However as it’s the 7th year Ive engaged in this ludicrous pastime it’d be a shame to let it sit in “draft” status forever, even if it is the equivelent of being given a creme egg on halloween.
Someone once said that in the obsessive effort to try and hear everything, they’d managed to lose the joy of listening to anything. As my original 1000 song shortlist expanded rather than contracted through January I almost began to feel the same.
But these are 200 songs I absolutely adored in 2011. The order is a little suspect, and listening last night to a few between 100 and 150 almost had me tearing up the whole thing and starting again.
But “Best Of’s” are supposed to be individual, arbitrary, and of course hugely self indulgent. As an ex once said of the whole concept of having a music blog “why dont you just put up a picture of you blowing yourself“.
You can watch/listen to a 200 song Youtube playlist featuring most of the top 200 (and a few excellent standins), I’ll possibly look into Spotify at some point.
There’s also a ZIP featuring some tracks.
1. Adele – “Someone like you”
“Sometimes it lasts in love,
But sometimes it hurts instead”
Why do I feel like I need to apologise for putting Adele at No.1? The girl didn’t so much own 2011 as have it blindfolded, tied to the bed, and begging her to do as she please. Aside from the trifling matter of almost career ending throat surgery, Adele spent the year breaking records and hoovering up awards like cat hair. She even found herself a new fella, or album number 3 as he’s otherwise known.
And yet with success comes sneering. The Guardian declared her the leader of the New Bland, sitting astride a wave of beige pop that the paper somehow failed to notice during the preceding 40 years.
In January ’11 I saw Adele perform the song at a launch gig for the 21 album at Notting Hill’s Tabernacle. I’d not heard it before but instantly felt the same as I had when hearing her perform “Daydreamer” to a handful of people back in 2006 (my favourite track of that year).
“Don’t forget me, I beg,” – You haven’t really given me the chance, have you?
Please read The Quietus’s hilariously accurate critique of the lyrics to “Someone Like You” but while the article makes me chuckle I still think theres a no nonsense raw honesty to the lyrics. Back in January, she sang it barely a few feet from me accompanied by piano, lost in the words and by the end struggling to hold back the tears. Everyone present gave a huge gulp as it finished, breath taken by the beauty of both voice and words just as the audience at The Brits were later in the year (and by extension the 100 million viewers of that performance on Youtube).
HolyMoly who were also there summed it up better than i can, “Adele feels like an opened window on the sweaty bus of popular music. There’s no artifice, no bullshit“.
Not content with the ballad of the year Adele with a little help from Jamie XX, Heatwave and assorted MC’s also provided one of THE tunes of this years Notting Hill Carnival.
Adele – “Rolling In The Heat (The Heatwave Re-Fix)”
Without doubt I have my moments of musical snobbery but sometimes you just have to admit the most popular may also actually be the best.
You see that limited edition DJ Only dub plate remix you got from a friend on an amusingly shaped USB stick, well let me break it to you softly, the woman who buys 3 CD’s a year exclusively from ASDA with her groceries, well this year her tunes were better than yours.
There were two or three tracks on Waits latest album that could easily have occupied this slot, particularly the joyous rockabilly stomp of “Get Lost”. In the end though the sheer ferocity, anger and inventiveness of “Hell Broke Luce” wins out.
Inspired in part by the story of Iraq vet Jeff Lucey who committed suicide on his return from the Gulf. To the sound of a military march Waits barks his fury as discordant percussion crashes around him, machine guns fire and The Stone’s Keith Richards draws thunderous riffs from his guitar.
LA Hip-Hop stalwarts Busdriver & Nocando have guested on each others records – notably Busdriver’s brilliant “Least Favourite Rapper” but Flash Bang Grenada (pronounced like the explosive, not the Caribbean island paradise) is their first and hopefully not last full length collaboration.
“If it was upto me everyone in the tea-party would be able to speak Farsi”
Busdriver packs more lyrical punch in one line than some do in entire careers, and “Perfect World” doesn’t disappoint. Listen to it on repeat to appreciative every quip filled couplet. The fact that it has the fattest squelchiest beat underneath doesn’t do any harm either.
Busdriver’s also back with his own new album too:
4. Speech Debelle – “Blaze Up A Fire (feat. Roots Manuva & Realism”)
“I am not a pop star I’m a mother fucking thug”
Speech Debelle wrote “Blaze Up A Fire” months before the English riots of 2011, but in the wake of them she felt compelled to release it as a free download in advance of her 2nd album.
Speech Debelle (read full statement):
“I feel it could give insight into the hearts and minds of some of the people that have taken part in, not only the peaceful marches for Mark Duggan in Tottenham and the Smiley Culture march for justice, but also I believe it speaks of the frustration of many young people who took part in the rioting and the consequent looting over London and areas of the UK. I am not attempting to condone, I’m attempting to be a voice of understanding.
It’s without doubt that what these young people have been doing is destructive and shameful….
These young people are not aliens dropped down from outer space on Friday night, they are our children….
Only people who cannot envision a positive future will take part in the destruction of their own community and if we acknowledge that, then we to ask the question why somebody so young feels they have so little to look forward to? I cannot allow myself to dehumanise these kids and see them as my enemy“.
5. Drake – Marvin’s Room (Shlohmo’s Thru Tha Floor Remix)” / Burial – “Shell Of Light (Shlohmo Remix)”
“I’ve had sex four times this week, I’ll explain, Having a hard time adjusting to fame”
LA’s Shlohmo has been turning out remixes to die for all year. His take on R&B colossus Drake’s “Marvin’s Room” is so laid back and soporific that putting it on a loop this morning transformed the hideous sweaty tumult of a London commute into something akin to chilling out in a floatation tank. Every shove, every bead of sweat, every disgruntled rustle of newspaper was nowt when given the unlikely soundtrack of Drake’s tale of 4 times a week sex and ill-advised hook ups with ex’s.
Shlohmo himself had this to say:
“I forgot i had this drake remix lyin around. this is seriously one of my fav songs of the year, if not ever. if youre one of those people that hates on pop music because you wear a backpack or smthing then plz chill out. try and appreciate shit even if u have to forget the context sometimes. good music is good music and u don’t have to front and pretend it’s below ur intellectual level“.
His remix of Burial’s “Shell Of Light” is if anything even better. Simply gobsmacking.
“been workin on this for the past few days. i just really couldn’t stop listening to the ending of “shell of light.” shit is so beautiful. so i did this so i could listen to it more. hope u like it ::)”
6.The Soft Close-Ups – “Fireworks” / The Melting Ice Caps – “Strike In The Dark”
“I was in love for at least six hours. You didn’t seem to notice.
I must be more subtle than I know.”
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David Shah’s The Melting Ice Caps have taken up permanent residency in my yearly Best of list, and with a new album due in Spring 2012 I may as well announce there’s only room for 199 others next year too.
His side project with Aug Stone “The Soft Close-Ups” also put out a collection and set of videos of their previously released songs this year and so qualify according to the strict “Its my list and ill do what I want to” rules.
“Fireworks” is my favourite, with its beautifully sparse production leaving little but a burbling 80′s synth to accompany David’s plaintive voice. It’s even more special when coupled with a simple but very effective video.
The Ice Caps “Strike In The Dark” was hard to pick out from the “Strike EP, given that its up against the superb “Pavlovian Boy”.
I was lucky enough to have David and his Ice Caps play at my Oxjam gig last year. “Strike” in particular whipped the crowd up in to the sort of frenzy you only really get on a Wednesday in Walthamstow (video).
Willie Evans Jr, Producer, Rapper and video cut-up artist, not to mention sounding the spit of MF Doom at times.
“Nerd English” features an absolutly stonking guitar sample (what is it??) and a snarled refrain of “You Dont Have To Lie”
In the video Evans mocks wannabe thugs or gansters while playing Dungeons and Dragons, X-boxes and Comic books. References to Ben 10, Ninja Scroll, Grand Theft Auto abound and when delivering his beat version of Aloe Blacc’s “Good Times” album Evans posted this message:
“The good people over at High Water Music asked me to stop playing Tekken 6 long enough to talk about Billy Lotion. Billy Lotion is essentially the product of Sucio Smash letting me hear Aloe Blacc’s most recent album and then saying “What if you made a beat cd out of this album?””
In between making his Aloe Blacc album, regular video cut-ups (like The Beatles Strawberry Fields and the incredible live cutup video (to the left)), he’s also lining up a street fighting video game themed tour, and of course dropping his debut album. When does the guy sleep?
8. Jóhann Jóhannsson – “Freedom From Want And Fear”
9. Roots Manuva – “Wha’ Mek”
10. The Caretaker: “Camaraderie At Arms Length”
11. Akira The Don – “Nothing Lasts Forever (feat. Envy)” / Akira The Don – “Living In The Future 2 (feat Scroobius Pip, Big Nastie, Eddie Argos…)
“I used to have a soul, but it got suck out… Cheers”
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2011 was a vintage year for Hackney’s one man multimedia empire, Akira The Don. His Stephen Hague produced pop opus of a 2nd LP “The Life Equation” burst into life, he got married (and shot a video dedicated to his wife on honeymoon), and to cap it all he headlined the Music Like Dirt Oxjam night in Walthamstow (actually that last one may have been one of my highlights, not his).
“Nothing Lasts Forever” joins the pantheon of classic duet breakup songs stretching from Fred & Ginger calling the whole thing off, Streisand admonishing Diamond for a total failure to visit Interflora right upto Dusty asking Neil Tennant what she’s done to deserve this?
Akira & Envy may break up with less 80′s pop gloss and syn drums than the similarly Hague produced Dusty & Pet Shop Boys but its none the less a straight out belter of a pop song.
“Living In The Future 2” on the other hand is an hillarious ode to the future and the past. Scroobius Pip plays the caveman with non internet enabled phone while Akira declares the revolution wont be televised itll be embedded (tshirts available) and Big Nastie’s RIP’s the floppy disk. The highlight though is Eddie Argos’s absolute need for Ghostbusters 3.
12. M83 – “Midnight City” / Lupe Fiasco – “The End Of The World”
“This one dedicated to the soldiers
Throw up peace signs in the face of bulldozers”
13. Psychologist – “Comes In Waves”
14. Dennis Coffey – “I Bet You”
15. The Vaccines – “Post Break-Up Sex”
16. Lil Wayne – “6 Foot 7 Foot (feat. Cory Gunz)”
17. Dave.I.D. – “Only Me I Can Save (The Horrors’ Tom Furse Remix)”
18. Daughter – “Youth”
19. Jamie xx – “Far Nearer”
20. Gablé – “The Stone and the Wolf”
21. Mogwai – George Square Thatcher Death Party
22. Govind – Dafli Wale Dafli Baja (Friction Lab Dubplate)
23. Seryn – “Untitled”
24. Paris Suit Yourself – ‘Sometimes’
25. Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks – Senator
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