Saturday, November 26, 2011

A non-music fan's guide to 2011...a year in music

People’s obsession with music and the extent to which they will go to in order to satisfy their needs is inconceivable to me. I’m a very different kind of guy, and those of you who have already read my column will be aware that I prefer black comedies to Black Sabbath, new boxers to New Order and Britain’s Best Dish to British Sea Power. But since joining the Monograph and working among true fanatics and am no longer able to ignore your fascination, and even though I am unable to understand it, I am beginning to appreciate it…like the when Bill and Ted visit Socrates.

With that in mind, and as we edge into the winter months of the year I have looked back upon what has been a non-music fans guide to British music in 2011.

The year has seen many winners and losers, splits and reconciliations and sadly a number of high profile ‘home grown’ losses perhaps most notably Amy Winehouse; a victim of success and another bitter admittance to the 27 club. Amy, like so many before her, will be mourned and remembered as we show our respect by dressing up as her at Halloween for the years to come.

year in music PJ harvey The Non Music Fans Guide to... A Year in MusicPJ Harvey celebrated winning the coveted Mercury Prize with her seminal ‘Let England Shake’ which reflects upon this her time in Great Britain and lovingly celebrates its ‘damp grey filthiness’. I have sat with this record for some time now and have concluded that, despite what some harsher critics might say. I probably still would.

Summer came and went and, though they may have lacked the red and the white, Blue lived up to their name with a drab, lacklustre and narcoleptic performance at this year’s Eurovision.

Locally we have fared well and Maybeshewill show that they are more than just the exit music to the credits of an indie film by releasing their third album to critical acclaim. Meanwhile, having recently returned from their holiday with The Specials, By the Rivers continue to put more seasoned and experienced musicians to shame with their faultless commitment and abundant hairlines.

Leicester heroes Kasabian treated locals to two intimate shows, as well as releasing their third or fourth studio album, Velocraptor! which is already being heralded as one of the releases of the year.

Other albums of note include the much anticipated ‘King of Limbs’ from supply teachers, Radiohead. It may not seem like the most logical comparison, but you know when people post pictures of their dinner on Facebook? Well, this record is about that interesting. But I was hardly going to ‘get’ Radiohead, was I? I mean, I don’t read broadsheets or brush my teeth, so perhaps something more upbeat would be more my thing and many people recommended ‘On a mission’. This, the debut album from London’s (I assume) Katy B combines Dub-step, dance and ‘ragga’ compounded with that voice all the actors in ‘Kidulthood’ use.

Mediocrity and a small guitar seem to be key to success in music with Ed Sheeran’s ‘plus’ album being one of the year’s biggest sellers. The record is brimming full of fascinating social observations about important issues such as cartoons we used to watch as kids and computer games.

Director’s Cut by Kate Bush is equally full of surprises; most shocking of all is that Kate Bush isn’t dead as I had thought. Sticking with the girls, (as I like to do) I was looking forward to hearing the debut record ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’ by EMA but the government cut it.

I think Arctic Monkeys’ frontman Alex Turner must have broken up Alexa Chung as he’s managed to write two albums this year. ‘Submarine’ is the title of his soundtrack to the film of the same name and, like the Arctic Monkeys hilariously titled album ‘Suck it and see’; I’ve also not listened to it either. In keeping with indie music, it’s good to see Damon Albarn finally doing something new since his days in Blur, and though Beady Eye’s ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ isn’t quite the departure I was expecting, it does fulfil the minimal possible expectation one can possibly expect from a record. Next up, What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? Not much as it goes. Cheers guys, you’ve saved me a lot of time

‘Cults’ by Cults. People name their cars, their pets and even their gentiles. So, when you have gone to the effort of writing an album, why would you not want to name it? Bunch of Cults.

Obviously there were a large number of other credible albums this year as well as many, well, ‘less credible’ and, as we draw into the winter of the year we begin to notice various on-line petitions for ironic (but ultimately insidiously collusive) tracks to beat the X factor winner to Christmas number one slot. So with reference to reality talent shows I’m going to try and keep it short…

I think I did well.

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