Music of 2011

Music of 2011

As we come to the end of another year, it’s time to look at the best music released in the last twelve months. I think it’s been a pretty good year, overall. I’ve bought 14 new albums released in 2011 and attended 9 live events, and none of them were particularly disappointing. I’m not going to try to review them all, but here are my top five albums of 2011… #1 – My Morning Jacket, “Circuital” My Morning Jacket are a band I’ve been following at a moderate distance for some time. Their breakthrough success Z and 2008’s Evil Urges were already among my favourite albums ever so I was very excited about this year’s release. Turns out it surpassed all my expectations and earns its place at the top of my list...

Dr Richard Stallman — For a Free Digital Society

You know what they say about coming face to face with your heroes. It’s all true; at least in this case. As a die-hard ultra-liberal by persuasion and a software engineer by trade, it stands to reason that my ideologies lie somewhere in the free software movement. Imagine my delight when I discovered that none other than the movement’s founder, Dr Richard Stallman, was coming to give a lecture to the people of Leeds. Dr Stallman’s lecture title was “For a Free Digital Society” and the subject matter was about protecting our freedom in a world where things like surveillance and restrictions on ownership of content are easy for governments and megacorps to implement. Great: so far, so good. Those are things I’m worried about too...

Review: Bright Eyes at Leeds O2 Academy

Review: Bright Eyes at Leeds O2 Academy

If Conor Oberst can be summed up in one word, it must be prolific. The Nebraska songwriter has released 22 albums under various names already, and he’s only 31! Last night’s performance opened with a set by Jenny & Johnny, the latest project of Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis who is a long-time collaborator of Oberst’s1. As if to flaunt the inbredness of the US music scene, their drummer was Jason Boesel, perhaps best known now as a key member of Oberst’s project The Mystic Valley Band. Jenny & Johnny started out as a sort of electrified country outfit but by the end were cranking out some very original indie-rock tunes that definitely made me want to check out their album. Bright Eyes came on about 8.45 and played for a full 2 hours...

Reviews: Flaming Lips and Kate Bush

Reviews: Flaming Lips and Kate Bush

Another two albums to review today, both based around a “reinvention” theme, and both bought for me by my brother Jon for my birthday last weekend. The Flaming Lips (et al.) – The Dark Side of the Moon I know I’m a bit behind the curve here — this album came out about 18 months ago — but it has only just made it into my collection and it fits well with the theme. For reasons known only to themselves, Oklahoma psychedelic nutters The Flaming Lips have teamed up with singer Wayne’s brother’s band Stardeath & White Dwarfs to record a complete end-to-end cover of Pink Floyd’s 1973 masterpiece The Dark Side of the Moon. On a first listen to this, I was horrified! A band I respect had taken one of my favourite musical masterworks...

Review: Mercury Rev play Deserter’s Songs

On Friday night I was fortunate enough to see Mercury Rev performing their 1998 magnum opus Deserter’s Songs at Manchester’s spectacular Bridgewater Hall. The Bridgewater Hall, for the unfamiliar, is a purpose-built concert venue designed for the amazing sound of Manchester’s Hallé orchestra. The building’s attention to acoustic detail is extraordinary; so much so that the whole building floats on a foundation of 300 giant springs in order to separate its acoustics from those of the street outside. You can hear the difference: this is the first time I have seen a pop music act play at the venue, and it is possible to discern every note of every instrument as though you are sitting right next to it! The building only has trouble with...

Reviews: Guillemots and Fleet Foxes

Reviews: Guillemots and Fleet Foxes

Guillemots – Walk the River The multi-national, multi-instrumentalist, multi-talented Guillemots have a lot to live up to. Their 2006 debut Through the Windowpane was a seminal masterpiece that proudly boasts my favourite song ever (São Paulo). The followup EP Of the Night and subsequent album Red showcased the whole band’s songwriting and experimentation with every popular music style under the sun, alienating most of their fanbase in the process but creating a smorgasbord record with great repeat-listen value for those of us who chose to stick with it. Lead singer Fyfe’s solo album made him a brief bigtime personality when his Billy Joel cover was used on a John Lewis advert that made the nation cry. The new offering, Walk the River, takes the...