|James Blake - James Blake|
Atlas/A&M (7 February)
Those who dismissed this much-anticipated debut as the death of a dubstep producer and the birth of a genuine – read: boring – singer-songwriter missed the mark. The looped samples and freeform structures may be mostly gone but, the deep bass-groove rework of ‘Limit of Your Love’ aside, Blake still deals in ideas over songs. The upshot is minimalist, throbbing wee hours murk, decorated with the treated soul of Blake’s voice, and lyrics-as-mantras, repeated to project the emotion lost in the laptop.
Choice Cuts: The Willhelm Scream, Limit To Your Love
|Drive-By Truckers - Go-Go Boots|
PIAS Recording (14 February)
More rustic, leisurely – and frankly, ‘country’ – than the careering alt-rock of its predecessor, Go Go Boots finds the the homely Southern idyll conjured by its music populated with a cast of titillating characters. In a world of small-town hoodlum treachery, Patterson Hood plays empathetic judge and jury, Shonna Tucker the spurned wife – while Mike Cooley maps out the escape route for those wanting more.
Choice Cuts: The Fireplace Poker, Cartoon Gold
|Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo|
Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
Matador (7 March)
Philadelphia troubadour Kurt Vile’s fourth album, his second on US indie stalwart Matador, sees him build on the lo-fi promise of his previous output, firming up sound and structure to deliver a coherent body of brooding alt-folk and tumbling Americana numbers. Song of the year to-date ‘Jesus Fever’ is an instant classic which borrows the chiming dynamism of Wilco’s flightier moments and underpins it with Vile’s world-weary baritone and lyrics which reads like a flippant requiem. “When I’m a ghost I see no reason to run, when I’m already gone” he groans. But there’s life in him yet.
Choice Cuts: Jesus Fever, Ghost Town
|Cloud Nothings - Cloud Nothings|
Wichita (24 January)
Pop-punk or lo-fi? Always too detached and undersold to be the former, and now too carefully produced – and played – to be the latter, 18-year old Cleveland prodigy Dylan Baldi’s debut excites with speed as much as songcraft. Consequently, I prefer to brand him ‘new-thrash’, as for every galloping rhythm and unnervingly indelible melody I often wonder if Husker Du don’t lament a lighter touch.
Choice Cuts: Not Important, Nothing's Wrong
Part 2 of the Best Records of 2011: January, February and March coming up tomorrow...