My Top Ten Lists for 2011

A lot of people said 2011 was a terrible year. Myself included. And sure, in some ways it was, and in some ways it wasn’t, and 2011 is as subject to perspective and the theory of relativity as any other year. But it seemed tough for a lot of people. Europe began sinking into critical debt, natural disasters seemed particularly rife with 2011 kicking off in Australia with devastating floods in Queensland… And of course as the people of multiple countries stood up to their dickhead dictators and said ‘enough’, they were (among other things) used as human shields. It is befitting that TIME Magazine named its person of the year, The Protester; people seemed to toughen up in 2011.
Maybe this is why I felt like a lot of the music I listened to last year was quite dark and brood-y. That being said, it wasn’t without its hopeful elements and its upbeat reprieves. Nor was 2011 short of incredibly talented artists! Below I’ve listed my Top Ten Albums of 2011 as it appeared in BMA Magazine. It was tough narrowing it down and I had to leave a few solid artists off the list (such as Jamie Woon, Childish Gambino and Active Child). If I was to revise the list, Gambino probably would have bumped Little Dragon, but I had to compile the list before I’d heard Gambino.
I have also listed the songs I’ve voted for in the Triple J Hottest 100 (also narrowed down to ten songs). These can be taken as my top ten songs of 2011.

Let me know your thoughts and feel free to list or link your tops of 2011. Happy 2012! I feel it’s going to be a wonderful year, especially for music!

    10 Little Dragon – Ritual Union

This is sadly not their best work. But I can’t leave such a talented and subtly engaging band off the list. I’m not sure what it is about the rhythm of their music and the at times almost dreary flat pitch ebbing from beginning to end; it is dark but deeply soothing and almost hypnotic and meditative.

Little Dragon – Little Man (Woodhead Remix)

    9 Oh Land – Oh Land

With all the serious players out there sometimes you need something a bit dumb and silly. Oh Land’s girlish up-beat pop, though not entirely new, is refreshing. I’m not sure if I’ll love this album forever but I’m thankful it was a bit of fun for last year.

    8 Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – We’re New Here

I take no issue with The xx’s Jamie Smith exploiting the hype of Gil Scott-Heron’s husky and embattled I’m New Here from 2010 and adding his own beatsy signature.

After seeking permission, in hand-written letters, Jamie xx gainfully added texture and further musical substance to the beautiful bold ramblings of the wise jazz poet. Sadly, it has become a final collaboration, with Scott-Heron’s passing last May.

Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – I’m New Here

    7 Jezabels – Prisoner

I can understand why some have found this album somewhat disappointing. Early on in their career Jezabels gave us lighter songs like Disco Biscuit Love. It seems that after the song Hurt Me gained some attention, though, they’re eager to dunk their songs into the melancholic. And while the result of this is an album which, at times, begs for a breather in tone, each songs stands firmly on its own feet. Pull any song from the album and you’ll love it.

The promising thing with Jezabels is that they are eager to challenge themselves. Rather than releasing a debut half full with already released hits, they introduced a bold new single Endless Summer ahead of 12 new discoveries.

Jezabels – Long Highway

    6 Florence + the Machine – Ceremonials

Florence Welch didn’t do anything too new this time around, but it would almost be a shame if she had. Even from a relatively early listen of the album it’s obvious that, as with the last, the songs will shake off the confines of the album and become singles of their very own, remixed, reworked, and loved by many.

With Ceremonials Welch precociously observes a fundamental part of religion and extends it out to the rituals of daily life; something which Lady Gaga last year failed to do.

    5 Bon Iver – Bon Iver

I never really caught onto For Emma, Forever Ago because the music, while easy on the ear, was a bit too samey. There was certainly nothing “wrong” with the album, it just didn’t stand out for me.
Receiving some attention from Kanye West and trying out his own hand in electronic music has perhaps lent Iver some perspective. I find this self-titled LP more accomplished and developed. Each song offers something new; a bit more guitar here, a bit of bass saxophone there, and the vocal arrangements are divine and affecting. It’s no wonder the vocals are more striking – Iver says he brought in a lot of people to change his voice. I’m not quite sure what he means by that but the end result is rewarding.

Bon Iver – Wash (seath Remix)

    4 Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne

I almost don’t want to like this album because both Jay-Z and Kanye West have conceitedly taken this opportunity to pat themselves on the backs for fame well done.

And yet, like West’s My Dark Twisted Fantasy, it’s hard to ignore the music itself. The songs are emotive and moving, sampling songs like Feeling Good and Cassius’s I Love You So but adding their own swagger. And the album is a great introduction to Frank Ocean; a natural vocal talent deserving the praise of these self-congratulatory rap gods.

    3 Theophilus London – Timez are Weird These Days

Nope, last name-London, first name-Theophilus, is not from London but from Brooklyn. And you get that impression from his music. The album explores a range of styles, never straying too far from the catchy rap-cum-R&B at the core.

Every single song on the album is a slice of near-perfection, delivered with a succulent take-no-prisoners beat. It’s usual for a lot of American rappers to disappear up the arse of their own ego, almost mocking their listeners as if they were begging their heroes to shit out the next bar of gold (see number 4 on this list).

Not so with the seemingly keep-it-real London, whose experiences are shared not overlorded. On a couple of songs he lends the mic to a couple of lesser-knowns named Holly Miranda and Sara Quin. London hasn’t cheated by riding the coat-tails of his more formidable contemporaries. He knows his music is good and he has waited patiently for it to reach the ears of his potential fans.

Theophilus London – Stop It

    2 tUnE-yArDs – whokill

I first saw New England’s Merrill Garbus (a.k.a. tUnE-yArDs) in New York City at a free gig in Central Park supporting yesterday’s news, Basia Bulat. I was there for Bulat but I left feeling way more excited about this energetic tribal-like drum basher. She is a force to be reckoned with and in a fight between her and M.I.A I’m not really sure who would win.

Merrill’s talent is founded perhaps by her self-confidence. On stage she was so vibrant and happy that I thought she was going to burst out of her own skin!

It’s ironic that tUnE-yArDs supported Bulat because the contrast highlighted what has become something of a sad pandemic; wussy female performers – whose gentle, careful and mundane lullabies bore – scoring top billing time and again. More female performers, indeed more performers in general, should have a bit more fun and get a bit messier with their style.

tUnE-yArDs – My Country

    1 SBTRKT – SBTRKT

SBTRKT (pronounced ‘subtract’) is like the Banksy of the music world: no one knows who he (she?) is but his reputation precedes him amongst his peers. Which is perhaps why for the debut album, SBTRKT cleverly employed the guest vocals of Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nayano and the irresistible Sampha (his voice is like golden syrup!).

The influences are evident in the music SBTRKT has remixed (Modeselektor, Radiohead, Underworld, Basement Jaxx). For the most part though, this dub is smooth and subtle, unique and incomparable. It captures the buzz of the city at night, and the soul of an alienated wanderer. The album, brimful with strong singles brought together with the magical instrumental, is the rare kind that will stand the test of time.

SBTRKT markets himself in such a way as to avoid scrutiny and publicity. He wants the music to speak for itself despite journalists (like me) attempting to characterise his work. In a recent interview SBTRKT said, “I’ve always had the belief that people should respond to the music foremost, based on whether it’s good or not, not based on the story of the person who made it.”

For those yet to have heard the album, I recommend you heed SBTRKT’s words.

SBTRKT – Hold On (Live Lounge)

TRIPLE J HOTTEST 100 VOTES:

    Bombay Bicycle Club – Shuffle
    Does It Offend You Yeah? – Pull Out My Insides
    Gotye – Somebody That I Used To Know {Ft. Kimbra}
    Husky – History’s Door
    Lana Del Rey – Video Games
    M83 – Midnight City
    Oliver Tank – Last Night I Heard Everything In Slow Motion
    Spank Rock – Car Song {Ft. Santigold}
    Active Child – Hanging On
    Avicii – Levels
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Comments
5 Responses to “My Top Ten Lists for 2011”
  1. Tim Bennett says:

    Great selection of songs – just wanted to go ahead and tell you that I agree with your thoughts. DIOYY was definitely my artist of the year. Do you know if those break up rumors ever came to being? Hope not.

  2. Pete says:

    Thanks Tim! It’s a shame that DIOYY didn’t make the hottest 100 at all!

    Not sure about the breaking up rumours… I only read stuff on youtube, never heard any solid sources about them breaking up. I’m assuming they’re still together. I hope so!

  3. Calum says:

    Nice read mate. I’m not even sure if you intended to, but wanted to say I was surprised and delighted to see my Bon Iver remix on this blog post. It’s gotten a lot of love on hype machine because of this, so thanks!

  4. Pete says:

    Calum, sorry for the late reply; only just saw this!

    Thank YOU for the good remix. There are a lot of ordinary remixes on soundcloud but yours stuck out, true to the song but re-imagined. Please feel free to keep me in the loop on any future remixes you do. 🙂

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