Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Top 10 Albums of 2011

10. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues 
Helplessness Blues' melancholic harmonies and gentle guitar strumming makes for a perfect blend of mellow folking greatness. The album's simplicity is raw and honest, and an impressive progression from their eponymous debut album. 

9. Beirut - The Rip Tide
 Known for their rich sound and variety of instruments, Beirut definitely didn't let fans down with their third album. With a distinctly European feel, The Rip Tide's vibrancy and colourful music is like none other, and the dulcet symposium of the brass section combined with an accordion, ukulele and Zach Condon's powerful voice ensures that the magic of Beirut isn't lost on anyone. 

8. Ben Howard - Every Kingdom
Newcomer, Ben Howard's debut album has received critical acclaim from music critics - and rightly so. Although singer-songwriter guitarists are far from rare, Howard shines out from the crowd with a certain uniqueness and his sincere lyrics really do seem to stem from the heart. With beautiful background harmonies and catchy hooks, the surfer from Devon has found a niche sufficiently different from the many clichéd acoustic guitar acts of today.
7. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Noel Gallagher's High  Flying Birds
Since Oasis split in 2009 it seems like Noel Gallagher has been rolling around like a tumbleweed in the desert, not really going anywhere,  and his very public feud with his brother has been hard to escape; however his debut album under Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, demonstrates his triumphant return to music. Whilst not having strayed far from the distinctive sounds of Oasis, Gallagher combines exhilarating guitars and jazzy trumpets for a truly uplifting rock album.

6. tUnE-yArDs - W H O K I L L 
Beyond doubt there is no one quite like Merrill Garbus, and once you've gotten over the annoyance of having to type out tUnE-yArDs, her kooky, dreamy looping is mesmerising. The sheer range in her voice is extraordinarily impressive, and W H O K I L L showcases her ability to create such intriguing and exciting music from the simplest of hooks and riffs.
5. Cults - Cults 
The Manhattan duo broke onto the music scene this year with their eponymous debut album bringing the perfect soundtrack of shimmering pop to the summer. With infectious tunes, and the flawless mix of Madeleine Follin and Brian Oblivion's contrasting voices, the sugary-sweet tones of Cults are refreshing and upbeat - a melodic triumph. 

4. The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
After receiving praise for their music in 2010, it was with much anticipation that their debut album was released in 2011, and well, what other did we expect from The Vaccines than a fantastic album? Over the past few years it seems that Britain has been slightly lacking in good guitar bands, but The Vaccines seem to have brought rock back to Britain with great gusto. With most of the songs on the album under the three minute mark, it's a quick listen but with a lasting impact. 

3. Noah & The Whale - Last Night On Earth
Despite the success of their first single Five Years Time, their debut album Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down and it's follow up The First Days of Spring were slightly disappointing. However with their third album Last Night On Earth, it seems that Noah & The Whale have really found themselves now. Although the upbeat tunes seem to drift more into the indie-pop category than the folk genre which Noah & The Whale are so associated with, Last Night on Earth sparkles with harmonies and a new found sense of fun. Where the songs on their previous albums drifted into the background, their newest album stands out proudly and makes for a perfect mix of simple, honest lyrics, and catchy tunes. 
2. Cloud Control - Bliss Release
The easy-breezy pop of Cloud Control's debut album Bliss Release combines the beautiful harmonies of Alister Wright and Heidi Lenffer with jangly guitars and driving drum beats. Meditation Song #2 is perhaps the stand out song on the album - a summery mixture of electric and acoustic guitar accompanied by a cheerful tambourine. With such a strong first album, we can be sure that an equally good follow up will be on the cards shortly.
1. The Antlers - Burst Apart
Having featured on the majority of 'best albums of 2011' lists, it's safe to say that this year has been a great one for The Antlers. Despite the underlying dark melancholy of the lyrics (only marginally lighter than the abusive relationships and cancer explored in their last album, Hospice), lead singer, Peter Silberman's soothing voice accompanied by a relaxed beat and background electronica makes a harmonious sound that is carried throughout the album. Tiptoe gives a feeling of floating under water, and is perfectly juxtaposed with the slightly more frantic Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out to create an album full of variation and exciting new songs. 

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Songs For Christmas

With only three days (!) until the big day itself, I thought it was time to share with you the best songs from the 2011 festive season. Sit back with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, and enjoy the tunes...

Little Saint Nick - She & Him

Snowflake - Kate Bush

Christmas Day - Tim Wheeler and Emmy The Great

Somewhere Only Santa Knows - Keane

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Drums at Shepherds Bush Empire

The History Of Apple Pie provided a slightly disappointing start to the evening. Lead singer Stephanie Min's voice was barely audible over the thrash of heavy guitars, and I wondered whether this was the desired effect, or simply the product of a faulty mic. Their new single Mallory was actually quite a tuneful, colourful little number on second listening on Youtube and Kelly Owens' background vocals melted into the guitars perfectly, it was just a shame that the full effect wasn't witnessed in their set.

          However, when Cloud Control stepped onto the stage, the evening was immediately turned around. Having seen them support Stornoway at Somerset House back in July, and instantly falling in love, I was excited when I discovered they'd be supporting The Drums. Opening with crowd favourite, Meditation Song #2, the jangly summery pop immediately gripped the audience, and the voices of Alister Wright and Heidi Lenffer merged together beautifully to create the perfect opening to their set. The epicness of the tune was reinforced by the four piece's enthusiasm - Wright's slightly shy but nonetheless infectious grin was humbling, and complemented by Lenffer's exuberant tambourine playing (one of the few people who can make the tambourine seem like the coolest instrument on the earth) the crowd was drawn into their cheery psych-folk.

        My Fear #2 followed with the same gusto and once again Lenffer's delicate backing vocals were a faultless accompaniment to Wright's strong, melodic voice. It wasn't just the music that made it such a brilliant set though. Their onstage banter with the audience made them instantly likable, and dedicating Gold Canary to the bird who the day before had been hit by their bus and 'shattered the windscreen' was a nice touch... The animal lovers then went on to sing said song, and I'm sure the bird would have felt honoured to have such a beautiful, cheery ditty dedicated to him. Despite seeing them live once before, their songs still felt refreshing and with a renewed sense of energy in them, and I can only imagine that their headlining gigs are of an even higher calibre.

With the exhilarating What You Were from The Drums' second album, Portamento, their set opened with an animated Johnny Pierce bouncing around the stage singing 'I gave you my heart' much to the delight of several screaming girls in the audience. As with most of The Drums' songs, What You Were's catchy hooks and danceable nature encouraged the crowd to loosen up, and livened the slightly gloomy atmosphere after a long wait for the band to take to the stage. Both Best Friend and Me And The Moon from their eponymous debut album gave Pierce a chance to showcase his latest dance moves - something resembling the robot and lots of prancing amongst them.

             The more haunting If He Likes It Let Him Do It was a contrast to the upbeat tempo of Me And The Moon, and the dark bass line beautifully intertwined with Pierce's soaring vocals. However the hidden gem of the song was Jacob Graham in the background fiddling with buttons and knobs. I'm not usually a synths fan, but the gentle underlying drone beautifully tied in with the slightly macabre tone of the melody.

            Down By The Water brought a calming melancholy to the evening, and gave Pierce a chance to show his gentler vocals, casting enraptured silence over the audience. On the livelier songs, where the crowd had joined in singing (and for the most part quite bad singing - particularly the wailing teenagers next to me!), they now stood mesmerised by Pierce's more laidback approach to the song, and he even stopped with the dancing for a moment, which helped the audienceto just focus on the sheer power of his voice.

            Despite a dramatic change in the lineup of the band over the summer, The Drums have proved that they deserve all the success that has come to them so far. The lack of Let's Go Surfing in the evening wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as their concern that they don't want to be known just for that one song is understandable. With two stunning albums under the belt, it's now just a waiting game to see what album number three has in store for us - and my guesses are, it's going to be a good one!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

I've Been Listening To...

Keep Your Head Up - Ben Howard

Sorry blogging's been a bit quiet of late - things always get really hectic in the run up to Christmas! I have lots of posts lined up though, including a review of The Drums at Shepherds Bush Empire. And in the meantime, have you liked the NotAnotherRainySunday facebook page yet?!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Oh Rosie - Foxes!

Oh Rosie is the first sneak preview from Foxes! eponymous debut album which comes out on Big Salad Records on January 16th 2012. Animated by lead singer, Kayla Bell, herself, the wonderful video for Oh Rosie is the perfect match for Bell's voice over the jangly indie-pop beats.

Catch Foxes! at the Brixton Windmill on 16th December or at the Green Door Store in Brighton on 23rd December.
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