tUnE-yArDs tUnE-yArDs… Spoiler alert

Rocksucker’s Top Ten Albums O’ 2011

Published on December 26th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams

“How could you miss out X, Y and Z??” Because this is Rocksucker‘s list, not yours. We’d still love to know what soundtracked your year though, so please have your say in the comments section at the bottom of the page. In the meantime, here’s a 10-1 countdown of what soundtracked ours (not including The Beach Boys – SMiLE and Dave Davies – Hidden Treasures; let’s give the young ‘uns a chance to shine)…

10. Deerhoof – Deerhoof vs Evil

Simply another great Deerhoof album, full of the usual life-affirming pop moments shining forth amidst the cacophonous experimentalism. A glorious oddity of a band that should not be taken for granted. Click here to read our interview with Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier.

9. Fruit Bats – Tripper

A mini masterpiece of sunset nostalgia, deceptively sophisticated melodies and the kind of sweet-toothed feelgood factor that’ll have you listening last thing at night and belting out your own renditions first thing in the morning. Click here to read our interview with Fruit Bats main man Eric D. Johnson.

8. Gruff Rhys – Hotel Shampoo

One of the truly great songwriters of his age delivers yet again with a collection of songs that, while low on surprises, are addictive, luxurious and blessed with an understatedly colourful production which unfurls and beguiles with each listen. Click here to read our review of Gruff Rhys’ October show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.

7. Future Islands – On The Water

As we said in October: “As the album’s title suggests, the ocean features prominently in its overall sound, be it literally through actual field recordings or suggested by those big ol’, reverb-soaked synth riffs, which somehow seem to ripple in the mix like a skimming stone and accentuate the pastel-like yellows and blues that make Future Islands sound like…well, some kind of futuristic island.” Sensational stuff, at once heartbroken and almost impossibly romantic, with one of the most distinctive singers around. Click here to read our interview with Future Islands.

6. Chad VanGaalen – Diaper Island

The Calgary singer-songwriter’s fourth album impressed us sufficiently to describe it in the following terms when we reviewed it in June: “It exists in the same velvety smoke-haze as such similarly timeless recent records as The Clientele’s Strange Geometry and The Shins’ Oh, Inverted WorldDiaper Island is ideally placed to be a nocturnal summer soundtrack, a quirkily nostalgic odyssey of smoky reverie perfect for flinging on after lying about in the sun with a chilled bottle or three of festival-strength cider.” Click here to read the full review. 

5. Cornershop – Cornershop and the Double ‘O’ Groove Of

A full album’s worth of material showcasing the honey vocals of Bubbley Kaur, Messrs Singh and Ayres left behind the triumphant, psych-tinged rock and roll of 2009’s Judy Sucks A Lemon For Breakfast and unleashed a wonderfully textured and diverse form of beatsiness that was idly summarised as hip-hop but in truth took in so much more. As addictive and intuitively ingenious as ever. Click here to read our interview with Cornershop main man Tjinder Singh.

4. Crewdson – Gravity

In our June review, we said: “Gravity, the debut album from South East London producer Hugh ‘Crewdson’ Jones, is all of the following things: bubbly, fizzy, crinkly, tinkly, technicolour, strangely familiar, sleekly psychedelic, glitchy, jazzy, rushing, pounding yet jerky, beamed in from outer space, utterly brilliant.” Combining melodically manipulated ‘found sounds’ with flashes of Karl Hyde-esque vocals and sassily restrained saxophone, Gravity came to us as a bolt from the blue and we eagerly await this guy’s next move. Click here to read our full review of Gravity.

3. The Dø – Both Ways Open Jaws

“Monumental psychedelic wonderland… Modern experimental pop music at its most enchantingly confounding”, we said last month of the French-Finnish duo’s second album, and frankly that should be enough to have you scrabbling for your Spotify or whatnot. A diverse collection that ranges from nocturnally spellbinding twinkledom to stomping Mount Olympus majesty and baroque chamber-pop, the only bad thing to come out of it is that it cranks up the expectation levels for album three to quite daunting amounts. This, however, is the sound of a band that’s more than equipped for such a challenge. Click here to read our full review of Both Ways Open Jaws.

2. The Stepkids – The Stepkids

“…on which soul-infused psych-pop, equal parts sixties acid trip and seventies porn soundtrack, suddenly sounds like the natural next step in the evolution of popular music. And, for all their sophisticated retro influences, that’s just what The Stepkids are: a highly-evolved pop band. The all-too-pervasive greyness of modern guitar music is blown away like so many Converse-clad cobwebs by this spectacular debut album.” That’s what we said when we reviewed this, and we should also add that their debut UK show at London’s Cargo in August was quite possibly the most impressive live performance we witnessed this year. There better be much more to come from these guys because, frankly, the world needs them. Click here to read our review of The Stepkids and here to read our interview with them.

And Rocksucker’s Album O’ 2011 is…

1. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

It’s a safe bet that Merrill Garbus can scarcely believe the year she’s just had. Starting 2011 as a relative unknown with just one album of lo-fi recordings under her belt – namely 2009 debut Bird Brains – she now ends it with universal acclaim for an astonishingly fully-realised sophomore effort, a guest appearance with Plastic Ono Band and, most significantly of course, the honour of being the maker of Rocksucker‘s Album O’Year (which, as we all know, is far more prestigious than not being the maker of Rocksucker‘s Album O’Year).

Thumping beats, brain-frazzling loop pedal wizardry, sharp lyrics, one helluva voice and a truly remarkable way with weaving melodies: w h o k i l l is blessed with all of these things yet still finds the time to take your breath away with such moments of shimmering, understated beauty as “Powa”, gloriously evidencing the adaptability of this unique – yes, unique – talent. What’s more, her rapturously received show at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen in September suggests that Garbus is well-placed to make waves on this side of the pond, where her flamboyant showmanship and humble onstage banter should charm festival-goers no end.

Let’s not beat around the bush here; if tUnE-yArDs looked, dressed and acted like Beyonce or Lady Gaga then she’d be a worldwide phenomenon. If she is destined to live in their shadow despite her vastly superior artistic talent, then it’ll be as damning an indictment on modern youth culture as you could care to proffer. 
In 2011, Merrill Garbus announced herself to be a true star. Now it’s up to the rest of the world to catch up with her. Click here to read our review of tUnE-yArDs’ September show at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen.

Honourable Mentions:

Ben CarriganThe Greatest Narrators
Canon BlueRumspringa
DrugstoreAnatomy
Elbowbuild a rocket boys!
GomezWhatever’s On Your Mind
Jon FratelliPsycho Jukebox
Marble ValleyBreakthrough
ModeselektorMonkeytown
Oh LandOh Land
Stephen MalkmusMirror Traffic
WATERSOut in the Light

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About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.