And so here we are with the top 14 albums of the year as selected by some SCR DJs, some Fall Frenz, and myself.
The big pressure vote from a lot of folks was for Fucked Up’s “David Comes To Life” to win but the local vote swung it toward the eventual champion, which is both adjacent to Salford and excellent.
The final top 14 is heavily biased towards the North West of England and specifically the Greater Manchester conurbation mainly due to the fact that the music is current to these parts, and that’s what our community radio station is all about. Also notable that two of the american participants in this final list played in the city this year (albeit Ripley was in his Moon Duo guise when he did it).
The year has been dominated by the neu Prog and the neu Psyche – a lot of this featured in the preceding three shows to this one – but also the main emphasis has been those musicians who can craft albums at home and produce masterpieces – whether it be time served guys who have been around as long as I have, or the new breed. Tony Thornborough coined an appropriate phrase at the Factory Star/Blimp gig at FAC251 earlier in the year viz “Old is the new Young” spot on – and I have to say in all honesty the most aural pleasure this year has been derived from watching musicians who have spent many years crafting their art and have reached a new creative peak. I just enjoy seeing these guys perform great material which is considerably superior to the Elbow/Coldplay clones attempting to forge a career in the biz. I think I am going to be a little harsher in my responses to bands submitting material next year – my first response will be to direct them to the artists featured on this show…….don’t copy Garvey and Martin look around a little wider.
Wooden Shjips – Black Smoke Rise – West (September) – the first Shjips album to get proper studio treatment and their best yet. Everything from pyschedelia, via psychobilly through to motorik rhythms – marvellous and mesmerising music.
Vinny Peculiar – Artrockers – Other People Like Me (October) – In which local residents Mr Wilkes demonstrates his flair for lyricism and great tunes. Some pure pieces of poetry on this album which reflects back to an older less complicated world.
The Fall – Cosmos 7 – Ersatz GB (November) – the 29th Studio album from the bard of Prestwich and his band of travelling troubadours. This one divided opinion quite markedly and led to wailing and gnashing of teeth in some quarters contrasted with unapologetic worship in others. Would have been higher but for a seriously loud no vote from the Clifton area.
Shoshin – Here Comes My Favourite – City of Patience (July) – I guess the rest of them will catch up on this one eventually as I appear to be the only one who likes this – but I like it lots – I think I have played every track from it. Grab it – you don’t know what you are missing! Also if you can get the link between the preceding album and this one you win a patronising pat on the back.
Moff Skellington – In the Helter Skelter Suburb – Embers of the Rapid Eye (?) – not released as yet I don’t think but definitely Moff’s album of 2011. The usual mix of other worldliness and DIY musical ethic which makes this artist utterly unique and rather marvellous. Many of the tracks appeared on a session on the old Reformation show. It just makes me smile to listen to this music and wordplay within it.
Fall Fan Dave and the Lap Top Dancers – Juggernaut – Yelling Boil (March) – Dave and Ian’s second outing and rather groovy it is too. Another productive year for the duo with a new album planned for 2012. A variety of selections on this one but this track is one Dave prepared for a Reformation session.
Danny Short – Your Kingdom – You Must Not Play (November) – the second of two albums released this year by the very productive Mr Short. His best yet I think as it captures both his punk-prog-pop side as well as his more experimental leanings.
Crystal Stilts – Sycamore Tree – In Love With Oblivion (April) – a stunning second album with some stand out tracks. Described as noise pop meets ’60s psych somewhere – I think they go beyond that and have created a signature sound which is centred around Hargett’s laconic vocal delivery.
Kin – Chemistry Set – Flickering (December) – actually out in physical form in rather groovy packaging earlier in the year but just made available on Bandcamp. This was all it promised to be in the “Dot Dot Dot” ep on Invisible Girl but took the form and schema to a new place entirely. New stuff on the way from the amazing talent that is Kin. I also get a mention on the album sleeve notes along with a few others….
The Wild Swans – English Electric Lightning – The Coldest Winter In A Hundred Years (August) Claiming to have “unfinished business,” former Teardrop Explodes keyboardist Paul Simpson returned with Wild Swans’ first album since 1990’s Space Flower and a new super-group line-up which included the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Ricky Maymi, Echo & the Bunnymen’s Will Sergeant and Les Pattinson, and Spiritualized’s Mike Mooney, just to name a few. The chosen track is just pure magic – wonderful lyrics. The first of two Occultation releases in the top 15.
Monster Island – Pilot Whales – Cathedral Steps (November) Stephen, Lewis and Wesley are back with their third album which further develops their unique approach to music and their lyrical genius in respect of the world that surrounds us and them. Utterly wonderful. Get it from Bandcamp. Note to self – make sure we get them at a gig in Salford next year.
Half Man Half Biscuit – Somethings Rotten in the back of Iceland – 90 Bisodol (Crimond) (September) – the 12th album in the canon and they show no signs of running out of ideas – the usual Blackwell obsessions remain – footie, indie bands and obscure soap stars. There are three constants in my life – the wife, The Fall and Half Man Half Biscuit (oh and Joseph Holts Bitter – so that’s four).
Fucked Up – Queen of Hearts – David Comes To Life (June) – a “Tommy” for the I-Pad generation? Possibly – but then again so much more than that. Immense vocals, searing guitars and exceptional tunes. As mentioned above many had this as number one for the year but the jury over turned that verdict and came up with the one below.
Factory Star – Stone Tumbling Stream – Enter Castle Perilous (April) – we said this immediately it came out – Album of the Year – a bit of a bold statement given we were only four months into the year. Having seen the new line-up do the whole album in order at FAC 251 and having been somewhat blown away it was good to get hold of it and revel in its quality. Some of Martin Bramahs’ most exquisite lyrics appear on this release revealing him as a poet of some distinction, and the tunes are just as memorable. The album was recorded “live” and this works on so many levels as it captures the intensity of the experience of catching this band in the flesh. My review of the album is still the most read blog on this site. Occultation records again demonstrating exceptional taste.
So in conclusion:
ALBUM OF THE YEAR : Factory Star – Enter Castle Perilous ; Runner-Up – Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
RECORD LABLE OF THE YEAR : Occultation ; Runner-up – Bandcamp
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