(Firstly, excuse the sub-par formatting, layout and design. Still getting to grips with things!) 2011 is 3 days from extinction and it was certainly an eventful one...
London was nearly burnt to the ground, Colonel Gaddafi was killed, Jimmy Saville died and Peter Andre, unfortunately... didn't. In the midst of so much upheaval, unrest, eventfulness and smug-faced, oil-chested Antipodal vileness, the U.K. needed a wonderful distraction. To my mind the most sensational, life-affirming lift one can get is from music.
Music has the potency to heal relationships, ease depression, soothe the soul, and unite people. It is sad, therefore, that there was really nothing on offer from the past year, that lived up to music's grand potential.
On the plus side, there were some spectacular offerings. Adele flew the flag proudly for Britain with '21': an album fuelled by thought-provoking, emotional songs and a sensational voice running through each. One of my favourite bands, Wild Beasts, capitalised on the success of 'Two Dancers' with 'Smother': a continuation of form that demonstrated vast maturity, sensuality and surprise, cemented by Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming's encapsulating vocal performances. The Arctic Monkeys, minus Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme in the captain's seat, produced another impressive album with the reliable mix of Alex Turner's mind-bending wordplay and the band's inimitable workmanship (most noticeably on 'Piledriver Waltz’).
The year was also significantly enhanced by musical output from female artists as well. In addition to Adele, Kate Bush returned with '50 Words For Snow' (her second offering of 2011)- showcasing why she is still one of the most revered artists of her generation. Bjork also came up trumps with 'Biophilia', a sensational departure from 2007's Volta, that kept in tact her unique blend of eccentric phrasing, superb lyricism and that voice. This album, along with P.J. Harvey's (Mercury Prize-winning) 'Let England Shake', kept critics and music fans salivating, and provided a small flicker of light, in an otherwise underwhelming year.
To emphasise my point, my favourite album of 2011, Tom Waits' 'Bad As Me' didn't arrive until October of this year. In addition Radiohead released 'King of Limbs', one of the most disappointing albums I have ever heard. After the wonders provided in 2007's 'In Rainbows' hope was very high, but alas, to no avail. It seemed like it was a year of missed opportunities and been-there-seen-it-done-it music. Hmmmm! Anyway, to 2012... There is hope!
It seems that albums rumoured for the coming year could break the curse of mediocrity that has pervaded the music scene as of late. Muse return with a new album, hoping to best the rather average 'The Resistence'. I have always been a huge fan and expect their 6th album to be a return to the form shown in 'Black Holes and Revelations'. Arcade Fire have been rumoured to be releasing new material, as have Radiohead. As anticlimactic as 'TKOL' was, new material being aired on YouTube and the like shows real potential and gives fans such as me, something to really savour.
As well as all of that to look forward to there are going to be fresh releases from Alice In Chains, Paul Macartney, The Maccabees, and most excitingly, The National. Here is a band I was unaware of until nary a few months ago, and have rued my ignorance. I was surreptitiously introduced to them via a friend of mine and have been frantically catching up for lost time. My personal favourite album of theirs 'High Violet' highlighted why they are so renowned amongst fans and critics alike. In terms of their lyrics they cut to the heart like no other band and no matter who you are they seem to speak for and to you. Songs such as 'England' and 'Bloodbuzz Ohio' I found particularly mesmerising. It seems now, after a 2-year hiatus and equip with fresh ambition and the best drummer in indie music, they are back. Two new songs have debuted on YouTube. 'Rylan' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hf02SGcMPvo) and 'I Need My Girl' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSEPs3r1yMk&feature=relmfu) were performed live at the Glenn Gould Studio and they sound, well... marvellous. Although they are both in their infancy and a little rough-around-the-edges, they hint at a potential frontrunner for 2012's album of the year. Both tracks are quite melodic and serene, but dripping with emotion and tenderness.
So then, things seem bright. We are in the middle of a warm winter, we have the Olympic Games and the Diamond Jubilee to look forward to , and now it seems, a slew of great albums and new acts. So long as London stays free from brainless arsonists, mindless terrorism is kept to a minimum, and the economy starts to dig its way from the grave then the next year could be one to remember. And hey who knows, maybe Mr. Andre and Katie Price will reconcile, take a romantic hot air balloon ride during a thunderstorm and...
Well, one can hope!