Monday 19 December 2011

Kowalskiy's Top 10 Albums of 2011

Yup, it's that time of year again!  The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed I've dispensed with the usual, long drawn-out countdown this time 'round.  The main reason is I've found it harder than ever to narrow down the options in what has been, in my opinion, a great year for Scottish music.  I think I've just about managed it though, so with much further ado, here's my top 10 albums of 2011...

#1.  Happy Particles - Under Sleeping Waves
Very rarely, do I listen to an album and halfway through think to myself 'this album will not be bettered this year'.  That was the case with Glasgow sextet Happy Particles' debut album Under Sleeping Waves.  And the thing is, the second half is even better than the first!  "Uplifting... sublime... absolutely stunning!" was how I described it back in September.  Nothing's changed, it's an outstanding album and fitting of anyone's top spot.
HIGHLIGHT:  A.M. Sky (Bleary)

#2.  Will Hanson - Moving A Body
Yeah, you're right fellow bloggers!  This is a last-minute entry in my Top 10 having only bought it à la weekend.  I'd been meaning to for months on the back of his outstanding double A-side Deathbed Conversion / The View From Ebury Bridge, and sat listening to it whilst wrapping my presents.  Mr. Hanson and his friends have delivered something quite special indeed.  Beee-autiful!
HIGHLIGHT:  Our Basket

 #3.  The Little Kicks - The Little Kicks
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to post Steven Milne's track-by-track commentary of The Little Kicks' eponymous follow-up to 2009's debut Boxing Clever.  Here's some Kowalskiy soundbites... "funky... insanely-catchy... pure songwriting perfection... Bravo!".  I think they sum it up just nicely, but don't take my word for it.  Go have a listen for yourself!
HIGHLIGHT:  Far Too Honest

#4.  Rob St. John - Weald
Another one that buggered up the tentative Top 5 I've been submitting to all these collective end-of-year lists.  I'd been sitting on the album for a while, not sure why though, given The Whites Of Our Eyes, Rob's charitable collaboration last year with Braindead Collective, is possibly one of the finest songs of recent years.  Having listened to Weald a fair few times now, it's filled with a lot more of the same.   Rob's given us a staggeringly good album which will quite rightly, and deservedly so, top many a list. 

#5.  Come On Gang! - Strike A Match
At the start of the year, there was one album which completely blew me away... Strike A Match, which was simultaneously Come On Gang!'s exciting debut and tearful swansong. It's early-in-the-year release, combined with my short attention span and propensity to play my favourite new albums to within an inch of their lives, has inevitably put pay to a Top 3 finish, but don't let that take anything away from the sheer joy and unadulterated amazingness of this very special album.
HIGHLIGHT:  To The Morning

#6.  Jacob Yates & the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers - Luck
Now this was a wee welcome change from the norm in 2011.  Maryhill's Jacob Lovatt and his PGLPs unleashed their "Doom Wop" debut Luck on the unsuspecting Scottish public.  It's full of pitch black humour and really, quite grim imagery but it's a great album because of all that.  You'd be hard pushed to find a bolder album this year.  That's proper rock 'n' roll for you folks!

#7.  IndianRedLopez - Empty Your Lungs And Breathe
Aberdeen's IndianRedLopez were one of my tips for 2011, and they did not disappoint in the slightest.   When I spoke to them back in May, they'd just released this, their superb debut album.   Full of emotion, these 10 songs were some of the best atmospheric indie-rock heard all year.  Judging by their recent single Prometheus (buy it here) we can expect even better things from these guys next year. 
HIGHLIGHT:  The New Black

#8.  Evil Hand - Huldra
STOP PRESS:  Huldra only makes 8th place in self-confessed Evil Hand fanatic's Best of 2011 list.   
Allow me to explain.  I love everything about these 16 fantastic songs, after all, I went on record as saying it was a "breathtaking, seductive mixture of old and new".  And I suppose that's where I'm conflicted.  It's too much like a Best Of to place higher... sorry Derek!  Still, it's every bit as amazing as I've said before.
HIGHLIGHT:  Returned In Time

#9.  Make Sparks - Rewound
Again, this falls foul of the same 'is this an album, or is it more a collection of old, reworked recordings?' debate.  Either way, Rewound is a brilliant pop-rock dozen from Dundee trio Make Sparks. Fans of Jimmy Eat World, as I myself am, will lap this up and be left wanting more.  Just as well then that this bunch have released a few new tracks since.   The trouble is, now I'm wanting even more!

#10.  Prince Edward Island - This Day Is A Good Enough Day
But what if Arab Strap went all poppy on us, what if...  Wonder no more folks, 'cos that's exactly what you get with London-based Prince Edward Island.  I interviewed the Scottish half of the band, frontman Darren Bruce earlier in the year and I came to these conclusions.  It's bitter.  It's dark, but witty.  It's "about failed sex".  Yet somehow, it's so oddly delightful, you can't help but smile!
HIGHLIGHT:  You Look Like I Need A Drink

Well that's that for another year.  There were of course, a lot more albums that tickled my fancy this year, but the list has to stop somewhere!  If you fancy hearing any of these albums, you can click on the relevant artwork and see if you agree with me.  Hope so!

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