My top ten (sixteen) albums of 2011
It’s that time of year when people make best-of lists. So here’s mine. I haven’t done a top ten (sori); instead I’ve opted to just share a few things that were released this year that I’ve enjoyed. The descriptions aren’t amazing (sori again) but I hope you find at least one new band to enjoy.
Clicking on the titles will take you to the album/EP on Spotify OR click here for a Spotify playlist containing my favourite track from each of the records below.
Algiers - Four Priests
Two-piece band featuring ex-members of Dartz and The Maple State. Four Priests is their debut EP and it’s five tracks of northern brilliance. I don’t really know how to describe it. But they sound very northern.
Bon Iver - Bon Iver
If you haven’t heard Bon Iver then I don’t really know where you’ve been hiding, but he makes some of the most beautiful music ever. It’s just sublime.
The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
I’m not much of a fan of country music but The Civil Wars are sort of alt-country and they have a very special boy-girl thing going on. They supported Adele earlier this year and they are GREAT.
Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
I’ve only heard the first few tracks from this but it melted me instantly. Some don’t like the direction Coldplay have taken on this album, but I love the fact that they reinvent themselves on every record, and I’m a big fan of this new super posi dancey anthemic thing they’ve got going on. Such a special band.
Ben Folds - The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective
Ben Folds is my favourite artist of all time and this is a greatest hits of sorts, a 3-CD collection of songs from throughout Folds’ career. He plays the piano. He consistently releases utterly brilliant albums. If you like my, you will almost definitely love Ben.
Brianna Gaither - Love is Patient
This year I’ve downloaded lots of free/pay-what-you-want albums from NoiseTrade, which is an amazing website for discovering new acoustic-y artists. Brianna Gaither is my pick of all the stuff that I downloaded, and this mini-album is a wonderful pop record in the vein of Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. The first track is especially incredible.
Gungor - Ghosts Upon the Earth
Ghosts Upon the Earth is a concept album about creation (they’re Christians yeah) and it touches on folk, prog-rock, Muse-isms, but largely defies categorisation and it one of the best albums I’ve heard in my entire life. You need to give it a few listens before you realise how brilliant it is. It’s just astoundingly adventurous. Well done, Gungor.
I’m From Barcelona - Forever Today
I first heard of I’m From Barcelona many years ago when they released their debut album. They’re not actually from Barcelona (they’re Swedish) and they make super fun pop-indie with loads of singers and all kinds of other fun instruments. I think they usually have around twenty people onstage at any given gig. This album is relentlessly positive, urging you to seize the day and enjoy the world, and it oozes good vibes. Listen. Be happy.
Into It. Over It. - Proper
Into It. Over It. was a surprise discovery a few months back when I tweeted people asking for their recommendations on new music to listen to. I can’t remember who tweeted back about IIOI but this album is just brilliant. It’s sort of punk rock, but also poppy, and it touches on pop-punk, but has an undercurrent of folk. That’s my best attempt at describing it. I’ve listened to it almost every day for the past two months and it makes me feel AWESOME.
Jack’s Mannequin - People and Things
Andrew McMahon is the frontman/songwriter of JM, and was previously the frontman of Something Corporate, the band who prompted me to start playing piano in a rock band. So without him I might not be where I am today. Wherever that is. Anyway, this is their new record and it’s textbook piano pop-rock with a big heart. If you like me, you’ll probably like this.
M83 - Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
This has made it onto a lot of people’s best of 2011 lists, and rightly so. It’s gorgeous, dreamy, electronic pop. I haven’t had a lot of time to listen to it yet but I already love it.
Noah and the Whale - Last Night on Earth
NATW emerged from the same scene as Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling, but this album (their third) sees them expanding into a whole new world of bombastic, hearty, feel-good pop. The first three tracks are just so good. I haven’t listened to this in a few months but earlier in the year I was listening to it non-stop!
Slightly odd name and punctuation, but just go with it. RPR is my favourite musical discovery of 2011 (big thanks to Ben for pointing me in their direction). They make intelligent piano-rock with odd time signatures, rhythms and whatnot. It’s Irish. It’s brilliant. I had the privilege of seeing Rams’ support Darwin Deez earlier in the year and it was definitely the best band I’ve seen all year. Essentially, listen to Rams’. They are going to blow up in 2012. (Sadly they only have a couple of EPs at the moment but I’m guessing that an album is on the way!)
States - Room to Run
One of my favourite bands and biggest influences on my music is a piano-rock band called Copeland. Sadly they broke up a few years ago, but States is all of Copeland minus the singer and with a lady called Mindy White on vocals instead. The sound is pretty similar to Copeland but with a female singer. I’d describe it broadly as pop-rock, Copeland meets Paramore. It’s a killer pop-rock record.
Tellison - The Wages of Fear
I had the privilege of playing keys on Tellison’s second album last summer and it was finally released a few months back. Tellison are one of the finest bands in the UK underground scene at the moment, and are one of my favourite bands of all time. This album builds on the sound of their first record and takes Tellison into the realms of stadium-sized bands like The Killers. Intelligent pop-rock with huge hooks, literary references, and absolutely no weak moments whatsoever. I adore this record. Pete Miles (who recorded ‘Have You Got Heart?’) produced it and gave it a slightly Phoenix-y production vibe, which I love. It is criminal that Tellison aren’t huge yet.
Twin Atlantic - Free
Epic Scottish rock music. The album has a bit of filler (in my opinion) but the good tracks really are excellent. I especially love the vocals and the production. So powerful.
Spending a few days in Manchester with Duncan Howsley editing the documentary film that’s accompanying my new album. It’s looking sick! You can check out the preview videos so far at lukeleighfield.com/newseason.