.) (MJ)
[ALBUM] Sam Baker’s Album by Samiyam.
This album was dropped back in June, all hazy and swaggering. Samiyam (AKA Sam Baker) created a collection of crisp instrumental hip-hop that was acutely delivered yet still deliciously woozy – as ready for the club as it was for chilling in your room half cut. With jazz influences, it is a welcome break from the other more bombastic trends in electronic music. As a whole, Sam Baker’s Album flows with an apparent effortlessness that makes it completely attractive. Also spectacular live back in November. (MD).
[ALBUM] Skying by The Horrors.
Personally, I don’t think that there is any band cooler in the world right now than these guys and it’s a testament to themselves that they’ve made such a great album this year without following any of the rules that the record business would usually place on such a big band. They’ve done completely what they want with this record, moving into the realms of vintage synth and home made psychedelia, and in the process, cementing themselves as one of the most important bands of recent times. (TC)
[ALBUM] A Different Kind of Fix by Bombay Bicycle Club.
With their third album, Bombay Bicycle club just confirmed that they’ve got it (as if we didn’t know that already). After allowing themselves the purifying experience of touring a folk record (that holds remarkable merit on its own), Jack Steadman and his band have come back with an album that is full of lilting melodies. from the irresistably catchy Shuffle, to the beautiful Still, this record is, in my opinion, their best yet (TC).
[ALBUM] Bon Iver by Bon Iver.
After For Emma, Forever Ago, his self-titled second masterpiece is equally as sublime but with an even deeper sincerity and emotion. Updating to an epic nine-piece and abandoning the solitary birth of a project in a hut, his sound has becoming multi-layered and richly textured making the selection of one song from this album an arduous task. The album is holistic; it’s about flow, from one scene, arrangement,song,memory and word into the next. Its an undefinable creative uproar of observation and poetic genius; putting a name to something realistic and surrealistic. I was fortunate enough to see him a while ago and it has to be said it was the gig of the year. (JE)
[ALBUM] Adventures of Tom the Lion by Tom the Lion.
An impossibly difficult musician to pin down with virtually next to no coverage on the internet, you can only buy his album through Rough Trade. Formally an illustrator and artist, there’s an appealing mystery to him which resonates through his music. He’s not able to be placed in a box. Ragdoll can be fixed to a comparison with Anthony and the Johnsons, until you slip into an Arcade Fire-Sequa tangent in Drop It and Go. His lyrics are stunning and his voice radiant, that’s without mentioning the vast genres he sails over and mixes together. The album itself with it’s illustration is a feast for the eyes, and reinstates a sense of ownership of music. He strikes back to an era where music was to be owned; not in amongst the cloud of the internet. Tom the Lion renounces the digital age in terms of publicity but definitely not in production. I cannot recommend him enough. (JE)
[ALBUM] We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves by John Maus.
Despite the vintage synths and Ian Curtis-esque vocals, John Maus’s music (much like contemporary Ariel Pink’s output) has a modern streak which is hard to put your finger on but nevertheless prevents him sounding like he’s mindlessly rehashing his influences. This third album sees him mastering the art of consistency, with eleven brief but incredibly infectious songs which drip with post-punk, new wave and synth-pop sounds.(RW)
[ALBUM] Roads to Judah by Deafheaven.
San Francisco’s Deafheaven follow up their excellent 2010 demo release with this debut LP, which blends post-rock and shoegaze influences into its black metal blueprint with jaw-dropping results. The four tracks here are intense, moving and melodic, striking a perfect balance between beauty and brutality which remains throughout. If this typical of the kind of stuff kvlt purists have been whining about, we’ve got nothing to fear. (RW)
[ALBUM] Exmilitary by Death Grips.
In an internet age, free mixtapes are something rap fans and blog readers have become to take for granted, but when Death Grips exploded onto the map earlier last year, it became clear that we needed to rethink things a little. The combination of MC Ride’s terrifying, hyper-masculine bawl (“’CAUSE ALL I REALLY NEED IS SOME COOL SHIT TO MOB”) and Flatlander’s harsh, Charles Manson samplin’ production style puts these guys more in line with Black Flag (who are also sampled) than your average swagster. Hip-hop you can mosh to, and – by God – it actually works.(RW)
- Free download here: http://thirdworlds.net/exmilitary.php