07 December 2011

Scots Way-Hay - The Artists Albums of the Year 2011 (Part 1)

And so it begins... I did warn you at the end of last week I did warn you that I would be starting on my numerous end of year polls. Following on from the success of last years series of posts I have decided to run my Artists Albums of the Year, which basically meant that I went back to any of the bands and artists that have featured in my Scots Way-Hay posts over the past couple of years. To kick us off here are the choices of Happy Particles, Discopolis, John Knox Sex Club, Come on Gang! , Trapped in Kansas and Miss The Occupier.

Belong - Common Era chosen by Steven Kane (Happy Particles/Remember Remember)

I had been a fan of Belong for a while before Common Era came out, their previous efforts sitting somewhere between Stars of the Lid and Tim Hecker at his most rusty. I was pretty surprised by the departure i heard on first listen, it's still engulfed in the usual 'tumble dryer' ambience but there is a really strong melodic heart to this record along with some almost subliminal rhythms. One of the reasons i like it so much is that it can be hard to tell where the source of a lot of the cacophony is coming from, although it all sits prettily in harmony. Your brain connects melodies and perhaps makes up some new ghost melodies too. I get that nice nostalgic cozy feeling from it that you do from some Boards of Canada records where melody and memory seem to bind in a beautiful wonkiness. It certainly owes something to some bands from the Shoegaze era but i think they have achieved something distinctly fuzzy and their own. Not just my favorite of 2011 but one of my all time favorite records.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver chosen by Laurie Corlett-Donald (Discopolis)

An incredible follow up that I think captures the simplicity and beauty of his debut ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ butmanages to chart new territory with epic 80’s sounding ballads to fully instrumented rock songs. I cannot wait to spend the winter months listening to this record on repeat in my room while enjoying large glasses of mulled wine.

Sparrow & The Workshop - Spitting Daggers chosen by Rory Anderson (John Knox Sex Club)

Sparrows first album was cracking, this is ten times better. Nick is a complete geek with equipment so all the guitars are a step ahead of the previous album, plus the harmonies perfect. Jills vocals are incredible, she has a delicate quality but also wails (not like zep, I mean in a good way) like fuck which can kick the arse of most singers. As I said, the harmonies are great, Gregor has an amazing voice as well, and the two match so well, never been able to explain why.... I guess everyone talks about the vocals when Sparrows come up in conversation, but the lyrics are lovely too. Jill is a really sincere writer, we played with them up in Aberdeen, and they soundchecked 'Old Habits', everyones jaws dropped in John Knox, we all were really taken by that song, the performance was great, but the lyrics were really beautiful. Anyway, that was pretty much 5 sentences of rambling. The record is really well put together, it's hard just to put on one song from it, but my favourite is 'Against The Grain". If I could drive and put a driving tape together, that song wid be on it.

P.S. The intro of Soft Sound Of Your Voice sounds like Dirty Diana by Michael Jackson, which is bawzoot.

FOUND - factorycraft chosen by Michael Morrison (Come on Gang!)

My album of 2011 is factorycraft by FOUND. Since it was released in March, nothing else has got much of a look-in on the annual roundup stakes, and I’ve subsequently played it dozens and dozens of times.

As perennial overachievers, it was great to finally see FOUND get snapped up by Chemikal for this record and, thankfully for both parties, everyone seems in agreeance that factorycraft is a solid step-up from their first two albums proper. Anyway…

It’s dark, funny, very very smart and instantly arresting. It also plays as a record – with two distinct sides – which is a rare treat these days. Though it’s experimental in approach, factorycraft is a solid pop record which is never ‘out there’ for the sake of artiness, and instead just occasionally trips the listener up a little along the way. I always think it’s pretty easy to create something unique, but to make something unique and good is nigh on impossible, and that’s what FOUND seem to do on an almost bi-annual basis these days.

Each song is killer, with Blendbetter’s epic drop being a stand out for me, but it’s the obvious range of influence on offer that keeps the record leap years ahead of the crowd. Part The Cure and part Arab Strap, but with really weird bits thrown in, factorycraft is impossible to date – if I was an idiot, I would absolutely believe that this record was a vintage relic sent back through time from the future. If I lived in Hoxton I would call it 'small-town- industrial-hawick-soul-pop'.

Colin Stetson- New history of warfare volume 2-judges chosen by Sean (John Knox Sex Club)

A record that I struggle to compare to anything else I have ever heard. In fact to go on about it and attempt to 'review' it would be pointless so I won't other than to say it is beautiful, apocalyptic, baffling, furious and desperate.

The Cosmic Birth & Jounrey of Shinju TNT by Akron/Family chosen by Chris Ward (Trapped in Kansas)

I stumbled across Akron/Family one late night trawling the recommended artists on iTunes and since I heard the first minute of opening track 'Silly Bears', I was hooked. This album opens up a world of epic and cosmic proportions, every song invites you into a radiant phantasmagorical soundscape. For me it's like listening to the best elements of Grizzly Bear, Maps & Atlases, Animal Collective and Beach Boys all rolled into one!

Like most albums you've never heard before the first port of call was the incredible artwork on the cover, which is a volcano spewing out lava into the night sky. It's a beautiful wash of deep colours and it defiantly added a peacock moment which lured me in and I'm glad to say I was not disappointed. Wanting to know a bit more about the band I read a few articles which led me to find out the album was written in a cabin built into the side of an active volcano in Japan and then recorded in an abandoned train station in Detroit and that they lost one of their founding members when he went off to become a Buddhist monk!

These guys are special, their music is special and I think more people should be listening to Akron/Family and the cosmic birth & journey of Shinju TNT.

Simon Werner a Disparu by Sonic Youth chosen by Magnus (Miss The Occupier)

Simon Werner a Disparu is a film soundtrack released this January on Sonic Youth's SYR label, an outlet for occassional albums and EPs highlighting the band's more experimental extremes. These haven't exactly been radio friendly unit shifters (1999's double disc Goodbye 20th Century is hard going by most people's standards) but this new release is probably the most accessible of the SYRs, more reminiscent of, say, Tortoise or the Dirty Three. Simon Werner a Disparu is entirely instrumental and is heavy on atmospherics and white noise, but there are plenty of Providence-esque pianos and jangly guitar melodies. The closing track Theme d'Alice is ace and politely rocks out in a similar way to Pink Steam from Rather Ripped.

The recent speculation about Sonic Youth's future has given the band headlines in 2011 for all the wrong reasons. Certainly more focus will be on Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore's respective solo projects in the near future, so it's only right to give credit to the actual music Sonic Youth have put out this year rather than the very un-Sonic Youth celebrity gossip that's been doing the rounds.

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