Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Albums Of The Year Part 1....

For the first time in many a year I'm not sure where to start. For the simple reason that this has been a stellar year for new albums.

I was very impressed by the debut from Anna Calvi. Hailed as "the best thing since Patti Smith" by Brian Eno, Calvi produced a stunning debut that drew comparisons to the likes of PJ Harvey and Nick Cave. But this was very much an Anna Calvi album. It is a supremely confident debut that engages from the first note. Calvi's album blends her big voice with lusty blues guitar and sparse rhythms that resulted in an impressive, passionate debut that that is occasionally overblown but never less than splendid.

Also on my year end radar is the stunning Everything's Getting Older from Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells. Moffat delivers a set of songs that are as funny, poignant, filthy and insightful as anything he's ever written. Wells and Moffat first met when Wells was asked to play piano on Arab Strap’s Monday At The Hug & Pint in 2003. Eight years later they finally released the full fruits of their collaboration. And well worth the wait it was. The album’s masterstroke is The Copper Top.
* In The Copper Top a man retreats to the pub after a funeral to be alone with his thoughts, so sick, as he is, of hearing everyone else’s memories of the recently deceased. Sitting in his fitted suit, only worn twice, he decides: "birth, love and death, the only reasons to get dressed up". Pint sunk, he leaves, glancing back at the copper roof of the pub as he leaves. Having oxidised over the years it’s now "a dull pastel grey’". "Everything’s getting older" he decides, before a mournful trumpet carries the rest of the song away.*
By the end you're left in stunned admiration at one of 2011's finest releases. Eight years in the making it may have been but the debut album by Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat is a special thing, full of gorgeous, jazz-inflected love songs that I just can't get enough of.

I saw Laura Marling a few years back in Ayr Town Hall supporting Glasvegas and she was like a rabbit caught in the headlights. At that gig she was just a fairly average singer songwriter with the odd good tune. Fast forward to 2011 and the 21 year old has obviously swallowed the Joni Mitchell songbook. And I don't mean that in any derogatory way. It is a lot looser than her first two albums and all the better for it. She can still come across as a bit po faced but once she becomes less distant she has the potential to produce even better material.

Notable mentions also to great albums also from Kurt Vile, Tom Waits and the best Paul Simon release in years....

Part 2 to follow....

Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat - The Copper Top

* Courtesy of Drowned In Sound

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