Friday, 10 February 2012

Top 5 Songs of 2011

I’ve been rambling on a bit the last few weeks so I’ll try and keep it short and let the music do the talking instead.

1. Laura J. Martin “Spy” – The track that first turned me on to the multi-talented Ms Martin. She has a flute wrangling (© Marc Riley) style that is reminiscent of Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, but her tunes use loop techniques that allow her to layer many instruments and create a wonderfully enthralling sound. Her debut album, "The Hangman Tree",was due out on 23rd Jan (I wrote this post a few weeks ago but will report back on it's undoubted brilliance later) and I’m really hoping to catch her live later in the year.

2. North Sea Radio Orchestra "Heavy Weather" – It's not often you can boast that you got into a band thanks to a recommendation from snooker legend Steve Davis. Steve sat in for Jarvis Cocker on 6music last year and played a fascinating mix of classic & contemporary progressive rock and avant garde jazz. I knew Steve was a big music fan but I was expecting a mix of Northern Soul & 80s dance, based on previous discussion in the media. Steve has been doing a weekly alternative music show on Phoenix FM of Essex for some time now. He played "Berliner Luft" from NSRO's second album "I A Moon" and it intrigued me enough to pick up the album. It’s a brilliant record, a near miss for my top 5 albums, and "Heavy Weather" is it's stand out track. Don't be put off by the Prog tag, NSRO are more than that, elements of folk, electronica, pop and orchestration and a vocalist who has a voice vaguely reminiscent of Kate Bush.

3. Metronomy “The Look” – I'm not sure how I've got so far into my annual round up without mentioning Metronomy already. Their album "The English Riviera" is full of catchy tunes and narrowly missed out on my top five albums. I also caught them live for a pre-Glastonbury warm-up at New Slang in Kingston (for the bargain price of a fiver) and despite going solo, and not feeling 100%, it turned out to be a fun night and a great gig. It had actually taken me a while to fully appreciate them. Marc Riley’s persistent playing of Metronomy bludgeoned their tunes into my head until I gave in and accepted that I liked them.

4. Dutch Uncles “OCDUC” – I find it hard to describe Dutch Uncles without reverting to the phrase "quirky indie prog". Their sound is not the full on seventies progressive template but those bands are definitely an influence. They're another Marc Riley favourite and, like Metronomy, released an excellent album last year which was a definite top five contender. I think I missed seeing these guys support Dananananaykroyd a few years back which is annoying as they’ve fast become one of my favourite bands.

5. Sarabeth Tucek “Get Well Soon” – This is the title track to Sarabeth’s second LP, an album dealing with a period of her life when everything seemed to be going wrong and coming to terms with the death of her father when she was very young. She had been arrested for drunk driving and spent time in jail as a consequence. During a spell cleaning the highway in an orange jumpsuit she began to reflect on where she was going with her life. Once released, she moved to live with her Mother in New York and wrote the album as a way of dealing with her issues.


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