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