Its been another great year of musical discovery. Here are the ten records I enjoyed most...
- 1. Whokill – Tuneyards
I, like many others, have spent much of the last decade moaning about the lack of decent guitar music. The majority of it is simply a re-tread of what we’ve already heard and therefore in my opinion effectively worthless. I spent a good chunk of this year really enjoying this album before actually realising that at its heart it is the most original guitar based album I’ve heard in years although its also so many other things as well (including making very effective use of a lo-fi sampler). At first listen the immediate reference points are post punk, dub, soca and afro pop but listen again and the guitar is as key an element as is Meryl Garbus’ wonderful voice (especially on the epic Po-wa which is one of the best vocal performances I’ve heard in years). This album doesn’t sound like anyone else and this lady is clearly one of the eccentric characters that make great pop music what it is.
- Space is only noise – Nicolas Jaar
- Let England Shake – PJ Harvey
Yes it’s overheard, yes the critical consensus is dull but the simple fact is that Polly made a great (and somewhat timeless) record. This isn’t trad rock or indie, it’s a songwriter who has matured to the point that she is able to create an artistic vision and deliver it without ever once sounding like she’s trying to force the songs into it. Somehow bringing in influences as diverse as traditional folk, reggae, Eddie Cochran and the Doors to create something that is ultimately and undoubtedly hers. She like many is both disgusted by our nation’s history and in love with its beauty and this is a great commentary on the state of our nation (and you can’t say that about Coldplay can you?).
- House of Balloons – Weeknd
- Dedication – Zomby
- Peanut Butter Blues and melancholy jam – Ghostpoet
- King of Limbs – Radiohead
- Jill Scott – The light of the sun
9.Locussolus - Locussolus
I was very cynical about this one before hearing it. Harvey is one of those DJs so name droppingly cool that you expect 12 minute long jams of 80’s Balearic throughout. Imagine my surprise then when this actually revealed itself to be a selection of well-focused dance pop songs. True, some draw out over a period of time and ‘go off on one’ but with focus maintained throughout and the use of guest producers (Weatherall, Prins Tomas etc) keeps things interesting. I want it even steals a snatch of Venus which is just ace. Definitely worst sleeve mind….
10.ISAM – Amon Tobin
The most unique record on my list. Some of this record (Surge for example) arguably isn’t even music – more a collection of sounds. It is completely original (one of the main virtues in music for me) and yet isn’t in any way difficult for anyone prepared to give it time. The lightness of touch on tracks like Wooden Toy ensures it’s a work you can return to time and time again.
And my favourite singles...
- Rolling in the deep (Jamie XX re-rub) – Adele
Two of the most significant musicians of the year combine to wonderful effect. Jamie XX doesn’t do anything particularly clever with the original recognising its strength but he strips it back, adds the odd touch of weirdness and bass and creates something that is great for both the dancefloor and home listening. Remix job done!
2.Street Halo - Burial
This is exactly what I would want to be listening to in a dark nightclub at 4am – imposing and ‘diiiirty’ – the bass line just makes you want to blow your mind.
3.Ice Cream – Battles
One can’t help but consider the scientific approach Battles bring to their records – this is so well constructed! Starting simply with a grunt it accelerates gradually until we are caught up into one of the guitar songs of the year (although the first half of the song is much better than the second). Should have been a huge hit – and the video is ace!