Well it’s all over. After a month of voting, the Hitsville Best Of 2011 poll is closed, your choices have been counted and we finally have our end of the year lists. First up, television…
Your pick for the TV show of the year is Community! The currently benched sitcom has garnered more plaudits and praise in two and a bit seasons than most shows gain in a lifetime, and they’re much deserved. Community is the spiritual successor to the likes of The Simpsons and Spaced; a conduit for all of pop culture with a biting sense of humour and a big heart. Season Three has met some unfavourable reviews from fans and critics alike, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming your Show of 2011. Let’s just hope NBC see sense, pay attention to the Save Community campaign (#sixseasonsandamovie) and let the show continue for at least another season.
From one show with a rabid fanbase to another. Doctor Who under Steven Moffat keeps going from strength to strength, which alienates some but enraptures most others. Matt Smith has made for a great Doctor, with a fantastic group of companions, whilst this year’s episodes are up there with the very best (The Impossible Astronaut, A Good Man Goes To War and The God Complex all made for compelling viewing). For what’s meant to be a teatime children’s sci-fi show, Doctor Who punches well above its weight and ambition to match. Things look good for the upcoming Christmas Special.
The return of The Walking Dead was marred with controversy; the departure of showrunner Frank Darabont, AMC making changes to the show (cutting the budget; zombies should be heard, not seen; more shooting inside), but you’ve voted it the third best show of the year. With Season Two extended from six episodes to thirteen, TWD has expanded in scope and given its story time to breath. The first half of the season has just finished and made some interesting diversions from the original comic story; how this affects the rest of the series will be one hell of an interesting watch.
QI is fast becoming a national institution, and comes in fourth place thanks to you. Witty, warm and always fun to watch, the Stephen Fry-hosted panel show is guaranteed to teach you at least one thing whilst it’s on. Featuring a vast array of top comedy talent (and Alan Davies), it’s probably the best quiz show around right now.
Seems like you lot have one big guilty pleasure. The X-Factor is awful, garish, loud and tacky… but it’s also brilliant. Simon Cowell’s brainchild too much fun not to watch. The gossip, outlandish outfits, controversy, awful song choices; it makes for horribly compelling viewing. This year’s run has been no different with Frankie Cokeuphisnozza, Misha B and that Kitty thing all baring the brunt of the public’s dislike, Kelly Rowland providing the most entertainment and Marcus being the clear winner for weeks now. It’s crazy, but the only thing better is Twitter during an episode.
1. BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY
The sequel to the stellar Arkham Asylum had a hell of a lot to live up to, following on from a near-flawless game and the best Batman-related thing since The Dark Knight. Well it looks like it lived up to expectations and even outstripped them, as you’ve voted it your game of the year. Taking the concept of Asylum and expanding it massively, Arkham City opened up a section of Gotham filled to the brim with criminals and supervillains. The graphics and gameplay were superb, with a ton of replayability. Fully deserving of being your Number One.
2. FIFA 12
Yes, most annual sports games are just slightly reworked versions of the previous year’s instalment, but that hasn’t stopped you from voting FIFA 12 as one of the top games of 2011. Saying that the latest FIFA game is the best football game ever and better than Pro Evolution Soccer has become a bit of a cliche recently, but it’s still completely true. FIFA 12 offers the most realistic representation of the sport, with gameplay, graphics and physics all capable of fooling you into thinking you’re watching a real match.
3. L.A. NOIRE
Personally I’ve always wondered what it’d be like if they made a Grand Theft Auto game, but set in the past. This year, that question was answered… sort of. L.A. Noire is an incredible game, taking the open-world sandbox of the GTA series and transporting it to prohibition-era California, but instead of the typical ruthless criminal, we get to be on the side of the law for once. The clue-finding and interrogation scenes make Noire unique in the virtual world, whilst the use of real actors (quite a few from the cast of Mad Men) for the characters is an astonishingly good feature.
By all accounts, Skyrim is mankind’s greatest achievement. Half the people I follow on social networks talk about it constantly and don’t seem to be stopping any time soon. From what I gather, the fifth instalment in the Elder Scrolls series is a bewitching dungeons, dragons, sorcery & swords tale; basically a virtual version of Game Of Thrones, which sounds pretty awesome.
5. PORTAL 2
The sequel to the first Portal is probably one of the most purely entertaining games in a long time. Puzzle games usually get a bit stale after barely one playthrough, but Portal 2 has unending replay potential. The performances of Stephen Merchant and J.K. Simmons in their voice roles deserve some kind of award, whilst the scenery is often breathtaking and beautiful (as beautiful as an underground science lab can be). The multiplayer mode is even more entertaining, making for a classic game.
40. BILL WELLS & AIDAN MOFFAT - EVERYTHING’S GETTING OLDER
39. THE VACCINES - WHAT DID YOU EXPECT FROM THE VACCINES?
38. THE JOY FORMIDABLE - THE BIG ROAR
37. SHABAZZ PALACES - BLACK UP
36. YUCK - YUCK
35. THE ANTLERS - BURST APART
34. TERIUS NASH - 1977
33. COLDPLAY - MYLO XYLOTO
32. RADIOHEAD - THE KING OF LIMBS
31. LIL B - I’M GAY (I’M HAPPY)
A fairly eclectic bunch, aren’t you? From the retro-fuzz of Yuck, to Coldplay’s technicolour MOR, Radiohead’s electro-jazz, The Vaccines’ punky pop, Shabazz Palaces’ superlative alt. hip-hop and whatever the fuck you want to classify Lil B as; with such stellar records this far down the list, the next thirty entries are gonna be good.
30. GIRLS - FATHER, SON, HOLY GHOST
29. NOEL GALLAGHER - NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS
28. KURT VILE - SMOKE RING FOR MY HALO
27. GIL SCOTT-HERON & JAMIE XX - WE’RE NEW HERE
26. M83 - HURRY UP, WE’RE DREAMING
25. YOUTH LAGOON - THE YEAR OF HIBERNATION
24. NICOLAS JAAR - SPACE IS ONLY NOISE
23. FRIENDLY FIRES - PALA
22. JOHNNY FOREIGNER - JOHNNY FOREIGNER VS EVERYTHING
21. THE WEEKND - HOUSE OF BALLOONS/THURSDAY
Another eclectic selection from you, our Hitsville readers. Several stunning debut records included in this section of the list; Jamie xx’s euphoric reworking of the late Gil-Scott Heron, Nicolas Jaar’s weird and eerie ambient electronica, Youth Lagoon’s heartbreaking Year Of Hibernation and the double trouble of The Weeknd’s Thursday and House Of Balloons (included here as one entry, for convenience) are all amazing albums deserved of the praise and our votes. You clearly warmed to Johnny Foreigner’s third LP “…Vs Everything” despite the shockingly poor NME review, as well as M83’s divisive double album. Also, we can’t leave out poor Noel Gallagher, who proved himself the talented brother (like it was ever in doubt) with a fine solo debut.
20. DRAKE - TAKE CARE
19. ELBOW - BUILD A ROCKET BOYS!
18. MASTODON - THE HUNTER
17. SLOW CLUB - PARADISE
16. NICOLA ROBERTS - CINDERELLA’S EYES
15. JAMES BLAKE - JAMES BLAKE
14. PJ HARVEY - LET ENGLAND SHAKE
13. THE CHAPMAN FAMILY - BURN YOUR TOWN
12. BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB - A DIFFERENT KIND OF FIX
11. LOS CAMPESINOS! - HELLO SADNESS
A dectet of big names and heavy hitters here. Just missing out on a prestigious top ten place are the likes of Drake, Elbow and PJ Harvey. Nicola Roberts surprised everyone by being the best member of Girls Aloud in the solo stakes, whilst Bombay Bicycle Club continued to evolve and mature on their third album. Los Campesinos! provided us with the best indie break-up album in quite some time, as well as their best album yet. The divisive Drake gave us Take Care, which earned a 5/10 from us, but has been festooned with praise by others. The Chapman Family finally emerged with their debut album and rocketed up to 13th place; clearly the Stockton four piece are worth the wait. Mastodon came up with the metal album of the year and James Blake became the big name in dubstep, if he wasn’t already before.
Well this is a surprise. The pre-release hype to Tyler, The Creator's second album was huge, something you only see for a true phenomenon, which is what the LA rapper is, make no mistake. "Yonkers", or more specifically, the video for the track, introduced him to a much wider audience and set the ball rolling for Goblin’s hype. Since then, Tyler’s won an MTV VMA award (for the “Yonkers” promo), provided a voice for cartoon The Regular Show, become the most wanted collaborator for anyone in need of some credibility and found himself at the centre of many heated discussions on homophobia and sexism. All because of one album.
Personally, I didn’t think Goblin was up to much. It contains a handful of great songs, a lot of filler and a lot of half-arsed song sketches. But clearly, you lot disagree. The likes of “Yonkers”, "Sandwitches", "She" and "Radicals" are all fantastic tracks worthy of the buzz, but stuff like "Bitch Suck Dick", “Transylvania” and ”Fish” are piss-poor. However, Tyler and Goblin have both become iconic, just through the power of promotion and the millions who have converted to the Odd Future cause. OFWGKTA and by extension Tyler have transformed into something of a youth movement. Their ‘fuck everything’ stance on, well, everything was always going to be popular amongst bored and disenfranchised kids, of which there are plenty around at the moment. Tyler’s next album is scheduled for 2012, and hopefully he can capitalise on his early potential.
The further Wild Beasts get in their career the more of a misnomer their name becomes. The Lake District quartet began racous and rowdy but still refined, but from second album Two Dancers to Smother, they’ve most definitely decided less is more. Their sound is now more mature and layered, smooth and sultry; as tender and refined as The Smiths, but with a perpetual undercurrent of sexuality lingering (for example “Plaything”, a stripped back ode to stripping off). It’s not all hanky panky though; Albatross is a haunting ballad whilst “Reach A Bit Further” features the amazing interplay between co-vocalists Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming.
The true standout is the epic closer “End Come Too Soon”. The most ambitious track the quartet have attempted and possibly the best thing they’ve ever recorded, it glides along on a subtle groove and dreamlike guitars. With Smother, Wild Beasts continue to be the most astonishingly unique band in the country and are most certainly one of those rare once-in-a-generation groups.
Going soft-rock might not be a common or cool musical direction, but it’s the path that Metronomy strolled down with aplomb on their third album. Taking their idiosyncratic indie disco formula and streamlining it with influences like Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles worked wonders for the Devon four piece, earning them plaudits across the board, including your votes to make The English Riviera your Number Eight album of 2011.
A love letter to its geographical namesake, The English Riviera is the sound of British pop music right now; smooth, sharp, funky and packed full of hooks. From “Corinne” to “Everything Goes My Way”, this is the sound of a band hitting its stride, full of confidence. They’ve also produced a classic British pop song in the form of “The Bay” with its slowly building bass ‘n’ synth intro that culminates in groovy dancefloor euphoria. It’s no wonder band leader Joe Mount was drafted in to work on Nicola Roberts’ poptastic solo debut. With albums like this, expect Metronomy to become one of the big bands on the scene over the next few years.
As astonishing a debut as anything that’s come along in the last five years, SBTRKT's first LP is the high watermark of this post-dubstep music world we inhabit. Rarely has electronic music sound so warm and soulful whilst remaining forward-thinking and innovative. SBTRKT has established himself as an alternative to both the braindead bro-step of Skrillex et al and the paper thin dub of James Blake. Without any massive buildup of hype from the press, SBTRKT has risen to become most switched-on people's producer of choice, as proven by his position as your NUmber Seven album of 2011. Most, if not all of the tracks on SBTRKT are equally at home on dancefloors as they are on iPod headphones. The production and beats are superlative, without getting too technical or intricate. Of course, a lot of the album's success hs to do with the guest vocalists. Yukumi Nagano and Rose Gabor lend their talents to a handfuk of tracks, but the majority of vocal duty is handled by the fantstic Sampha, who provides the album with enough heart and hooks to make it a true classic.
The big album of the year, bar none. It’s hard to remember any album in recent memory that had such a build-up and so much expectations placed on it, although it didn’t quite start that way. Originally planned as a five-track EP, Watch The Throne fast evolved into a full album. The first anyone heard from the tag team of Jay-Z & Kanye West was the rather sloppy "H.A.M.", which dampened many people’s hopes for the collaboration (fortunately the track was relegated to the deluxe version’s extra disc). Could these two icons of hip-hop produced an expensive gold-plated flop? Well, in short, no.
Watch The Throne is unashamedly brash and flash; it flaunts its cost like an expensive piece of jewellery. Kanye’s influence is clear to see. The more experimental of the pair, he takes over with the overall sound of the record. There are still the big crossover pop moments, but there’s also unorthodox samples from two soul legends (Otis Redding on "Otis", Nina Simone on "New Day"), dubstep, Will Ferrell dialogue, a bizzare bluesy motif that appears at the end of several tracks and the epic shapeshifting "Murder To Excellence". It’s a bit removed from “Empire State Of Mind” to say the least…
Whilst the record in grandiose and materialistic, there’s also a clear social conscience running through its core. Countless references to the struggles of African-Americans in the US, black-on-black murder, the two stars’ worries over fatherhood, religion, politics and much more shoot down the idea that this is basically two rappers dicking around in the studio, talking about their clothes and women. Watch The Throne is a landmark.