You know the drill... albums 25 to 11 of the safetyinsound top 40 albums of the year...
25) Yuck – Yuck
I may still be mourning the death of Daniel Blumberg’s first band (R.I.P Cajun Dance Party), but I’d have to be pretty silly to ignore the sheer likeability of Yuck. Asides from their gloriously hipster band aesthetic (drummer sporting an enormous fro, stylishly aloof Japanese female bassist, double denim galore), Yuck can be held solely responsible for making 90’s grunge revival cool again, the Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth influences so obvious that they may as well stick up a ‘We Love Seattle!’ backdrop at every gig and be done with it. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to be original, its oddly refreshing to hear a band simply celebrating the music they enjoy listening to.
Download:Get Away, Suicide Policeman
Admittedly, this list comes full of guitar based music. Electronic music tends to leave me a little cold, but I was genuinely impressed by Ghostpoet’s Mercury Music prize nominated debut, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam. Sounding like Tinie Tempah might if he were downing sedatives rather than liquor, Obaro Ejimiwe mixes lazy vocals with simple, piano and sample led backing that flatters rather than overwhelms. It makes for gritty yet grown up listening, Cash and Carry Me Home and Us Against Whatever Ever becoming personal favourites. A great starting point for those wanting to step out of the guitar stream, but have no time for the ominous sounding movement that is brostep...
Download: Cash And Carry Me Home, Us Against Whatever Ever
23) Burst Apart – The Antlers
An album present on almost every ‘Best Of…’ list I’ve read this year, ‘Burst Apart’ is The Antlers ticket to the mainstream. Corsicana and French Exit are highlights, the formers spacey atmosphere and subtle choral backing reminiscent of both Wild Beasts and Radiohead at their calmest, and the latter’s jittery intro akin to the work of Foals or fellow Brooklyn boys Vampire Weekend. This sense of eclectism is what makes Burst Apart such an accomplished record: whilst it takes influence from far and wide, it always has that trademark sound of The Antlers.
Download: Corsicana, French Exit
22)Velociraptor! – Kasabian
To my bemusement, many reviews of Kasabian’s Velociraptor didn’t seem too enamoured with it. For me, the natural successors to the almighty throne of Oasis have simply done the business once more – big, ballsy rock anthems that are slowly but surely shrugging off the ‘lad’ tag. Beginning to expand their rough and ready aesthetic by introducing elements of The Beastie Boys (Switchblade Smiles), The Beatles (La Fee Verte) and The Rolling Stones (Let’s Roll Like We Used To),as well as introducing ballads for the first time in their career, it’s nice to see an act establishing a solid back catalogue for themselves, making no qualms about their goal to be one the biggest bands in the country.
Download: Re-Wired, Days Are Forgotten
21)Last Night On Earth – Noah And The Whale
This year, I have adopted a new musical phrase. This phrase is called ‘doing a Bon Iver’ – going from a horrifically heartbreaking release to a gloriously uplifting one in one step. Noah And The Whale’s Charlie Fink may well have been going to the same therapy group as Justin Vernon, or else simply set aside his love life and realised that in times of recession, youth rebellion and whatever else, all Britain needed was a rallying cause to get behind. And what better than L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N? Transforming any festival crowd from indifferent to raucous within just its opening, the healing properties of spelling choruses out like a jubilant preschooler is not lost on the band themselves, who appear to be enjoying themselves onstage more than ever.
Download: L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N, Life Is Life
20)Go Tell Fire To The Mountain – Wu Lyf
Talking of ‘doing a Bon Iver’, Manchester’s Wu Lyf have definitely done an early Arctic Monkeys in terms of avoiding press to the extent that they have become on the most desirable bands of the moment. Go Tell Fire To The Mountain was an obtuse affair, like Foals fronted by a rabid dog. Self defining their sound as ‘Heavy Pop’, lead singer Ellery Roberts vocal style may take some getting used to, but does sonically resemble the rebellious, youth movement that their bands full title hints at. World Unite Lucifer Youth Project provide a perfect example of how to play the music industry game, using tracks such as LYF and Spitting Blood to create visceral and spirited live shows that will undoubtedly gain them more attention than ever.
Download: LYF, Dirt
It’s been a good year for Twin Atlantic. Having earnt their stripes through two EP’s and extensive touring with some of rock’s biggest and brightest, the Scottish four piece finally stepped out with their full debut Free, which proved to be more instant than anybody expected. Snap the cd in half and it will bleed big, passionate choruses – almost every song could be a single. With Free, Time To Stand Up and Make A Beast Of Myself all bothering the Radio playlists, Twin are a likeable prospect not only to rock fans, but to virtually anyone with a liking for choruses, or indeed strong Scottish accents.
Download: Make A Beast Of Myself, Yes I Was Drunk
Finally stepping out of the shadows of his bezzie mate Alex Turner, 2011 was the year that everyone’s favourite Wirral boy Miles Kane proved he had tunes of his own. Demonstrating where his retro influence really shaped The Last Shadow Puppets record, the sleazy appeal of Come Closer contrasts perfectly with the chilled title track, and the 60s stomp of Rearrange and Counting Down The Days. However, it was Inhaler that really stood out, that riff becoming the natural lad anthem at festivals countrywide. Not the most profound songwriting you’ve ever heard, certainly, but our Miles has a certain swagger and cheeky charm that is fast making him one of the most likeable performers in indie.
17)Vices & Virtues – Panic At The Disco
Panic At The Disco seemed to be written off long ago in Britain, at best as a guilty pleasure, or at worst just another offcuts of 2006’s summer of emo. Despite this, the departure of half the bands line up following the Beatles Pastiche that was Pretty.Odd. may well have been the best thing that ever happened to the band. Free to return to what they did best (overly wordy singalong pop punk), Vices & Virtues was a clear return to form, satisfyingly similar to the glory days of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, but far more accessible. Led by the ever-hyperactive Brendon Urie and his unique line in skittery musical theatre-esque vocal gymnastics, tracks such as Sarah Smiles, Hurricane and ‘Trade Mistakes’ contain just the right level of quirk to make the band stand out. Still, underneath all the bombast, Panic do a charming line in acoustic melody also, Always being a pretty go-to track for anyone feeling romantic and sentimental.
Download: Always, Trade Mistakes
16) 4 – Beyonce
Here at Safety In Sound, I’ve long made claim that Beyonce Knowles is quite simply, the ultimate performer. 4 saw her exaggerate her strengths – smart, eloquent rnb with fierce delivery. Singles Run The World (Girls) and Countdown hark back to the glory days of Destiny’s Child, bursting with empowering female sass, and the knowing hindsight of Best Thing I Never Had holds just enough humility as she sings ‘I bet it sucks to be you right now’ that it avoids egotism. However, when Beyonce does ballads, she does them properly – in the right setting, I Was Here is positively tear inducing, albeit a little clichéd . Kudos also for delivering a flawless Glastonbury performance whilst two months pregnant. Is there anything our heroine can’t do?
Download: Run The World (Girls), Countdown
15) SBTRKT – SBTRKT
Sometimes an album comes along that just seems to have dropped out of nowhere, fully formed, smartly dressed and effortlessly cool. SBTRKT was this years gift from the electro gods. The baby of Aaron Jerome, resplendent behind his African Tribal Mask, this was dance music for people bored of dance music, influenced by traditional beats (Heatwave) as much as dubstep (Wildfire) and funky house (Pharaohs). Featuring the likes of Little Dragon, Sampha and Roses Gabor, it was borne out of the underground but celebrated by the masses, attracting large festival crowds and appreciative audiences as the support on this winters Friendly Fires tour. Let’s hope the mask doesn’t slip any time soon.
Download: Wildfire, Pharoahs
14) The King Of Limbs – Radiohead
Emerging when nobody even knew it was in the pipeline, The Kings of Limbs came with no preconceptions. Having re-established their vitality with In Rainbows revolutionary ‘pay what you like’ scheme, journalists worldwide clamoured to be the first to review it, leading to many rushed, polarizing articles that either claimed it to be the second coming or the worst career move ever. Having lived with the record, it’s obviously not their best, but it’s undoubtedly far from their worst. Being a relative latecomer to Radiohead, I must admit I prefer their more ambient material, and The King Of Limbs certainly accommodates that, the nervy beats of opener Bloom and the moody bass of Lotus Flower (complete with one of the best music videos of this year) making for trademark Radiohead ditties. Critics favourite Codex is a triumph, the natural sibling to the likes of Nude and Pyramid Song whilst still sounding new and unexhausted. A consistent , if a tad short, release.
Download: Lotus Flower, Codex
13)Computers And Blues – The Streets
Bittersweet is a word that comes to mind as I think about The Streets fifth and final album, Computers & Blues. Mike Skinner has soundtracked many British teenagers lives over the past 9 years, from the urban poetry of Original Pirate Material, to the philosophical Everything Is Borrowed, via the dodgy The Hardest Way To Make A Living, and it feels rather sad to know that this is the end. However, Computers & Blues is a fitting exit, attacking the same themes with a more grown up tilt, from the ever relevant We Can Never Be Friends to poignant ruminations on looming fatherhood in Blip On A Screen. Funtime Mike still exists, but his priorities have changed significantly, making the bands retirement a wise and well considered move. We wait in earnest to see what he comes up with next.
Download: We Can Never Be Friends, O.M.G
For a while, it looked like You Me At Six were going the same way as their heroes Paramore – losing their essence in the midst of interband bickering and family trauma. ‘Sinners Never Sleep’ is this year success story, a fight against failure as the band explore their relationships openly through the painful lyrics of Bite My Tongue and When We Were Younger. A markedly more mature and musically diverse effort than their previous albums, it hints at a future that will step out of the pop punk bracket into broader rock territory with an anthemic tinge. You get the impression that this really is an all or nothing affair for them – the harder bits are harder, the softer bits are softer and as a result, it makes for intriguing and rewarding listening. If the music industry were marked academically, this would get an A* for ‘significant improvement’.
Download: Crash, Little Death
11)Submarine OST – Alex Turner
Alex Turner’s Submarine narrowly misses out on a top ten position due to my decision that it wouldn’t really be fair to rank it so highly based on its soundtrack status and the fact that it’s only 6 tracks long. But what a six songs. Perfectly accompanying Richard Ayoade’s loveable film in all its quirky glory, Turners unmistakeably british way with an abstract but somehow instantly understandable phrase (‘It's like you're trying to get to heaven in a hurry/And the queue was shorter than you thought it would be/And the doorman says, you need to get a wristband’ being one of my favourites) makes for some of his finest songwriting, as well as showing off his new found comfort as a vocalist. Two different versions of Stuck On A Puzzle give an interesting insight into his songwriting process for Arctics geeks everywhere, as does a stripped down, solo version of Piledriver Waltz, somehow more audibly pleasing than the full band version that appears on the Monkeys ‘Suck It And See.’If (god forbid) the band ever went their separate ways, one can’t help thinking that this wistful romantic would have no trouble going it alone.
Download: It’s Hard To Get Around The Wind, Stuck On A Puzzle