Albums 2011 – Part Two

Here’s Part Two of my list of my favourite things from 2011. And by things, I mean albums, songs, and gigs, as opposed to huge steaming piles of crystal meth.

(Disclaimer: I do not have anything to do with huge steaming piles of crystal meth. It’s all meow meow round here, you know)

Part One is over here.

The Others

Elbow – Build A Rocket, Boys!

The Seldom Seen Kid was always going to be a hard act to follow. Instead of trying to copy it, or repeat it, they retreated into themselves and made a lovely, personal record, that I originally though wasn’t quite as compelling. Until I listened to it again a few more times before writing this, and realising that, you know what, it’s excellent.

Feist – Metals

Not content with earworming us into submission with the likes of “1,2,3,4”, Feist took some time away and wrote this gorgeous paean to loneliness. A far more complete album than anything she’s made so far; musically fascinating, lyrically enthralling, she’s a talent far above her peers. Her next record is eagerly awaited, and I hope her head is in a better place for it.

Wye Oak – Civilian

A band sadly ignored by most, this duo continue to write some damned fine songs, and Civilian is their strongest record by far. The title track positively roars in its melancholy fervour, and the rest of the record ain’t bad either. Miss them at your peril.

MP3: Civilian by Wye Oak

Antlers – Burst Apart

A record that drove into view in the slipstream of the (far inferior) Wild Beasts, Antlers do that whole windswept, broken-hearted earnest indie-rock that comes close to The National in terms of latching itself into the sadder parts of your heart with silver fishhooks, and refuses to leave. Perfect for your inner teenager.

The Scottish Duo Duo

Bill Wells and Aiden Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older

An album seeped in both the usual grimness of Aiden Moffett’s subject matter of death and f***ing, mixed with Bill Well’s beautifully understated music. “The Copper Top” is the album’s majestic highlight; anyone who has ever been to the funeral of a loved one will nod wryly and blink back the tears, but this isn’t the only highlight. “Glasgow Jubilee”’s circular, poetic tale of a series of sex-obsessed Glaswegians will simultaneously make you smile as well as disgust you. “Dinner Time” is utterly creepy up until the song’s final payoff line. Perfect for your inner miserable sex-obsessed loner.

MP3: The Copper Top (Radio Edit) by Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

Lyrically poles apart from Wells/Moffat but sonically a cousin, this is a much gentler listen. Apparently recorded in a Scottish tea-room, this pastoral gem takes a little while to settle in, but once it does, becomes the perfect go-to music for those nights when anything more dramatic might just send you teetering over the edge.

Wilco – The Whole Love

(Note: I forgot to paste this in on the first draft, so apologies to anyone who gets the email. Sorry!)

Being around for the best part of twenty years can mean that it’s hard to keep things fresh. Wilco, then, did superbly with The Whole Love, their strongest for years, if not quite at the heights of their best. I even wrote a review, you know.


That’s Part Two done with then. Part Three is over here.

Beads On A Rosary

The other night, on the far side of a safe number of drinks, a friend asked me how long it took, if ever, to truly get over a lost love. A year? Five? Never? Funny she asked me that, as I’ve been listening to Elbow’s “The Bones Of You” a bit recently1, and the song tells the tale of a successful businessman suddenly derailed “When out of a doorway the tentacles stretch
Of a song that I know”. Before he knows it, he is catapulted backward:

And it’s you, and it’s May\And we’re sleeping through the day
And I’m five years ago\And three thousand miles away

He’s astonished by the effect, “A man of my calibre\Stood in the street like a sleepwalking teenager”; but “The sickener hits; I can work till I break\but I love the bones of you\That, I will never escape”.

So the answer from Elbow to my friend’s question? Five years to start with, and it’s all downhill from there. Sorry, that’s not a huge help. Me, I said “When the serious, proper, true love comes along, the one that you may well settle down with and spend your life in domestic harmony, that’s when the old ones start to fade”. Well, I probably said something like “Bleaurgh, you’ll forget, don’tyouworry, where’s my Corona?”, but the sentiment was there, trust me.

And in case you don’t know the song, listen to this utterly magnificent live version. What a voice. Guy Garvey writes lyrics that can tear your heart out and sing it like an angel trying to repair the damage. Truly, if you don’t like this song, you don’t like music.

Bloody hell, I really need to listen to the new album.

MP3: The Bones Of You by Elbow

1 Mainly because I’ve been listening to “Starlings” lots so I can work on my own version. One day, if I’m really brave, I’ll record it and post it on here.

Buy “The Seldom Seen Kid” (CD/MP3)

Albums Of The Decade (Part Six), And A Song

This is the final part of six-part series, of my albums of the decade. It’s a totally personal view, of albums I’ve listened to tons and love dearly, rather than good albums with some great songs on.

If you’d like to read the rest, here’s Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five.

Another Cracking Cover

The Twilight Sad – Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (2007)

Moaning about your teenage years has never been as elegaic as on this album. Anger, betrayal, loneliness, that sense of not belonging anywhere, and realising that some people are just plain nasty, it’s all here.

MP3: Walking For Two Hours by The Twilight Sad

Buy “Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters” (CD/MP3)

The Toughest Rubik's Cube In The World

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid (2008)

Or how a band can go from pretty damn good to superb. Dropped by their label, self-recording the album in the keyboardist-cum-producer’s house, this is a 56 minute long tribute to sticking together through thick and thin and sticking at what you do best, and waiting for the world to catch up with you.

MP3: The Bones Of You by Elbow

Buy “The Seldom Seen Kid (Abbey Road Live Edition)” (CD)

Where's Wally?

Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes (2008)

Even more backwards looking than Midlake, but with a pastoral beauty that just cannot be denied. My son was two when this came out and he couldn’t stop listening to “White Winter Hymnal” and “Oliver James” (though the lyrical content was perhaps not suitable for a young child).

MP3: Oliver James by Fleet Foxes

Buy “Fleet Foxes – 2CD Special Edition” (CD/MP3)

So that’s it. I know that at 3am tomorrow, I’ll awake with a start and remember a great album I missed. But that’s always a peril with writing lists; if I thought about them any more I’d never post the bloody thing. Hope you’ve enjoyed it, and maybe found something new. My absolute, top albums? Probably “You Forgot It In People” and “Yellow House”, but that’s just me.

And to finish off with, here’s my song of the decade:

Her Name Is Yoshimi

The Flaming Lips – Do You Realize??

Because it’s a song about love, death, the mystery of life; manages to be slightly melancholy yet hugely uplifting; and is filled with a true, real joy that makes your soul yell out at the sheer beauty of life. Played it at my wedding, and they’d better play it at my funeral, or I’ll be haunting their sorry asses. Probably by singing it, out of tune, in a ghostly voice. That’ll be fun. Anyway, this is Oklahoma’s state song for a reason. It’s brilliant. If you’ve never heard it before, what on earth have you been doing with your life?

MP3: Do You Realize?? by The Flaming Lips

Buy “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” (CD/MP3)

Like my blog? Please help spread the word: Add To FacebookAdd To DiggAdd To RedditAdd To DeliciousAdd To TechnoratiAdd To StumbleUpon

Elbow, What A Band

What makes a particular person’s singing voice great? I was thinking this last night whilst watching Elbow’s recording of “The Seldom Seen Kid” with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Choir. We’ve long been fans of Elbow in L&L Mansions, since seeing them at Reading back in 2001. Guy Garvey, it has to be said, looks like a slightly disgruntled plasterer, but he has a voice quite unlike anyone else around at the moment. It’s suprisingly high for a bloke of his build (ahem), though not quite in Andrew Montgomery territory. It’s got a lovely Mancunian lilt to it, adding character, plus he has a very slight lisp, adding texture. And it helps that’s he’s a deft lyricist.

Take, for example, the opening lines to “Starlings”, the opening song of their last album. “How dare the Premier ignore my invitations?/He’ll have to go/So, too, the bunch he luncheons with/It’s second on my list of things to do/At the top I’m stopping by/Your place of work and acting like/I haven’t dreamed of you and I/And marriage in an orange grove”. Just look at the rhythm in the line “So, too, the bunch he luncheons with”, with the rhyme of bunch and luncheon. It’s breathed as much as it’s sung, and as the song builds to a crescendo as he describes falling in love as “I’m spinning and I’m diving like a cloud of starlings”. Wonderful stuff. Follow the link above to listen to the BBC version, and see the MP3 below.

Anyway, watching them last night made me remember what a lovely band they are, and how it’s been great to see them develop into a band that’ll be playing Wemberley Arena in March. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch.

And the guitarist plays a Godin which is the sign of a gentleman and a scholar.

Starlings by Elbow