Monday, 12 December 2011

The Best of 2011

Well, here it is again: my top tracks of the year. And what a selection! Taking in a truly diverse cornucopia of rock, pop, metal, electronica and even classical from as far afield as Japan, North America and Europe, this is a snapshot of what's been sticking in my head this year. My tastes are so catholic there's bound to be something for everyone! I've also been listening to a lot of mix albums recently and so I've tried to sequence the tracks so they flow together as seamlessly as possible. The selection can be downloaded here - I hope you enjoy it.

1. Within Temptation - "Why Not Me" from the album "The Unforgiving"
This brief but potent spoken-word intro starts our selection with a bang.

2. Asp - "Wechselbalg" ("Changeling") from the album "Fremd"
This balls-to-the-wall melodic rocker is one of the most accessible moments to date from the German goths.

3. Martyn - "Popgun" from the album "Ghost People"
Probably the standout track on the Dutch dubstep maestro's eagerly-awaited second album. Anyone who can seriously say that this insanely funky tune doesn't make them want to shake their booty must either be deaf or have limbs made of lead.

4. Royz - "Still" from the single "Alpha"
Boasting one of the rubberiest basslines you are ever likely to hear, this track comes from what is, remarkably, only this young band's fourth ever release. For a band to be producing material of this calibre this early in their career, and to hide it away on a B-side, no less, is nothing short of astonishing.

5. Thursday - "Magnets Caught in a Metal Heart" from the album "No Devolución"
The New Jersey veterans finally transcend "emo" to come into a unique and fascinating style that is wholly their own.

6. Kaya - "Ophelia" from the album "Queen"
Forget Kylie, Gaga and Madonna: the greatest, most beautiful, most heartrending electropop song of the last decade is by a Japanese man in a fantastically elaborate Rococo dress.

7. Christina Lawrie - "Moment Musical No.2" by Sergei Rachmaninov, from the album "Piano: Rachmaninov/Vine/Brahms"
The young Dundonian pianist brings a remarkable deftness and lightness of touch to the Russian maestro's finger-busting masterpiece.

8. Heretoir - "Graue Bauten" ("Grey Buildings") from the album "Heretoir"
Next-gen German "blackgaze" heroes turn in a shattering work of heartbreaking melancholy.

9. Silverstein - "In Memory of..." from the album "Rescue"
The Canadian rockers fail to transcend emo but confirm themselves once again as masters of the form with this anthemic tale of tragedy.

10. Dir En Grey - "Lotus" from the album "Dum Spiro Spero"
The Japanese luminaries prove once again that they are one of the best bands in the world with this incredible chunk of art-metal which adroitly marries beauty and brutality.

11. The Gazette - "Pledge" from the album "Toxic"
The biggest visual kei band in the world moisten the eyes of teenage girls the world over with this gorgeous, heartfelt winter ballad.

12. Lou Reed & Metallica - "Pumping Blood" from the album "Lulu"
The thematic denouement of the year's most surprising collaboration. The final two-and-a-half minutes, where the titular character meets her fate at the hands of Jack the Ripper, is one of the most harrowing musical experiences ever committed to tape.

13. Prurient - "Palm Tree Corpse" from the album "Bermuda Drain"
Without a doubt the most spine-chilling moment on the cult noise artist's first foray into more "traditional" electronica.

14. Aicle - "Hirari" ("Nimbly") from the album "Ark"
When you're feeling down, bring back the sakura season at the flick of a switch with this insanely catchy, sugary pop-rock nugget.

15. Lynch - "Mirrors" from the single of the same name
An absolute piledriver of a song from the Nagoya rockers who justly secured a major label contract in 2010 after years in the underground.

16. Within Temptation - "A Demon's Fate" from the album "The Unforgiving"
The indescribably epic finale of the Dutch symphonic metallers' supernatural vengeance concept album, which came complete with its own comic book series.

17. Ólafur Arnalds - "Ágúst" from the album "Living Room Songs"
Written and recorded in just one day and streamed live from his living room, this elegiac chamber piece is a reminder of why the young Icelandic composer is held in such high esteem.

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