As we hit the summer solstice, it is a good time to reflect on 2011 so far in music. Artists like Radiohead, Fleet Foxes, and Arctic Monkeys are among some of the bigger names that have had a release this year so far, but there are a number of records that may have flown under your radar. Here are five picks to discover or revisit:
Asobi Seksu – Fluorescence [Polyvinyl, 2011] was released back in February and is a perfect compliment to the Brooklyn band’s already strong catalogue. Frontwoman Yuki Chikudate and guitarist James Hanna, take shoegaze as a main ingredient and add generous portions of other influences into a simmering stew. Tracks like latest single, “Perfectly Crystal”, have a bit more edge to them this time around. It is a definite departure from their last full length, 2009′s Hush. The songs enthuastically highlight Chikudate’s crystalline vocals and Hanna’s crunching melodies, which lead the listener to draw comparisons that are more apt to 2007′s Citrus. This is a strong, fun record which is going to sound great during summer drives.
Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi [Domino, 2011] is the debut LP from this English chanteuse. Conjuring up comparisons to fellow Englander PJ Harvey, Anna Calvi adds a heavy helping of guitar prowess into the mix. From the opening riff of “Rider to the Sea” into the excellently arranged, “Desire”, and closing with a powerhouse in “Love Won’t Be Leaving”, Calvi has recorded a remarkable debut. Dubbed, “the biggest thing since Patti Smith” by Brian Eno on BBC’s 6Music, she is off to a great start.
Alex Turner – Submarine EP [Domino, 2011] is the soundtrack to the film of the same name. Turner is proving to be quite prolific as his career moves along. As frontman of the world renowned Arctic Monkeys, Turner has regularly added output to his recording library, and this is the first release entirely under his own name. Turner’s innate ability to tenderly tell a story and provoke emotion is on full display here with tracks like “Hiding Tonight”, poetically providing a piece of the puzzle of teenage love. The film itself is a vividly human portrayal of that subject and Turner’s graceful songs provide a wonderful backdrop. Turner seems to be fully aware of his considerable talent, and it’s apparent that he takes his craft and task at hand very seriously. The songs add to the director’s vision which amplify their effect greatly. If eligible, “Piledriver Waltz” is Oscar-worthy. Comparisons to fellow Sheffielder, Richard Hawley, are apt and should be noted.
Bass Drum of Death – GB City [Fat Possum/Inflated, 2011] is the debut album by the Mississippi duo. Taking the best elements of other guitar-drums duo bands such as The White Stripes and The Black Keys, Bass of Drum of Death set themselves apart with a classic explosion reminiscent of 60s garage classics like the MC5. Aggressive and melodically sound, the duo rip through a series of tracks which would be perfect compliments to any outdoor events. Incendiary and rollicking. “Velvet Itch” is definitely a track that should find prominence in some circles. This is a fun record that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is just a good dose of rock and roll. It should continue getting spins years from now and is another solid debut album this year.
The Sand Band – All Through The Night [Deltasonic, 2011] is the debut album by this Liverpool based five-piece band. Reminiscent of fellow Liverpudlian band The Coral, the band use harmony and melody to their full advantage. Combining several themes throughout the record, it’s a very rewarding listen. Byrds-like in its arrangement, “Set Me Free” is the perfect track to open a strong set of mostly acoustic-based arrangements. The gorgeous ballad “Someday The Sky” is pitch-perfect in its delivery and emotiveness. It’s a wonderful record to begin what is hopefully long and rewarding career for this young band.
This year has begun on a high note. There are many strong recordings that have already been released this year, and if it ended right now, 2011 would be remembered well. Acts like PJ Harvey have released stellar new material, and up and comers like Bon Iver and Marissa Nadler, both have released new records just recently to the publication of this article. So far, so good to 2011.