Thanks for coming back! Now to reveal my top 5 favourites of MMXI…
5. The Strokes – “Under Cover of Darkness” (Rough Trade)
Released 11 February
It’s been a decade since Is This It? came into the world and it’s a testament to the band that they are still going, albeit with the wheels often feeling on the verge of coming off. A very interesting marketing strategy meant that nearly every single pre-release interview was focussed on how difficult it was to make the album, how Julian barely turned up, and some members didn’t really care, we are only doing this cos y’know, we’ve got to pay some bills. As a long term fan, I’ve always had a big emotional investment in these five guys from NYC and despite the rest of Angles being largely forgettable – this lead off single was just superb, vintage Strokes. Wonderfully spun guitar lines from Albert and Nick, a six note hook, nonchalant, effortless drumming all wonderfully paced and even a decent vocal from Julian. If they could just repeat that over the course of an album…
4. Bombay Bicycle Club – “Shuffle” (Island)
Released 23 June
I am delighted to be following the onward and upward success of Jack Steadman and his merry band of club members. I am so monumentally fed up with “LAD rock” – Viva Brother/Kasabian et al, that it refreshing to see some down to earth normal guys demonstrate their growing maturity. None more so than here, on this first single from their third album, A Different Fix. It’s so simple, just a piano riff but sometimes that’s all you need. An instant mood uplifter.
3. Anna Calvi – “Rider To the Sea”/”No More Words” (Domino)
Released 17 January
Bit of a cheat this one, as it’s actually the first two tracks from the debut of Anna Calvi but the opening instrumental very neatly segues into “No More Words”. This album was bought for me as a present right at the start of 2011, and it hasn’t been out of the stereo much since. Dark, seductive and gothic, Anna could teach a certain Ms. Welch a thing or two about light and shade/subtle and grandiose. Sometimes a variety of textures and atmospheres make for a better listening experience than all out, bat wings bellowing (#justsayin’). Best use of a harmonium since Nasrut Fateh Ali Khan.
2. The Drums – “Money” (Island)
Released 19 August
I tweeted back in August about my addiction to this 3 minutes and 51 seconds of pure Brooklyn based, Smiths-indebted indie perfection, listening over and over and over again. The follow up to their debut album very nearly didn’t see the light of day after band member comings and goings, as well as a bust up over “stylistic differences” in June. Fortunately they stuck with it and using the same musical blueprint of lean-limbed, taut and tight rhythms with a more than healthy dose of Marr/Morrissey magic produced this hideously addictive gem about the perils of money, or lack of it. A soundtrack to the gloomy, austere times of 2011.
1. The Horrors – “Still Life” (XL)
Released 11 July
In my opinion, the best band in Britain right now. An unquantifiable amount of love, care and attention went into the recording process for Skying, their follow up to the game-changing Primary Colours. On producer Geoff Barrow’s advice, they branched out on their own, starting with building their own studio to record in. Google it for photos, it’s like a set out of a dark noir-ish David Fincher scene. Continuing the DIY theme, it must be handy when your guitarist has a degree in physics and builds his own pedals to create some unique sounds. On to the track itself, and it is certainly their most accessible work yet, there is even a crowd-pleasing, anthemic chorus. It helped the album crash land into the charts at the heady heights of number 3. The whole thing feels like it’s gone through the Instagram filter, washed out synths over firm, precise bass and drums. Lead singer, Faris Badwan’s voice has grown from early “Sheena is a Parasite” screaming to help drive the track in a mature, honest way that critics surely didn’t think possible when the Southend five piece started out. What next I wonder?
If you missed it, you can catch numbers 10-6 here and don’t forget to check out my Top 5 gigs of the year as well. Adam H will be taking a look at his albums of the year over the next two days but if you can’t wait until then, go see the list of his favourite EPs of 2011 as well.