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Friday, 9 December 2011

Soundtrack4Life Albums of 2011 - Album of the Year

It's been a real mixed bag of listening for me this year, from Punk to Soul, Country to Ska, Rock & Roll to Reggae, and Blues to Pop. Trying to figure out what is my Album of the Year has been no easy matter as there have been at least half a dozen that have been in the running. So, with that in mind here are my Top Five Albums of the Year.

5. England Keep My Bones – Frank Turner

Frank Turner continues to inspire with this brilliant mix of folk-punk-blues. It reminds me of times of Billy Bragg's revelries into the English psyche and then it reminds me of nothing becasue of it's uniqueness. Some great tracks on here and a few not so great (I am not for a moment enamoured by the album's closer 'Glory Hallelujah' where he declares rather brashly, "There is no God, so ring that victory bell.") but 'I Still Believe' and 'I Am Disappeared' are just two of the standout tracks. Whilst Frank sometimes seems a little sedate when it comes to his studio output it is his live performances that have everyone talking about him. This year has seen him play a large number of festivals and gain support that must have been the envy of many a larger and louder band.

4.  Red Barked Tree – Wire

Garry Mullholland of the BBC said it better than I could about Wire's 11th studio album released way back at the start of the year, "The only sad thing about Red Barked Tree is that few will hear it because many a station won’t play anything by old punks, unless they’re Paul Weller. But if you love alternative guitar music, you will love this, because Wire play alternative guitar music better than any young British band you can name. The oddest thing about that is that everyone name-checks Wire, but no-one listens to them."
For me it was a toss up between this and Gang of Four's 'Content' album and Wire won the day. A quality album that is far better than anything Radiohead have ever released!

3. Hell On Heels – Pistol Annies

"Oh no!" I hear you cry out loud, "A Country album in your Top 5 Albums of the Year! What on earth are you doing?"  I hear you, but so many people are too quick to write off Country Music. In the past couple of years I've been listening to a whole range of Country Artists and one lady in particular has impressed me a lot - Miranda Lambert, and she has teamed up with fellow songwriter-friends Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley to create the perfect country album released under the banner of The Pistol Annies.

2. Elsie – The Horrible Crowes

It was a close call between this and Head Cat for my Album of the Year. Brian Fallon (Gaslight Anthem) continues to surprise me. He's an excellent songwriter and teaming up with his long time Guitar Tech Ian Perkins they have produced a magnificent little album that will bring listening pleasure to those who love the music of Gaslight Anthem and hopefully those who just love music fullstop!

12 well crafted songs that run the route of many different emotions and show off the talent that both Fallon and Perkins have. I have to admit that it's hard to find a bad track on the album. My favourite track though has to be the album closer, 'I Believe That Jesus Brought Us Together'. You might think that sounds like a cheesy Gospel song title, but that is so far from the truth. It's a beautiful tune, nice lyrics that seem reminiscent of Springsteen at times.

1. Walk The Walk Talk The Talk - Head Cat

It's Rock and Roll at it's finest. Two original songs and 10 tasty cover versions (I'm hoping that the next album they release will be slanted toward more original material) show that Lemmy Kilmister, Danny B Harvey and Slim Jim Phantom have a deep love for the music of the past. The cover of Cochran's 'Something Else' is far more genuine than the awful rendition that Sid Vicious released as part of the soundtrack to 'The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle'. Lemmy has what Vicious never had, true swagger!
I've probably played this album more than any other this year (though The Horrible Crowes album got just a few less plays) and am happy to declare it The Soundtrack4Life Album of the Year for 2011.
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