Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Best of 2011: Musiclarity Moments and Ceremonials

In a year full of big-name releases (Coldplay, Radiohead, The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Death Cab For Cutie, Wilco, Bjork, Snow Patrol, REM, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Feist, Fleet Foxes all had new albums), it was Florence + The Machines' Ceremonials that stood out the most for me. I tend to rate albums by how many songs I like in it and how long I can listen to it on loop without getting sick of it; and after three months of being stuck in my car's CD player, I am STILL not sick of the album. It was the same with Adele's 21 and Coldplay's album as well, but in the end, Florence won out because it had the least number of songs I pressed "Skip" on.

Foo Fighters, The Black Keys and The Vaccines also rate very high here because these are just some of the best headbanging, good old rock 'n' roll albums of the year. Radiohead is inevitably in the top ten because while it is not as accessible as most of their earlier work, it is still a great album as a whole IMHO, and I still listened to it on loop A LOT. In contrast, PJ Harvey's Let England Shake may have been very well-acclaimed, but I couldn't bear to listen to it for too long. I'm mainstream like that, so sue me.

Here are my top 20 albums of the year then: 

  1. Ceremonials (Florence And the Machine)
  2. 21 (Adele)
  3. Mylo Xyloto (Coldplay)
  4. Wasting Light (Foo Fighters)
  5. El Camino (The Black Keys)
  6. The King Is Dead (The Decemberists)
  7. Build A Rocket, Boys! (Elbow)
  8. What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? (The Vaccines)
  9. Metals (Feist)
  10. King Of Limbs (Radiohead)
  11. Prisoner (The Jezabels)
  12. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (Noel Gallagher)
  13. Helplessness Blues (Fleet Foxes)
  14. EUPHORIC /// HEARTBREAK \\\ (Glasvegas)
  15. Bon Iver (Bon Iver)
  16. A Creature I Don't Know (Laura Marling)
  17. Last Night On Earth (Noah And The Whale)
  18. Bread And Circuses (The View)
  19. Kosciuszko (Jebediah)
  20. The Whole Love (Wilco)
Notable mentions:

  • A Different Kind Of Fix (Bombay Bicycle Club)
  • Blood Pressures (The Kills)
  • Chesapeake (Rachael Yamagata)
  • Cults (Cults)
  • Fallen Empires (Snow Patrol)
  • Ghostbird (Zee Avi)
  • Going Out In Style (Dropkick Murphys)
  • Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Mogwai)
  • Hotel Shampoo (Gruff Rhys)
  • Kiss Each Other Clean (Iron & Wine)
  • Let England Shake (PJ Harvey)
  • Nine Types Of Light (TV On The Radio)
  • Skying (The Horrors)
  • So Beautiful or So What (Paul Simon)
  • Valhalla Dancehall (British Sea Power)
  • Velociraptor! (Kasabian)
  • Year of the Wolf (Nerina Pallot)
  • Yuck (Yuck)


Top 10 Favorite songs of 2011

1) All This And Heaven Too (Florence And the Machine)
Did you know that Florence Welch was diagnosed with dyslexia before? With that in mind, consider the lyrics of this song, which is about how "Poor language doesn't deserve such treatment" and how "All these words are all escaping and coming back all damaged"... it gives the entire song an additional emotional heft that when coupled with the rising verses, the soaring chorus and the wonderfully flowing, longingly glorious outro, makes this in my humble opinion, the most underrated yet most emotional song in Ceremonials. Glorious, simply glorious.

2) June Hymn (The Decemberists)
Quietly understated, amazingly melodic, and with beautifully written lyrics that roll off your tongue like poetry honey. It's been a long time since I've been so motivated to learn the lyrics to a song.

3) Someone Like You (Adele)
It may have been overplayed to death, but that doesn't change the fact that it is still an epic ballad, with some very sad, sad lyrics, and Adele's voice at her most yearning and melancholic yet. When I first got Adele's album, this song was the one that stood out the most in an album full of pretty damn good songs. Heck, I'm happy that I managed to overplay it to death BEFORE everyone else started overplaying it to death.

4) Shake It Out (Florence And The Machine)
The most obvious hit single from Ceremonials, but it's the most uplifting and soaring single you'll ever hear this year. I love it most for the way she sings the lyrics "I am done with my graceless heart, so tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart" so resolutely that you can practically feel her determination to restart.

5) Dear Rosemary (Foo Fighters)
The best song on Wasting Light, the rousing intro, the battling guitars, the frenetic build-up, the soaring chorus, and the mid song bridge with Bob Mould makes this a song that just COMPELS you to turn the volume up to 11 and start headbanging.

6) Charlie Brown (Coldplay)
I first heard them play it live at Splendor In The Grass, and the hook riff just er.. hooked me from the start. Afterwards, I couldn't get it out of my head and kept wondering what the hell I was humming, up till Mylo Xyloto came out and I finally realized that it was the riff from Charlie Brown.

7) Set Fire To The Rain (Adele)
MY second favorite song off 21. I actually this more dramatic and angst-y song to the more popular Rolling In The Deep (which I think has been overplayed to death on radio and by every single wannabe pub/wedding live band out there). I think her voice is more powerful and emotional on this song than on Rolling In The Deep.

8) Euphoria Take My Hand (Glasvegas)
It doesn't help that the riff recalls Coldplay's Life In Technicolour somewhat, but this plaintive plea for heartbreak to go away is sung to depressingly emotional heights by James Allen's trademark wail. Glorious when heard live (which I did at Splendour in The Grass, see the pattern here? heh heh)

9) Lippy Kids (Elbow)
Another song I heard live at Splendour in The Grass. It sounds simply glorious when heard live, and singing "BUILD A ROCKET BOYS!" out loud to the night sky just seemed so... ethereal. My favorite song off one of my favorite albums of the year.

10) L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. (Noah And The Whale)
Go on. I dare you to listen to this song and not get sucked into singing along to the chorus.One of the best feelgood songs of the year, and my biggest regret was that I passed up watchign them at Splendour to go watch the Jane's Addiction borefest instead.

Notable mentions:
  • Arlandria (Foo Fighters)
  • Birds (The Submarines)
  • Calamity Song (The Decemberists) 
  • City Girl (The Jezabels)
  • Every Teardrop Is a Waterfal (Coldplay)
  • Half Moon (Iron & Wine) 
  • Helplessness Blues (Fleet Foxes)
  • Heart Is A Beating Drum (The Kills)
  • Holocene (Bon Iver)
  • How Come You Never Go There
  • How To Be A Werewolf (Mogwai)
  • Hurts Like Heaven (Coldplay)
  • Grace (The View)
  • Grey Lynn Park (The Veils)
  • Lonely Boy (The Black Keys)
  • Lots Sometimes (Glasvegas) 
  • Lotus Flower (Radiohead)
  • Neat Little Rows (Elbow) 
  • No Light No Light (Florence + The Machine)
  • Post Break-Up Sex (The Vaccines)
  • Princess Of China (Coldplat feat. Rihanna)
  • Rolling In The Deep (Adele)
  • She's Like A Comet (Jebediah)
  • Skip The Charades (Cold War Kids)
  • Still Life (The Horrors)
  • Strangers (White Lies)
  • The Beat Goes On (Beady Eye)
  • The Birds (Elbow)
  • This Will Be Our Year (Nerina Pallot)
  • Those Distant Bells (Snow Patrol)
  • Tragic Magic (The View)
  • Vomit (Girls)
  • Walk (Foo Fighters)
  • Walking Far From Home (Iron & Wine)
  • Wetsuit (The Vaccines)

Best Gigs I attended:

  1. Jimmy Eat World (Singapore)
  2. Splendor In The Grass (Australia)
  3. The National (Singapore)

Biggest disappointment of the year:

  • Codes And Keys by Death Cab For Cutie. I expected more from Ben Gibbard and co, but this album just didn't make much of an impression on me.
  • MGMT's concert in KL - No beer, no atmosphere.
  • Ukelele Songs (Eddie Vedder) - Seriously, Eddie, stop mucking about with that stupid ukelele and go back to Pearl Jam already.

Favorite new discovery:
  • The Vaccines - addictive lad rock and catchy tunes too.
  • Australian indie rock. Attending Splendour In The Grass really opened my ears to some great Australian bands, like Jebediah, Cloud Control, The Jezebels, The Panics and The Grates and MAde me go out and explore more of their music.


Anonymous said...

You didn't do a review of The National gig, didn't know you went for it. gutted I had to miss out that one.

Nice list, btw. Bon Iver a personal fav for the year.Discovered Yuck on BFM's 33rpm, also very good. Cheers.


Strizzt said...

Ooh, our lists this year are quite different, yay! (I'll be putting mine up this weekend.)