2011 was without a doubt P.J.Harvey‘s year. Let England Shake was the best album by a mile and her interviews and concerts confirmed her as an artist at the top of her game.
Otherwise, this was a year for renewing old acquaintances rather than making fresh discoveries.
The welcome return of Gillian Welch (and Dave Rawlings) was an event and the album proved well worth the eight year wait.
It was also a nice surprise that Charalambides released another Kranky studio work, a belated follow-up to 2007’s Likeness and as consistently excellent as ever.
Irish and English folk were well served by Lisa Hannigan and Marry Waterson.
On the other side of the pond, Wilco, Gang Gang Dance and Six Organs Of Admittance all weighed in with solid albums, Richard Buckner bounced back with a dark and dusty album.
Italy’s prolific Fabio Orsi added another fine work of ambient-drone and Portland, Oregon’s Liz Harris (aka Grouper) produced an ethereal double album which was shamefully missed off The Wire magazine’s Top 50.
Sigur Ròs’ audio-visual record of their concert at Alexandra Palace in London was transcendent.
Kenny Anderson (King Creosite of Fife, Scotland) and Lou Reed profited from inspired collaborations with Jon Hopkins and Metallica respectively. Baltimore’s Future Islands confirmed themselves as the best band in the US right now. David Lynch showed he can be as weird on record as on celluloid.
It was cool to connect with the sublime Magdalene Solis via e-mail and with Donato Epiro in person and to witness the latter’s latest project in the duo Cannibal Movie. It was a blast to explore Big Blood’s back catalogue on the Free Music Archive.
It was sad to see Trish Keenan, Poly Styrene, Ari Up, Amy Winehouse, Don Van Vliet and Bert Jansch go to the great gig in the sky.
I started an Animal My Soul group on Last.Fm, I left e-music after they had committed hari-kari with a website makeover from hell.
And just when you thought it was all over for another year, Pete Swanson produced a stunning album that gives cause for optimism in 2012.
My top twenty favourite albums released in 2011 were:
1. P.J.Harvey – Let England Shake
2. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest
3. Charalambides – Exile
4. Richard Buckner – Our Blood
5. Grouper – A I A : Alien Observer/ Dream Loss
6. Lisa Hannigan – Passenger
7. Marry Waterson & Oliver Knight – The Days That Shaped Me
8. Future Islands – On The Water
9. Magdalene Solis – Hesperia
10. Sigur Ròs – Inni
11. Big Blood – Big Blood & The Wicked Hex
12. Fabio Orsi – Stand Before Me, Oh My Soul
13. Six Organs of Admittance – Asleep On The Floodplain
14. Pete Swanson – Man With Potential
15. King Creosite & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine
16. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
17. Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu
18. Wilco – The Whole Love
19. David Lynch – Crazy Clown Time
20. Cannibal Movie – Cannibal Movie