Thursday, 29 December 2011

TOP 50 OF 2011: #30 - #21

We continue to scale the heights of 2011's musical talent...

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"Live Those Days Tonight"
Friendly Fires

The first single from the mindblowing "Pala" most definately showcased Friendly Fires 2.0: clubbier, more epic and 10x BIGGER than their debut. Scaling the heights of "Jump in the Pool" but whilst the band partied during the verses and took a breather during the chorus of that song, Ed Macfarlane and crew go from hook to hook in "Live...", huge tribal drumming and a 90s rave vibe ensuring that this was Friendly Fires as you had never heard them before.

"Into the Valley" (feat. Karl Dixon) (Julio Bashmore Mix)

First remix of the list, and continuing with the rave mood, this is a simple but stunningly effective mix that drags Classixx's 80s pastiche "Into the Valley" into the 90s, simply with a funky 3 chord piano motif, and that's all it needs. Euphoric and quite beautiful.

"Fast Challenges"
Chad Valley

The first track we heard off Chad Valley's second EP was definately still chillwave, but it's clear that mastermind Hugo wants to be taken seriously on the dancefloor, and when that beat kicks in at 1.15, and not to mention when the chords hit at 1.32, it's impossible not to be drawn in. The weird beauty of his self-titled EP is still very much alive, but this is by any standards a huge track, and Hugo's voice soars above it. Hell it needs to, the house chords just get bigger and bigger as the track goes on, melodies flying around at all angles. If this is Chad Valley's direction from now on, bring on his full length in 2012.

"Give it All Back"
Noah and the Whale

"Give it All Back" is Charlie Fink's frank and touching account of (we assume) the band's youthful beginnings.
Someone described this as a mix of "Summer of '69" and LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends". This is a freakishly accurate depiction, with it's youthful charm and shamelessly uplifting and anthemic melody, it's the nostalgia anthem of 2012.

"Til Death" (Denzal Park Mix)
Wynter Gordon

The original "Til Death" was a pretty tepid affair, which makes this remix all the more surprising. A stoic verse suddenly breaks into what has to be the biggest pop chorus of the year, complete with lightning strike walls of synth. When Wynter cries "TAKE MY LIFE!" it's as exhilarating on the 100th listen as the first. And I would know, it's at the top of my iTunes most played list.

"The Wilhelm Scream"
James Blake

The only other track on James Blake's self-titled debut that even slightly resembles the sense of commercial melody of Feist cover (cover!) of "Limit to Your Love", "The Wilhelm Scream" was the obvious choice for a second single. However, radio-friendly tactics aside, the track is the nearest thing on the record that shows us a human side to Mr Blake, and there is an air of desperation in his voice as he (comparatively to the rest of the record) cries "I don't know about my love anymore, all I know is I'm falling, might as well fall in". You can tell that his computer can tell that James is close to breaking out of his robotic façade as the track progresses, when the fader is gradually pushed up until ominous cloud-synth chords have swallowed the track, and Blake's voice, whole. An intriguing, and actually quite emotional, listen.

"Give Up The Ghost"

One listen to the introspective and fragile "King of Limbs" and you can feel yourself growing old with Radiohead. On "Give Up The Ghost", a gathering of background Thoms weakly emplore "don't hurt me" on a loop throughout, and his falsetto has rarely sounded more fearful. But there's no sign of angsty, panicky tenor here, ala "Wolf at the Door", this is resigned fear and gentle pleading, and quite honestly, Radiohead has never sounded more beautiful.

"Need You Now"
Cut Copy

On the opener to Cut Copy's fairly epic 3rd record "Zonoscope", singer Dan Whitford begins with a mumble and ends with a desperate cry of "I know we're going crazy, but I need you now". The track does something similar. Opening with the quiet burble of electronics and pads, the track builds and builds and builds upon a hypnotic groove, until a euphoric climax that will dazzle stargazers everywhere. If Cut Copy were once known for providing hook upon hook, its clear they've learnt a better trick. Sometimes a track's payoff can be good enough to warrant a bit of a build up, and what a, WHAT a build up.

"Midnight City"

The first single from M83's "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming" took the 80s movie soundtrack feel from "Saturdays = Youth" to a whole new level. Vangelis pads abound as usual, but this time, the drums pounded out a dance beat Madonna would have favoured and the track features one of the most distinctive vocal hooks of the year, one that won't leave your head for days, nay months. And that saxophone solo at the end is just a stroke of genius.

"Take Me Over"
Cut Copy

On their last record, "In Ghost Colours", cuts like "Hearts on Fire" and "Lights and Music" were indie rave classics that pummelled you with enough gorgeous hooks to last you until their next record, but this time round, the band wants you to LISTEN a bit more, and appreciate the sheer songcraft and love expressed in their music. "Take Me Over" is given the space to breathe and its carefree, wonderful chorus, with all its little vocal adlibs, is virtually sing-song, caressed by a million spiralling synths and a laid back beat that encourages but doesn't force you to dance. Quite simply, it knows it doesn't need to.

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