Thom’s End Of Year Round Up 2011

Thursday 29th December 2011

I’m not sure whether I like doing album of the year lists or not. Actually that’s not true I love making lists of any type and this is no exception. I guess the point is I’m not sure if I like making them public like this, as I worry that I sound like a nob. I’m still not sure how confident I feel about writing about music. I feel far more on comfortable ground writing about films.

Nevertheless, here is my top 10 albums of the year. I don’t know quite if it was a vintage year for music – I found loads of records I liked, but perhaps far fewer that I loved. Here goes anyway…

10. Tennis – Cape Dory












An impossibly waspy husband and wife duo make a 1950’s tinged dream pop concept album a sailing trip. Hmmmm. Wasn’t an instant pick up this album, but watching them live in May on a sunny Barcelona afternoon I caught the bug a bit and this album wore down any resistance and didn’t really leave my ears for much of the early summer. Ultimately massively infectious – puts me to mind of zooming through town on a Boris bike in the early evening summer sun.

9. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact












Probably my most anticipated recorded of last year, and ultimately it didn’t really disappoint. For a while it seemed like a shoe in for my top spot for the year but after an initial constant burst it fell out of favour a bit. It is nonetheless bloody brilliant. Opening opus ‘Glass Jar’ is probably my overall track of the year, and while the rest of the record typically flits all over the place their are plenty of other immense moments. I can remember hearing ‘Mindkilla’ on the tube into work one morning and replaying about 6 times on the spin it was that good.

8. Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – We’re New Here












Call me a philistine all you like, but I actually find Jamie xx’s production improves upon the original record. Introverted whilst soaringly optimistic. 2011 was a year in which I began to start taking running seriously again, and this record became a constant companion when I was out on long runs through he city. An album made more poignant by the loss this year of the great man himself. RIP.

7. Bon Iver – Bon Iver












A weird one this. I don’t even think it is that an accomplished record but it still has topped my in terms of overall plays across the year (admittedly a big chunk of those being Mrs Thom listening on my account). Kudos to Justin Vernon though for not just doing a retread of his previous mahoosive record, and their are some great moments on here. The opening three tracks work as a unit fabulously as do the last three actually. It just seems to drift in the middle a bit. This record is me living in Muswell Hill over the summer and walking home from work through Highgate Wood.

6. Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place












I stumbled onto a YouTube link of the title track to this record in the early part of the year and it absolutely floored me, completely knocked me for six. An ethereal record created primarily around loops of her heavenly voice. Someone overheard me listening to this and described it as sounding like ‘sad whale sex’, however for me it’s a warm, enveloping, reassuring record that lightens the darkest of moods.

5. Real Estate – Days












I’m a bit late to the party with these chaps but they’ve been my personal musical discovery of the year. In one sense they aren’t really reinventing the wheel – they instantly draw associations for me with the likes if Felt, The Durutti Column and The Feelies. The music is mournful, simple, lackadaisical even – yet effortlessly beautiful. I could easily listen to any of their records five or six times on the spin without getting bothered in the slightest. Music that makes me think of overcast summers days from a bygone age.

4. Fucked Up – David Comes To Life












A bit of an odd one out in this list, sure. But what can I say, I cannot say no to melodically euphoric punk rock. Actually I can say no, as I never previously dug this band at all. This changed all that though. Another album that soundtracked lots of runs through the city, and fuelled lots of playing in a band fantasies (I know I’m too old for those but what can you do…) If this record were a tad shorter it would have been even better, as it is it drags slightly. But those screaming out loud singalong, fist in the air moments make it all worthwhile.

3. The Antlers – Burst Apart












I don’t love every moment of this record, but the moments I do love I love so much that it would seem silly not to look back across this year musically and not find this record near the top of the pile. Another record that mingles stark sadness with a shy optimism. The music sounds so mournful at times but it just fills me with quiet content and hope. A record that lives in the space between summer and autumn.

2. Cold Cave – Cherish The Light Years












I didn’t expect this to be so high, in fact when I first drew up a 20 odd records long shortlist this wasn’t even on there. But if I had to pick a record from the year that is a joy from start to finish with no filler, no negative connotations then it’s this. Again, it’s nothing massively new and groundbreaking – a record that wears its synthpop influences firmly on its sleeve. It doesn’t have any massive personal resonance with me like other records – its just great fun – but for that reason it possibly just loses the top spot.

1. Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – Everything’s Getting Older












A very special, very personally resonant record. From the age of 15, Aidan Moffat has been a reasonably perennial musical companion. His numerous odes to drinking, drugging and shagging (amongst other things) were like something oddly to strive for, skewed frameworks for my own adolescent and young adult experience. This record along with erstwhile Glaswegian Bill Wells, finds Moffat contemplating not growing up as such, but growing older. In a year where I’ve forced myself to grow up in some ways, this has been a poignantly beautiful companion. If you only listen to one song out of this whole list stick ‘The Copper Top’ from this album on.


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