Friday, 9 December 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #21: Top 8 Albums of 2011 - Part 2

Written 8th December 2011:

Top 8 Albums of 2011 – Part 2

So following on from my last Blog today sees me countdown my favourite Indie albums of 2011 for the inaugural and undisputed crown of ‘Flynndie Album of the Year!’ If you missed the first part of this Blog containing my album choices from #8 to #5, simply scroll down this page a bit further and you can read about these choices in Part 1. So let’s move on to today’s Top 4 albums, starting with the return of The Chief and his much-anticipated debut solo album:

#4. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Previously Un-reviewed)

So some 18 months after the fall-out of leaving Oasis and keeping a low-profile while Beady-Eye released their debut album, the main song-writer behind Oasis finally got round to releasing his own solo debut effort. Now I mainly previously didn’t review this album as I suspected most people would go out and buy this anyway and I like to try and highlight and promote some lesser known Indie bands on this Blog, but if the truth be told even during the days of Oasis, I secretly much-longed for a Noel solo album and now that it finally arrived, it didn’t disappoint in my opinion and in fact exceeded my high expectations. Even upon first few listens to this record, Noel’s songs have that re-assuring familiar sound about them, as if they were songs that you knew and loved already but refreshingly in my opinion not just sounding like another Oasis album. Take ‘AKA… What a Life’ as a prime example of this, having a much more dance-vibe to it than anything Oasis would have released in recent years.

This for me is another reason why I much prefer this album to recent Oasis releases, as by going solo Noel is allowed to express his songs in a more creative manner as is shown in tracks ‘Everybody’s on the Run’ with its backing violins and (I wanna live a Dream in my) Record Machine featuring a full-choir backing, allowing these tracks to have somewhat more added depth to them. Then there are tracks such as ‘If I had a Gun’ and ‘AKA…Broken Arrow’ which are familiar sounding Noel tracks, but tracks written when he is at his song-writing best and, dare I say it, even on a par with some early Oasis B-sides which is high praise indeed. So if you’ve avoided the album so far due to a somewhat ‘loss of faith’ in recent Oasis albums, then I’d recommend you give this debut-solo effort a listen and see what one of the generations top song-writers is capable of without the responsibility of ‘being Oasis’!

Recommended Songs: ‘Everybody’s on the Run’, ‘If I had a Gun’, ‘AKA…What a Life’
Personal Favourite Track(s): ‘Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks’ and ‘AKA…Broken Arrow’

#3. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It and See (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #13 – 8/10)

Back with their 4th album this year were, arguably one of the most followed bands in the Country right now, Sheffield’s own Arctic Monkey’s with their latest offering ‘Suck It and See’. A bit like the forthcoming 4th album by Kasabian this year, after the Monkey’s 3rd album 'Humbug', I was a little bit unsure what to expect from their latest offering. What we got was another well-written, self-assured record with familiar big sing-a-long tracks and another batch of great Indie-rock tracks the Arctics can add to their ever-expanding hits-list! The band have effortlessly created swooning-Indie tracks such as ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ and ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’, to catchy guitar-pop on ‘Brick by Brick’ and ‘Don’t sit down cause I’ve moved your chair’, to the old-school, more fast-and-furious Arctic Monkey’s track such as ‘Library Pictures’.

I very much enjoyed this record upon its release and am still very much enjoying it upon regular listens, although I’m still slightly of the opinion that the clearly laid back approach the band took to this album, gets a little bit too laid back for my liking on one or two tracks towards the end of the album, therefore not quite putting it on as high a par as the first two Arctic Monkey’s records. However, this is still certainly another great album by these young Sheffield lads and certainly one I’m still enjoying very much hence it’s high-position on this end of year list, but then I’m guessing most of you already reading this know this.

Recommended Songs: ‘Brick by Brick’, ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’, ‘Don’t sit down cause I’ve moved your chair’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Library Pictures’

#2. Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix (reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #17 – 9/10)

Back with their 3rd album in as many years, Bombay Bicycle Club returned with their latest offering ‘A Different Kind of Fix’. As I’ve previously said with a couple of other albums on this list, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the band’s latest record, as was such a contrast between their 1st electric-rock Indie album ‘I had the blues and shook them loose’ and their follow-up, the stripped-down, lo-fi acoustic ‘Flaws’ I genuinely was not sure what type of sound the band would come back with next. What we got this year with ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ was a great blend of the sounds on Bombay Bicycle Club’s 1st two albums in my opinion and arguably their best to date! The first we heard from this new record was early single ‘Shuffle’ which, if truth be told, was actually different still to anything the band had done previously on their first 2 albums, featuring, as what I described in my review at the time, a hip-hop based piano loop throughout it and having a very distinct, yet brilliant, sound for the band to it indeed.

Throw into the mix, the rocky and slightly more edgy guitar tracks the band featured more on their debut album on tracks here such as ‘Bad Timing’ and ‘What you Want’, to the simply, brilliant flowing acoustic tracks ‘How can you swallow so much sleep’, ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ and my personal favourite track, the epic ‘Beggars’, the band on this record really define their own sound here more so than their first two albums in my opinion. As a whole, this is a very well written record, full of rhythm and some brilliantly written tracks, that flow effortlessly and surely now is the time for the band to take a well-earned break?!

Recommended Songs: ‘Bad Timing’, ‘Your Eyes’, ‘Shuffle’, ‘What you want’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Beggars’

#1. The Strokes – Angles (reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #12 – 9/10)

So here it is, my #1 favourite Indie album of 2011, ‘Angles’, the 4th album from New York’s own The Strokes. If you believe some music reviews about The Strokes, you may be under the impression that they have only released one record, their exceptionally brilliant debut album ‘Is This It?’ but for me their 2nd and 3rd albums ‘Room on Fire’ and ‘First Impressions of Earth’ respectively were both fine guitar records and although I would be the first to admit that it will always be difficult for the band to make a better album than their excellent debut record, this 4th effort ‘Angles’ is the closest they have come so far to anywhere near matching it. One of the criticisms the band so unfairly receive in my opinion is that people want to hear similar tracks on a par with those such as ‘Last Nite’ or ‘New York City Cops’ from ‘Is This It?’ but this is one of my fascinations about The Strokes is that they are prepared to try something a bit different on a guitar record and this album is an excellent example of the band trying to capture ‘new’ guitar sounds.

Possibly their most experimental album to date, I feel the band really try and push the boundaries of what a modern-Indie guitar record can sound like, from the opening and simply brilliant track ‘Machu Picchu’ (possibly my favourite opening track on an album for a few years!), to early single ‘Under Cover of Darkness’, another brilliant track in my opinion, right up to closing track ‘Life is Simple in the Moonlight’ which actually does sound like a typical, old-school Strokes track that some fan’s still crave for. For me though, this album is full of stand-out tracks such as the menacingly, dark ‘You’re so Right’ to the incredibly catchy ’Taken for a Fool’ every track on this album is very distinct but seem to have so much depth to them. Upon my first few listens of this album, I admit I struggled with it a little initially, yet it’s testament to how well written and how much depth this album has, that it continued to grow on me and get better and better with each listen. As I said in the 2nd paragraph of Part 1 of this list, I’ve tried to rate albums on this list based on how much I found myself listening to them throughout the course of the year and for me ‘Angles’ has to be my most listened to album in this case and hence my favourite Indie album of 2011!

Recommended Songs: ‘Under Cover of Darkness’, ‘You’re So Right’, ‘Taken for a Fool’, ‘Life is Simple in the Moonlight’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Machu Picchu’

So that concludes my Top 8 albums of 2011 list. Other worthy mentions on records that narrowly fell short of this list include The Vaccines ‘What did you expect from The Vaccines?’, Miles Kane ‘Colour of the Trap’, The Rifles ‘Freedom Run’, Chapel Club 'Palace', Roddy Woomble’s ‘The Impossible Song + Other Songs’ and Dutch Uncles 'Cadenza' all albums I would recommend to check out at some point.

Looking forward to 2012 I’m already looking forward to new album releases from some of the following bands, Howler, The Twilight Sad, Maxïmo Park and Muse, keeping my fingers cross to hear some new material from hopefully Bloc Party and Idlewild and of course looking forward to any new up-and-coming bands that 2012 brings with it.

Rocking into 2012

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