Contrary to what I hoped at the end of last year, and as you can see by the very meagre output on this blog, I didn't get enough time to listen to new music. I still managed, however, to find a few gems here and there. As with the last couple of years, most of my music came in through eMusic. I didn't get enough time to trawl through sites like Bandcamp or even Twitter for new music. Bandcamp is high on my music searching agenda in 2012 as is Kompoz.
It seems to me that this year, a number of Folk bands on both sides of the Atlantic made it heavily into the mainstream media and had a bigger influence in music. I think this influenced my list this year a little bit.
Girls is a an American indie group (more like a duo) that came into prominence with their first album back in late 2009. There was a lot of buzz around at the time and I dutifully checked their album. I remember thinking this is to raw for my liking and the sound is a bit off. It never grew on me.
Much to my surprise, I really liked "Father, Son, Holy Ghost". It has a fuller sound, better production and it feels overall like a better thought out and more structured album. The record is divided in two parts. The first few songs are pretty up tempo and cheerful, while the second part turns more introspective. I'm sure there is more to get out of it if you pay attention to the lyrics, I never do! The single Vomit received a lot of praise from bloggers and established magazines alike when it came out. My favourite track of the album however is Forgiveness.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart took me by surprise when I discovered Belong as one of the featured albums en emusic back in April. Another American indie band, this time from NY, but with a very different sound. It took me back to the days when I was in college and I listened to music all the time, yet the sound was fresh and new to me despite the fact that you can hear the early 90's fuzzy indie scene influences all over it.
I am not sure whether this is an album that will last the test of time, but in 2011, I listened to it over and over again.
Bird of Youth is one of those folky acts I referred to at the top of the post. Not sure if this particular one has actually made it into the mainstream yet! I don't know anything about them except the brief bio on their website that mainly talks about Beth Wawerna's musical birth and not much else. The Album was released by Jagjaguwar records and produced by Phil Palazzolo along with Okkervil River’s Will Sheff. However it is not listed on the label's website except for a reference where they were supporting Okkervil River on a show back in December.
Another emusic discovery, this is a pretty folksy album with good melodies and an overall feel good element to it, I had to listen to it over and over again. I couldn't get enough of it.
My list wouldn't usually include Grammy nominated albums. However, in early December, GFD was nominated for a Grammy in the Category of Best Surround Sound Mix.
I think Steven Wilson is one of the musical geniuses of the 21st century. A very prolific artist with a number of different outlets primarily driven by Porcupine Tree. Despite this prolificness, GFD is only Steven Wilson's second album. For me, this was one of the most anticipated albums of 2011. Back in the summer, SW put out a teaser on his website with cuts from every single track of the album. From there, I knew that GFD was going to be something special. This is a complex album that is difficult to explain. I hesitate to call it a prog rock album for a number if reasons, but it definitely is one, it is more eclectic than that though. It has some pop elements but also borrows heavily from jazz. One of the biggest achievements in my mind is the fact that despite being a huge piece of work, it doesn't suffer from the over the top flamboyance very commonly associated with prog rock groups.
You can see videos of some of the songs, including some live cuts on the album link above and judge for yourself. Simply beautiful.
And from the expansive musical landscape that is GFD, I move to an album that used as a first sigle a song that starts with a Ukulele.
It is no secret that I think Lisa Hannigan is one of the best Irish musicians out there. I simply loved See Saw when it came out back in 2008. It made it to my first list of albums of the year. I was a bit apprehensive about Lisa's new album. What if she turned out to be a one trick pony that only managed to get from under the shadow of one Damien Rice for a brief moment. I shouldn't have worried, I feel that with Passenger, Lisa Hannigan planted herself firmly amongst the leading group of Irish artists currently out there.
Passenger is a beautifully crafted album that just begs to be listened over and over again. As with See Saw, this is one of those albums that I see myself going back to from time to time in the years to come.
Some other interesting albums included the third installment of one Matt Stevens, mentioned a few times around here before. Also some new music by ASIWFA, The Aristocrats, Laura Marling and Adele.
Probably the most interesting discovery I made this year was the Australian brother and sister duo of Angus & Julia Stone and their related solo albums.
The biggest musical disappointment was definitely the new Yes album.
As for Live Music, this year I didn't go to as many concerts as I would have hoped and will forever be marked as the year I saw Justin Bieber live in concert! On a more serious note, over the summer there were a few good gigs, including Journey and Foreigner. I saw Rush with Geedy Lee play live (and they played La Villa Strangiato!). But the event of the year had to be Roger Waters' show The Wall.
It might sound like a strange choice after you have read the full post above, but the track of the year for me was Adele's Someone Like You.
Even if I don't get enough time to listen to all the music I want in 2012, I know I will discover some new and noteworthy music worth talking about at the end of the year.