It’s probably far too early to be putting together a ‘best albums of 2011’ list, but then again, I’ve already been asked for this by three different publications – you might be reading them in late December or early January, but you can be sure that a lot of the ‘top ten’ lists have long since been written. That, and most of what’s released in December is Christmas themed, and therefore, the Pogues aside, pretty much awful by definition. It’s a hard one to put together: 2011 has been a year that’s completely inspired me in terms of Irish music, on a par with 2010, which given my obsession with that Cast Of Cheers album last year, really is something. This list changed at least a dozen times since I first started putting it together, and actually makes a fairly poor representation of what I’ve been listening to this year (for a start, there’s not a whole lot of electro, which I’ve got hugely in to, but hey, in the words of one of the worst bands of the year (hey ‘Viva’ Brother…) “it is what it is” – no pretentions, no skewing towards fashion, just the ten albums from the past year that I feel most impressed and affected by… Here are the first five.
10. Austra – Feel It Break Gorgeously atmospheric album crammed full of mellow, blissed-out beats and outstanding vocals. ‘Lose It’ and ‘Shoot The Water’ in particular have become real soundtracks to the latter half of the year, though I’ve somehow contrived not to see them live yet, even though they seem to have been everywhere in Dublin. A must-do for next year, lush stuff.
9. Adele – 21 I tend to be quite dismissive of straight up pop music in general, largely because it just seems so contrived, soulless and throwaway most of the time. You can’t throw any one of those accusations at Adele. If you’d asked me at the start of the year, I’d have put huge odds on ever publically admitting to liking this, but it’s been some kind of slow diffusion into my head. She has such range, even in the singles, and portrays such emotion. And yeah, it’s cheesy, but if you asked me which album released in 2011’s most likely to be remembered in two or three decades time, I’d say this has a fairly decent shout. Providing the radio stations stop that incredible level of overplay, of course.
8. The Hot Sprockets – Honeyskippin’ When I reviewed this for AU, I talked about how I honestly thought for a long time that the band are a kind of comedy act. In a way they are: they’re just so out of place in the Irish music scene, but wow is this album good. The quality of songwriting totally eclipses any other considerations; they’ve got a proper intense, storytelling brand of folk going on that makes this possibly the most overlooked release of the year for me. Both the lyrics and the vocals are just outstanding.
7. The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From The Vaccines Criminally throwaway, and clearly not the saviour of anything despite what a certain publication claimed, but The Vaccines debut is just infectious as hell. They carry that into the live arena, too, blasting through track after track of slightly meaningless but insanely bounceable indie-pop. Call it a guilty pleasure, but this album really puts a smile on my face.
6. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar What a fantastically daring debut album. Not many bands could pull off opening a very hyped first big release with a track that’s more than eight minutes long, playing tracks live in Welsh and going for an absolutely monstrous rock-out sound. I love the vocals, and the way this album hangs together in a kind of slow-building intensity that lasts the duration. A great reason why downloading individual tracks is a real shame…
Top five, of course, to follow!