6) Passions of a Different Kind - Flashguns
This long-awaited debut from London/Brighton/Exmoor band, Flashguns, revealed itself after my 11 months of waiting and didn’t disappoint. The album starts promisingly with ‘Sounds of the Forrest’ exploding into angry Britpop-esque action, where even lines such as “I’ll take you to my treehouse” would be able to ellicit a sneer.
'No Point Hanging Around' continues in a similar but lighter vein, wearing the heart of U2 on its sleeve. 'The Beginning' begins like the token slow/sad song of the album, but manages to redeem itself with the simplicity of the lyrics. The guitars in 'Noah' are slightly reminiscent of The Strokes and clocking in at nearly 5 minutes you can see why the band describe it as "Inspired by seventies prog rock. Very indulgent but a great song to play live."
If you like songs that follow the ‘we’ll start a bit quiet and slow then BUILD UP AND SHOCK YOU BUT IT’LL BE AWESOME’ then this should definitely be on your to-buy list.
Standout Tracks: No Point Hanging Around, Come and See the Lights, Candles Out
5) In Search Of Elusive Little Comets - Little Comets
Released this January but never forgotten, Little Comets’ debut brings jangly pop with a twist back into the spotlight. It’s simple enough being able to string up some pots and pans and hit them, but combined with Rob Coles’s extraordinary lyrics is what makes the songs on this album something else entirely. Songs like ‘Mathilda’ and ‘One Night In October’ is perfect for digging out the dancing shoes/kicking out the jams etc, but also contain substance. ‘Isles’ is one of the best SONGS of the year, becoming oddly appropriate during the summer of 2011 (deep.) “Terror on the pavement, panic in the streets.” 'Adultery' is the perfect example of kitchen sink drama lyrics hidden underneath a shiny happy Geordie party. 'Intelligent Animals' is yet another showcase of the…er…INTELLIGENT lyric-writing, proposing an apocalyptic future over the emotional tinkling of a piano.
Standout Tracks: Joanna, Isles, Dancing Song, Adultery
4) The Big Roar - The Joy Formidable
I AM known as the resident Formidable bum-licker, so there was a guarantee their debut, ‘The Big Roar’ would be in here somewhere. The album name is actually representative of the songs within it, ‘The Magnifying Glass’ is an urgent wall of noise, older songs such as ‘Austere’ and ‘Cradle’ have been reworked to perfection. The choruses are anthemic and stadium-ready with buzzing chainsaw guitars juxtaposed with Ritzy’s breathy vocals. One high point of the album for me was to hear her step away from the microphone for ‘Llaw=Wall’ which includes one of the most exciting pauses in a song (YES THEY EXIST). Overall, this album is actually VITAL shimmering, end-of-the-world soundscape.
Standout Tracks: Chapter 2, Llaw=Wall, A Heavy Abacus, Cradle.
3) What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? - The Vaccines
A wise man (Alex Turner, I fink.) once said “Don’t believe the hype.” The question on EVERY journalist/music critic/17-year-old girl’s lips was: What DID we expect from the Vaccines?
Believe it or not, I used to have a HATE-relationship with the Vaccines. If ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ would come on, I would turn it off shouting “OH GOD WHAT A POOR RHYME”. But before that, I’d already got in deep with falling in love with ‘Wreckin’ Bar’ and ‘If You Wanna’. This whole album is enthusiastic, fun at points such as ‘Wolfpack’, but also (God forgive me) EPIC during ‘All In White’. After the release of ‘Wreckin’ Bar’ etc, this band could’ve easily ebbed away into the “Oh well, it was fun in the summer” category and not come back out, but managed to save themselves with their explosive live act, ability to turn the single word ‘Elenore’ into a chorus and odes to 17-year-old models.
Standout Tracks: If You Wanna, Blow It Up, Wreckin’ Bar, All In White, Norgaard
JOINT 2ND) The English Riviera - Metronomy/Pala- Friendly Fires
Joint second because I seriously could not choose to omit either from this line up.
The English Riviera is a chillout album. A whimsical postcard back to Joe Mount’s native Totnes, the opener even includes the sound of seagulls. ‘Everything Goes My Way’ is a glimmering duet with Veronica Falls’ Roxanne Clifford, that fades into the icy synths of ‘The Look’. ‘The Bay’ gleefully gets away with plainly LISTING towns and cities before building up to the chorus with a fantastic bassline. If I was older than I am ‘Love Underlined’ would remind me of dance or pop music from the 90’s, especially the “aahs” - luckily I have a dad that knows his stuff regarding dance or pop music from the 90s’. This album is expressive, refined, and even hypnotic during songs such as ‘Loving Arm’. They’ve come a long way from the green-skinny-jeans-NU-RAVE-YEAH days of ‘Radio Ladio’ and whatever ‘Black Eye/Burnt Thumb’ was.
Standout Tracks: The Bay, Corinne, Everything Goes My Way
As soon as I heard the introduction to Friendly Fires’ ‘Live Those Days Tonight’ on the radio, I had never felt so excited in my life. Pala is probably the most euphoric album since…Friendly Fires’ last one. They have never created a bad song. ‘Blue Cassette’ builds up to an explosion of a chorus, the same with ‘Pull Me Back To Earth’. (If glitter had a noise it would sound like the beginning of the chorus of ‘Pull Me Back To Earth’ true facts.) Their slowest song ever (Pala) -cleverly made with the sounds of cameras and wind-up toys - writhes around, reflecting the utopia presented in the book this album title’s based upon. A nostalgic look back to the raving days, but never losing its sense of humour (“Watching a film with a talking dog”) even the aesthetics of the Friendly Fires live show are pleasing. (Think: Hawaiian shirts, dancing ladies, and that grey haired fellow.)
Standout Tracks: Hawaiian Air, Pala, Pull Me Back To Earth, Helpless
1) Smother - Wild Beasts (We all knew it was coming)
I feel like kicking myself in the face, then smashing my teeth into the kerb for only finding Wild Beasts this year. It’s a weird thing, being completely obsessively immersed in a band for nearly 7 months, and owning all their back albums in such a short amount of time. The first song I heard was ‘Bed of Nails.’ *Flashback sound*. But seriously, once I first heard it, it would not leave my head. Hayden Thorpe’s flowery vocals were ridiculous, the allusions to Frankenstein were silly, but somehow delivered with such sincerity to make them serious. The album’s lyrics are both overtly sexual and subdued due to Tom Fleming’s anchoring rumbling tenor, which during ‘Invisible’ turn from just generally pleasing to heartbreaking: “Your lips to my lips /We cease to exist”.
Although esoteric and incomparable to any other band, the introduction to ‘Albatross’ always reminds me of The xx, until Thorpes “I blame you/For all of those things I’ve been through” encourages you to hang onto the double-breasted coat tails of every silky syllable. ‘Reach A Bit Further’ - almost seeming like a duet (for the creepy creeper fangirls at least) - is at it’s most euphoric during the chorus. As I like to allude to the apocalypse a lot, Fleming’s ‘Burning’ with ‘End Come Too Soon’ to follow has the warm sound of the apocalypse being over, but the realisation of what’s happened has not yet hit, so everyone’s still in a state of elation. Apocalypse allusion. CRIKEY.
Smother is melancholy, nocturnal, but also offers hope during the ‘poppier’ moments like ‘Bed of Nails’. For the first month of owning this, I literally couldn’t get past ‘Invisible’ without falling asleep, not that it’s BORING, just so relaxing. They’re yet another band that’ve come a long way from their debut, Limbo, Panto. The medieval, sex-obsessed knees up compared with this sublime album makes it seem like a completely different band.
It’s well good.