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Best Music of 2011

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872720.  Fri Dec 23, 2011 10:01 pm Reply with quote

OK, so this is a slight departure from my usual annual theme of albums of the year - but this year has been really quite exceptional musically for me, and a significant chunk of it has been outside the album format. So this just seemed more appropriate.

It's fair to say that 2011, more than anything, was The Year of Devin Townsend - I saw him play live seven times, he released three full-length albums, including what would be my album of the year, the crazy [url]Deconstruction[/url] with all it's orchestras, choirs and death metal blast beats, together with the altogether calmer and more beautiful Ghost and a cheeky Unplugged album, recorded in just two days with him, his guitar and some floaty keyboards.

On top of that, the two 'proper albums' constitute the second half of a four part series, that was released as an impossibly beautiful box set, with all four albums, plus two CDs and two DVDs of additional material.

Phew. But there's loads of other good stuff, taken here using the play counts on my media player, in descending order;

- Eye Embedded by Circles, an Aussie band that would be massive right now if they were from the UK or US - big riffs, and even bigger choruses. Hopefully, 2012 will be their year.

- Magnetic Sky by Becoming the Archetype - metal with a psychedelic twist, and a very silly video.

- The Spirit Horse by Shels - a song so beautiful and gloriously dynamic that you forget that it's just one chord pattern all the way through. The crescendo that builds from about 2:25 into a true explosion of sound about a minute later has to be one of the most remarkable musical moments of the year.

Master Plan B by the improbably named North Korea. A short, sharp shock that takes as much from pop as it does from hardcore punk. Oh, and the EP it is taken from is available for free. Which is nice.

Cut Dem by Skindred. Ragga + punk + dubstep + another silly video

Musical Chairs by Fair To Midland - another uptempo track with a big fat singalong chorus. I think there's a pattern developing here. The video is not intended to be silly, but the singer's dancing is quite silly.

Reform Part III by Xerath offers a fantastic hybrid of traditional and modern metal techniques. The singer is also a composer and a big fan of movie soundtracks, and has managed to concoct some orchestral accompaniments that are neither overbearing or impossibly cheesy. This is quite the feat.

Tide of Ambition by earthtone9 - it's great when one of your favourite bands reforms, and even better when they come back with an EP of tunes every bit as good as they were first time around.

Option by Crosses - if only to prove that it's not been an entirely metal year for me - and taken from another free EP.

Cor. I probably could go on, but that's more than enough for now.

On top of all this, I got to see Jane's Addiction play a rare club gig, finally got to see Fishbone, saw my tip for 2010, Tesseract go from a playing to 250 people in Camden to selling out the Highbury Garage, and a whole heap of other great live shows. Oh, and I mastered my six-string bass.

If 2012 is even half as good for music as 2011 has been, I think I shall still be very pleased.

872847.  Sat Dec 24, 2011 9:52 am Reply with quote

There have been 3 musical highlights of this year:

In March, Protest the Hero released their new album "Scurrilous" and I subsequently saw them Live in what can only be described as the greatest gig I have ever been to. ♥ much for Progressive Metal.

April gave us Max Raptor's debut Album "Portraits" which really is more than worth a listen, I couldn't recommed it enough, I also saw them Live and considering I was one of 2 fans in in the crowd, they were awesome (I got to basically share the Mic with the singer)

And (OhMyGod it was 3 weeks ago???!?) in early December the irrepressible Nightwish released "Imaginaerum", the album to end all others. Enough said.

873650.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:48 am Reply with quote

Try as I might, I can't quite find the requisite level of enthusiasm for Protest the Hero. On paper, they look like an attractive enough proposition and tick a number of the right boxes, but for some reason that doesn't translate into me being a fully paid-up fan of the band.

I really liked 'Sequoia Throne', but even repeated listens to 'Fortress' didn't cement any lasting desire to keep it on rotation - and the same thing seems to have happened with the latest album. I think it just comes across as a bit cheesy for me.

But however cheesy I find PtH, it pales into insignificance against the towering inferno of cheddar that is Nightwish for me. But to each their own.

But having said that, Progressive Metal is definitely The Big Thing going into 2012 - Tesseract were my top tip for 2011, and if they can sort out their vocalist situation, Monuments will be the name to watch in 2012 for me. Aliases also released a sterling debut mini-album this year, and I expect great things from them in the near future. My advice is to pay close attention to the output of Basick Records, who act as particularly good quality control for me - they even have a free sampler album, available through Amazon here. Seek and enjoy!

873654.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:20 am Reply with quote

Oh, Tesseract certainly has a beat! What foxes people a bit, though, is that those beats are more likely to make sense in 8ths or 16ths rather than the usual 4ths - but it is incredibly funny watching people who haven't quite figured that out trying to head-bang along with the riffs.

Tesseract also caused a bit of a fuss this year, by quite abruptly switching singers. Some of the stuff supposed 'fans' were saying on their Facebook page was just jaw-dropping - like 'I'm selling my tickets for your upcoming tour', and writing off the new guy before they'd even heard him sing a note. FWIW, I think it's made them better.

And if it makes you feel any better, I've certainly heard people say approving things about Dead Letter Circus, but haven't quite got around to checking them out yet. But it's really tough for Aussie bands to get any sort of higher profile, as even domestic tours require flights, instead of just piling into the back of a van.

EDIT: Oh. This made sense when it was in response to a post by Arcane, which appears to have disappeared....

873657.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:44 am Reply with quote

My musical high light of the year was seeing System of a Down at Download. They where amazing musically, and the energy in the crowd was immense.

New music wise, there hasn't really been much that has caught my attention this year.

873658.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:47 am Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:
Oh, and I mastered my six-string bass.

Did you grow another finger? :D

I've never understood the 'more than four' thing. If there aren't enough strings, go buy a guitar. Well, that's my opinion.

New music I've encountered this year include:

Celloman - a friend gave me a copy of a live gig of theirs and it's a regular player in my CD. Terrific funky beats with an electric cello & some violin building up some lovely melodies.

Bon Iver - not necessarily new for 2011, but new for me. Bon Iver is simply stunning. Laid back, mellow grooves & a wonderful voice, this music has flavours of Roy Harper, Van Morrison & even Antony & The Johnsons.

Kraan - again, not new by any stretch of the imagination (first album was back in '73) but a recent discovery for me. This German prog group's music reminds me of Camel, ELP, Manfred Mann's Earth Band & Frank Zappa all rolled into one.

873663.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:03 am Reply with quote

Musical highlights this year... these are gigs rather than albums because I don't tend to keep up with the latter.

Sabaton (and Alestorm supporting), both incredibly good live, and reminded me how much fun metal gigs are, sometimes you just want to jump around and headbang a lot.

Crazy Arm, last gig of the year a couple of weeks ago, great band that will hopefully get bigger next year, although it was fun to see them with 20 people in a room above a pub.

Pendulum at Glastonbury, only saw half an hour of their set on a break from work, but I love their stuff, and enjoyed the odd experience of listening and dancing to that kind of music in bright sunshine.

Robert Plant and the Band of Joy, last show of their tour at the Big Chill festival, again missed some of it because of work but they still rank as one of the best bands I've seen because that man's voice just does things too me. And much more intimate than last time I saw him at the O2 with Led Zep.

Flogging Molly - at Glastonbury and again at Leeds, one of the most fun bands to dance to that I've ever seen.

I think the theme that runs through those is fun and dancing. That's what's changed this year for me musically, I've been listening to stuff that puts a smile on my face and makes me want to move my feet.

873670.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:16 am Reply with quote

I also have to agree with Moosh, Pendulum are very good live. We saw them at Download as well, and since it was pitch black and the heavens decided to open, one of the most atmospheric performances we saw all weekend.

873677.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:55 am Reply with quote

Moosh wrote:

Robert Plant and the Band of Joy, last show of their tour at the Big Chill festival, again missed some of it because of work but they still rank as one of the best bands I've seen because that man's voice just does things too me. And much more intimate than last time I saw him at the O2 with Led Zep.

I have to agree. I've seen Robert Plant and The Strange Sensation live, and later with The Band of Joy, and both were great. He peforms with great energy still, and his voice is just great.

Another highlight for me this year was seeing Peter Gabriel live on the New Blood tour. Another singer who still has the magic. Hearing 'Don't Give Up' live was particularly special to me, despite the absense of Kate Bush (Ane Brun stood in).

873682.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 9:19 am Reply with quote

Did you grow another finger? :D

I've never understood the 'more than four' thing. If there aren't enough strings, go buy a guitar. Well, that's my opinion.

I've played a five-string for well over a decade, and made the jump up, well, because I could, really - plus, my guitar-playing buddy recently jumped from his trusty seven string to an eight, so I had to keep up! Now that we can actually play our new instruments, 2012 may be the year we actually start playing them in the same room again.

But bass, irrespective of the number of strings, is an entirely different beast to guitar, really - and what I do on my bass simply wouldn't work on a guitar. And building slap-and-pop lines that can comfortably run over two octaves is a real joy ;)

873692.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 9:58 am Reply with quote

I know what you're saying. I've played a 5 and a 6 string, but I feel a lot more comfortable with 4. I agree that bass & guitar are different animals and also that certain things that work well on one don't necessarily cut it on the other, but those extra bass strings would tempt me to alter my playing style and I'm a bit of a traditionalist.

Do you find yourself soloing more, especially in the higher register? That's what I was getting at - I tend to leave the solos to the guitar, keyboard or brass, unless it's required. I'm not saying I don't solo, but with the ones I do do, I find 4 strings are enough.

HA! 'do do' lol

873695.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 10:40 am Reply with quote

No, I don't tend to solo per se - I'm definitely more about the groove than anything else. But I have found myself moving fills or flourishes up an octave now that I have the space to do so without having to do the equivalent of high-altitude precision bombing by jumping up and down the neck at speed.

873699.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 10:59 am Reply with quote

I still favour Beethoven's fifth...

873744.  Thu Dec 29, 2011 2:10 pm Reply with quote

I don't think there's been an "album of the year" for me this year. There's been a lot of good'uns that I've enjoyed, but none really stand out.

Those that spring to mind are...

Brutal Truth - End Time
Wormrot - Dirge and the Noise EP
Gridlink - Orphan
Weedeater - Jason... The Dragon
Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Wolves In The Throne Room - Celestial Lineage
Primus - Green Naughahyde
Metallica & Lou Reed - Lulu (nowhere near as bad as the critics tried to make out)

And, like Neo, I was pleased to see the return of earthtone9.

I've made a few musical discoveries thanks to their latest releases...

Pneu - Highway To Health
Summon The Crows - One More For The Gallows
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Blood Lust
Rival Sons - Pressure And Time
Dead Elephant - Thanatology

I should also mention the Throbbing Gristle remasters that were released in October/November.

I'll probably remember a load more as soon as I turn the computer off.

873807.  Fri Dec 30, 2011 5:10 am Reply with quote

I saw the Foo Fighters with support from Biffy Clyro at the MK Bowl, which was awesome, and Wasting Light would be an album of the year for me.

The Foos were joined on stage by John Paul Jones and Seasick Steve, who was a new discovery for me so I started out with nothin' and I still got most of it left and You can't teach an old dog new tricks are both albums that I've listened to lots, although not new this year.

I went to a folk festival down the road and saw the The Burns Unit (although without MC Soom T, they didn't do my favourites, but I still love King Creosote) and Oysterband, but the best were the support act on both nights, an Orkney duo called Saltfishforty who occasionally pop up village halls in the highlands and play traditional stuff.

Let England Shake - PJ Harvey
Diamond Mine - King Creosote + Jon Hopkins
The Impossible Song + Other Songs - Roddy Woomble (of Idlewild)
Ukulele Songs - Eddie Vedder (I got really into the soundtrack from Into the Wild last year, and i tunes recommended this.)

And I was very sad about REM, so listened to a lot of them.


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