2011 albums (3) – odds and ends

I often find it hard to say much about some records that simply represent another strong addition to a band’s canon, or are a second album that follows on nicely from where the first left off. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes and Carousel by Pocketbooks fit into this category, as do Into the Murky Water by the Leisure Society and Out of Town, Out of Mind by Standard Fare – all lovely records that have essentially the same strengths as their predecessors, usually even more so. Plenty has been written elsewhere about Mercury Prize nominees Let England Shake by PJ Harvey and Diamond Mine by Jon Hopkins and King Creosote, so I won’t attempt to add to the word-count other than to say I think they live up to the hype. On the subject of living up to hype, however, Bon Iver‘s self-titled effort is harder to pin down: I think I enjoy listening to it, though often it’s served as a reminder to me to give For Emma, Forever Ago a further chance (a record I am coming to like a great deal – I probably would have got there sooner if it hadn’t topped every end of year list going before I’d even bought it). And finally in the “another very good record” stakes, two Indietracks performers: Jeffrey Lewis‘s expectedly charming A Turn In The Dream-Songs, and Edwyn Collins‘s enjoyably stompy Losing Sleep.

There are a few more records that I enjoyed but perhaps could have listened to more, and that stand out in my mind more because of the excellent performances given to promote them: Gillian Welch‘s The Harrow and the Harvest, and the self-titled debut by Wild Flag. More about each in the gigs round-up.

I always find there’s a further category of record at this time each year: albums that I’m willing to accept may well be good (though they might not be), but which I simply didn’t get into; whether through lack of effort on my part of sheer unpenetrability (is that a word? Looks weird) is hard to tell. On that list are Circuital by My Morning Jacket, It’s All True by Junior Boys (much as I love their 2006 album So This Is Goodbye, that’s increasingly looking like a total fluke), Fuck You! I’m Keith Top Of The Pops by Keith Top of the Pops His Minor UK Indie All-Star Celebrity Backing Band, Strange Mercy by St Vincent (though I tend towards the view it’s simply less my cup of tea than previous album Actor, being considerably more angular and challenging) and Metals by Feist. Perhaps also on that list is Cadenza by Dutch Uncles, though I did enjoy seeing them doing it live later in the year.

To round things off, I was pleased to see the Rock of Travolta back in action with their album Fine Lines; it was much what you’d expect from them, and perhaps has the edge over 2003’s Uluru (it would have to go a long way to beat their 2001 debut mini-album). Meanwhile, I saw posters across London for Ryan Adams‘s Ashes and Fire; the dull, bland album sounded every inch like a record advertised on posters across London. At the end of the year I was pleased to see She and Him releasing a Christmas album, though the selection of songs was very conservative and some of them rather cruelly exposed the limitations of Zooey Deschanel’s voice; nonetheless, there were some nice moments with one or two unexpected arrangements on it.

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