Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Invisible Province's Top 5 Albums of the Year

Here are some of the albums that The Invisible Province has been listening and grooving to in the past year. A top five, but in no particular order:

1. Raphael Saadiq's Stone Rollin'

Stone Rollin channels the sass of Motown, the funk of Paisley Park and the surf rock of California. But Saadiq achieves this without resorting to retro-soul mush - this is not just another poor imitation of the 1960's but a remaking of all that is glorious and urgent about the soul music of that vintage era. You know you've been here before but Saadiq makes you hear these riffs and melodies with a contemporary ear. Stone Rollin' is an ambitious reinvention of the past that makes you want to celebrate the present.

2. PJ Harvey's Let England Shake

I had the privilege of hearing PJ Harvey perform Let England Shake live at the Royal Albert Hall in November. It felt like I was present at a state of the nation address. It was a remarkable night. An album about war might have referenced Sassoon, Owen & co but Let England Shake is actually in the tradition of Byron, Shelley and Keats at their lyrical and angry best. If you want to hear English songwriting at its best then listen to this exceptional record.

3. James Blake's James Blake

This is an album of inventive sea-saw beats, electronic tics and dissonant auto-tuned vocals. It has a unique sensibility and is unlike anything you are likely to hear in the pop universe. Think Karl Stockhausen jamming with Massive Attack and you're close, but not very close, to the sound.James Blake is wildly beautiful and leaves you in a state of spellbound confusion. This is a truly modern piece of music making - no musical genuflections to the past, but a contemporaneity that is both complex, difficult and riveting. An album very much of the moment.

4. Radiohead's The King of Limbs

Radiohead have never been interested in commercial success and yet, they are one of the world's biggest and most critically acclaimed bands. How to explain this? The King of Limbs goes some way to providing an answer. Radiohead are famous for their unsettling soundscapes - disjointed rhythms, musical interference and Thom Yorke's siren voice. Abstract lyrics allow the listener to fill in the ambiguous gaps. All this is well known. Yet, what is not always recognised is that Radiohead can craft a beautiful melody (see Codex), tease out a bright guitar figure and turn a great pop song....they can also come up with a damn good video.

5. Bon Iver's Bon Iver

Bon Iver's Justin Vernon made a guest appearance on Kanye West's baroque hip hop opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and something of the expansive production values there inform his latest work. This is Bon Iver pimped. For fans of the compelling, For Emma, Forever Ago (2008), the news that Bon Iver have left behind that wintry, bruised feel for a more satuarated sound might be a cause for anxiety. Yet, Vernon's mournful, soulful falsetto remains. The intricately rendered love songs remain. The heartbreaking beauty remains.

and, might as well throw in, The Invisible Province's single of the year...a big, lush slice of romantic pop.

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