BEST OF 2011

Here at MM we share, chat, argue, bury and praise music on a pretty regular basis…like daily. So throughout the year, the Mackerel crew (Mrs Mackerel, Barry-Sean, Christy-Popper, Dr Roddy, Polly Pocket, Starbar, Banner, MM and others) keep their own ever-changing top tens ready for publication at the climax of the festive season.

Here are the 2011 results…

To kick us off we have Polly Pocket.

10. Friends – I’m His Girl

A great getting ready to go out kind of a tune.

a

9. Ben Howard – Old Pine

A happy and warm glowing song, it just makes you feel good and there is nothing wrong with that.

Download Ben Howard - Old Pine mp3 (from Old Pine EP)

8. Sunparlour Players – Green Thumb

How can anyone resist a song that starts with Christmas slay bells? Impossible to listen to without singing along.

Download The Sunparlour Players – Green Thumb mp3 (from Us Little Devils)

7. Laura Marling – I Was Just A Card

Hard to choose which Laura track to include. The good thing is they all remind me of a fabulous lunchtime not so long ago in a Cathedral with Mrs M.

a

6. Arcade Fire – Speaking In Tongues

I have no idea what this song is about but that doesn’t stop it from being great. Nice to have David Byrne cropping up in it too.

a

5. Meredith Adeliade & Josh Schroeder – So It Goes

I find myself frequently humming this tune, simple, stripped back, catchy, great.

Download Josh Schroeder and Meredith Adelaide – So It Goes mp3 (Posted with permission of the band and their PR company)

4. Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks

Dealing with dark matter whilst sounding all happy and light, just my cup of tea.

Download Foster The People - Pumped Up Kicks mp3 (from Pumped Up Kicks single)

3. Annie Williams – Roll On Hills

Beautiful voice, beautiful song, timeless.

Download Annie Williams - Roll On Hills mp3 (from This Mountain)

2. A.A Bondy – The Twist

This is such a massive song, all dark and rich, just lovely.

a

1. Cave Singers – Swim Club

Its been in the number one slot forever, a simple and brilliant tune in my humble opinion!

Download The Cave Singers - Swim Club mp3 (from No Witch)

Bubbling Under

5. Elbow – Lippy Kids

4. Sand Band – Song That Sorrow Sings

a

3. Tallest Man On Earth – I Won’t Be Around

2. Noah And The Whale – LIFEGOESON

1. Bored Man Overboard – Abigail

Second, we are pleased to welcome the finger-choppin’ Banner to the roster with his first contribution to the end of year best of lists.

It’s been a great year musically and especially as this year I became a dad. I’d like to thank Doctor Roddy and Chris T Popper for their steady supply of CDs this year and especially for little Max’s mega mix from which I’ve selected some of my top ten tunes.  I would like to have written a bit more about the songs but unfortunately I tried to remove my finger with an axe earlier this week.

So here they are:

Best Songs

10. Felice Brothers –Ponzi

a

9. Grass House – A Cradle, A Short breath

a

8. Ha Ha Tonka – The Usual Suspects

Download Ha Ha Tonka – Usual Suspects mp3 (from Death Of A Decade)

7. Vacant Fever – Heavy Leather

Download Vacant Fever – Heavy Leather mp3 (from Heparin And Saline)

6. Owsley Brothers –Under The Shade Of A Live Oak Tree

Download The Owsley Brothers – Under The Shade Of A Live Oak mp3 (from Separated At Birth)

5. Deer Tick – Miss K (this one reminds me of the missus)

Download Deer Tick – Miss K. mp3 (from Divine Providence)

4. Mummy Short Arms – Cigarette Smuggling

a

3. Henry’s Funeral Shoe –Dog Scratched Ear

Download Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear mp3 (from Donkey Jacket)

2. Wooden Wand – Motel Stationary

a

1.Dennis Hoppers Choppers – Good To Me

a

Bubbling Under

5. Brown Bird – Fingers To The Bone (good music to chop off your finger to)

Download Brown Bird – Fingers To The Bone mp3 (from Salt For Salt)

4. Beirut – The Rip Tide

Download Beirut – The Rip Tide mp3 (from The Rip Tide)

3. Kurt Vile – The Creature

2. Wooden Wand – Nails And Spikes

Download Wooden Wand – Nails And Spikes mp3 (from Archives Vol 3)

1. Mr Mother Fu*ka  exquire – The last Huzzah

Next to share their favourites of the year is part man part canine Barry-Sean…

What a fantastic year for music this has been for me. I don’t just mean for music that has been produced this year but more about the music that I’ve discovered from previous years (or, more accurately in most cases, music that has been discovered for me). And, because I’ve spent a lot of time going backwards and forwards to London on the train, I’ve had loads of listening time. Hurrah!

So here we go. Here’s my top ten songs of 2011.

10. Sissy & The Blisters - Let Her Go

When MM first introduced me to Sissy & The Blisters, I wasn’t too fussed. But they’ve grown on me over the past few months. Let Her Go starts off sounding like the Editors covering Placebo. But it does remain a truly S&tB song throughout and has a wonderfully catchy chorus. A great start to my top 10, I think.

a

9. Tom Williams & The Boat – See My Evil

My favourite track from the fantastic Too Slow, released early in the year. It’s an album that’s so good I could have easily included at least one more track from it in my top ten songs of the year. But no, let’s keep things varied.

Tom Williams & The Boat produce some pretty dark songs and this one bounds from one grim situation to another with a vocal that flicks between contempt and resignation accompanied by a tortured but catchy guitar riff. Pure brilliance!

Download Tom Williams & The Boat - See My Evil mp3 (from Too Slow)

8. Roadside Graves - Double Feature

I’m well behind the mackerel shoal in getting to love the Roadside Graves. While the other mackerels were waxing lyrical about songs like Far And Wide and Liv Tyler, I just wasn’t getting it. And then Double Feature came along and it was like having a bucket of water thrown over my head. Suddenly everything made sense and I understood what all the fuss was about.

Double Feature is from the concept album We Can Take Care of Ourselves and feels like a story … its just I’m not really sure what its about. But it builds beautifully and transported me to a drive-in on a middle-America summer evening. Atmospheric and tuneful with a great pace and vocals. If you’ve not listened to Roadside Graves before, please do try this first … then go and buy the album.

Download The Roadside Graves – Double Feature mp3 (from We Can Take Care Of Ourselves)

7. Cage the Elephant – Shake Me Down

Another band I didn’t really ‘get’ but Shake Me Down from the album Thank You Happy Birthday caught my attention and held it from the opening chords. And I’ve carried on playing regularly since I first heard it in March.

I couldn’t tell you what musical genre this track fits into but its somewhere between rock and Americana. I’m just not sure where.

Download Cage The Elephant - Shake Me Down mp3 (from Thank You Happy Birthday)

6. Deer Tick – The Bump

I love Deer Tick. They’re a really talented bunch of chaps who can switch between songs about the painful side of love (listen to Ashamed from their War Elephant album) to rollocking, lets-just-have-a-beer-and-party singalongs. The Bump falls well and truly into the latter category. Any song that can make me smile and stamp my foot along to it every time I hear it has got to be worth a place in my top ten, hasn’t it?

a

5. Ha Ha Tonka – Usual Suspects

I’m not really a ‘fun song’ sort of bloke but from the opening, jangly chords I fell in love with this. It’s just three and a half minutes of fun and it never fails to give me that feel-good feeling. If you’re ever a bit down in the mouth, this is sure to pick you up.

Download Ha Ha Tonka – Usual Suspects mp3 (from Death Of A Decade)

4. Lanterns on the Lake – Ships in the Rain

Pure atmosphere … a bit like a modern day Ocean Rain (for younger readers that’s an Echo & The Bunnymen track from their sublime album of the same name).

This songs meanders gently along with breathy, haunting vocals that takes you to a place where you can almost feel the creak of wood beneath your feet and feel the rain on your face. Beautiful.

a

3. Richmond Fontaine – Lost in the Trees

Now we’re into the really serious stuff. This track has been on so many of playlists this year and I’ve never tired of it. A dark tale of a party in the woods that goes badly wrong.

The backing riff is as moody as the lyrics and, sorry to namedrop the Bunnymen again, brings to mind the brilliant Do It Clean. To be honest the only reason this isn’t at number one is because I couldn’t make my mind up between my top three songs of the year and not all of them can be number one. It is a great, great track though.

a

2. The Decemberists – January Hymn

Again, this could have been number one (but equally could have been number three) but just got pipped at the post.

January Hymn is a beautiful, atmospheric song that tells of a fella who goes out clearing his drive of snow on a snowy day. He thinks of his love who has left him and all the things he should have said before she left.

You’d expect the Decemberists to come up with quality tunes and lyrics but this is so good you can picture the scenes as Colin Meloy sings them. Genius.

a

Twilight Hotel – Mahogany Veneer

A moody (and slightly sad) road trip as Twilight Hotel take us across America, visiting some of the places you wanted necessarily want to see, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina being a great example.

The entire song conjures up so many images in the mind to a backdrop of a melancholic melody. I do love story songs and this has become one of my favourites. Not necessarily for the story itself but for the intelligent way Twilight Hotel have matched lyrics with tune and brought them together to create a dark, dark journey.

Download Twilight Hotel – Mahogany Veneer mp3 (from When The Wolves Go Blind)

Bubbling Under

Young the Giant – My Body

A thumping, foot-tapping tune that seems to push the buttons of the fellas in our office more than the ladies. Great tune … enough said.

Lovely Eggs - Don’t Look At Me (I Don’t Like It)

This got in my head back at the start of autumn and just stayed there. Daft lyrics set to a late seventies punky tune with a distinctive and quite addictive vocal. Great fun.

Mr Plow - Typhus

Not such great fun but you’ve got to love a song about a killer disease haven’t you? If you’re mad enough not to want to listen to this all the way through … just about everyone dies in the end! Don’t listen to this is if you’re feeling low though, eh?

Download Mr Plow - Typhus mp3 (from Joyful In Song We Are)

Missed it!

The Whalers – That Rabbit

If this had been a 2011 song, it would have been top five. I love this.

Download The Whalers – That Rabbit mp3 (from How The Ship Goes Down)

Walkmen - Juveniles

This would have been my number two if it had been this year. It conjures up memories of sitting on a Friday evening train on the way back from London and marvelling at the Berkshire countryside in early spring. For me, this tune will always remind me of the coming of lighter evenings and warmer days.

Download The Walkmen - Juveniles mp3 (from Lisbon)

White Buffalo – Black and Blue

And this would have been my number one. Brilliant lyrics that starts with the storyteller’s girlfriend storming out after a row. The storyteller goes on to reflect on the downside of being in love. I‘m not going to say anything else. Just that if you only listen to one of the songs I’ve talked about here, please make it this one.

Okkervil River - John Allyn Smith Sails

Aaaaah, Okkervil River. Why didn’t I know about you before this year? These guys were one of my highlights of End of the Road 2011. This is another dark tale but without the moody tune to go with it. There’s also a brilliant cameo by a well-known tune towards the end of the song that I absolutely love.

Modest Mouse - Doin’ the Cockroach

I love Modest Mouse and I think this is as good as the brilliant Float On. It might be an acquired taste, I don’t know, but it has dominated my playlists for much of the year and I truly wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get past the aforementioned Float On and into some of MM’s other tunes.

Ray Wylie Hubbard – Choctaw Bingo

And lastly, a song from way, way back that seems to have passed me by. Shame on me and shame for me. I’ve put the Ray Wylie Hubbard version here but I love the live version by James McMurtry & The Heartless Bastards too. Its eight and a half minutes of roister-doistering, foot-stomping that will have you hooked as quickly as the crystal meth that Uncle Slayton cooks up. Great story, great song, glad its in my ITunes collection.

Covers

Siskiyou - Revolution Blues

My favourite Neil Young tune covered perfectly. Perhaps even more tortured and paranoid than the original vocal, Siskiyou have really done the brilliance of Revolution Blues proud.

Black Keys - Ummm Oh Yeah (Dearest)

a

This is a standout track from an outstanding album of Buddy Holly covers. I was brought up on Buddy Holly and have come to love his music almost as much as my dad loves it. I could have easily picked out half a dozen tracks from the sublime Rave On Buddy Holly album but Ummm Oh Yeah (Dearest) is my favourite Buddy Holly original so this is the one I’m putting forward in my favourite covers of the year.

Our next guest top ten comes courtesy of our very own Chris T Popper, a small but perfectly formed (and sometimes irritating) younger sibling who has been stealing my records since he had invisible friends as a small child.

10. Little Barrie – Tip It Over

The Nottingham trio start off my top 10 with the fabulous Tip It Over. Heavy guitar providing a great riff coupled with a momentum that creeps up on you. There’s some storming guitar solos too that never get self indulgent, which is quite an achievement in itself. The album was produced by Edwyn Collins who’s very name could send an old flat mate of mine in to a frothing rage. Merely humming A Girl Like You in his company could send him puce coloured. Which is why I did it. A lot.

a

9. Wye Oak – Civillian

Jenn Wasner’s eerie vocals are a revelation to me – she has a wonderful delivery and a quality I can’t quite put my finger on. That keeps me interested alone. The song’s pace is something to admire too, keeps you right on the edge until a second half that is nothing short of epic. Great fuzzy guitar reverb (Velvet by Big Pink was a former number one of mine so you can tell I like a bit of feedback…) and that pounding drum just beats you in to submission.

Download Wye Oak – Civilian mp3 (from Civilian)

8. Young The Giant – My Body

Chiming guitars with a sing along chorus… anthemic you could say.

These words would usually have me running for the hills. Not this time, no sir. In fact I metaphorically run with arms wide open towards Young The Giant ready to embrace them. Why? Because sometimes you need to give in, admit defeat and just sit back and enjoy. Is it Simple Minds and Matt Cardle’s bastard love child? If that’s the case then two wrongs did make a right.

Download Young The Giant – My Body mp3 (from Young The Giant)

7. Smith Westerns – All Die Young

Heard this one really late. but it still forced its way in to my affections. Unlike Young The Giant this ticks all my traditional boxes. Has a lazy blissed out vibe, like it’s been down a coffee shop in Amsterdam for a while before rocking up red eyed to eat all your biscuits. Also feels a bit 70s which frankly I like, happens to be my favourite decade for lots of things – Punk, The Wicker Man, the 3 day week… And it has a wonderful Hammond organesque start, which I always enjoy.

Download The Smith Westerns - All Die Young mp3 (from Dye It Blonde)

6. Natural Child – Hard Workin Man

The guitar riff alone is addictive, enough to make you realise how great it must be to be able to play it. I wish I could. I have a ukulele and a games console guitar in the cupboard so I’ll move on. The room can sometimes fill with a faint smell of bourbon and sweat when this gets played and always has me reaching for a beer. Not good when listened to in the car… I keep the cans in the back and it’s dangerous reaching over when negotiating oncoming traffic.

Download Natural Child - Hard Workin Man mp3 (from 1971)

5. Timber Timbre – Bad Ritual

The sheer originality of this song, in harness with the hypnotic beat that plods mercilessly in to your brain, has got me. I give in. It’s a bad ritual, but it calms me down. Another latecomer that gate crashed the top ten, this wonderfully dark offering always makes me stop what I’m doing (which to be fair isn’t usually a lot) and listen. There is always room for an air of menace in my top ten.

a

4. Dennis Hopper Choppers – Good To Me

Mariachi horns, violins, trumpets galore – what is there not to like? A magnificent vocal from Ben Nicholl sends the whole piece off to soar in to that vast Americana sky (pretentious, moi?). An instant hit with me – and everyone I’ve ever played it to… which is quite a lot of people. In a parallel Earth somewhere this is the year’s biggest seller.

a

3. Country Mice – Morning Son

There’s something strangely comforting about this song. I genuinely love country music… and when it’s done so perfectly I could listen to it on loop. Has a melancholic beauty which can send me a bit dewy eyed.

Which is exactly what I’m after quite frankly.

Download Country Mice – Morning Son mp3 (from Twister)

2. Toby Burke – Cantina Crawl

Lyrically this is a tour de force. I won’t repeat my favourites here because there’s too many. Although ‘dead as a rat’ and ‘smoked like a borrowed car’ might just get a mention. Toby Burke is also a writer so it comes as no surprise he’s so skilled with words. I just need to get hold of one of his books now because if there anything like this I’ve found my new favourite author.

Download Toby Burke - Cantina Crawl mp3 (from Mexico City)

1. Darren Hayman – The Ship’s Piano

Not only song of the year it’s my favourite song for… well ages. Sometimes something comes along that sounds pretty close to perfect. I am in absolute awe of Darren Hayman, it’s quite simply a work of genius. Lyrically it bobs along on the back of that piano playing in the background, Hayman delivering each line so perfectly. I guess it can be instinctive when a song gets to your heart – your absolute favourite place, and that’s The Ship’s Piano. From about the third listen I knew I had found something I will always love listening to. And considering how many times I’ve played it the last three months that’s quite a relief…

Download Darren Hayman – The Ship’s Piano mp3 (from The Ship’s Piano)

Bubbling Under – 5 that came so close…

Monument Valley – Dear John Letters

Danny Brown – Die Like A Rockstar

Roadside Graves – Double Feature

Violet May – What You Say

a

Vacant Fever – Heavy Leather

Best Song Heard But Not This Year:

White Buffalo – Black & Blue

Song That Was In My Top 10 All Year Until I Realised It Was 2010:

Al Lover & Gus Cutty – Part Of The Game

Download Al Lover & Gus Cutty - Part Of The Game mp3 (from Part Of The Game / All Mine Single)

Best Cover:

Siskiyou – Revolution Blues

Guilty Pleasure: 

The Dirtbombs – Shari Vari

Download The Dirtbombs - Shari Vari mp3 (from Party Store)

Without further ado, here is my very own.

10. Milk Music - Beyond Living

Although it was released early in the year, I only discovered it recently. A full on, no holds barred, nihilistic 70s punk attitude and the very best of the heavyweight riffs of the grunge era is a mighty powerful combination. One that makes me wish my car stereo went all the way up to eleven.

Download Milk Music - Beyond Living mp3 (from Beyond Living EP)

9. Yuck - Holing Out

Similarly, Yuck’s Holing Out effortlessly recalled the 90s with a crunchy distorted riff, reverb and a fuzz slathered hook. That it also had one of the best videos of the year was just another bonus.

a

Download Yuck - Holing Out mp3 (from Yuck)

8. Wooden Wand - No Hayride

If there is one mystery to me in the world of music, then it is how James Jackson Toth aka Wooden Wand can be so damn prolific across so many genres and yet suffer no discernible dip in quality – not that I’m complaining. Another great year and too many tracks to choose from, but in the end it was this, seemingly an afterthought on his forthcoming boxset that makes up Volume 3 of his archives – a simple folk ballad that still managed to be head and shoulders above most things released this year.

Download Wooden Wand - No Hayride mp3 (from Archives Vol 3)

7. Kurt Vile - Peeping Tomboy

Top ten from the opening moments of this song; the hazy, shimmering guitar and the lazy drawled vocals intoning

“I don’t want to change, but I don’t want to stay the same
I don’t want to go but I’m running
I don’t want to work, but I don’t want to sit around all day frowning

I don’t want to give up, but I kinda want to lie down
But not sleep just rest
Give me a break how much does it really take?
Get my head outta here”

a

6. Henry’s Funeral Shoe - Dog Scratched Ear

It made a lot of other MM guest top tens so no need to add anything new. Anthemic, swaggering blues boogie at its fiery best.

Download Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear mp3 (from Donkey Jacket)

5. The Royal Sea - This Summer

I’ve mentioned this two or three times recently and posted it earlier today so not much more needs to be said about this either. Simply that it is pure, sugar-coated garage pop with just the right amount of surf inspired twang that in a parallel world would have been the woozy, feel-good hit of the summer.

Download The Royal Sea – This Summer mp3 (from The Royal Sea)

4. Deer Tick - Chevy Express

Deer Tick’s Divine Providence was, mostly, a rowdy, rambunctious good time rock’n’roll record that was meant for late nights of whiskey drinking and bar-room brawls. But tucked away in the middle of all the heady intoxication was this track: sombre, reflective, and undeniably sobering. It was the soundtrack to a heavy heart and lonely regret washed by the first light of an early morning dawn and may well be the best thing they’ve ever done.

3. Felice Brothers - Fire At The Pageant

Voodoo, zombies, sinister nursery rhyme chants, classic Felice Brothers lyrics and a woozy, old-timey, back porch rhythm means this song should have been an utter mess. That it was the complete opposite stands tribute to this bunch of ramshackle mavericks of increasingly experimental Americana.

Download The Felice Brothers – Fire At The Pageant mp3 (from Celebration, Florida)

2. Tom Williams & The Boat - Get Older

The most bitterly caustic song I heard all year meant it was a shoe-in for my top ten. I originally said “it drips venom over a heavy, single drumbeat, a vicious guitar strum, and spits lyrics like physical bullets”, and this still sounds a pretty fair summation to me.

a

1. Middle Brother - Daydreaming

From the simple picked guitar line and weary, melancholy opening lyric, the scene is set for a raw, unflinching excursion courtesy of McCauley’s craggy vocals and beer-soaked romanticism. Loneliness never sounded so…well, lonely.

a

Almost Made It

The Wooden Shjips pulverising Lazy BonesTom Williams & The Boat’s observationally wry and off kilter Wouldn’t Women Be Sweet, the blistering euphoria of Wye Oak’s Civilian, and LONG’s criminally ignored and under-rated Shoot Your Dog. If there was a better example of dark, claustrophobic psych-rock this year than the Ganglian’s Jungle then I didn’t hear it, while A.A. Bondy’s dark-hearted The Twist and Twilight Hotel’s epic road trip Mahogany Veneer were both superb examples of modern Americana. Back home, Metronomy’s ultra catchy The Look, and Male Bonding’s fuzzed up, yet still sugary What’s That Scene? flew the flag for the UK - on another day, in another year, all could so easily have been in the final shake up.

Download Wooden Shjips – Lazy Bones mp3 (from West)

Download The Ganglians – Jungle mp3 (from Still Living)

Download Metronomy - The Look mp3 (from The English Riviera)

Favourite Covers

Hurray for the Riff Raff’s mesmerising My Sweet Lord and Phosphorescent’s reverent take on Neil Young’s Are You Ready For The Country? were both outstanding, but just pipped by Siskiyou’s own Young cover, the skeletally menacing Revolution BluesTitus Andronicus payed due homage to Nirvana’s classic Breed, but best of all was Middle Brother’s version of the Replacement’s Portland.

Download Phosphorescent – Are You Ready For The Country? mp3

a

a

Best Tunes First Heard This Year But Not 2011

How on earth had Okkervil River escaped me for so long, particularly John Allyn Smith Sails and the superb For Real. Likewise with Wilco’s Misunderstood - I’d heard it, but this year I actually listened to it. Shellac’s Prayer To God is the most vicious song I’ve ever heard and one of the best, and so too Fugazi’s Waiting RoomRichard Buckner’s heartbreaking Emma was a revelation and James McMurty’s rollicking live version of Choctaw Bingo was eight minutes of pure, adrenalin fuelled Americana.

Download Shellac – Prayer To God mp3 (from 1000 Hurts)

Download Richard Buckner - Emma (Devotion & Doubt Outtake) mp3

This Top Ten selection comes courtesy of the lovely, and ever radiant, Mrs Mackerel. Over to you girl!

It’s been a great musical year. But such a plethora of riches always presents a problem – what’s a girl to choose? Fortunately some fine contributions in the preceding week means most bases are covered.

Live gigs, although few and far between this year, have been rich in quality, and particularly finger-picking good on the guitar front. A fine ensemble of gig friends too, thank you.

Without further ado, here’s my humble opinion. And remember kids this is just my opinion, you can try this at home too.

10. Hyde & the Beast – You Will be Lonely

Boom-shacker, boom-shacker. Bit of cowboy guitars. An up-tempo beat coupled with the “you’re dumped” message. Still if you’ve got to do it, do it with a smile on your face and a guitar in your hand, I say. Boom-shacker, boom-shacker.

a

9. The National – Think You Can Wait

Nice bit of backing from the wonderful Sharon Van Etten, coupled with the mellifluous vocal of Matt Berninger. Trademark National: understated brilliance.

a

8. Lanterns on the Lake – Ships in the Rain

Another great thing to come from Sunderland. Catch up please. Atmosphere, ethereal vocals, beautiful lyrics. Til we meet again, girls.

a

7. Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear

Widespread Mackerel popularity for this song amongst family and friends. Yep, we know a good guitar riff when we hear one: hard core. Looking for joy when there’s none to find? Plenty here.

Download Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear mp3 (from Donkey Jacket)

6. Wye Oak – Civilian

A January contender for my top ten, so a stayer. A fantastic piece of drumming that builds and builds; to be played loud on speakers not headphones, she insists in a bossy tone that MM knows only too well… Breathy vocals adds atmosphere to the intensity.

Download Wye Oak – Civilian mp3 (from Civilian)

5. Wooden Wand – No Hayride

Directed to this by daughter sprat, and how right she is. The pared back simplicity of the guitar lends itself so well to the lyrics. Prolific output – does this man ever sleep?

Download Wooden Wand - No Hayride mp3 (from Archives Vol 3)

4. The Cave Singers – Haystacks

How do I love the Cave Singers? Oh let me count the ways. Storming harmonica coupled with such an irresistible tempo, I challenge you not to be out of your seat and dancing. These boys got rhythm in bucket loads and talent to match. But they’re not yours, they’re mine. Glad we cleared that one up.

a

3. Hurray for the Riff Raff – Too Much of a Good Thing

A great big old fashioned waltz of a song, throw in a sprinkling of mariachi pipes, a helping of accordion and the tender vocals of Alynda Lee Segarra. Lifetime top ten tune for me this one.

Download Hurray For The Riff Raff – Too Much Of A Good Thing mp3 (from Hurray For The Riff Raff)

2. Middle Brother – Portland

Shared a cigarette for breakfast? More than one I reckon. John McCauley of Deer Tick has a voice that was made for this song. One for the road, sung in chorus, gives me the warmest, fuzzy feeling all over. Stick me on a greyhound bus with Middle Brother playing to the open road and I reckon I’d be a happy girl. Just about the best darned cover (yes, I know but don’t care) I ever heard. Pure magic.

a

1. Laura Marling - Night After Night

A photo finish for me amongst the top five. Yin and yang songs. This song is wuthering, if you get my gist but hey, that’s just me. There’s so much here from the opening guitar sequence that makes me think of a boat rowing out to sea, to the subtle finale with a flamenco flourish. Lyrical dexterity, passion, sadness, regret. The incomparable Laura Marling take a bow.

a

Goddammit Janet: missed it first time round

Grinderman - Palaces of Montezuma

The theatre of this song is almost vintage Bowie. A great big banquet of lyrical genius and the funkiest rhythm to match. Bloody marvellous.

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – Janglin

From the happy-go-lucky intro to swinging, swaying finger-clicking goodness of the rest of the tune. Click your heels and away you go.

Download Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Janglin mp3 (from From Below)

And Okkervil River. Missed all together. MM and I are fools. I have told him this repeatedly while hitting him with a large branch. Joking. Sort of.

Download Okkervil River - For Real mp3 (from Black Sheep Boy)

School Run Anthems 2011

The Lovely Eggs – Don’t Look at Me (I Don’t Like It)

We sang and did the actions. The car bounced and shimmied its way to school. Nothing like a bit of 21st century punk to get you going in the morning.

a

Roadside Graves – Jail

Don’t want to work today. Just want to lay in bed. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Download The Roadside Graves – Jail (Simplefolk UK Radio Live Session) mp3

Guilty pleasure

Adele – Someone Like You

Actually no guilt attached to this choice at all. Great voice. Great song, sniff.

Scottish Kate is a great friend of this blog and has often offered her (sometimes pithy) opinions on the world of music – and very good taste she has too.

She also runs the always excellent (sometimes pithy), and often provocative blog A Burdz Eye View for all things Scottish (of course), political and musical. Here are her aural selections for 2011.

The Burd’s Best Songs of 2011

Well it doesn’t get any easier.  Though given that all my old schticks are in here aplenty – drums, noise, shoegaze, jingly jangly guitars, quirkiness, blues and reverb – it really should be a doddle.  This girl is forever stuck in her groove and that’s just the way I like it.

10. Cashier No9  - When Jackie Shone

Gosh, why do I like this?  It’s just got that whole throbbing bass line thing I like.  Layers of sound.  Odd vocals.  And drums.  Of course. Like it? Love it.  The louder the better.

a

9. Other Lives – For 12

Nearly my choon of the year.  Deceptively simple, soaring, swooping and positively swoonsome.

Download Other Lives – For 12 mp3 (from Tamer Animals)

8. Josh Schroeder and Meredith Adelaide - Where Are You

It could so easily have been So it Goes, for both choons have been on a near constant loop at various times this year.  But seeing as I have to choose – and I must, I cannot have the ignominy of a twelve instead of a ten two years in a row – then this one wins out.  Not for nothing my Twitter bio suggests I’m not nearly as scary as I pretend to be.

a

7. Secret Colours – Faust

A late contender but a worthy one.  This choon is the musical equivalent of a three course meal and therefore ticks all my bluesy-rock boxes.  So long as you like your meat and potatoes with no veg.

Download Secret Colours – Faust mp3 (from EP3)

6. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Barnes’ Yard

See?  Stomping, strummy, just a little shoogly and I’m sold.

a

5. We were promised Jetpacks – Medicine

Ye cannae beat a wee jangly Scottish band, especially one that throws everything but the kitchen sink into their music.  It should be a mess but it so isn’t.  After a difficult year out, with this track they exploded back onto the music scene and it was like they’d never been away.

a

4. Slow Club – Beginners

A knickerbocker glory offering of shoegaze.  With a big dollop of retro on the side and some reverb sprinklings up top for good measure.  Dreamy.

Download Slow Club - Beginners mp3 (from Paradise)

3. Team Genius – Home

Boy Wonder’s favourite moshing/air guitar choon of the year.  We have pogo-ed round the sitting room to this.  Oh yes.  For those who don’t know, he’s the eight year old, supposedly I’m the responsible adult.

a

2. William Elliott Whitmore – Field Song

The man with the voice that sends shivers down my spine is at the peak of his powers.  Occasionally I have to lie in a darkened room to listen to this album – all the better to wallow y’see.  The title track is truly a thing of beauty.

a

1. The Low Anthem – Matter of Time

They made it into 2009 and 2010’s list and here they are again.  The grandmasters of less is more, of making a symphony out of a three minute track.

a

Favourite cover of the year

Barry-Sean and I share some bizarre commonalities.  There are Killie fans in his family too, and it would appear, the influence of Buddy Holly on our musical heritage. The standout cover version for me this year? Patti Smith doing Words of Love and making it all her own.

a

Favourite discoveries of the year

Actually, this was a rediscovery.  In reprising the career of the late, great Jackie Leven, I found myself falling in love with Doll by Doll all over again.  Gypsy Blood is a great album, and only recently recognised as a modern rock masterpiece.  Aye but it’s the punkish tendencies that make it so.

Guilty pleasure

Diddy – Dirty Money Coming Home

Yes really.  The year I discovered what makes the young folk tick.  This far though and no further.

Close but no Cigar

O’Death – Bugs

This is a beautifully meaningful song on so many levels.  Especially when you know the back story.

Download O’Death – Bugs mp3 (from Outside)

FOUND – Anti Climb Paint

Just about my favourite track off one of my favourite albums of the year.

The Barettas – Touche

This is the kind of band I always wanted to be in.  Still do.

Download The Barettas – Touche mp3 (from Touche 7″)

Peggy Sue – Dumbo

Two albums in two years, both of them corkers.  Quirky and winsome.

A Classic Education – Forever Boy

It’s the drums innit?

Download A Classic Education - Forever Boy mp3 (from Call It Blazing)

Coke Weed – Not My Old Man

Or maybe it’s just the all-round oddness…

Download Coke Weed – Not My Old Man mp3 (from Volume 1)

The Kills – Future Starts Slow

Did I mention I like a bit of down and dirty?  And no one does like it Jamie and Alison. Should have married her, mate.

Lykke Li – Sadness is a Blessing

More shoegaze, quirkiness and downright pop genius.  Oh, and the best video of the year.

Butcher Boy – Helping Hands

The line that sold it to me was “on yellow grass and dirty pebble dash”.  Seemingly whimsical, masking a dark heart.

The Shivers – Kisses

There’s an acoustic and a blues version of this song.  Sometimes I play them one after the other.

Download The Shivers - Kisses mp3 (from Rob Da Bank Session)

And finally, with probably the longest entry of 2011 we give the floor to regular MM contributor and top ten compiler…Dr Roddy.

Well it seems to be that time of year again. I always spend 340 days looking forward to doing this and 25 agonising over it. This year especially though, as I think there has been a bumper harvest of great songs. When I looked at my Top Ten playlist (with over 100 songs in it) I just thought one thing: bugger!

I got there in the end though. There have been certain parties that have tried to throw spanners in the works, by sending e-mails containing latecomers and over looked songs. Cheers you heartless bastards. So without further ado….

10. Monument Valley - Dear John Letters

This is a bit of a late arrival to my top ten but the moment I heard this song I fell for it totally. That old adage of less is more, is plain for all here. A pendulum-esque rhythm is picked out on an acoustic guitar, whilst the story is sung to us in an almost lullaby fashion by Ned Younger. Who wrote these songs from a collection of pictures of strangers? The song seems to tell of two people who were once side-by-side, parted then reunited. There is a line in the song, “And though we weren’t quite whole, turned out we were all each other needed to grow old“. That is such a simple and genuine way to describe what you need from another person, which fits wonderfully into this simple and genuine song.

Download Monument Valley – Dear John Letters mp3 (from Tongues EP)

9. Cosmo Jarvis - My Day

This song elbowed its way in to my Top Ten, with that wonderful punk fuelled fervour. You can’t ignore it. Lyrically it is a tour de force. I do love a bit of cutting social satire all set to unashamed balls ‘n all guitar work – in fact It seems as if all the instruments are being given their last rights, in that “play it like you nicked it” fashion. The passion and power that is behind the delivery of the lyrics are awesome: the line “Grew up thinking we were so advanced and had the largest heads / Didn’t masturbate with our own minds instead we used the Web“, what a great way to point at a general loss of social imagination and it is the line of this year for me.

a

8. Dirty Bourbon River Show - Train Is Gone

This is such a funky tune there is no way it was going to get left out. The verses could easily be written as a warning to anyone who enters X-Factor and the chorus is definitely a warning to anyone who WINS the bleeding thing. That aside what we have here is a awesome tune – the bassline rolls along with the kind of sound that makes you want to walk a bit like Mister Soft. The guitar and drums lollop alongside it at perfect pace and all together it’s like a big spliff in audio format. Now I’ll be honest I’m not too big on sax breaks in songs, but this is the exception. It acts as a real nice jazzy kind of break in the song, leaving you hungry… no, greedy for some more of that bassline.

Download Dirty Bourbon River Show – Train Is Gone mp3 (from Volume 2)

7. Warped 45s - Grampa Carl

I do love a good story song and this is about as good as it gets. We are told the story of Grampa Carl who was a Rum-runner in America during the prohibition era of the 20s. This seemed to be funded by a spot of illegal gambling. I do like to take the side of the rogue, especially a rogue who likes a bet and a drink, although this tale ends with Carl being buried in a Presbyterian cemetery. No religious hypocrisy there then! The tale in between is all engrossing with many a slip between cup and lip. There is a great line at the end of this song, “My grandpa said to me when I was just a kid / Just cusp someone says something’s wrong doesn’t mean that it always is“. I love that, and have employed it as a mantra for some years already. All of that is accompanied by some fantastic musicianship. There is the cool rumbling of a Hammond organ in the background and the guitar work is laced heavily with a bluesy feel, reminiscent of Drive-By-Truckers, which I think can only be seen as a compliment.

Download The Warped 45s – Grampa Carl mp3 (from Matador Sunset)

6. Danny Brown - Die Like A Rockstar

This song helped to reinvigorate my love for Hip Hop. There had been pretty much nothing in this genre that had excited me for years. Then boom! (Irony, honest) I heard this. From the very first opening when you hear that rolling drum beat it sounds special, then you get that menacing b-line and lyrics that pull you straight into the middle of the track. The lyrics are basically a who’s who of famous party animals from music, film and T.V. and this is done with wit, intelligence and a phenomenal turn of phrase. “Sniff it at a roll, off the counter in my kitchen / Trippin’ off the shit that had Brian Wilson flippin’” is just one off a fistful of gems from this one tune. Danny Brown certainly has a wonderful delivery (I think the kids call it a “FLOW”), a sort of southern drawl that is helped by his missing front tooth, giving it a sort of lispy quality and has a distinct whiff of nihilism about it. That monster bassline just continues to snarl along at you through the whole song. Just brilliant!

Link – left click only: DOWNLOAD: Danny Brown – Die Like A Rockstar – RCRD LBL

5. Henry’s Funeral Shoe - Dog Scratched Ear

The energy in this song is the equivalent to 15 speed freaks at a coffee morning. Even the guitar at the start is reminiscent of a racehorse being held off its true power until the time comes and don’t worry it will. The opening lyrics are the way to start a song “You’ve got street fighting hands/ and a rock and roll face / But you show affection in other ways“. These match the general feeling of the song perfectly; it has that raw, grimy, slightly sullied sense about it. When the drums join the party the song truly comes alive, with the kind of fire that I’ve only ever really heard in Nirvana tracks (And there’s only two of these guys). As the song settles back down and you stop looking like the guy from the old Maxell adverts (showing my age with that cultural reference) the guitar glides along and takes you with it, with points where you think its going to drop again but these are just teasers. Don’t worry though there are plenty more guitar breaks to come. A bit of a latecomer to the list but there was no way it could be ignored.

Download Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear mp3 (from Donkey Jacket)

4. Dennis Hoppers Choppers - Good To Me

Sounding like the start of a Sergio Leone western is a good way to grab my attention. I love the sound of that trumpet along with the violins/fiddles – it creates such an atmospheric start. When the bass and guitar come in, they seem to be able to hold that atmosphere, perfectly but with a different slant. They bring with them a down-to-earth country style, which is held up perfectly by the lyrics of Ben Nicholls, who has a lamenting sound to his voice (and is also a one man band, talented – a bit!!). You think you’re in for a typical kind of alt-Country song but then something new, the strings are back along with keys that give this song an almost Egyptian feel. A friend of mine who is a musician said this song has some great work in the minor keys; I will have to take his word for that. All I know is that this is a truly beautiful and dynamic track; the fact that it’s not my number one still grates on me whenever I hear it. Self-flagellation for punishment methinks.

a

3. Little Barrie - Tip it Over

We are in to the top three now, this is where shit gets real and what a song to jump into it with. This song was a surefire winner for me. The high hat ride at the intro, then the understated guitar and bass enter the fray…they sound so innocuous, but if only you knew what they are to become. I love the notion of this song as well “Tip it over, what you need it for” could apply to so many things. It carries with it a certain amount of venom and it would have made a great soundtrack for the UK riots this year. The musicianship in this tune is truly fantastic – there is great work on the drums, though for me the true star is the guitar, you could be forgiven for almost losing it in the rest of the song, then just to remind you it’s alive and dangerous it has a little echo of the vocals in the chorus. Then it is let loose like some kind of wild beast and drags your ears with it. This song always gets my foot going and without question wins the award for song that every time I hear it I think to myself, “Shit! I want to learn to play guitar”.

a

2. Brown Bird - Bilgewater

From the very first listening I adored this song with a passion that I only usually give to Leeds Utd and gin & tonic. From the opening line of “Don’t matter if the cold wind blows, I’m going to wind up working in the thick of it“, I felt a affinity with this song, I work as a coalman so this sums up my job in one fell swoop. The bluesy feel to the rhythm of this song lends itself perfectly to the gritty nature of the lyrics and they give you a hard look at life. Those rose tinted glasses you’ve been wearing? Well this tune takes those off and stamps all over them. This is delivered without threat or malice, just in a matter of fact way – “this is how it is”. It’s nice to hear that once in a while – dilutes the saccharine a bit. There are so many brilliantly phrased lines in here, each verse holding a fistful of lyrical gems. The only way I can really give this song enough praise is to say that if Bill Hicks was still with us, I think he would appreciate this song and it’s honesty. That is massive praise I think.

Download Brown Bird – Bilgewater mp3 (from The Sound of Ghosts EP)

1. Mummy Short Arms - Cigarette Smuggling

I took you via the scenic route but we’ve arrived. Number one and that is exactly what it is. Just the best song I’ve heard this year by a country mile. From the very first hearing to listening to it while I write this, the whole thing fascinates me. The opening sounds like some kind of nightmare dream sequence from an episode of Hammer House of Horror, weird sounds and insane babbling, accompanied by a disjointed guitar and harmonica. As the drumbeat cuts in, it pulls it all together, and then we get to hear the greatest of gravelly voices. If you were to tell me this guy don’t smoke Capstan full strength and gargle with Napalm I’d call you a liar. As the song builds with an absolutely wonderful bassline driving it along, so does the intensity of the lyrical delivery. Now this maybe childish (in fact it is) but I think if going to swear in a song why not say c#@t and why not say it lots. Some people may find this offensive but it is a common saying down my way, meaning positive and negative things. The harmonica is stitched throughout the tune harking back to that eerie bedlam-esque start.  From start to finish it is the real deal. Brilliant melody, great bassline, witty lyrics, profanity and raw-throated vocals. These are a few of my favourite things!

a

Bubbling under (The songs that scream why? at me in the middle of the night)

1. Grass House - A Cradle, A Short Breath

2. Tom Williams & The Boat  – Wouldn’t Women Be Sweet

3. Creepoid - Grave Blanket

Download Creepoid – Grave Blanket mp3 (from Horse Heaven)

4. Jason Isbell & The 400 - Codeine

5. Lovely Eggs - Fuck It

Best Cover of the year

Siskiyou – Revolution Blues

Best I’ve heard for the first time this year (but not from this year)

1. Mountain Goats – No Children

2. Joe Pug - I Do My Father’s Drugs

3. Modest Mouse - Doin’ The Cockroach

4. Shellac - Prayer To God

Download Shellac – Prayer To God mp3 (from 1000 Hurts)

5. Fugazi - Waiting Room

Download Fugazi - Waiting Room mp3 (from 13 Songs)

Guilty Pleasure (Go on hate away!)

Lana Del Rey - Video Games

One thought on “BEST OF 2011

Tell Us What You Think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s