Alex’s best of the year so far…

Since we’re officially halfway through 2011, we here at Hitsville will (hopefully) be posting our best of lists of the last six months over the next week or so. I best kick things off with, in no particular order, my top albums and songs of the year.

ALBUMS
The Chapman Family - Burn Your Town
Loud, pissed-off, incendiary; the Stockton noiseniks are, to my knowledge, the only band to truly stand up and shout out against the shite of modern life. “Burn Your Town” is a startlingly debut, one of, if not the best, of the year.
 
Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys!
I see no real reason how anyone can dislike Elbow. Build A Rocket continues a career long purple patch for the band; Guy Garvey is truly the greatest lyricist of the past ten years, whilst musically they can turn their hand from the soft lullaby of “Lippy Kids” to the rocking “Neat Little Rows”. Exceptional.

Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See
They did it again. Album number four saw Sheffield’s finest going slightly retro, embracing 70s FM rock, along with Kinksian jangly pop as well as a few heavy hitters in the shape of “Brick By Brick” and “Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair”. The five song run which concludes the album is possibly the best material the Monkeys have produced, and if Guy Garvey is the best lyricist of recent, Alex Turner runs him a close second.

Cat’s Eyes - Cat’s Eyes
Not just an appetite wetter for Horrors album #3, Faris Badwan’s side-project with Canadian opera singer (and girlfriend) Rachel Zeffira is a trip into the realms of gothic rockabilly as well as a healthy dollop of 60s pop flourish too. If The Horrors ever finish (and judging from their new material, I hope that isn’t for a while), Badwan will have a more than adequate new job producing more Cat’s Eyes.

Glasvegas - EUPHORIC ///HEARTBREAK\\
Yes, there’s bombast. Yes, it was most likely recorded in studios made from cocaine. Yes, it sounds like U2. These things would usually be good reason for any self-respecting indie aficionado to recoil in horror. But along with the pomp, James Allan & co brought the huge stadium-rock tunes, albeit soaked with reverb and synth. Keeping his songwriting eye away from vague uplifting sentiments a la Bono, Allan’s songs are intriguing as they are massive.

Wild Beasts - Smother
Like Elbow and the Arctics, Kendal’s Wild Beasts are yet to make a bad album. Pulling in the reins slightly on this, their third album, the band are more restrained but more sultry than previous efforts, the rampant romps of the first two LPs transformed into something altogether more sensual and romantic. The lyrical brilliance is still intact, thankfully (for those keeping score, it’s Garvey in first place, Turner in second, and Wild Beasts taking third place)

Three Trapped Tigers - Route One Or Die
The math-rock threesome can certainly live up to their name. “Route One Or Die” is a pummelling, brutal album of, well suited to either blowing out your speakers with the volume turned to 11 or picking out the tiny idiosyncrasies  through your headphones

Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia
It seems Patrick Wolf has finally made that great album he’s always had the potential to create. Stepping away from the harsh electro of previous album “The Bachelor”, Wolf has embraced his pop side once more and it’s superb.

SBTRKT - SBTRKT
The world of post-dubstep is a hell of a lot more enticing than dubstep, that’s for sure. SBTRKT’s sparse beats and soulful vocalists help create the album you wish James Blake could have made; warm, accessible yet danceable and fresh with every listen.

Friendly Fires - Pala
The best thing to come out of St Albans, since, well, their first album. Friendly Fires are sure to become one of the biggest dance acts in the country, whilst still retaining that irresistible knack for pop hooks. “Pala” expands their already big sounds with more beats and choruses than before.



SONGS
Bombay Bicycle Club - Shuffle
A gloriously wonky slice of brilliance from BBC, "Shuffle" is without a doubt the band’s best song to date, and one of the most enjoyable pop songs for some time.

Childish Gambino - Freaks & Geeks
Donald Glover’s musical alter-ego is one of the most exciting musical prospects. “Freaks & Geeks” sees the Community star turn to an orchestral backing with string stabs and a minimal beat, whilst reeling out the funniest rap verses of the last few years. Instantly quotable, but Gambino is no novelty act; this is the perfect place to hop on the bandwagon.

Nicola Roberts - Beat Of My Drum
Better than nearly every Girls Aloud single to date, Nicola Roberts has concoted the pop single of the year, with a little help from Diplo and that omnipresent Major Lazer sample. It has all the hallmarks of a classic pop single (including the propensity to annoy - hello “Bonkers” et al) and with further help from Metronomy’s Joe Mount on her album, there could be quite a few more.

The Joy Formidable - Whirring
A kick to the privates of anyone who thinks indie is a place of Smiths and Oasis-clones, the Welsh trio bring huge rock riffs to the table as well as a swirling shoegaze wall of sound and one hell of breakdown in the final two minutes. The stadiums will be barely big enough to contain this, once TJF reach them.

Elbow - Open Arms
Just when you thought Elbow couldn’t get more anthemic than “One Day Like This”. “Open Arms” is simply joy in a four minute song, with those typical big choruses. There’s sure to be a lot of hugging and arms around shoulders when this is rolled out at Elbow’s festival slots this summer.

Tyler, The Creator - Yonkers
Aka the song that set the OFWGKTA hype ball rolling. And with good cause too. Tyler’s finest moment, with a superb beat, darkly comic punchlines; even if you don’t like Odd Future, you have to admit, this is one hell of a tune.

Jamie xx - Far Nearer
The production brain behind The xx has been farily busy this year, chucking out innumerable remixes as well as his reworking of the late, great Gil Scott Heron ‘s final album. But his first solo single is the pick of the bunch, with the best (possibly only) use of steel drums in pop since Hot Chip’s “I Feel Better”, a delicious beat and a catchy vocal line.

Los Campesinos! - Light Leaves, Dark Sees
LC! kicked off their Heat Rash idea with this corker. A continuation of the usual LC! formula, “Light Leaves, Dark Sees” finds Gareth Campesinos! on fine lyrical form whilst musically, they’re ever so slightly grubbier and somehow poppier simultaneously. Signs are good for Heat Rash #2 and album #4 (due out towards the end of the year.

Patrick Wolf - The City
If Nicola Roberts has the proper pop song of the year, Patrick Wolf has grabbed the alternative equivalent. Yeah, it’s got a fair bit of cheesiness, but when it’s this good, cheese is entirely forgiveable. It’s like a lost Bowie classic from the 80s; a huge hook, handclaps, a saxophone  and a healthy camp quotient. Fantastic.

EP
Childish Gambino - Untitled
Flawless. Simple as. More on Childish Gambino here

TV
Doctor Who
I think it’s confirmed that Matt Smith is up there with the best actors to play the Doctor. His incarnation has breathed fresh breath into the show and, along with the leadership of Steven Moffat, the show has become essential viewing. There are more ideas and plot twists in the first half of the current series than most TV shows conjure up in their lifespan.

FILM
American: The Bill Hicks Story
Hilarious, heart-wrenching, poignant and fascinating all at once, this biographical documentary of one of the greatest stand-up comedians ever is an fine introduction to newcomers as well as introducing long-time fans to Hicks’ backstory and personal life in more depth than ever before.A must-see for anyone who’s a fan of the great man or just a fan of comedy.


Greetings loyal Hitsville readers! As you may have noticed, the year is slowly drawing to a close, and as you may be able to tell from that graphic up there, we’re kicking off our end of year polls. A little early? Perhaps, but you’ve got a heck of a lot of time left to decide.
We’re looking to you, dear readers, to vote ‘til your fingers can no longer type in each or any of the five categories; Song of the year, Album of the year, Film of the year, TV show of the year and Game of the year. Every single vote counts. Voting closes on November 20th, with the results following shortly after. You can vote in our Tumblr ask box, on our Facebook wall or in one of the Facebook Question polls on our page.
And to those of you who have your own top ten lists, the system works a little something like this:

Of course, it doesn’t have to be three, five or ten picks, you can vote for as many things as you want. Some eager people have been voting already, and you can see the current top of the polls for albums and films by clicking here.
So if you don’t think Arctic Monkeys deserve album of the year, Harry Potter was better thank Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or you’ve been addicted to Portal 2, put your thinking caps on and get voting!
VOTE


Greetings loyal Hitsville readers! As you may have noticed, the year is slowly drawing to a close, and as you may be able to tell from that graphic up there, we’re kicking off our end of year polls. A little early? Perhaps, but you’ve got a heck of a lot of time left to decide.

We’re looking to you, dear readers, to vote ‘til your fingers can no longer type in each or any of the five categories; Song of the year, Album of the yearFilm of the year, TV show of the year and Game of the year. Every single vote counts. Voting closes on November 20th, with the results following shortly after. You can vote in our Tumblr ask box, on our Facebook wall or in one of the Facebook Question polls on our page.

And to those of you who have your own top ten lists, the system works a little something like this:

Of course, it doesn’t have to be three, five or ten picks, you can vote for as many things as you want. Some eager people have been voting already, and you can see the current top of the polls for albums and films by clicking here.

So if you don’t think Arctic Monkeys deserve album of the year, Harry Potter was better thank Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or you’ve been addicted to Portal 2, put your thinking caps on and get voting!

VOTE

This decade is already promising to be a stellar one. “Why?”, I hear you ask through your non-focal hipster glasses, as you flick through your homemade bootleg collection of bands from the 90s.
Let’s first look at the rise and rise of dubstep. Such a rise in an entirely different genre hasn’t been seen since around about the start of the new millennium with the rise and rise of metalcore, with bands like Bullet For My Valentine and Killswitch Engage being the big innovators of the first decade of the century. We saw the rise of emo and we saw it die away, so will dubstep do a metalcore and rise over the course of the decade, or will it cut its own wrists? Dubstep’s been around for longer than most of you reading this, but dubstep reached chart popularity pretty slowly and is now the selling point of nightclubs and DJs across the UK and the world. Chart hits like the Crookers remix of “Day ‘N’ Nite” by Kid Cudi and a handful Britney Spears singles are obvious examples of pre-2010 dubstep which have experienced a fair amount of success but with the rise of acts like Magnetic Man, James Blake, Nero and so on the 2010s are set to be the era which comes to make or break the dance music scene as we know it now. To see dubstep as a plethora of similar artists is perhaps somewhat narrow-minded, simply citing the gulf between Britney Spears’ brand of dubstep and the dubstep of acts on Doctor P’s Circus records.
The rise of Nero, an act who seem to have been around for as long as I’ve been interested in dance music, is one such case study. Nero began with successful remixes of various club tunes (see their remix of The Streets' "Blinded By The Lights" for an absolute banger) and began to release fairly under-the-radar drum and bass tracks (see "Choices"). Their big break came in late 2010 with the release of the pioneering UKF’s double drum ‘n’ bass/dubstep albums with the exposure of ”Innocence”, followed by successful singles "Me And You", "Guilt" and "Promises". Nero have come to define a modern dance music audience (counterbalance that with the rise of LMFAO and we have a gulf emerging even in dance music).
While Nero have been pretty widely acclaimed by dubstep fans and pop fans alike, there’s acts around that really split opinion down the middle. I barely need to say the name Skrillex for the fangs to come out on both sides of the argument. The emo singer-come-producer has certainly won my affections, but continues to drive people to murderous anger with his ADHD “bass” music (a term I prefer when referring to Skrillex, as he certainly doesn’t adhere to the more slowed down, grime/garage-influenced dubstep rubric that is an industry staple), his image is one that divides even his fans.
2011 hasn’t just been the year of the raver, however, with massive releases from bands on both sides of the rock camp: The Strokes released Angles, a tremendous 80s-influenced return to form for the New York quintet which has tunes to rival their debut Is This It, but also reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Blink 182 returned with Neighbourhoods (an album I’m not going to pretend to have listened to) (Editor’s note: lucky you), as did Anthrax and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  As well as EDM, I am certainly a fan of heavy rock and punk music, and as such it’s been a gift of a year: Mastodon’s The Hunter was mind blowing, Trivium’s In Waves recaptured the spirit of a 15 year old me, August Burns Red’s Leveler is one of my favourite albums of all time, and Protest The Hero’s Scurrilous did not disappoint.
Every year has its lows, musically – we’ve had the commercial success of Black Veil Brides, the fucking disaster that is Lulu (a disgracefully shit collaboration between Metallica and Lou Reed that nearly reduced me to tears), and even fucking Cher Lloyd. I’m not going to act as though I was not affronted by these aural crimes.  But overall, it’s been a terrific year for music, with the fads (OFWGKTA’s rise to “power”), the triumphant returns (Bon Iver’s absolutely breathtaking self titled album) and not to forget the biannual Dream Theater record that sounds exactly the same as the last.  I give 2011 a musical 7/10, a point deducted for the 3 travesties listed above. Here’s to a terrific 2012.

This decade is already promising to be a stellar one. “Why?”, I hear you ask through your non-focal hipster glasses, as you flick through your homemade bootleg collection of bands from the 90s.

Let’s first look at the rise and rise of dubstep. Such a rise in an entirely different genre hasn’t been seen since around about the start of the new millennium with the rise and rise of metalcore, with bands like Bullet For My Valentine and Killswitch Engage being the big innovators of the first decade of the century. We saw the rise of emo and we saw it die away, so will dubstep do a metalcore and rise over the course of the decade, or will it cut its own wrists? Dubstep’s been around for longer than most of you reading this, but dubstep reached chart popularity pretty slowly and is now the selling point of nightclubs and DJs across the UK and the world. Chart hits like the Crookers remix of “Day ‘N’ Nite” by Kid Cudi and a handful Britney Spears singles are obvious examples of pre-2010 dubstep which have experienced a fair amount of success but with the rise of acts like Magnetic Man, James Blake, Nero and so on the 2010s are set to be the era which comes to make or break the dance music scene as we know it now. To see dubstep as a plethora of similar artists is perhaps somewhat narrow-minded, simply citing the gulf between Britney Spears’ brand of dubstep and the dubstep of acts on Doctor P’s Circus records.

The rise of Nero, an act who seem to have been around for as long as I’ve been interested in dance music, is one such case study. Nero began with successful remixes of various club tunes (see their remix of The Streets' "Blinded By The Lights" for an absolute banger) and began to release fairly under-the-radar drum and bass tracks (see "Choices"). Their big break came in late 2010 with the release of the pioneering UKF’s double drum ‘n’ bass/dubstep albums with the exposure of ”Innocence”, followed by successful singles "Me And You", "Guilt" and "Promises". Nero have come to define a modern dance music audience (counterbalance that with the rise of LMFAO and we have a gulf emerging even in dance music).

While Nero have been pretty widely acclaimed by dubstep fans and pop fans alike, there’s acts around that really split opinion down the middle. I barely need to say the name Skrillex for the fangs to come out on both sides of the argument. The emo singer-come-producer has certainly won my affections, but continues to drive people to murderous anger with his ADHD “bass” music (a term I prefer when referring to Skrillex, as he certainly doesn’t adhere to the more slowed down, grime/garage-influenced dubstep rubric that is an industry staple), his image is one that divides even his fans.

2011 hasn’t just been the year of the raver, however, with massive releases from bands on both sides of the rock camp: The Strokes released Angles, a tremendous 80s-influenced return to form for the New York quintet which has tunes to rival their debut Is This It, but also reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Blink 182 returned with Neighbourhoods (an album I’m not going to pretend to have listened to) (Editor’s note: lucky you), as did Anthrax and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. As well as EDM, I am certainly a fan of heavy rock and punk music, and as such it’s been a gift of a year: Mastodon’s The Hunter was mind blowing, Trivium’s In Waves recaptured the spirit of a 15 year old me, August Burns Red’s Leveler is one of my favourite albums of all time, and Protest The Hero’s Scurrilous did not disappoint.

Every year has its lows, musically – we’ve had the commercial success of Black Veil Brides, the fucking disaster that is Lulu (a disgracefully shit collaboration between Metallica and Lou Reed that nearly reduced me to tears), and even fucking Cher Lloyd. I’m not going to act as though I was not affronted by these aural crimes. But overall, it’s been a terrific year for music, with the fads (OFWGKTA’s rise to “power”), the triumphant returns (Bon Iver’s absolutely breathtaking self titled album) and not to forget the biannual Dream Theater record that sounds exactly the same as the last. I give 2011 a musical 7/10, a point deducted for the 3 travesties listed above. Here’s to a terrific 2012.

So here we are. November already. Time flies etc. This is the first of our end of year lists, but not the definitive one, mind you (you can still vote for them here or here). No, this is just the top ten of your humble editor. Feel free to submit your top ten lists to us if you want to see them posted up here. Well, without further ado…

Just when I thought he couldn’t better the flawless untitled EP from earlier this year, Donald Glover serves up the hip-hop album of the year and, hell, the overall album of the year. Ambitious, moving, hilarious and brilliant in equal parts, Camp is a rare deeply personal rap album in a similar standing to Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and even manages to match it in quality. Gambino can do no wrong.

It’s always a good thing to see a band given time to grow, develop and change at their own pace. LC! have been afforded that chance, evolving from their chirpy indie-pop roots to become one of the best loved and consistently brilliant bands in the country. Hello Sadness far outstrips their past records and solidifies their position and something special.

A superb return to form for the unlikely BRIT Award winner. Injecting some heart and soul into her mature folk ways after the drab I Speak Because I Can, Marling created a beautiful, heart-wrenching affair that demands repeat listens and can be considered her first classic album of what’s sure to be many.

Once in a while, an artist comes out of nowhere startlingly fully formed, with a perfect debut album. Trevor Powers is that artist. The Year Of Hibernation is an astonishing achievement, especially when you consider Powers’ age and the fact that this is his first album. Tender and sweet, the lo-fi ballads of Youth Lagoon are sure to worm their way into the heart of many a teenager.

 Pretty sure Alex Turner has the Midas touch. The man just keeps churning out the successes. Expectations were low for the Monkeys’ fourth LP after the lukewarm reception towards Humbug (an underrated classic). Doubters were silenced with a record that flitted between lovelorn crooning, the jangly genius of The Smiths and The Stone Roses and the heavy rock power that the band have always had hiding in them. It also provides us with their best song yet, in the title track.

The country’s in the shitter and we’re stuck with James Blake for a soundtrack. ”Where are all the pissed-off, angry young bands?” you may ask. Well judging on this evidence, Stockton-On-Tees. The Chapman Family took their time with this debut LP, waiting a few years to get it just right, instead of cashing in on their 2009 hype. The result is a seething, barely-contained gem of a record. It should rightly become a future classic, documenting the current climate. But for now, it’s the best British debut in a long, long time.

Not happy with going all on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” last year, Kanye teamed with fellow hip-hop monolith Jay-Z to concoct the most extravagant rap album probably ever. From its glistening artwork to the star studded guests, Watch The Throne screams THIS IS A BIG ALBUM. With so much hype and money thrown at it, the album could well have been a massive flop. Instead we get two heavyweights sparring with each other for fun, crafting a landmark for the genre.

AKA, the first post-fame Elbow album. 2008’s The Seldom Seen Kid propelled the Bury band into the spotlight like never before in their decades long career, and Build A Rocket Boys! is just as good as its predecessor. Yes, it may follow an eerily similar formula (big long opener, rocky first single, penultimate singalong anthem, tender restrained closer) but the genius of Guy Garvey is enough to see it through. Seriously, someone give the man a knighthood.

AKA the album responsible for me no longer buying the NME. Probably the biggest cult band in the country right now (tying with Los Campesinos!) Birmingham’s JoFo prove that there is indie music still worth getting passionate about. …Vs Everything sees an expansion of the usual palette, adding sythns, prominent acoustic guitars and subtle horns into the mix, leaving us with a career-best record from the threesome.

Dubstep is a dirty word around these parts, but somehow SBTRKT makes it immensely listenable. The exact definition of what the dubstep sound is will rage on long after the genre has died a death, but in a world where Skrillex and James Blake are the faces of the scene, I’d take whatever SBTRKT is selling every day. Sparse, soulful and at times haunting, the London producer’s debut is also really quite wonderful and hopefully a sign of good things to come for UK dance.

So here we are. November already. Time flies etc. This is the first of our end of year lists, but not the definitive one, mind you (you can still vote for them here or here). No, this is just the top ten of your humble editor. Feel free to submit your top ten lists to us if you want to see them posted up here. Well, without further ado…


Just when I thought he couldn’t better the flawless untitled EP from earlier this year, Donald Glover serves up the hip-hop album of the year and, hell, the overall album of the year. Ambitious, moving, hilarious and brilliant in equal parts, Camp is a rare deeply personal rap album in a similar standing to Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” and even manages to match it in quality. Gambino can do no wrong.


It’s always a good thing to see a band given time to grow, develop and change at their own pace. LC! have been afforded that chance, evolving from their chirpy indie-pop roots to become one of the best loved and consistently brilliant bands in the country. Hello Sadness far outstrips their past records and solidifies their position and something special.


A superb return to form for the unlikely BRIT Award winner. Injecting some heart and soul into her mature folk ways after the drab I Speak Because I Can, Marling created a beautiful, heart-wrenching affair that demands repeat listens and can be considered her first classic album of what’s sure to be many.


Once in a while, an artist comes out of nowhere startlingly fully formed, with a perfect debut album. Trevor Powers is that artist. The Year Of Hibernation is an astonishing achievement, especially when you consider Powers’ age and the fact that this is his first album. Tender and sweet, the lo-fi ballads of Youth Lagoon are sure to worm their way into the heart of many a teenager.


Pretty sure Alex Turner has the Midas touch. The man just keeps churning out the successes. Expectations were low for the Monkeys’ fourth LP after the lukewarm reception towards Humbug (an underrated classic). Doubters were silenced with a record that flitted between lovelorn crooning, the jangly genius of The Smiths and The Stone Roses and the heavy rock power that the band have always had hiding in them. It also provides us with their best song yet, in the title track.


The country’s in the shitter and we’re stuck with James Blake for a soundtrack. ”Where are all the pissed-off, angry young bands?” you may ask. Well judging on this evidence, Stockton-On-Tees. The Chapman Family took their time with this debut LP, waiting a few years to get it just right, instead of cashing in on their 2009 hype. The result is a seething, barely-contained gem of a record. It should rightly become a future classic, documenting the current climate. But for now, it’s the best British debut in a long, long time.


Not happy with going all on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” last year, Kanye teamed with fellow hip-hop monolith Jay-Z to concoct the most extravagant rap album probably ever. From its glistening artwork to the star studded guests, Watch The Throne screams THIS IS A BIG ALBUM. With so much hype and money thrown at it, the album could well have been a massive flop. Instead we get two heavyweights sparring with each other for fun, crafting a landmark for the genre.


AKA, the first post-fame Elbow album. 2008’s The Seldom Seen Kid propelled the Bury band into the spotlight like never before in their decades long career, and Build A Rocket Boys! is just as good as its predecessor. Yes, it may follow an eerily similar formula (big long opener, rocky first single, penultimate singalong anthem, tender restrained closer) but the genius of Guy Garvey is enough to see it through. Seriously, someone give the man a knighthood.


AKA the album responsible for me no longer buying the NME. Probably the biggest cult band in the country right now (tying with Los Campesinos!) Birmingham’s JoFo prove that there is indie music still worth getting passionate about. …Vs Everything sees an expansion of the usual palette, adding sythns, prominent acoustic guitars and subtle horns into the mix, leaving us with a career-best record from the threesome.


Dubstep is a dirty word around these parts, but somehow SBTRKT makes it immensely listenable. The exact definition of what the dubstep sound is will rage on long after the genre has died a death, but in a world where Skrillex and James Blake are the faces of the scene, I’d take whatever SBTRKT is selling every day. Sparse, soulful and at times haunting, the London producer’s debut is also really quite wonderful and hopefully a sign of good things to come for UK dance.



This debut delight from the mysterious Savaging Spires experiments with acid psych-folk whilst simultaneously creating 45 minutes of nostalgia inspired nuggets of beauty. Flipping between whimsical ethereal sounds and darker, more industrial noises this record is thrilling from start to finish.

This double LP from ambient drone musician Liz Harris is one of the most beautiful things to be released this year. Despite being basic in comparison to other music Harris still manages to create dense, haunting melodies. Her vocals remain light whilst managing to pull you in until you’re fully immersed in a strange but somehow familiar new world.


As a fan of Adam Wiltzie’s work with Stars of the Lid, I was excited by the announcement that he would be working with Dustin O’Halloran of dream pop band Devics on a new project. And rightly so as this self titled debut from the pair is full of sublimely cinematic pieces. A true gem from this year.


After seeing Spectrals support Best Coast earlier in the year, I was intrigued by the sounds and lyrics 21 year-old Louis Oliver Jones was creating. After playing his EP to death, I was pleased his first full length was just as fulfilling. Filled with meaty tunes (love the 60s influence) this lad is certainly one to watch. Can’t go wrong with a Northern accent either.

Emma Lee Moss is one of my favourite lyricists of the past five years. And on Virtue, Emma and co have upped their game creating a breathtaking set of songs about heartbreak. Not only have the lyrics gained from experience but Emma’s voice is more confident which pushes this record even further. Raw, honest and at times extremely emotional this album exceeded my expectations by miles. 


Exciting, upbeat, interesting, wacky, extraordinary. Congratulations Merrill, you have provided me with the most electrifying album of this year. And that is all I will say on the matter.

Possibly the perfect Autumn album, Newcastle sextet Lanterns On The Lake have produced sweeping moments of sheer beauty on this LP. Melancholic sounds play a big part here but manage to avoid becoming irritating or pretentious and instead leave the listener in awe. 


The Sheffield duo’s sophomore record clearly displays their growth as musicians and songwriters. An equal mix of instant dancefloor hits (see “Where I’m Waking”) and quieter, acoustic numbers, this is a solid release from Rebecca and Charles. Plus they KILL IT live.


Despite being the singer of popular 90s band Pavement, Stephen Malkmus has released a number of successful albums with other projects (namely Silver Jews and his own band the Jicks). Mirror Traffic is no exception, packing punches left, right and centre and dripping with wit. Arise, Sir Stephen Malkmus.


There is a reason this album was nominated for the Mercury Prize. It connotes images of village life, full of tiny details and backed beautifully with tender melodies. On a more personal level this record has kept me company on lonely nights since moving from Glasgow to London, King Creosote’s soft Scottish vocals helping me slip into a sleep filled with dreams of the highlands. 

This debut delight from the mysterious Savaging Spires experiments with acid psych-folk whilst simultaneously creating 45 minutes of nostalgia inspired nuggets of beauty. Flipping between whimsical ethereal sounds and darker, more industrial noises this record is thrilling from start to finish.


This double LP from ambient drone musician Liz Harris is one of the most beautiful things to be released this year. Despite being basic in comparison to other music Harris still manages to create dense, haunting melodies. Her vocals remain light whilst managing to pull you in until you’re fully immersed in a strange but somehow familiar new world.

As a fan of Adam Wiltzie’s work with Stars of the Lid, I was excited by the announcement that he would be working with Dustin O’Halloran of dream pop band Devics on a new project. And rightly so as this self titled debut from the pair is full of sublimely cinematic pieces. A true gem from this year.

After seeing Spectrals support Best Coast earlier in the year, I was intrigued by the sounds and lyrics 21 year-old Louis Oliver Jones was creating. After playing his EP to death, I was pleased his first full length was just as fulfilling. Filled with meaty tunes (love the 60s influence) this lad is certainly one to watch. Can’t go wrong with a Northern accent either.


Emma Lee Moss is one of my favourite lyricists of the past five years. And on Virtue, Emma and co have upped their game creating a breathtaking set of songs about heartbreak. Not only have the lyrics gained from experience but Emma’s voice is more confident which pushes this record even further. Raw, honest and at times extremely emotional this album exceeded my expectations by miles. 

Exciting, upbeat, interesting, wacky, extraordinary. Congratulations Merrill, you have provided me with the most electrifying album of this year. And that is all I will say on the matter.

Possibly the perfect Autumn album, Newcastle sextet Lanterns On The Lake have produced sweeping moments of sheer beauty on this LP. Melancholic sounds play a big part here but manage to avoid becoming irritating or pretentious and instead leave the listener in awe. 

The Sheffield duo’s sophomore record clearly displays their growth as musicians and songwriters. An equal mix of instant dancefloor hits (see “Where I’m Waking”and quieter, acoustic numbers, this is a solid release from Rebecca and Charles. Plus they KILL IT live.

Despite being the singer of popular 90s band Pavement, Stephen Malkmus has released a number of successful albums with other projects (namely Silver Jews and his own band the Jicks). Mirror Traffic is no exception, packing punches left, right and centre and dripping with wit. Arise, Sir Stephen Malkmus.

There is a reason this album was nominated for the Mercury Prize. It connotes images of village life, full of tiny details and backed beautifully with tender melodies. On a more personal level this record has kept me company on lonely nights since moving from Glasgow to London, King Creosote’s soft Scottish vocals helping me slip into a sleep filled with dreams of the highlands. 


Drive is my film of the year. Probably not at all what you expected. In a good way. Ultra-violent and super-cool as fuck. Black Swan is Darren Aronofsky’s best since Requiem For A Dream. Lesbian sex + epic mindfuck = win. The Coen Brothers’ reimagining of True Grit was a western that feels like a classic and modern at the same time. Pitch perfect performances. The dream team of Spielberg and Abrams gave us the heartfelt retro-romp Super 8; Cloverfield meets Stand By Me. Nostalgic old school cinema magic. On the other end of the scale there was Hobo With A Shotgun which is exactly what it says on the tin. Like Machete, but with less Mexicans and more blood. Outrageous indie film-making. Scream 4 brings back the good memories of the original, whilst still managing to stay fresh. Funny rather than scary. Still streets ahead of most modern slasher flicks (click here to read my original full review). X-Men: First Class gave us a fresh take on the Marvel series, and a welcome one at that. More visually stunning and indeed more violent that its predecessors, this one almost repairs the damage done by Wolverine: Origins. Almost. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 turned out to be certainly one of the biggest, boldest and best entries of the series. Still can’t get over how lame the final scene was though. The book is probably better… Unless you’ve seen any of Lars Von Trier’s other work, you’ve never seen a film like Melancholia. Sci-fi, except not sci-fi. Might be too artsy and pretentious for some, but worth a watch for for the rest. One of Kirstin Dunst’s rare likable performances (click here to read my original full review). In joint tenth place there’s Hanna; the PG 13 answer to Hit Girl with awesome action scenes, stunningly cinematography and an oddly appropriate score by the Chemical Brothers and Kevin Smith’s Red State; the director’s first shot at horror. It’s not quite scary or funny, but somehow still very compelling. Michael Parks owns the film.
Films that didn’t quite make the cut for me were:
Zack Synder’s mind-bending Sucker Punch
The much talked-about Human Centipede 2
Supernatural chiller Insidious
The Kick Ass-esque (and Rainn Wilson-starring) Super
Big star name comedy Horrible Bosses

Drive is my film of the year. Probably not at all what you expected. In a good way. Ultra-violent and super-cool as fuck. Black Swan is Darren Aronofsky’s best since Requiem For A Dream. Lesbian sex + epic mindfuck = win. The Coen Brothers’ reimagining of True Grit was a western that feels like a classic and modern at the same time. Pitch perfect performances. The dream team of Spielberg and Abrams gave us the heartfelt retro-romp Super 8; Cloverfield meets Stand By Me. Nostalgic old school cinema magic. On the other end of the scale there was Hobo With A Shotgun which is exactly what it says on the tin. Like Machete, but with less Mexicans and more blood. Outrageous indie film-making. Scream 4 brings back the good memories of the original, whilst still managing to stay fresh. Funny rather than scary. Still streets ahead of most modern slasher flicks (click here to read my original full review). X-Men: First Class gave us a fresh take on the Marvel series, and a welcome one at that. More visually stunning and indeed more violent that its predecessors, this one almost repairs the damage done by Wolverine: Origins. Almost. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2 turned out to be certainly one of the biggest, boldest and best entries of the series. Still can’t get over how lame the final scene was though. The book is probably better… Unless you’ve seen any of Lars Von Trier’s other work, you’ve never seen a film like Melancholia. Sci-fi, except not sci-fi. Might be too artsy and pretentious for some, but worth a watch for for the rest. One of Kirstin Dunst’s rare likable performances (click here to read my original full review). In joint tenth place there’s Hanna; the PG 13 answer to Hit Girl with awesome action scenes, stunningly cinematography and an oddly appropriate score by the Chemical Brothers and Kevin Smith’s Red State; the director’s first shot at horror. It’s not quite scary or funny, but somehow still very compelling. Michael Parks owns the film.

Films that didn’t quite make the cut for me were:

  1. Zack Synder’s mind-bending Sucker Punch
  2. The much talked-about Human Centipede 2
  3. Supernatural chiller Insidious
  4. The Kick Ass-esque (and Rainn Wilson-starring) Super
  5. Big star name comedy Horrible Bosses
2011’s been quite a year for films and next year is going to have to be spectacular in order to top it (although with The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Django Unchained and The Hobbit all being released in 2012, it’ll probably even better). 2011 is also probably the year in which I’ve personally gone to watch films at the cinema the most since I was a wee bairn. So it’s just as well the cinematic fodder flung at me this year has been quite stellar.
Drive was as close as to perfect a film can get; instantly iconic, measured cool, the best soundtrack of the year and Ryan Gosling being badass. A true LA noir, with dabs of neon pink and blood red It wouldn’t surprise me if Nicolas Winding Refn’s film became a touchstone for a new generation of filmmakers, a la Pulp Fiction, despite being polar opposites (Drive’s violence is less cartoonish, more shockingly blunt and realistic, and dialogue is kept to a minimum). The stellar cast, along with Refn’s superb direction, help to build an unforgettable film. Moving on to the other Scandanavian director du jour, Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy provided the best British film of the year and an antithesis to the macho shaky-cam antics of Bourne et al. Tinker is the sort of film that rewards repeat viewing, with a slowly unfurling plot and nuanced performances all around. The cream of British actors came together for a masterful retelling of John Le Carre’s classic novel; you can already hear the award nominations falling into the lap of Gary Oldman, who is long overdue an Oscar nod, let alone a coveted golden statuette itself.
It’s hard to describe The Tree Of Life. Telling people it’s a Terence Malick film is usually enough to give them an idea of what it’s about but really it has to be seen to be believed. Comparisons to Kubrick’s 2001 are justified, but even than masterpiece was easier to piece together than Malick’s latest. Another film that demands at least a second watch, The Tree Of Life takes in a semi-autobiographical telling of the director’s youth, an existentialist Sean Penn, some awe-inspiring cinematography, the big questions in life, an Oscar-worthy turn from Brad Pitt, dinosaurs and, in the most stunning cinematic sequence you’ll see for a while, the creation of the universe. Just go see it. From existential to pure pugilism, The Fighter (released in the UK this year, just in case someone wants to be pedantic) is worthy of the praise and adulation heaped on it earlier in the year. Mark Wahlberg gets his second best role ever (after Dignam in The Departed) and Christian Bale transforms once again, serving up the best crackhead to ever get an Academy Award. The Fighter goes down as my favourite sports movie ever (and no, I didn’t like Raging Bull)
Two years ago, The Hangover was a rare thing, being a Hollywood comedy that was actually hilarious. But this summer, Bridesmaids was that and even more, proving that a lead cast of women in a comedy can provide more laughs than any film in recent memory. The film is yet another hit for US comedy supremo Judd Atapow and is certain to go down as a modern comedy classic. Look out Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig is comin’ for your comedy crown. It was also great for allowing Jon Hamm to play against type (as an complete douchebag, as opposed to the cool and charming one he plays on Mad Men). Over on this side of the Atlantic, The Guard followed in the footsteps of In Bruges; a pitch black Irish comedy with an immensely quotable script with Brendan Gleeson confirming his status as one of this writer’s favourite actors.
It probably had the least amount of anticipation going into 2011’s Mega Movie Summer but Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes surprised everyone by proving itself as the blockbuster of the season, as well as a brain and a heart. More of a character study than an all out sci-fi action romp, Rise allowed Andy Serkis to once again show he is the master of mo-cap performances as the central simian Caesar. You also get to see a gorilla destroy a helicopter THAT’S STILL IN THE AIR. There’s also a few cheeky winks to the original series of films, and if this is the beginning of a new franchise then I have no problem with that at all. The next few years are likely to become the Era Of JGL, as Joseph Gordon-Levitt completes his transformation from goofy-looking child star to fully fledged movie icon and the thinking man’s favourite actor. The list of the actor’s upcoming projects is as long as your arm, but included a certain little Batman film coming out next year, but in the here and now, Gordon-Levitt only enhances his reputation as one of the finest actors around in cancer dramedy 50/50. Based on its writer Will Reiser’s own battle with the disease, 50/50 is feelgood without being cloying, heartwarming without becoming overly sentimental and actually pretty damn funny. It’s also probably the only Seth Rogen film that has the potential to make you bawl like a baby. A wonderful and witty script along with a pleasant soundtrack and a great core cast (with Rogen playing the same role as he did for Reiser in real life) make for a film that it’s hard to see anyone disliking.
If anyone’s curious as to how Tom Hardy will handle the physicality of supervillian Bane in the upcoming Dark Knight Rises, then look no further than his performance in Warrior (a strange coincidence that both Batman [Christian Bale] and Bane [Hardy] have both released fight-related movies this year, before their showdown in TDKR). Having already shown his transformative capabilities in Bronson, Hardy is force to be reckoned with in this film about professional mixed martial arts, commanding the screen with the magnetism and electricity of a young Brando and Robert DeNiro. Yes, the usual sports cliches and tropes are trotted out and recycled, and yes, the ending is pretty much a forgone conclusion, but this doesn’t make Warrior any less of an arresting 140 minutes. The frenetic cinematography and editing of the fight scenes, particularly the final bout, provides some of the most thrilling sequences you’ll see this year. Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte (playing Hardy’s character’s brother and father respectively) deserve all the plaudits that will inevitably be thrust upon them.
Anyone who calls themselves a fan of stand-up comedy should be familiar with the genius of Bill Hicks, but to those with no knowledge of the late comedian, American: The Bill Hicks Story is the perfect platform on which to discover him. Hicks truly changed the world of comedy, as this documentary will tesitfy, featuring rare footage and photographs of Hicks as well as interviews with his family and friends. Fantastically produced, American allows audiences to peer into the life of an enigma. 
So that was 2011 on the silver screen. Bring on 2012.

2011’s been quite a year for films and next year is going to have to be spectacular in order to top it (although with The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Django Unchained and The Hobbit all being released in 2012, it’ll probably even better). 2011 is also probably the year in which I’ve personally gone to watch films at the cinema the most since I was a wee bairn. So it’s just as well the cinematic fodder flung at me this year has been quite stellar.

Drive was as close as to perfect a film can get; instantly iconic, measured cool, the best soundtrack of the year and Ryan Gosling being badass. A true LA noir, with dabs of neon pink and blood red It wouldn’t surprise me if Nicolas Winding Refn’s film became a touchstone for a new generation of filmmakers, a la Pulp Fiction, despite being polar opposites (Drive’s violence is less cartoonish, more shockingly blunt and realistic, and dialogue is kept to a minimum). The stellar cast, along with Refn’s superb direction, help to build an unforgettable film. Moving on to the other Scandanavian director du jour, Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy provided the best British film of the year and an antithesis to the macho shaky-cam antics of Bourne et al. Tinker is the sort of film that rewards repeat viewing, with a slowly unfurling plot and nuanced performances all around. The cream of British actors came together for a masterful retelling of John Le Carre’s classic novel; you can already hear the award nominations falling into the lap of Gary Oldman, who is long overdue an Oscar nod, let alone a coveted golden statuette itself.

It’s hard to describe The Tree Of Life. Telling people it’s a Terence Malick film is usually enough to give them an idea of what it’s about but really it has to be seen to be believed. Comparisons to Kubrick’s 2001 are justified, but even than masterpiece was easier to piece together than Malick’s latest. Another film that demands at least a second watch, The Tree Of Life takes in a semi-autobiographical telling of the director’s youth, an existentialist Sean Penn, some awe-inspiring cinematography, the big questions in life, an Oscar-worthy turn from Brad Pitt, dinosaurs and, in the most stunning cinematic sequence you’ll see for a while, the creation of the universe. Just go see it. From existential to pure pugilism, The Fighter (released in the UK this year, just in case someone wants to be pedantic) is worthy of the praise and adulation heaped on it earlier in the year. Mark Wahlberg gets his second best role ever (after Dignam in The Departed) and Christian Bale transforms once again, serving up the best crackhead to ever get an Academy Award. The Fighter goes down as my favourite sports movie ever (and no, I didn’t like Raging Bull)

Two years ago, The Hangover was a rare thing, being a Hollywood comedy that was actually hilarious. But this summer, Bridesmaids was that and even more, proving that a lead cast of women in a comedy can provide more laughs than any film in recent memory. The film is yet another hit for US comedy supremo Judd Atapow and is certain to go down as a modern comedy classic. Look out Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig is comin’ for your comedy crown. It was also great for allowing Jon Hamm to play against type (as an complete douchebag, as opposed to the cool and charming one he plays on Mad Men). Over on this side of the Atlantic, The Guard followed in the footsteps of In Bruges; a pitch black Irish comedy with an immensely quotable script with Brendan Gleeson confirming his status as one of this writer’s favourite actors.

It probably had the least amount of anticipation going into 2011’s Mega Movie Summer but Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes surprised everyone by proving itself as the blockbuster of the season, as well as a brain and a heart. More of a character study than an all out sci-fi action romp, Rise allowed Andy Serkis to once again show he is the master of mo-cap performances as the central simian Caesar. You also get to see a gorilla destroy a helicopter THAT’S STILL IN THE AIR. There’s also a few cheeky winks to the original series of films, and if this is the beginning of a new franchise then I have no problem with that at all. The next few years are likely to become the Era Of JGL, as Joseph Gordon-Levitt completes his transformation from goofy-looking child star to fully fledged movie icon and the thinking man’s favourite actor. The list of the actor’s upcoming projects is as long as your arm, but included a certain little Batman film coming out next year, but in the here and now, Gordon-Levitt only enhances his reputation as one of the finest actors around in cancer dramedy 50/50. Based on its writer Will Reiser’s own battle with the disease, 50/50 is feelgood without being cloying, heartwarming without becoming overly sentimental and actually pretty damn funny. It’s also probably the only Seth Rogen film that has the potential to make you bawl like a baby. A wonderful and witty script along with a pleasant soundtrack and a great core cast (with Rogen playing the same role as he did for Reiser in real life) make for a film that it’s hard to see anyone disliking.

If anyone’s curious as to how Tom Hardy will handle the physicality of supervillian Bane in the upcoming Dark Knight Rises, then look no further than his performance in Warrior (a strange coincidence that both Batman [Christian Bale] and Bane [Hardy] have both released fight-related movies this year, before their showdown in TDKR). Having already shown his transformative capabilities in Bronson, Hardy is force to be reckoned with in this film about professional mixed martial arts, commanding the screen with the magnetism and electricity of a young Brando and Robert DeNiro. Yes, the usual sports cliches and tropes are trotted out and recycled, and yes, the ending is pretty much a forgone conclusion, but this doesn’t make Warrior any less of an arresting 140 minutes. The frenetic cinematography and editing of the fight scenes, particularly the final bout, provides some of the most thrilling sequences you’ll see this year. Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte (playing Hardy’s character’s brother and father respectively) deserve all the plaudits that will inevitably be thrust upon them.

Anyone who calls themselves a fan of stand-up comedy should be familiar with the genius of Bill Hicks, but to those with no knowledge of the late comedian, American: The Bill Hicks Story is the perfect platform on which to discover him. Hicks truly changed the world of comedy, as this documentary will tesitfy, featuring rare footage and photographs of Hicks as well as interviews with his family and friends. Fantastically produced, American allows audiences to peer into the life of an enigma. 

So that was 2011 on the silver screen. Bring on 2012.

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