The Best Of 2011

At the end of 2010 I wrote a blog about all my favourite things from that year. I very much enjoyed doing that so now that we are at the end of 2011, I thought that I would do again.

2011 was another great year for me in terms of music, as I released another single called In Time. Apart from that, progress on my album Parkview in moving along very nicely, albeit pretty slowly. However I now have 9 songs completed and mastered, so I think the light is starting to appear at the end of the tunnel.

Obviously I’m looking forward to reading my blog at the end of 2012, where I’ll have decided to make Parkview a triple concept album, which will take me a further 10 years.

So apart from my own prolific releases, what have been the other highlights?

Albums

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

I’m blown away by how good this album is. I was a big fan of the first Bon Iver album, For Emma, Forever Ago. The songs were beautiful and the whole album had a nice lo-fi production. However for me this second album has moved up to a whole other level. It’s incredible, every song is fantastic and the production is right up my street. If I could make my own album sound this good, I would be a happy man indeed.

Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind Of Fix

This band are so young it makes me slightly weak at the knees, but they are already on to their third album. Them seem to change their sound for each album and I think that on this album they have really found a great sound. The first single from the album was called Shuffle and it’s one of my favourite songs of the year along with another track called Lights Out, Words Gone.

John Grant – Queen Of Denmark

This album was released in 2010, but I only heard of it when the BBC Glastonbury coverage showed John Grant performing the song Sigourney Weaver backstage on the piano. I thought the song was amazing, so bought the album. It’s really fantastic and there are some lovely songs on it with incredible lyrics. I’m so pleased I was watching the BBC that day.

Jon Brion – Meaningless

I’ve been a fan on Jon Brion as a producer for years. Ever since I noticed that a lot of my favourite songs by people including Aimee Mann, Rufus Wainwright, Elliott Smith and Fiona Apple were all produced by him. Meaningless is his only solo album and it was released in 2001. I’ve been trying to get hold of it for years, but I’ve now finally managed to get myself a copy. Thankfully after all that searching, it’s a cracker. The standout songs for me are the title track, Her Ghost and I Believe She’s Lying which contains the fastest and most frantic drumming I’ve ever heard!

Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!

Well I guess most people who know me, know that I a massive Elbow fan. This year they released the follow up to the huge selling and award winning album, The Seldom Seen Kid. Fortunately it would seem that they have let none of this go to their heads, as Build A Rocket Boys! is a fantastic album.

Thomas Dolby – A Map Of The Floating City

After a gap of 15 years, Thomas Dolby returned with an album, tour and online computer game. Thomas has been a musical hero of mine for years, both in terms of his own albums, as well as his production for other people. I was very please that after such a long wait, the album was very good indeed.

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine

When the Mercury Music Prize shortlist is released each year, I always like to listen to all the albums and this album by King Creosote and Jon Hopkins really stood out for me. It’s a collection of folk songs augmented by Jon Hopkins ambient sounds and field recording and it’s beautiful. Despite my own opinions being voiced loudly at the TV, for some reason the judges didn’t award it the prize.

Ed Sheeran +

I first came across Ed Sheeran via a video of him on YouTube performing his song The A Team acoustically, sitting on top of a boat going down a canal. So when he album was released I got a copy and was very pleased when it turned out that to really good.

Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

I bought this album after hearing the song Sophia on the radio. I was well aware of Laura Marling, however I had always found her a little bit too folky for my tastes. The quality of the songs on this album though, is outstanding. I may even be tempted to dip my toe into more folky waters now.

Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys

I’m a big fan of Death Cab For Cutie, however I found their last album, Narrow Stairs to be a bit patchy. So I was quite nervous when I listed to Codes and Keys for the first time. Fortunately I thought it was a real return to form. I particularly like the songs Unobstructed Views and Stay Young, Go Dancing.

Songs

Here are some songs that really caught my ear during the year.

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Gypsy & The Cat – The Piper’s Song

Friendly Fires – Live Those Days Tonight

Chase & Status – Blind Faith

Lissie – Cuckoo

Treefight For Sunlight – Facing The Sun

Noah & The Whale – Give It All Back

Snow Patrol – The Garden Rules

Frank Turner – Wessex Boy

Adele – Don’t You Remember

Gigs & Theatre

Matilda The Music

The combination of a Roald Dahl and Tim Minchin musical seemed like a combination that could not be missed and we were lucky enough to be able to get some tickets. The reality however, was better than anything I could possibly imagined. It’s an emotional roller coaster of tears and laughter with some absolutely incredible music and lyrics. Also the book to the musical by Dennis Kelly contains some changes that take the story from the book to the stage in the most imaginative ways. We’ve already booked to see it again next year. Twice.

The Book Of Mormon

We went on holiday to New York. In the months leading up, I had been trying to get some tickets to The Book Of Mormon, which is the new musical by the creators of South Park and Team America. Sadly it is sold out for months and months and tickets are like gold dust. When we got to New York though, we decided that as the theatre was near where we were staying we would enter their ticket lottery before each performance. Essentially 2 hours before each show you get to put your name into a tombola and they pull out 10 people who can then by a pair of tickets each. On our fourth go, we were the last card to get pulled out and we therefore got to see the show. The show itself was amazingly funny and well worth all the effort to get to see it.

Roger Waters – The Wall

On my wish list of concerts I would like to have gone to over the years is Pink Floyd performing The Wall at Earls Court in 1981. So when Roger Waters announced he was going to be touring the album, I went through a long pre-sale registration process and was lucky enough the get some tickets in the third row at The 02. The spectacle of the show was incredible and at times completely jaw-dropping.

Tim Minchin – Live At The Royal Albert Hall

I was very disappointed that we weren’t able to see Tim Minchin play at The 02 in December 2010, so I was very please when he announced he would be playing The Royal Albert Hall with The Heritage Orchestra in April 2011. The concert was fantastic and hearing his songs with a full Orchestra was wonderful.

Elbow – Terminal 5, New York

It turned out that Elbow would be playing a gig in New York while we were going to be on holiday there. The venue was a much smaller place than they would now play in the UK, so it was fantastic to seem them in a small environment again. It was also wonderful to see that they could completely captivate a crowd in the US just as well as they can in the UK. “Everybody, Hands!”

TV

The Mentalist

I’m not sure why, but I had always been a bit wary of this series, despite lots of people recommending it to me. Perhaps it was a couple of dodgy trailers when it first appeared, that put me off? Anyway this year we finally started watching it. Then we watched it some more. Within no time at all we were hooked and had watched all three series of it. Now I sound my time going around telling people how good it is.

Game of Thrones

I’ve not a huge fan of fantasy writing. So didn’t really fancy this series, based on George R. R. Martin’s books when it first appeared. However my brother and some friends thankfully sold it to me and I’m very pleased they did as it is excellent. I can’t wait for the second season.

Only Connect

I absolutely love the quiz show Only Connect which is on BBC Four. The questions are complex and simple all at the same time and Victoria Coren is a fantastic quizmaster.

Castle

I’ve been a fan of Nathan Fillion for a long time. I’ve loved the TV series Firefly and the film Serenity is one of my all time favourites. However I was a bit nervous about the series Castle. It looked a bit too lightweight. However this year we gave it a go and I was very pleased to discover that it was excellent. Every episode is essentially a well put together whodunit, and that’s fine with me.

Internet

Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

Finally caught up with this internet released project that by Joss Whedon that was completed during the writers strike. It’s a strange little blog/musical, but it packs a surprisingly big emotional punch. It is also responsible for the following…

Commentary! The Musical

The commentary for the release of Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is like no other. It is performed as another musical and it is very good indeed and extremely funny. It also features the song Steve’s Song, which may well be one of my favourite songs of the year.

Films

2011 wasn’t really a great year for films in my opinion, however there were a ferw that I though were great.

Attack The Block

I though that this film, written and directed by Joe Cornish was going to be good fun. However it was much better than that, it had real depth to it. It also featured some really excellent horror moments that were genuinely gruesome.

The Guard

I watched this film on the plane whilst flying to New York. I though that it was very similar in tone to In Bruges, which also featured Brendan Gleeson. It’s a very dark comedy and I thought that it was outstanding.

Bridesmaids

I thought that Bridesmaids would be a slapstick, disgusting comedy at which would make fun on women and their ‘wacky’ behaviour at weddings. However fortunately, it was nothing like that at all. I though it was touching and in places very darkly comedic. Oh and also disgusting.

Books

Caitlin Moran – How To Be A Woman

I don’t seem to read as much as I used to, I never seem to find the time anymore. However I was very pleased that I found the time to read How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran. I found it to be very interesting, moving and laugh out loud funny.

Right, that’ll do. Happy 2012 to you all!

Stephen.

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