Friday, 2 December 2011

OFF TOPIC - Top 20 of 2011 - The Shortlist

Good evening.  Thanks for dropping in.

This is the post where I'll reveal the (eagerly anticipated) songs that make up my Top 20 of 2011.

A few words before I do.  You won't agree with me.  Some of you will think I'm pretentious for including a raft of songs you've never heard of.  Some of you will think I'm too 'mainstream' in my choices.  Some of you will think this is a massive exercise in showing off.  And that's fine.  My opinion is no better or worse than yours and my choices are no more or less valid than yours would be.  This is just my opinion - you might not like it but I can't help that.

The "rules" are simple - any song that has been released (as a single, on an album or even as demo/give-away) is eligible to be included.  Pick 20 that represent your favourite and don't include more than one per artist.   I added a rule of my own where I'd limit myself to maximum one choice where collaborations had occurred.  So for example, both Arctic Monkeys and Alex Turner individually made the 2011 Longlist but I would limit myself to a choice from one.  This is only to add variety.

The list presented below is given as Track name - Artist (Album).  They are not ranked in order of preference or greatness but rather the order in which I personally think they make a good compilation.  I'd love to hear what you think so get involved in the comments or tweet me @BroomOwl and tag your posts #top20of2011

1. Inhaler - Miles Kane (Colour of the Trap) - I could have picked any one of about 4 tracks off this album and it's one I've really enjoyed this year.  Inhaler is just a good pick me up song and probably my favourite track on the album

2. Lowlife - Skint & Demoralised (This Sporting Life) - a "proper" song in my opinion - full of energy and passion and one that makes me want to shout along - again, arguably my favourite off what is a very good album

3. Mazes - Moon Duo (Mazes) - I love the guitar on this - a good toe tapper and one you can easily get lost in for a while

4. Two Cousins - Slow Club (Paradise) - this was a tough choice but I eventually chose this over 'Paradise' because it stuck in my head more - not a great reason, but probably what a good song should do.

5. Puppet to the Man - Kurt Vile (Smoke Ring for my Halo) - this has some excellent grungy guitar.  Kurt Vile was recommended to me by a friend which I'm very thankful for

6. Only if for a Night - Florence & The Machine (Ceremonials) - I think Florence is someone who'll divide opinion and you either love her haunting voice or hate it.  I'm in the former camp and have been since I saw her on an NME tour a few years back where she was somehow bottom of the bill.

7. Troubles - TV on the Radio (Nine Types of Light) - I've been into TV on the Radio for a while purely because each album is so wholly varied - I don't think 'alternative' even begins to sum them up.  This is a bonus track off the deluxe version of the album and surprised me at the end when I was certain nothing was going to beat 'You' onto the short list

8. Ritual Union - Little Dragon (Ritual Union) - definitely one of my favourite tracks from this year - again recommended to me by a friend and I always seem surprised how good it is every time I hear it - great to listen to at the end of a night out

9. Cat's Eyes - Cat's Eyes (Cat's Eyes) - a side project of Faris Badwan (of The Horrors), this seems really familiar but also quite unlike anything else.  I was convinced something from The Horrors' album 'Skying' would make this list but this pipped it at the end 

10. Under Your Thumb - The Vaccines (What Did You Expect From The Vaccines) - this is also one of my favourite albums of the year - one where picking a mandatory 'weak' track is nigh on impossible.  There were more obvious choices than this track, but I'm forever singing 'Eleanor' for hours after I've heard it

11. Suck It And See - Arctic Monkeys (Suck It And See) - I don't think I'm alone in believing that Alex Turner is probably the finest lyricist this country has seen in a very long time.  A lot of people disliked their fourth album but I continue to be impressed - his ballads are superb and this is one of my favourites

12. The Runner - Boxer Rebellion (Cold Still) I started listening to Boxer Rebellion a while back when iTunes gave one of their tracks away as a single of the week.  I think this is the catchiest track off their second album

13. So Tired In The Morning - Erland & The Carnival (Nightingale) I picked up their first album in an independent shop in Leeds last year and loved it.  They describe their own music as weird and wonderful and it is. But in a good way. Incidentally, this track describes exactly how I feel every day...

14. Demons - Mechanical Bride (Living with Ants) Again, someone turned me onto Mechanical Bride earlier this year.  The instrumentals in this are just amazing - one you should definitely have a listen to.

15. Otis - Jay-Z and Kanye West (feat. Otis Redding) (Watch The Throne) I wouldn't for a second claim to be a rap/hip-hop expert, but like everyone, I know what music I like and what I don't.  This album was everything I hoped it would be but the sample on this one makes it stand out for me

16. Eyes - The Naked & Famous (Passive Me, Aggressive You) Another one that someone suggested I'd like and I'm glad they told me.  It's quite 'floaty' music and one that's easy to listen to whilst being good enough to keep your full attention

17. With Each New Day - About Group (Start And Complete) This album was a revelation for me.  It might be one of those that really only works later at night - I'm not sure.  But I do really like it - possibly the most understated album of the year in my opinion.  I listened to this track 5 times straight the first time I heard it.

18. One Hundred And Thirteen - Middleman (Spinning Plates) This song is really out of character from the rest of the album but it is utterly incredible. More spoken word than singing, but don't let you put that off.  The chorus is outstanding and I wish I'd written the whole thing myself.

19. Welcome To Your Wedding Day - Airborne Toxic Event (All At Once) I heard an old ATE song on the radio about 3 years ago and sought out everything they'd done off the back of it.  I had the pleasure of seeing them live in Sheffield about a year ago and they were phenomenal.  Second album stands up well and this is a great anthem.

20. Everything Happens For a Reason - The King Blues (Punk & Poetry) This isn't the best song off the album (listen to '5 Bottles of Shampoo' because it's incredible) but this particular song evokes some special memories for me and for that reason it's one of my favourites.  The King Blues are exceptional (although you may disagree with their politics, their music is world class) and this album would probably coast into my Top 5 of the year.

Here is the short list as a Spotify playlist - I hope it works as I have no idea what I'm doing.  If not then...make one yourself - you're clever enough.

A couple of final thoughts before I go.  There was some music I was disappointed in this year.  I've always enjoyed the Pigeon Detectives' stuff but I really felt their third album was a way off what they're good at.  Standalone, it's OK, but compared to what they can do, it fell short of the mark for me.  Similarly, Brother (or Viva Brother I think they're called now).  I read an interview with them early this year and they were mouthing off about how brilliant they were.  In my humble opinion, they're deluded.  At best they're average and I was disappointed in what it had to offer.

A lot of good bands didn't make the shortlist and sadly that's the nature of the beast.  Not wanting to show obvious bias to my home city, but Sheffield has some excellent bands coming through (Alvarez Kings and In Helsinki) and hopefully I'll be talking about them in 12 months.  Check out any song on the longlist and I'd hope you wouldn't be disappointed.

Thanks for reading all that - hopefully some of it will give you as much pleasure as it's given me.  If I've got it all wrong, remember, my details are at the top of this post so tweet me and tell me why.

Happy listening


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