Favourite Songs of 2011

So many people are starting to base their listening on songs these days, such is the reduction in attention spans, the proliferation of YouTube browsing and the ease of compiling ones own playlists featuring the best stuff you want to hear. Separate to my Top 50 LPs of 2011 I’ve also put together a list of songs that caught my ears and became hard to shake. There were of course dozens of others that could be included here but this is a lucky dip of sorts into some of my favourite tunes of 2011 that might lead you further into the artist’s work if you havent checked them out yet…

In no particular order as they are all great…

Dick Diver – On The Bank

Those Darlins – Screw Get Loose

J. Mascis – Not Enough

Total Control – One More Tonight

Light Asylum – Dark Allies

The Strokes – Under Cover of Darkness

Iron & Wine – Tree By a River

Timber Timbre – Bad Ritual

Little Dragon – Ritual Union

Wilco – I Might

Two Tears – Eat People

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Belong

Iowa – Complete Control

The Laurels – Black Cathedral

The Adults – Nothing To Lose

Austra – Lose It

Atlas Sound – Te Amo

Twerps – Dreamin

Royal Headache – Really In Love

Melodie Nelson – Waiting

Black Lips – Spidey’s Curse

Crystal Stilts – Shake The Shackles

Jamie XX – Far Nearer

The Felice Brothers – Ponzi

The Paper Scissors – Lung Sum

Robag Wruhme – Thora Vukk

Wavves – I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl

Wild Flag – Romance

Leader Cheetah – Crawling Up A Landslide

NEWS: The Felice Brothers release new EP for free…

On the back of their brilliant Celebration, Florida album from earlier this year, The Felice Brothers are releasing a new EP called Poughkeepsie Princess. They are also kindly releasing it for free over five weeks – or at least the cost of your email address. Head over to their website HERE and grab the first three tracks and get the others as they are released…

REVIEW: THE FELICE BROTHERS – Yonder Is The Clock

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2008’s The Felice Brothers was near the top of my end of year list, its strength coming from the way it caught the imagination with its rustic, cracked and weary charm. It contained songs played with minimal fuss and maximum heart and it was a breath of fresh air amongst the angst and art of many of the year’s other releases. Anticipation of a new album so soon in 2009 was high and I felt this one would be their breakthrough to a wider audience. Alas it is not to be, though by the same token it is no step backwards, more a holding pattern or a pause for breath.

Yonder Is The Clock essentially takes up from where The Felice Brothers left off and the opening track ‘The Big Surprise’ is a strangely subdued stroll through tentative percussion and a swelling but unfulfilling lament. Any misgivings about that track are quickly forgotten as the stomping accordion driven ‘Penn Station’ reminds us of how gloriously ramshackle the brothers can be. It is a cacophony of harmonica, fiddle and handclaps that descends into a barn dance complete with breaking glasses.

The title of the album is drawn from the pages of a Mark Twain novel and refers to the American ghosts that lend their stories to the songs. There is indeed a wide range of topics, covering the spectrum of old and new America, from train stations and influenza to long winters and lost love. The themes are another continuity from the last record, this time  ‘Katie Dear’ replaces ‘Ruby Mae’ as the object of Ian Felice’s desire.

‘Sailor Song’ is a delicate ballad tempered by a gruff Tom Waits  drawl that paints a picture of a lonely singer at a desolate late night bar. The accordion of James Felice carries the mournful melody with great restraint for an instrument often used too enthusiastically. The song works well as it sits comfortably within their range and is treated with musical subtlety. In contrast ‘Run Chicken Run’ is a rollicking run through a standard rocking rural singalong. It is all good fun but seems like too much of a casual addition to their canon of rousing numbers such as 2008s ‘Frankie’s Gun’.

The obvious comparisons with the Felice Brothers have always been The Band and Bob Dylan and here they live up to those reference points but they also widen their oeuvre with songs like the softer and sweeter ‘All When We Were Young’ and the beer swigging shanty ‘Memphis Flu’ that sways like The Pogues touring the saloons of the wild west. Elsewhere they tighten the historical bond with The Band on ‘Boy From Lawrence County’ with its guitar and banjo interplay.

The songs that convince the most on Yonder Is The Clock are the quieter moments where The Felice Brothers are masters at pacing their playing and spacing the emotion to build tension on the heart tugs. They increase the nostalgic weight of the words with the characters, places and winding dusty roads that connect them.

This album sees them stepping back and taking stock of America, taking in the view and releasing the stories that evolved from their touring and experiences. One hopes that they will take a wider and perhaps bolder approach next time round but until then they have again delivered a solid and at times beautiful collection of traditional American songs.

NEWS: THE FELICE BROTHERS new album is about time…

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Those rural minstrels The Felice Brothers have a new record on its way to us in April and it is called Yonder Is The Clock.  It follows their breakthrough self titled album of 2008 that came in at number 4 on our top 20 for last year.

Apparently the record is “teaming with tales of love, death, betrayal, baseball, train stations, phantoms, pandemics, jail cells, rolling rivers and frozen winter nights”.

You can hear a preview of ‘Penn Station’ right HERE and it is another gloriously stomping track with those raspy vocals painting pictures of sleeping over at the train station.

1. The Big Surprise
2. Penn Station
3. Buried In Ice
4. Chicken Wire
5. Ambulance Man
6. Sailor Song
7. Katie Dear
8. Run Chicken Run
9. All When We Were Young
10. Boy from Lawrence County
11. Memphis Flu
12. Cooperstown
13. Rise and Shine

OPINION: FAVOURITE SONGS OF 2008

1.  The catchiest album of the year gave us the single She Doesn’t Belong To Me

2.  The ever elegant Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds produced the slo mo wordy swagger of More News From Nowhere

3. Bon Iver was the shooting star of 2008 and this was one of the most beautiful songs of the year… Skinny Love….

4. M38 delivered a convincing and ecstatic take on the best things the 80’s gave us.  Kim & Jessie was also one of the best music vids of 08…

5. Okkervil River delivered the great Stax sounding Starry Stairs and Sydney’s own Jack Ladder did the song justice when they asked him to cover it…

6. The Drones were Australia’s most invigorating band of the year with another killer record and the lead single The Minotaur

7. This year saw the resurrection of sorts of Beck with a good album and in particular the rolling drums and psych feel of Chemtrails. This mashup fan video works quite well too…

8. The man with the punk approach and the key to the cabinet of melodies was Jay Reatard and Always Wanting More and it’s fantastic video summed up his sound perfectly…

9. Silver Jews created the best lyrical album of the year with Dave Berman’s quirky observations which was displayed on Strange Victory, Strange Defeat

10. The Felice Brothers were a new milenium take on Dylan and The Band but they did it so well.  A fantastic record and a great single in Frankie’s Gun