MusicRadar's albums of 2011
As the end of 2011 approaches we’ve been rounding-up some of the best things about the past twelve months. We’ve already brought you rundowns of our favourite guitar, tech, drum and DJ gear of the year, now we turn our attention to the music itself.
Over the next few slides each member of the MusicRadar editorial team has chosen a favourite release from the past year. As you’ll see, we’re an eclectic bunch.
These albums are in no particular order - they’re just personal selections from the people behind MusicRadar. Plus, we’ve added YouTube clips so you can have a listen and hear what we’re making a fuss about.
What do you think of our selections? Disagree with our choices? Think we’ve missed out something big? Want to recommend something we might like? Leave a comment, or let us now via Twitter or Facebook.
Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Will Groves says: Bon Iver’s second album is a more expansive affair than the first, For Emma, Forever, but it’s still reassuringly introspective, featuring dense, intricate, occasionally muddy arrangements. Impressively, the whole thing flows beautifully, and you never feel bogged down by Justin Vernon’s often unintelligibly mumbled, but always affecting vocals.
It’s testament to the album’s emotional heft that it can close with Beth/Rest, a song that initially evokes Bruce Hornsby-esque ‘80s piano balladry, without feeling either lame or knowing.
Listen: Bon Iver – Holocene
Jill Scott - The Light Of The Sun
Ben Rogerson says: Strange that the sound of an artist doing pretty much what they’ve always done can be so refreshing, but in a year when R&B felt like it was eaten up by Auto-Tune and trance synths, Jill Scott’s adherence to the neo soul blueprint felt like a blessed relief.
The Light Of The Sun could hardly be called groundbreaking, but it wins you over with its smooth, effortless charm.
Listen: Jill Scott ft Anthony Hamilton - So In Love
Frank Ocean - nostalgia, ultra
Si Truss says:I never would have predicted that my favourite alum of 2011 would feature an ode to the wonders of outdoor sex sung to the backing track of MGMT's Electric Feel. But few people could have predicted Frank Ocean.
The Odd Future-affiliated soul singer's free download mixtape heavily sampled the likes of Coldplay, The Eagles and MGMT. But nostalgia, ultra is far more than an exercise in re-hashing the work of others; Ocean's original numbers, particularly Novacane and Swim Good, are some off the most infectious, tightly produced, intelligent pop songs to emerge in years.
Listen: Frank Ocean - Swim Good
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Joe Bosso says: When was the last time you heard an album that was truly engrossing from beginning to end? On his much-yearned-for solo debut, Noel Gallagher packs his hook-savvy proclivities into 10 wondrous tracks that run the gamut from horn-flavoured Americana to psychedelia to gritty rock-stomp and turns the whole thing into a poignantly human experience.
When he borrows - a little T. Rex here; some Phil Spector there; splashes of Fab Four here, there and everywhere - he does so with artful flair. But originality rules on High Flying Birds, and the transfixing, soaring If I Had A Gun is an instant classic that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Gallagher’s Oasis-era benchmark, Wonderwall.
Listen: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds - If I Had A Gun
Beth Ditto - Beth Ditto EP
Chris Barker says: As I have the terminal DJ disease of never listening to albums, this EP is about as far as I've stretched in terms of listening to the same artist back to back.
Produced by synth-fanatics Simian Mobile Disco it showcases Ditto as the queen of diva-flecked nu-disco. Warm analogue synths blip and punch but are impossibly overpowered by Ditto's incredible vocal talents. Yazoo for the new generation. Marvellous!
Listen: Beth Ditto – Open Heart Surgery
Exit_International - Black Junk
Chris Vinnicombe says: The discs that fancy themselves as contenders for 2011’s best long player are nestled sleepily in neat, regimented stacks in the MusicRadar CD cabinet. It hasn’t exactly been a vintage year for new releases, but The Keys, Houdini Dax, Bon Iver and Science Bastard have all tickled the ears most pleasingly.
Then, blowing the bloody doors clean off came a bolt of black lightning from Cardiff’s Exit_International. Relentlessly noisy, heavily soiled and pandemically infectious, Black Junk is a record to fall in love with. Just don’t expect these boys to buy you flowers or hold your hand in the street.