The Best of 2011: Part Six

Sour Mash Records

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

The breakup of Oasis led to two of 2011’s most hotly anticipated albums – the debut of vocalist Liam Gallagher’s new band Beady Eye, and the first solo outing from his brother, Noel. However, each record was met with different sorts of anticipation. When the Beady Eye release was announced, the eagerness of fans to hear it was more of a manifestation of nervousness for Liam: Could he really make a good album without Noel? Would the remaining ex-Oasis members be enough to fill in the cracks? And for the most part – perhaps because people set their expectations pretty low – it seemed to please fans to a certain extent. But the hubbub surrounding Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds was altogether different, the sort that makes artists nervous. Since Noel has always been viewed as the real force behind Oasis, expectations for his work are set higher; so high, in fact, that it would be pretty easy for someone as supposedly apathetic as Noel to not only disappoint everyone, but to not give a single shit if he did. Fortunately, Noel’s debut finds him completely revitalized outside of the growing trappings of Oasis, and finally back in a place where he can do precisely what he does best – gleefully re-interpret his favorite artists and songs. Melodies of Britpop yore ooze out of every track on the record, most memorably on the gorgeous “If I Had A Gun…” and “AKA…Broken Arrow” (as well as many other titles that include the triple-threat ellipses set). Even Noel has admitted he cannot make himself change musical styles or explore new territories – he writes music that sounds like The Beatles, The Kinks, etc., and that is that. But damn, does he do it well; so well that this first solo album of his will help people to set their expectations even higher for the next go-round. If Noel keeps kicking this much ass, dude better be careful.

NOTE: Chuck Klosterman, one of the greatest music journalists working today, published an amazing interview with Noel on his site recently. Read it HERE.

EMI Records

Das Pop – The Game

Out of all the albums I have written about this year, this one – when compared to the current musical climate – would probably be the closest to a guilty pleasure. It shouldn’t be, but anytime I find myself playing The Game for my friends, I become slightly self-conscious. It’s so glaringly melodic, much more so than almost any modern music, that it comes off as an anachronism. Maybe back when Oasis was in their short-lived heyday, Das Pop’s records would have made sense to the public. But now, a song like “Skip the Rope” sounds so much like a child’s playground tune (which, in hearing it’s 1-2-3-4 countdown chorus, it seems they were going for) and so different from most of the slogging, murmured, non-committal indie rock or even the brainless, looped tirades of pop music that it’s likely people will just make fun of it. Never mind that songs like “Flowers in the Dirt” and “Wronging the Rights” are grade-A quality tunes, so well written and arranged that they could be applied to any genre. Sure, maybe the title track has hooks that ruminate on the Airwolf theme; maybe having a tune called “I Me Mine” is a tad too derivative of the Beatles; maybe the sax part on “Yesterday” seems to be directly lifted from “Baker Street”. But, it’s all in good fun. Das Pop presents a confident mix of Britpop and that moment in musical history when Disco and New Wave overlapped. Since the latter combination finds the band leaning a little more towards the disco sensibilities, however, to some it might sound as if The Game is coming a couple years too late. Personally, I couldn’t give a single shit what’s considered “popular” or “relevant” at the moment; for me, it’s all about the songs, and The Game has a lot of great ones.

Merge Records

Jonny – Jonny

When two songwriters as seasoned as Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci’s Euros Childs team up to make a record, it’s likely that it will be satisfying. But when taken into account how polar-opposite these artists are (Blake is known for his minimalism, Childs for his indulgence), it’s also likely to be challenging. Jonny is a bit of both, but ultimately, satisfaction wins out. For the most part, Jonny presents the softer, folk-inspired styles Blake and Childs have been cultivating in their respective bands’ more recent albums. Blake’s “Circling the Sun” sounds like it could be an outtake from the last Teenage Fanclub record, and Childs’ “Candyfloss” sounds like a combination of some of the more excitable early Gorky’s tracks (many of which were recorded when band members were as young as 16) and the longing sobriety of their later tunes. But throughout the album, Childs’ sensibilities shine brighter – this becomes quite clear with the ten-minute-plus “Cave Dance” which, like much of the worst Gorky’s material, is whimsical without being much fun. Maybe Childs naturally assumed the lead role because he’s the younger and more creatively viral of the two. Maybe Blake, who is not shy about his love for Childs’ music, decided to act as support for Childs’ unbridled prolific tendencies. Though Teenage Fanclub enthusiasts might take issue with Blake’s muted presence here, the songs on Jonny will quench their jangle-pop joneses enough to keep them listening.

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2 Responses to “The Best of 2011: Part Six”

  1. E-bike Says:

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  2. Kelly Arves Says:

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