Archive for the ‘James Blake’ Tag

Top 40 Albums of 2011

40) Austra – Feel it Break
39) Tom Waits – Bad as Me
38) Toro Y Moi – Underneath the Pine
37) Yuck – Yuck
36) Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
35) Childish Gambino – CAMP
34) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong
33) Bing K.R.I.T. – Return of 4Eva
32) Drake – Take Care
31) Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place
30) TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
29) Neon Indian – Era Extraña
28) Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die but You Will
27) Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
26) Girls – Father, Son and Holy Ghost
25) Friendly Fires – Pala
24) Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting
23) Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
22) Frank Ocean – Nostalgia/ultra
21) A$AP Rocky – LiveLoveA$AP Mixtape
20) tUnE-yArDs – WHOKILL
19) Tyler, The Creator – Goblin
18) Beirut – The Rip Tide
17) Metronomy – The English Riviera
16) St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
15) Balam Acab – Wander / Wonder
14) Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape
13) Cults – Cults
12) Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
11) Washed Out – Eyes Be Closed

10) M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming

Covers a range of moods from the childlike excitement of ‘Raconte-Moi Une Histoire‘ to the agony of ‘Wait‘ with plenty of dancefloor gems in between. Most impressively of all, this album brings 80’s dance back to our headphones but actually manages to make it sound good. Another triumph from M83 which sits comfortably in between dance and rock.

9) Gil Scott-Heron And Jamie XX – We’re New Here

A brave endeavour which could easily have backfired. Instead these two diverse artists combined to produce a stunning LP with Jamie bringing his customary loops and bass-heavy beats to the table but managing to let them interact with Heron’s vocals and not overpower them. 2010’s I’m New Here brought Heron back into the spotlight. In May 2011 he passed away but not before he had left the world with one last piece of magic. For Jamie XX to recognise the potential for this audacious remix album and to pull it off confirms his status as one of the most exciting talents in modern electronic music.

8] Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Lykke Li was always capable of producing a great tune, a powerful indie pop anthem, ‘Until we Bleed‘ and ‘Little Bit‘ provided ample proof of that. What Wounded Rhymes clarifies is that Li can make a proper album which draws you in right from the start and holds your interest until the last note. Li finds a perfect balance of bangers – ‘Youth Knows No Pain‘, ‘I Follow Rivers‘, ‘Rich Kids Blues‘  and slow burners ‘Unrequited Love‘, ‘Silent my Song‘.

7) EMA – Past Life Martyed Saints

Drawing influences from a variety of genres and touching on diverse themes in its lyrical content, Past Life Martyed Saints is an incredibly polished debut from Erika M Anderson. The sudden change of mood in curtain raiser ‘The Grey Ship‘ signal’s Anderson’s intent to produce the unexpected. It may only have 9 tracks but these songs are refreshingly diverse, from the haunting chant of ‘Anteroom‘ to the magnificently lazy sound of ‘Breakfast‘.

6) Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne

Full review here. A 16 track LP bursting with hits. Virtually any track off WTT would have punters flocking to the dancefloor, throwing shapes to some of Kanye’s finest beats as the duo bounce off each other perfectly to create tracks oozing with style. ‘Otis, ‘Ni**as in Paris‘, ‘Murder to Excellence‘ just three of the many highlights on this impressive collaboration.

5) PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

This album is so good that even though it celebrates the old enemy you can’t help but love it. Let England Shake landed Harvey the Mercury Prize and it’s not hard to see why when you listen to these 12 tracks. Each provides something new, the theme of the album remains the only constant as Harvey digs into her musical arsenal to produce new tricks at every opportunity. Her voice dictates the mood with everything else following suit, from the ominous ‘Let England Shake‘ to the mournful cry of ‘England‘.

4) WU LYF – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain

One of the most striking and original sounds to emerge in 2011. GTFTTM is a collection of hugely atmospheric tracks which lean on various genres. There’s more than a hint of post-rock structure to the songs but WU LYF also dabble in more catchy uptempo numbers. The shredding howl of the vocals combines perfectly with the echoing drums and beautifully layered guitar to produce an album that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

3) Bon Iver – Bon Iver

How do you follow an album like 2008’s For Emma Forever Ago? Justin Vernon’s debut LP as Bon Iver transported him for the isolation of that famous  log cabin in Wisconsin to superstardom. He couldn’t try to do the same again, it simply wouldn’t have worked, the rawness of Vernon’s pain is what made For Emma… so engaging, 3 years on we’re expecting some progress and Bon Iver delivers it. It continues the transition signalled by the Blood Bank EP to a bigger production and a bigger sound. Vernon’s vocals are now backed by an army of instruments, the songs may have changed but the impact is the same.

2) James Blake – James Blake

Full review here. His 2010 EP’s guaranteed his status as one of the most hyped/blogged artists of 2011 but rather than stick to the formula which made those releases so popular, Blake opted to put a more introspective, personal touch to his brand of post-dubstep which he somehow manages to combine with a folk sound to brilliant effect to create an LP that is as moving as it is original.

1) SBTRKT – SBTRKT

Full review here.Top spot on this list was pretty much sealed after my first listen to SBTRKT’s (Aaron Jerome’s) stunning debut album. Like Blake, Jerome doesn’t shy away from the inclusion of heartfelt lyrics but SBTRKT offers that extra bit of variety. ‘Wildfire‘ and ‘Trials of the Past‘ are two of the year’s massive dancefloor anthems while ‘Hold On‘ and ‘Something Goes Right‘ provide a more subdued but equally brilliant listen. Pop/House number ‘Pharoahs‘ and tribal call to arms ‘Go Bang‘ further prove Jerome’s capacity to diversify his electronic sound. A treat from start to finish.

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Album: SBTRKT – SBTKRT

Anyone who has read this blog with any degree of regularity will know that I’m more than a bit of a fan of Will Wisenfeld aka Baths, and his 2010 album Cerulean. I still remember my first time giving the album a listen and waiting for the filler to arrive but each track proved breathtaking in its own way. Cerulean came out at a time when, thanks to the likes of Flying Lotus and Teebs, glitch-hop was at the forefront of electronic music but Wisenfeld managed to stand out from the masses with an original and engaging spin on the genre.

British producer Aaron Jerome who performs as SBTRKT (pronounced Subtract) has achieved the same feat with his stunning debut self-titled album. As contemporary electronic music continues to draw influence from all different directions the genre game grows more and more farcical with this album likely to be lumped into the post-dubstep category alongside the likes of James Blake and Mount Kimbie. Regardless of its genre, SBTRKT’ is a compelling LP which at various stages boasts a hint of house, funk, soul, dubstep, electronica and just about everything else.

Comparisons with James Blake are inevitable given Jerome’s use of heavy-bass loops fused with his soulful vocals, but SBTRKT offers an approach more akin to Blake’s earlier EP releases than his more subdued self-titled album. Tunes like Wildfire and Right Thing To Do are underground dance floor anthems while the mournful Hold On and funky gem Trials Of The Past display Jerome’s more introspective songwriting capabilities.

Just when you think you’ve got the album figured out pop tune ‘Pharoahs’ makes an appearance with a Dizzee Rascal-esque beat blended with sing along trance vocals calling to mind Katy B’s chart single ‘Lights On’, but better.

Will Wisenfeld was a relatively unknown 21-year old when he released Cerulean, one of the most compelling albums of the past decade. Aaron Jerome was equally anonymous prior to this debut release but you get the feeling he’ll be bringing his exotic headwear to more festivals on the back of what is already, unquestionably one of the albums of 2011.

Tune of Today

I like this tune, because its daycint!

SBTRKT’s self-titled debut album has gotten good reviews all round. If the rest of the LP lives up to ‘Wildfire’ James Blake won’t be the only post-dubstep artist making all those end of year lists.

Artist – Bingo

So here’s another new Irish artist to add to the list. I have to concede I know very little about Dublin’s Frank Sweeney aka Bingo but this track ‘Bee’ is outstanding. Like MOTHS, Bingo has honed an ultra-contemporary electronic sound. ‘Bee’ includes samples from Destiny’s Child’s ‘Say My Name’ and has more than a hint of James Blake’s post-dubstep anthem CMYK.

Album: James Blake – James Blake

Three stunning EP releases in 2010 earned James Blake revered status in the indie circles as bloggers, DJs and music lovers raved about his ultra contemporary sound.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this self-titled album is that Blake hasn’t relied on his strong suit of sample-fuelled electronica, which brought him such acclaim last year. Unsurprisingly questions were asked of the decision to release three EPs in one year and not an album, but Blake’s logic has revealed itself through this masterful debut LP. James Blake harnesses the techniques the Londoner has previously displayed to create a more cohesive, introspective sound.  While his previous works fit in somewhere between the dance floor and horror film, this album is a gentler beast, providing an insight into the man himself.

“My brother and my sister don’t speak to me, but I don’t blame them.” This opening line in I ‘Never Learnt To Share’ epitomises the deeply personal nature of Blake’s lyrical content. More striking however, is the fact that he himself proclaims the words. Gone are the frenetic samples, replaced by the heart-felt and utterly self-deprecating vocals of Blake.

Minimalism prevails throughout the eleven tracks. Each song possesses a patience and delicacy with Blake refusing to rush or force his message. The sorrowful repetition of insecurity in ‘Wilhelm’s Scream’ avoids the trap of sounding unimaginative, on the contrary the slow bass build becomes consuming as the words “All that I know is I’m falling” embed themselves in the listeners mind.

Blake’s mournful vocals are the only constant in the album, accompaniment takes the form of varied instrumentation and a plethora of effects, rendering it virtually impossible to know what new age gadgets are being availed of at any one time. Despite the variety of sounds implemented, Blake manages not to overcrowd the LP.

‘Limit to Your Love’, the first single to be taken from the album encapsulates the minimalist nature of the LP. A brief piano intro is greeted by Blake’s proclamation “There’s a limit to your love, like a waterfall in slow motion.” His delivery is so patient the listener almost wants to drag the words out. The electronic beat is hushed beneath the repetitive piano, which in turn bows to the superiority of Blake’s voice. After this beautiful opening comes the part that will isolate the grannies from the indie kids, a booming, quivering bass line jumps out of nowhere pulling the song in a new direction without isolating the introspective sensibility.

In truth aspects of this album have no place on a pretentious teenager’s iPod. Curtain closer’ Measurements’ is a celebration of voices and echoes blended with double bass which could have been recorded at a Gospel Choir’s rehearsal.

It’s possible that with this refreshingly original production, forcing emotion where it was never allowed before, James Blake has pushed the boundaries of contemporary electronic music.