Mainly Genius


The Albums of 2011: Part I

In this ever changing and volatile world there are very few things we can be sure of. Along with the inevitable onset of death, the relentless march of time and planned engineering works, one of those things is the spate of end of year lists around Christmas time. This year is no different and not wishing to disappoint either of the readers of this blog I’ve embarked on my top albums of 2011.

The judging criteria were very simple and each entry had to satisfy two statements in order to be considered. They were –

1)     I have listened to it

2)     It was released in 2011

After these were rigorously applied and a very large number of entries discounted (mostly those released before 2011…), they were ordered based on a simple yet effective final statement, that being ‘how good is it?’. On a separate note, I’ve no idea why there are 11 entries…

This is Part I – you can see Part II HERE, and Part III HERE

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11. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Self-Titled (Released 17th October)

To say that there was intrigue surrounding Gallagher senior’s next move post-Oasis is an understatement. Fans and non-fans alike were keen to see how he would escape the shadow of one of the most successful bands of the Britpop revolution, or even whether he would at all. After immediately dismissing Liam Gallagher’s first effort as a ludicrous pastiche of himself, it became even clearer where the songwriting talent lay in Oasis and the release of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds probably surprised us all, because it was actually very good.

Although it’s no game-changer, Gallagher’s solo debut is an enjoyable and assured effort from the king of Britpop and strays enough away form the arrogance of Oasis whilst keeping that lovable Manc confidence in full flow. Although the lyrics still lack that certain something, it was never really a deal breaker and the eye for a melody that proved so successful in the past has been re-awakened with what seems much fresher orchestration and maturity than that of the past. AKA…What a Life is a measured and catchy tune that unlike, Oasis last album (2008’s Dig Out the Truth) or anything to date by Beady Eye, was written of the course of weeks rather than hours.

Overall, you know what to expect with a Noel Gallagher album, and although …High Flying Birds ticks all those boxes, it also reaches out and ticks a few more. It’s got some moments of genuine excellence and as a whole, shows a man not out for revenge but with a renewed hunger. He’ll never admit it, but Noel Gallagher had something to prove to us in 2011 and with his debut album he’s gone a long way to doing that. The best since 1996 and well worth a listen.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – AKA…What a Life!

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10. Alex Cornish – No Shore (Released 13th June, full review here)

The third effort from the prolific and steadily rising singer-songwriter sees him stick with the same formula that has worked so well in the past and executes with such aplomb that you forget that perhaps it’s one you could’ve heard before.

As an album written, recorded and released in less than a year it sounds excellent and is as polished as many artists with far deeper pockets. Passion and commitment propel the album along and it’s arguably Cornish’s most personal work to date. The ballads are the real strong point and tracks such as Breathe Slow and This is the Point are genuine highlights.

It’s has a significant Mercury Prize feel about it and Cornish’s vocals get stronger with every release. Get the album and say you were there at the beginning – you won’t be disappointed.

Alex Cornish – Breathe Slow

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9. The Boxer Rebellion – The Cold Still (Released 7th February, full review here)

A triumphant return for the darlings of the Mainly Genius blog saw The Boxer Rebellion release their 3rd album in February. Easily taking the award for Grower of the Year, The Cold Still is slow burner that plays on some of the softer elements of their sound, whilst there no mistaking the tumbling drums, falling crescendos and soaring vocals, everything seems softer somehow – as if cased in bubble wrap.

Of course many songs delight including their very credible Pendulum impression on Step Out of the Car and the world-weary and excellently orchestrated ­Locked in the Basement for starters.

But they’ve sold out – there’s no denying it and I wouldn’t like to anyway. Whilst they have taken a step away from the anger of Exits and Union and perhaps lost a handful early fans in the process, the strides they’ve taken in a positive direction are clear and done with such aplomb that The Cold Still shows a good step forward displays that excellent knack for a catchy tune.

I’ve said it before and will say it again – watch out for them at a stadium near you.

The Boxer Rebellion – Memo

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8. Adele – 21 (Released 24th January)

Adele - 21As far as successful years go, 2011 was up there for Adele. After her debut album 19 passed in 2008 with praise but little incident, her follow-up 21 released almost exactly 2 years later caused a few more waves. As well as being the most downloaded album of the year, 21 was no. 1 in 26 countries, certified 12 times platinum in the UK, 5 times platinum in the US, Mercury and Grammy nominated and has sold more than 17 million copies worldwide. It’s fair to say a few people enjoyed it.

And although perhaps I’m a little flippant dear reader, there really is a lot to shout about on 21. The vocal performance is one of the defining features and is so effortless and surprisingly genuine for such a successful album. And that’s a theme that continues from start to finish. Written after the break-up of an 18-month relationship, the lyrics often make you empathise and feel their pain and away from the singles the swagger and revenge on tracks such as Rumour Has It are as enjoyable as that of Rolling in the Deep.

On the surface it came across as a surprise hit, but when you look inside it becomes obvious why 21 sold so well .By combining her huge voice, everyman image and an excellent combination of retro soul and emotion, Adele has produced an excellent pop album apparently loved the world over.

Adele – Set Fire to the Rain

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READ PART II OF ‘THE ALBUMS OF 2011’

READ PART III OF ‘THE ALBUMS OF 2011’

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