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Old 05-21-2011, 01:44 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default 2011 - An Objective Look At The Year Thus Far

Objective in the sense that I am not going to express a single opinion on whether anything was good or otherwise. I'm just going to consider matters as they appear to be in the eye of the general and critical consensus.

As we approach the end of the fifth month of the year, it might be fair to say that, to date, not a great deal has taken the alternative music world by storm. Is this unusual? Difficult to say. Somehow or other I feel as if I'm saying the same thing every year around this time, only to be humbled by the excellence of later releases.

From what I can tell, and I'm pretty sure of the accuracy of what I am about to say, there are probably a mere two albums that have garnered HUGE critical praise (by this I mean they have truly been mentioned time and time and time again in the press and almost always to great acclaim) and have been big hits with the generality of indie fandom too. They are:

PJ Harvey's Let England Shake
&
Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues

I shouldn't think it comes as a surprise to anybody that Fleet Foxes was one of them, as they ride on the back of their (rightly or wrongly) universally adored self-titled thingee back in 2008. They were always going to get crazy attention with the follow-up, but they seem not to have left many disappointed.

Above, I could have also included the Beastie Boys with their latest offering, Hot Sauce Committee Pt.2. I suppose it would not be inaccurate to describe them as long-standing darlings of alternative music critics dating back to good ol' Paul's Boutique. This current release has attracted similar level sof attention to the above two albums and, while not adored to quite an equivalent extent, it is not far off.

Moving swiftly on, there are another three albums that have been talked and talked and talked about, but which received more mixed reactions than might otherwise have been expected. They are:

James Blake with his eponymous
TV On The Radio with Nine Types Of Light

...and, of course, as if there was any chance of forgetting:

Radiohead with King Of Limbs

James Blake is somewhat of a new-comer on the scene. However, he's truly been making waves left right and centre and his album has turned out to be one of the most reviewed anywere in the music press. Nevertheless, it is one that divided opinion. As for Radiohead and TV On The Radio, well, what can we say? Both are scene veterans who sit comfortably and unquestionably among the most loved and cherished acts in the world-wide alternative community. However, they don't appear to have quite "done it" this time around. General consensus is that the releases, for want of a better phrase, delivered but didn't quite soar.

This takes us to a bunch of other releases that have received much praise but are probably never going to be thought of as iconic. They are worthy of mention because a significant portion of indie fandom love these albums and they have received enough attention from the media to back it up. They are:

tUnE-yArDs, Who Kill
Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes
Destroyer, Kaputt
Yuck, self-titled
Smith Westerns, Dye It Blonde
Wild Beasts, Smother
Okkervil River, I Am Very Far
Elbow, Build A Rocket Boys
Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring For My Halo

Of these I was previously familiar with the works of Destroyer, Elbow, Okkervil River and Wild Beasts. Okkervil River I suppose are darlings of indie rock, and Stage Names of 2007 will remain an iconic release in the history books. Nothing they've done since though has had quite the same effect. Wild Beasts seem to be gaining strength following their previous success of a couple years back, and that's good to see. They may well end up being one of the great indie bands of our time. Elbow seem to have put in another worthy offering. Of the above, however, it is Who Kill appears to have made significant amounts of noise. I guess they are one to keep an eye on.

Other albums that may be a little more niche (??) but that have nonetheless generated a fair amount of positive attention are:


Tim Hecker with Ravedeath, 1972
Gang Gang Dance with Eye Contact
The Antlers with Burst Apart
EMA with Past Life Martyred Saints
Wye Oak with Civilian

Only previously familiar with the work of The Antlers. If anything, they seem to be maintaining some momentum, though have failed to really break into the upper or even mid echelons of the scene.




In conclusion, not a knock-out year to date, with really just a couple of albums that really threaten to kill those coveted number one spots in the end of year listings with frightful domination. Yeah, you bet your a$$ that PJ Harvey and Fleet Foxes will be in every top-10 list bar none. As far as the rest goes, it's really ANYONE's guess. I'm sincerely hoping that those releases will receive some stiff competition from whatever else is in store. If not, I'll be sorely disappointed.

Thoughts?
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Old 05-21-2011, 04:47 AM   #2 (permalink)
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The next month looks pretty promising with Thurston Moore, Efrim Menuk and Battles all releasing new albums. I've had a listen to them and they all sound pretty good. The new 13 & God album should be interesting too, and I'm quite stoked for the new Matana Roberts release.

All in all, the next month looks great.

Oh, and check out:

Julianna Barwick - The Magic Place
Crystal Stilts - In Love with Oblivion
Psychedelic Horsesh!t - Laced
Natural Snow Buildings - Waves of the Random Sea
Spectre Folk - The Blackest Medicine Volume II
This Will Destroy You - Tunnel Blanket
Ulver - Wars of the Roses
Destroyer - Kaputt
Vessels - Helioscope

If you haven't already. All very strong

Last edited by Sneer; 05-21-2011 at 05:12 AM.
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Old 05-21-2011, 05:21 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Stu View Post
The next month looks pretty promising with Thurston Moore, Efrim Menuk and Battles all releasing new albums. I've had a listen to them and they all sound pretty good. The new 13 & God album should be interesting too, and I'm quite stoked for the new Matana Roberts release.

All in all, the next month looks great.

Oh, and check out:

Julianna Barwick - The Magic Place
Crystal Stilts - In Love with Oblivion
Psychedelic Horsesh!t - Laced
Natural Snow Buildings - Waves of the Random Sea
Spectre Folk - The Blackest Medicine Volume II
This Will Destroy You - Tunnel Blanket
Ulver - Wars of the Roses
Destroyer - Kaputt
Vessels - Helioscope

If you haven't already. All very strong
Alright, first post is done so I will stray into opinion territory.

Haven't heard any of the above save for Kaputt. A very solid record but I felt it lacked lastablity. It's good while it's spinning, but doesn't really leave me thnking "I really want to hear that damn thing again" at any point afterwards. Still, easily a 4* piece of work.
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Old 05-21-2011, 05:26 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I can see where you're coming from. I reckon you should take a butchers at the Julianna Barwick album though in particular, that's my stand out for the year so far. Quite beautiful.
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Old 05-21-2011, 05:09 PM   #5 (permalink)
 
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The one album that has really set my world alight this year so far has been Yuck's debut. I loved it straight away when I first heard it back in January and I still love it as much now. I love The Joy Formidable's album The Big Roar but I think I'm kind of burnt out on it now a little bit, great album though.

Other than those there's been a few albums released in the past month or so that are fantastic but haven't quite reached the level of bloody fantastic just yet. Namely these are:

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
The Antlers - Burst Apart
The Kills - Blood Pressures
Wild Beasts - Smother

Other albums from this year worth mentioning are:

Grouper - A I A : Alien Observer/Dream Loss
Ringo Deathstarr - Colour Trip
Esben and the Witch - Violet Cries
PJ Harvey - England Shakes
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Belong
Rival Schools - Pedals
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu View Post

Oh, and check out:

Julianna Barwick - The Magic Place
Crystal Stilts - In Love with Oblivion
Psychedelic Horsesh!t - Laced
Natural Snow Buildings - Waves of the Random Sea
Spectre Folk - The Blackest Medicine Volume II
This Will Destroy You - Tunnel Blanket
Ulver - Wars of the Roses
Destroyer - Kaputt
Vessels - Helioscope

If you haven't already. All very strong
I'm not really too fond of that new Crystal Stilts album, it just sounds very shallow and monotonous to me. There's a nice enough psychedelic atmosphere on the album alright but the fact that there's little variety just doesn't keep me interested throughout.

I've heard some good stuff about Natural Snow Buildings, what's that album like?
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Old 05-22-2011, 12:50 AM   #6 (permalink)
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The one album that has really set my world alight this year so far has been Yuck's debut. I loved it straight away when I first heard it back in January and I still love it as much now. I love The Joy Formidable's album The Big Roar but I think I'm kind of burnt out on it now a little bit, great album though.

Other than those there's been a few albums released in the past month or so that are fantastic but haven't quite reached the level of bloody fantastic just yet. Namely these are:

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
The Antlers - Burst Apart
The Kills - Blood Pressures
Wild Beasts - Smother

Other albums from this year worth mentioning are:

Grouper - A I A : Alien Observer/Dream Loss
Ringo Deathstarr - Colour Trip
Esben and the Witch - Violet Cries
PJ Harvey - England Shakes
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Belong
Rival Schools - Pedals

I'm not really too fond of that new Crystal Stilts album, it just sounds very shallow and monotonous to me. There's a nice enough psychedelic atmosphere on the album alright but the fact that there's little variety just doesn't keep me interested throughout.

I've heard some good stuff about Natural Snow Buildings, what's that album like?
Interesting, I wasn't even aware that The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart had a new release. I'm curious now. Does it move on much from the sound on the debut?
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Old 05-22-2011, 12:55 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I'm sorry, when I read this thread, I thought "Soooo, basically, a whole bunch of stuff we already knew, because we also pay attention to the musical community". I wish you had offered opinions.
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Old 05-22-2011, 02:14 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Pedestrian View Post
I'm sorry, when I read this thread, I thought "Soooo, basically, a whole bunch of stuff we already knew, because we also pay attention to the musical community". I wish you had offered opinions.
I'll leave it to the end of the year, as with 2010. That way I can look through a few hundred lists and discover more obscure stuff that doesn't get hype.
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Old 05-22-2011, 03:52 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm sorry, when I read this thread, I thought "Soooo, basically, a whole bunch of stuff we already knew, because we also pay attention to the musical community". I wish you had offered opinions.
To explain, I was simply trying to lay a decent foundation for an on-going discussion. Clearly there is nothing especially interesting about the opening post, but I think it is fairly comprehensive in its detailing of the most important releases in indie/alternative. The truth is I have heard very few of any of those records (mostly because I have listened to virtually nothing all year aside from f'cking Elvis Costello, the bastard whose early music is too gripping to make me want to listen to anything else. Damn you Elvis.)

I'm really just curious to gather other people's opinions as I think it would benefit my own decision-making process when it comes to choosing what to bother with.

In all honesty the only records of the bunch that I really want to hear are TV On The Radio's new one and the latest offering from Wild Beasts. That's playing it safe, as these are bands I already like and have enjoyed listening to in the past. I want to be a little more adventurous hopefully, as I have been in previous years.

I'm not particularly excited by the Fleet Foxes release, simply because I wasn't big on the debut. Perhaps I should give it a go though.

PJ Harvey's England Shakes I have heard a few times but only really as background music. Maybe I should delve a little deeper.
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Old 05-22-2011, 04:15 AM   #10 (permalink)
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but I think it is fairly comprehensive in its detailing of the most important releases in indie/alternative.
I'd rather say most famous than most important.
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