Thursday, 29 December 2011

The best eleven of '11: music

I do love a good end of year list.  I played around with various permutations this year (having done seperate top fives for album, single and live music last year) and in the end decided to stick them all in together, which led to an interesting One Direction vs. Two Door Cinema Club face off. 

1. Sufjan Stevens live at The Apollo, Manchester, 19th May
It was interesting to see Sufjan Stevens' concert at the Southbank centre (together with this Manchester date one of few he played in the UK this year) on many end of year 'best of' lists, often from theatre or art critics rather than rock music writers.  Not just the best live experience of 2011, but the best of my life I reckon.  You can read my detailed review here.

2. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
I was so excited about this release after loving Fleet Foxes' debut album and experiencing their incredible live show in 2009.  I rarely buy CDs as soon as they come out, but I had Helplessness Blues on pre-order, so desperate was I to hear it.  On first listen I was every so slightly underwhelmed, but it really is a record that rewards repeated listening.  It was my constant companion as I travelled in the Pacific Northwest this summer, sounding at home amongst the towering pine trees.  The whole album is close to perfection (Sim Sala Bim striking the only false note for me), but album closer Grown Ocean is my choice for favourite track. 

3. Beirut - The Rip Tide
My love of this album has been documented here before, so I won't harp on again about it's brilliance.  Suffice it to say that three months after it's release I still play it constantly, and it's increased my appreciation of the previous albums too.

4. Metronomy - The English Riviera
Reminiscent, as the band intended, of an English seaside resort, I've played this less as the seasons have changed.  Just as I listen to Midlake a lot during winter, Metronomy's second album belongs to the summer months and I predict it will make a return to my stereo come April.

5. Karima Francis live at The Glee Club, Birmingham, 30th September
Reviewed here.

6. Two Door Cinema Club - What You Know (single)
This gloriously jangly guitar-pop single (from the 2010 album Tourist History) makes me grin like a loon and dance around the kitchen whenever I hear it.  It was a tough choice between this and One Direction for the top single spot, but the fact that I'm not embarrassed to like Two Door Cinema Club edged it for them.

7. One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful (single)
Time hasn't blunted my love for this slice of cheesy pop heaven.  I still squeal when it comes on the radio, we had a little singalong to it at my last craft club, and when it was played at the year 7 Christmas party I chaperoned, I think I might have been more excited than the kids.  Wrong, I know.

8. Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire
Hailed by music critics as being a return to his Gold-era form, this would be in my top ten for the title track alone. 

9. Feist - How Come You Never Go There (single)
I loved this lead single from Feist's new record, Metals, but have been a little disappointed by the album.

10. Jeffrey Lewis live at Lock 42, Leicester, 29th OctoberIf only because we got to stand next to the man himself during the support act.

11. Bombay Bicycle Club - A Different Kind Of Fix
Single Lights Out Words Gone is one of the best things they've done.  I can't wait to see them in 2012.

To come later this week: books.  In the meantime, let me know what your top gigs and records were in 2011.


  1. Ah i think that Sufjan gig was also the top gig of my life so far! It was blimmin great.

  2. Foo Fighters for best gig and best album for me.