Top 10 Albums: Ed Vallance
The next artist giving us his Top 10 Albums of 2011 is Ed Vallance, a New York-by-London-based songsmith who impressed us with his debut EP last year and then again with his Volcano LP this year. Vallance has a varied taste and reveals some real gems here, headed by a beautiful Kurt Vile album.
1. KURT VILE – Smoke Ring For My Halo
I saw Kurt Vile play at Webster Hall a few weeks ago and I was totally floored. He has this incredibly nonchalant delivery and such genius lyrics, and the live show was ace. He uses his hair like a weapon onstage and it’s pretty hypnotising to watch. ‘Jesus Fever’ is probably my favorite song of 2011 and for that song alone he tops the list.
2. PURSE SNATCHERS – A Pattern Language
This is the home-recording project of Doug Marvin (Black Acid, Dirty On Purpose) and his wife Annie Hart (Au Revoir Simone). The music has a real function: I put it on first thing in the morning and it acts like a caffeine substitute. Hard to place but it feels a little like Sparklehorse with Neu beats. Magical and very addictive.
3. PJ HARVEY – Let England Shake
Let England Shake is kind of a concept album, a well-aimed dig at England’s history of war mongering. It takes real guts to make a record like that. And it’s not only very brave it’s also very, very good. I have to admit I didn’t have a lot of time for last year’s White Chalk but I’ve had this one on repeat for about four months.
4. DEERHUNTER – Halcyon Digest
I’m really in awe of Bradford Cox because he’s so prolific and the quality of his output is always so high. He’s fronting this amazing alternative rock band and he’s got Atlas Sound in his back pocket too. Not easy to pull off. The songs on Halcyon Digest are more skeletal and accessible than the ones on Microcastle and the first single Helicopter is one of my favorites this year.
5. BILL CALLAHAN – Apocalypse
In this age of echo and reverb-drenched vocals Bill Callahan ignores both and still comes up smelling of roses. On this album, the stand out track for me is America! When he chimes in with the lyric: ‘Everyone’s allowed a past they don’t care to mention’ I’m completely sold. Genius is not an over-statement.
6. J MASCIS – Several Shades Of Why
This probably isn’t the most original choice for a 2011 round up. But I still stand by it because from the moment I bought the record (yes, I actually did buy it) I’ve not been able to stop listening to it. When I heard Dinosaur Jr. play at SXSW one year it was a great show but you could not hear a single word. So it’s good to hear his voice out in front on his solo stuff. The songs are stark and vulnerable and he just nails the croaky delivery every time.
7. I BREAK HORSES – Hearts
I know this band have been criticised for being too much in debt to My Bloody Valentine. And maybe they are. But they gaze a good shoe and for that reason I find myself not caring very much who their influences are. Hearts is a Nineties nostalgia trip but the lush vocals and drum machines had me from the get go.
8. ANNA CALVI – Anna Calvi
The voice and (I’ll admit it) the face of Anna Calvi make a pretty convincing team. And she’s not lazy on the guitar either. I watched the video for ‘Desire’ and was in a kind of trance for days afterwards. She’s had a lot of comparisons to Nick Cave which I think are unfair because she has a style which is all her own. Can’t wait to hear what she comes up with next.
9. DIRTY BEACHES – Badlands
A friend took me to see Dirty Beaches at Mercury Lounge recently. The lead singer looks like a kind of Asian James Dean and people were practically swooning in the front row. He sings through a tiny, little overdriven microphone and his band mate blows his saxophone through an echo unit. Which on paper sounds rubbish but in practice sounds amazing.
10. KATE BUSH – 50 Words For Snow
Any record that includes a duet with Elton John is flawed in my humble opinion! But I still love this one. 50 Words For Snow has a magical quality that reminds me of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman, the animated movie they play every Christmas in the UK. You’ve got to admire Kate Bush for pissing off for ten years, then coming back with Aerial. And now this! She has a pretty terrifying talent.