There has been some AMAZING music around in 2011, here’s a look back at our favourite records and live shows of the past 12 months.
Record of the year: Metronomy, The English Riviera
Live concert of the year: Pulp, Hyde Park
Metronomy – The English Riviera
The sound of gulls usually sound like the harbingers of stolen chips and ice creams, pecked straight from your hands. Not so as Metronomy’s call to Torbay opens with the very same sound. Pop music at it’s most intelligent, this concept album was released in April and has steadfastly remained as my album of 2011. From dance floor fillers Corinne and The Bay, to indies very own wistful booty call on She Wants. Every track instantly pulled at my heartstrings, brain or feet. Perfection.
Pulp – Hyde Park
I worship a man that can shake non-existent hips at me and make my knees tremble. Jarvis Cocker is the thinking woman’s crumpet and the Pulp reunion this year had my obsession hitting dangerous levels. The teasing before they came on stage created a hysteria reminiscent of the 90’s, asking if we “remembered the first time? well, do you?” in neon lights.
Anthemic, saucy, tongue in cheek, and as much energy as they day they stumbled and crashed onto the music scene. This Is Hardcore is pure filth and is there any track more perfect than Sorted For E’s and Whizz when you’re stood in a field under the stars screaming your lungs out?
Record of the year: Portugal, the Man – In The Mountain In The Cloud
Live concert of the year: Brad Paisley O2 – London
Portugal, The Man – In the Mountain In the Cloud
One of the hardest working bands around, Portugal, The Man are constantly on tour. Not even having most of their gear stolen at Lollapalooza could put a downer on their commitment to the cause.
Their 7th album (but first for a major label Atlantic Records), In the Mountain In the Cloud is the sound of a band growing with confidence. Instantly accessible with shades of Marc Bolan and The Flaming Lips, it’s also deep enough to keep you listening. I’m already looking forward to the next one.
Brad Paisley O2, London
For sheer Hollywood and slick musical proficiency it would be hard to name a gig more enjoyable than Brad Paisley at the O2 in the summer. A million miles away from the cold damp back rooms I usually inhabit, Brad and his amazing band certainly know how to put on a show. Catching up with an old friend and an encore with Ronnie Wood was the icing on the cake. And I’m not even a big Country & Western fan!
Record of the year: Michael Kiwanuka (Tell Me A Tale/Im Retting Ready EPs) (below)
Live concert of the year: Sean Rowe, The Dakota Tavern, Toronto Ontario, April 14th 2011.
Michael Kiwanuka – Tell Me A Tale/Im Retting Ready EPs
For my pick of 2011’s best album I’m eschewing the tyranny of the “One Artist, One Album” format and opting for the more liberating “One Artist, two EP” form – because I’m difficult like that.
My choice is a collection of 6 songs, over two faultless EPs (June’s Tell Me A Tale and July’s I’m Getting Ready), by Nigerian Born (London-based) soul man Michael Kiwanuka that left me dumb-struck, listen after glorious listen.
The title tracks alone show the depth of an artist for whom many good things are going to happen in 2012 — I’m Getting Ready has the wistful introspection of “Dock Of The Bay” era Otis, while Tell Me A Tale has the breezy lilt of Van Morrison’s “Moondance”; with a little Memphis Horns pump in the bridge for good measure.
Through these six songs, Kiwanuka coos and whispers tales of feeling displaced, but grateful to have finally been found. He hopes against hope that locking arms tight enough around the one he loves will be enough to make them stay, and takes the listener through the shoe-dragging despair of when she leaves. There’s a tenderness, an honesty, a heartfelt ache welling in the veins of each song.
While his influences are front and centre, Kiwanuka forgoes the easy choice of settling in to a late- seventies fug for the sake of being accessible, opting for charming simplicity, an authenticity to his instrumentation and the frank clarity of his lyrics to show he’s the real deal.
This isn’t the full-throated attack of Adele, Cee-Lo Green or the departed Winehouse, this is what I call true soul music – a cry from the heart. A public airing of the deeper things we feel too vulnerable to say ourselves, Kiwanuka give us a surrogate howl for those of us too scared to just let it all out.
2012 is sure to be a break out year, with the Home Again EP set to Drop on January 1st and his first full- length (also titled Home Again) due March 26th on Communion Records.
For more: www.michaelkiwanunka.comand do yourself a favour, check out the absolutely lovely I’m Getting Ready (below).
Sean Rowe – The Dakota Tavern, Toronto
That voice…that dark, rich, remarkable baritone pouring out of Rowe’s barrel-chested frame left me with that slightly shaky, half-confused, feeling that you get after seeing something you feel is truly amazing, but lack the proper tools to mentally process it.
It was a deeply intimate experience with me and 25 strangers — all of us bound together by the odd knowing (sometimes red-eyed) glances at each other, nodding softly as if to say “holy $*t… what are we seeing here?”….
For more on Sean Rowe and the appropriately named debut album, Magic check out www.seanrowe.net