And so its the end of the year again (or the start) and we have listened to an awful lot of music, the people here. And two of us managed to churn out some words on what we consider as our favorite albums of 2011. So enjoy, hope it proves to function both as a tip sheet and as a salute to good music.
03. Hercules and Love Affair – Blue Songs (Moshi Moshi)
Out with the old, in with the new. Nomi Ruiz, Antony Hegarty, and the whole band went away, and Mark Pistel, Aerea Negrot, and Shaun Wright came in. And if you thought it couldn’t get better than the first album, here they are with a magnificent comeback. It is geared a bit more towards house than to disco, despite it having this old disco album set up of start up-tempo, drop it down to some ballads, and then have the people dance again. All of this with some amazing, amazing vocals. Negrot is fantastic, what a command she has over her voice. It’s all throwback, it’s all fun, it’s all house in the Eighties. It’s gender bending, it’s sexy, it’s playful, it’s naughty. Where Azari & III are a bit darker, more physical, more about sex, this is more about playfulness, about fun, about flirtation.
I’ve seen the new line-up several times, and they are just fabulous, so fun and queer. I can understand people who say it borders on kitsch, but I like that, because you know what, so was disco the first go around (check some of these vids out y’all). It’s about fun and dancing together, and that vibe does come across on the album as well. Some absolute corkers you just have to dance to, and some ballads as well to inject it with some emotion (though, admittedly, former Hercules singer Nomi Ruiz outdid the band in the ballad department this year). And honestly, with such powerful voices, that is disco and house as well. Those fab vocals over that music that makes your body want to go to work. For me, and I’m probably in the minority on this one, but for my money’s worth I rather listen to this album than their debut, and that is saying something.
Answers Come In Dreams by moshi moshi music
03. My Brightest Diamond - All things will unwind (asthmatic kitty)
After just having had Annie Clark, AKA St. Vincent, here’s another former Sufjan Stevens background singer! Her first album, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth, didn’t do much for me. Apart from opening tracks ‘Inside a Boy’, the tracks were quite forgettable. Maybe that’s why she remained to be in Stevens’ backing band until this last album came out. The album features maybe the best yet Occupy-inspired protest tracks in ‘High Low Middle’ and ‘There’s a Rat’, though compared to the rest of the album, they seem a tad bleak and rushed.
Luckily the rest of the album is of a much higher standard. Take ‘Escape Routes’, with its opening sentence “It takes a lifetime to learn how to love”, borrowed from Laurie Anderson. It’s a beautiful pop song with an extravagant chorus backed up by a small chamber music ensemble, yMusic, which she brings along to her live performances. ‘Be Brave’ and ‘We Added it Up’ are a few other musical gems on this album. Bit it’s not all easy pop songs, there’s also a track based on her grandmother: ‘She Does Not Brave the War’, which details how, despite women like her grandma not being allowed to go to war in those days, they did save the day by keeping the country running despite the absence of their ‘all-knowing’ husbands. So feminism, pop and protest songs, what shouts 2011 more than that?
My Brightest Diamond, "We Added It Up" by My Brightest Diamond