That Was The Year That Was

In 2011 I was more interested in new music than I have been in a while. I don’t think I actually bought more new stuff than usual but I definitely listened to it more than oldies which just seemed, well, old, and instead I hungered for the fresh-out-of-the-box smell of young bands. Maybe after wallowing in it for so long on this blog I’m tired of the past or I’m making a final, defiant stand against the inevitable out-of-touchness that comes with becoming an old git. As a result I thought I’d do one of those best-of-year thingies, I know every Tom, Dick and Harry Blogsworth does one but what the feck, I loved these records and anything I can do to help them shift a few more copies.

1: Kaputt – Destroyer
A lot of bands have been reviving the more fashionable sounds of the 1980s but Kaputt bravely ventured into areas previously considered beyond the pale of cool taste, namely the smooth jazz and soft-rock of Kenny G and Toto overlaid with the languid penthouse sheen of Avalon. It was the sort of “luxury pop” Patrick Bateman listened to and might have been a big kitsch joke if the songs hadn’t been so damn great with the lush music sounding like an ironic commentary on Western decadence in a way that the enigmatic lyrics only hinted at. Easily the album I played more than any other this year, and they made the best video of the year too.

2: Cults – Cults
Packed with short, sharp, sugary pop tunes (and just over half an hour long the way albums used to be) Cults sounded like The Shangri-Las if they were an indie-rock band who sang deranged songs about being kidnapped and mass suicides — it was addictive, fizzy stuff like a can of Fanta. If I was twenty years younger this probably would have been number one but in the end the smoother sounds of Destroyer was slightly more appealing to my aging ears than Cults’ spiky noise.

3: Tall Hours In The Glowstream – Cotton Jones
I’m cheating a little here because this came out in 2010 but I’d never even heard of Cotton Jones until this year and I bet you hadn’t either as they seemed so far off the usual radar I feel like I’m the only person in the world who owns this album — which only makes me love it more. Their twangy, rustic Americana isn’t usually my shot of bourbon but the songs were covered in a thick layer of dusty echo that made it sound like a long-lost Roy Orbison record playing on a rusty old jukebox in an empty roadhouse bar. So gorgeously ethereal you could almost hear the tumbleweed blowing down the lonely streets outside.

4: Gravity The Seducer – Ladytron
“Slow burner” seems like the wrong way to describe an album as icy cool as this one but with Ladytron dropping their usual electro-stomp for a more atmospheric approach it took a while for me to really, um, warm to it. Eventually it’s subtle synth washes and glassy tunes seduced me (pun intended) and though I think it has one too many instrumentals its peaks more than towered over those slight troughs and with “Mirage” they produced one of my favourite singles of the year (along with “Video Games”)

5: Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
I’m not sure if every member of Fleet Foxes has a beard but they sound like they do. Some of the lyrics about owning an orchard are a tad precious but they do make a lovely sound, and on their second album the arrangements and harmonies were more intricate and ambitious making them sound less like The Rocky Mountain Male Voice Choir and more like Simon & Garfunkel and The Beach Boys on a camping trip looking up at the stars in wonder. Probably my favourite album sleeve of the year too.

I’m really in no position to judge if 2011 was a good year for music or not, I wasn’t too fussed by a lot of records that excited the cool kids (and dads) like Bon Iver, PJ Harvey, The Weeknd, and James Blake so my opinion is obviously suspect. Hell, one of my picks actually came out in 2010 so what do I know? But I’m happy as long as there are even a small handful of new records I can fall in love with every year. You take what you can get at my age.


Something for the weekend

I have an old picture of myself in my bedroom from about this time and there are three Pretenders posters on the wall so you could say I was a big fan, of Chrissie especially who looks (and sounds) so sexy in this video I wonder now if three posters was enough, I should have plastered my whole room with her picture. Sigh.

Pop goes Bergman

In case you’ve been wondering all weekend (I doubt it) this is my favourite ABBA record, the first one that made me think they weren’t just naff Swedes with a flair for catchy pop hooks but were actually capable of real depth and sophistication. The video is probably the greatest thing they ever did too, adding an icy Euro chill to an already sad record that’s almost Bergman-esque.