// Who made the list?
Hear for your reading pleasure are my top five favourite albums of 2011. If you like them too, let me know. If not, the same applies.
I have chosen these albums because they have made a pretty tough year easier on the ears.
Relax and enjoy.
1. The Black Keys – El Camino
I feel obliged to start proceedings with a band that I’m verging on clinical obsession with. Who am I kidding? I’m fully obsessed, and why wouldn’t I be? Not only is this one of my favourite albums of the year, but it has also further cemented them as my favourite band… Well.. Ever. I’m a huge fan of two piece bands such as The White Strips, The Kills and Death From Above, to name three. However, I think at this current junction in my musical journey, no one really comes close to vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney – The Black Keys. El Camino, released only a few weeks ago here in Australia, continues the trend of a much-needed injection of excellence into the musical landscape. There are the usual upbeat (slightly more commercial in their nature) tracks such as ‘Lonely Boy’ and ‘Money Maker’ which have their place, but where the album really starts to come alive and take on an identity that set it apart from previous albums is in tracks such as ‘Little Black Submarines’ which alludes to being a mellow offering, but ends up biting harder than Mike Tyson in the 4th. Dan’s rusty vocal talents are as scintillating as ever. The most pleasing thing to hear and see is that despite gaining much more notoriety from albums such as ‘Attack and Release and ‘Brothers’ they appear to have re-kindled the ballsy guitar riff and pumping drum beats that propelled albums such as ‘The Big Come Up’ and, my personal favourite, ‘Thickfreakness.’ I’m pleased to say that despite being in a foreign country this year experiencing my first orphans Christmas, this album will be a massive catalyst in getting me through the festive season. From the bottom of my small little heart. Thank you guys. Please don’t stop making music.
Recommended Track: If you’ve listened to ‘Lonely Boy’ for the 1000th time on the radio, like I have, give ‘Gold on the Ceiling’ a whirl. It’s quite brilliant.
2. Cameras – in Your Room
The first of two Sydney based bands in the top 5, Cameras are one of my fondest discoveries since eloping to the golden shores of this, slightly less sunny than expected, continent. The band consists of Eleanor Dunlop (vox/keys), Fraser Harvey (vox/guitar/bass) and Ben Mason (drums) a band very difficult to sum up in a nice neat package. It is for that very reason that the album ‘In Your Room’ makes the top 5. I’ll have a stab though. If you threw Arcade Fire in a room with Joy Division, the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and The National, then asked them to create some musical magic, I think you’d have a better idea of what you can expect to penetrate your ear holes. However, Cameras isn’t a band that should be explained, they should be listened to. The music is like an itch that would stop irritating you, if you just stopped rubbing it. It really gets under your skin. It feels wrong, but you do it anyway. Pretty powerful stuff to be honest.
Vocal duties are shared between Dunlop and Harvey, giving the album a rich, multi-layered and exquisite sound. Both take it in turn to bring a real ethereal quality to proceedings. Tracks such as ‘Kruezberg and ‘Polarise’ allow both to send us on a fantastic journey through the highs and lows of the album. What I like in particular is that Harvey undoubtedly has shades of a Bowie-esque quality to his singing and Dunlop has shades of a much less annoying and shrieky Florence (you know the one from the Machine). ‘In Your Room’ is a beautiful album and the haunting mix of guitars and pianos will undoubtedly have you listening to the album again and again. The band have recently been running up and down the country promoting the new album, so if you have the chance to catch them live – I recommend you do so whilst you have a chance. Pete’s Ridge Festival, for example, over the holiday period should do it.
Recommended Track: ‘Defeatist’ – I find this accompanied with the music video (see above) never fails to give me goose bumps. Pure class.
3. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
Dave Grohl. You can help but be in complete awe of the guy. 42 years old and still banging out hits that rock harder than a geologist (see what I did there?). Wasting Light, recorded entirely in DG’s garage, is a powerful return after 2007’s ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace,’ which I thought was Ok, but not a patch on the energy of this latest offering. Opening track ‘Bridge Burning’ kicks you in the shins like an aggressive toddler and really sets the standard for the rest of the album. With some stellar work on the guitars by Grohl, Chris Shiflett and Nate Mendel on bass, most of the tracks are charged up like Australia on Melbourne Cup day. See the track ‘White Limo’ and you’ll see what I mean. However, I must pay special homage to my personal favourite member of the band, Pat Smear the rhythm guitarist in the band. Sure… He isn’t the most rock and roll, he kind of reminds me of my Dad and it’s almost as though he’s Dave’s dad. However, I like that. He doesn’t give a fuck. He’s a fantastic guitarist and isn’t phased even after lightly smashing his guitar at the Sydney leg of the their Australian tour, played on, despite being caught up in a broken string nightmare. Other notable tracks are ‘Back and Forth’ and ‘Walk’ which really allow the band to remind us why its important for them to continue to offer up these musical treats on a regular basis.
Seeing the Foo Fighters on December 8 was a fantastic way for them to seal the deal with my inclusion on this list. It was also a colossal show that allowed them to showcase just why they are the number 2 rock band (only beaten to number 1 by Tenacious D I might add) in all of the world. It doesn’t matter if the band turned ‘Monkey Wrench’ into a 4 hours epic, the Foos are the complete package. They barter with the crowd when it’s time for an encore and the confidence and showmanship of Dave Grohl is infectious. What’s even more impressive is that despite years of success, they are humble with it. Taken from their Facebook page, Dave’s ‘Thank You.’
Recommended Track: ‘Rope’ – If you have to ask why, listen to it.
4. Royal Headache – Royal Headache
This album was listened to completely by accident and, for my sins, I initially resisted its charms. The Sydney based band’s first, self titled, album was given to me by the Surry Hills man of mystery, Mr Mathieu Abet, whom had sent me the album with the subject header that simply read, “Decent Sydney Band.” What he failed to divulge in his cryptic subject title was the sheer rawness and energy that comes out of the album like a tsunami of awesomeness. The lead vocals sang by Shogun are rusty like an old hypodermic needle. Tracks such as ‘Never Again’, ‘Surprise’ and ‘Psychotic Episode’ make you feel like you’ve arrived home and someone has thrown a rave in your living room. There are also shades of The Sonics and to a certain extent the early work of The Black Keys.The only way to get yourself through is to grab a beer and start throwing elbows. The natural vocal exuberance and energy that Shogun portrays is complemented by some rigorous guitar filler, some heavy bass slapping and some inspired drumming. There’s barely a chance to come up to the surface for breath. However, tracks such as ‘Two Kinds of love’ and ‘Wilson Street’ provide a little wet towel to the forehead without the abrasive, jarring intrusion of the gravel voiced lead singer. But who wants that? The album really stretches its legs when the band and singer are in full flow.
This album reminds me of the first time I heard Blink- 182. I wanted to shave my head, set a fire in the laundry basket and take my bicycle for a ride around the village (with a helmet of course – I wasn’t that rock and roll as a kid and I grew up in Worcestershire!). If there was any concern that punk was dead, this is a big ‘fuck you’ in the face of such negativity. Looking to spice up your festive celebrations with your Gran? Pop this on the wireless and she’ll be moshing around the Christmas tree quicker than you can say “riot.”
Recommended Track: There’s a real beauty and brilliance to the music all the way through. However, my personal favourite is ‘Pity.’ It’s a great sign off from an album that is like a cocktail of red bull, mdma, coke and a smattering of toilet duck.
The Vaccines – What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?
Ok, Ok… So I know that technically this album was released late last year in the UK. However, it only arrived Down Under this year and let’s face it 2011 has been their year. Having only formed last year, their rise to popularity has been nothing short of meteoric. Making up the band are Justin Young (guitar and lead vocals – also formerly known as acoustic folk artist Jay Jay Pistolet), Árni Hjörvar (bass), Freddie Cowan (guitar) and Pete Robertson (drums) and together they have created something quite unique is an extremely short space of time. Young’s voice and lyrics are the perfect combination. They are sad and self-deprecating. ‘Post Break-up Sex’ for example, begins with the usual complexities of having sex with someone after you break up with some else. However, there’s an emptiness that can’t be filled simply by hopping into bed with another person. Each song on the album offers up a little more than the last. The songs aren’t the longest in duration, but they offer up pure quality in the time they do have. I was introduced to the band at this year’s Glastonbury festival, so when I finally got round to picking up the album it washed me down in a hot bath of awesome memories. It’s a fantastic album, so my only hope is that they continue to produce more remarkable work.
Recommended Track: ‘All in White’ and/or ‘Under Your Thumb’ – It’s a tough call. Both fantastic tunes. The former pips it though on the basis the music video is almost like a twisted version of Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 classic, ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart.’
I must also commend the following albums:
Watch the Throne – Jay-Z & Kanye West – Didn’t make the list because despite some cracking tracks, all they rap about is how much more money they have. Cheers boys! I could have told you before you rapped about it.
Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid – Blew me away at Glastonbury. Probably one of the biggest highlight from the festival to be honest. ‘Tightrope’ was phenomenal to see live. She can sing, she can dance and has wicked hair like me. The album has some ups and downs, however. I would suggest seeing her live as the album doesn’t do her justice.
Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’ – Kind of like the male Janelle Monáe. I was introduced to this guy fairly late on this year, but he has a great style. I like to think he is one of the guys that plays at the ‘Enchantment Under the Sea Dance’ at the end of ‘Back to the Future.’ Have a listen. you’ll see what I mean.
Right, well we got there in the end. If you made it this far, I will offer you thanks.
What are your top picks of the year?
Have a great 2012.