We do realise that it’s been close to a month since we’ve entered 2012, but somehow some of us at Cherwell Music keep looking wistfully back at 2011. To kick off Cherwell Mixer for 2012, and provide you with some listening material before the slew of upcoming releases, we take one final glance back at some of the best (and most interesting) singles of last year.
‘Shake the Shackles’ – Crystal Stilts
We begin with the opening single of New York noise rockers’ 2011 release for Slumberbland, In Love With Oblivion. The perfect mix of jangly discord and irrepressible, earworm-riffs.
‘Ice Cream’ – Battles ft. Matias Aguayo
Having lost their vocalist Tyondai Braxton, Battles was liberated to make the sugary delight that is Gloss Drop. ‘Ice Cream’ is the pièce de resistance, an ecstatic romp expertly accompanied by Chilean guest vocalist Matias Aguayo.
‘The Look’ – Metronomy
Metronomy surpassed already lofty expectations with the sleek, synthy, and unquestionably catchy release of The English Riviera, of which ‘The Look’ is the prime example: pure pop genius.
‘Lion’s Share’ – Wild Beasts
Wild Beasts are now three for three, after hotly-anticipated third album Smother was released to near universal acclaim. The Kendal quartet has always explored the dark yearnings of male desire, and ‘Lion’s Share’ takes it to predatory excess: “I take you in my mouth, like a lion takes his game.”
‘Misery’ – Veronica Falls
To label London C86-throwback quartet Veronica Falls mere mimicry would be unfair: theirs is a luscious, nostalgic sound, but wholly their own. ‘Misery’ is fairly self-explanatory: melancholy encapsulated, amidst plenty of heart-tugging guitar jangles.
‘Cruel’ – St. Vincent
‘Cruel’, to be a little hyperbolic, is rapturous: distorted hooks, thudding bass, and Annie Clark’s gorgeous layered vocals, racing along in shambolic glee. Did we mention there’s a guitar solo too? There’s a guitar solo too.
‘French Exit’ – The Antlers
For those needing respite post-St. Vincent, worry not. The Antlers‘ Burst Apart, 2011 follow-up to the widely adored Hospice, is rather less forlorn, but nevertheless retains a unique beauty, of which ‘French Exit’ is a excellent example.
‘The Noose of Jah City’ – King Krule
Nobody has quite worked out who exactly King Krule is yet. He appears to be a 17-year-old British producer/singer, who looks even younger on his press photos. But does it really matter? ‘The Noose of Jah City’ is too good to ignore: a spacious, syncopated jam topped with Krule’s preternaturally mature vocals.
‘Space Is Only Noise You Can See’ – Nicolas Jaar
An anomaly within the mostly tranquil, ambient works of Space Is Only Noise You Can See, Nicolas Jaar’s title track features one of the most thumping bass lines of the year. An impossible listen without at least some head bobbing – just try it.
‘The Words That Maketh Murder – PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake, deserving winner of this year’s Mercury Prize, is a beautifully crafted thing – a mournful ode to England and the ravages of war. ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’ stands out even amid Harvey’s majestic suite: rippling guitars, lamenting vocals, cut with bitter lyrical irony.
‘Better Off Without You’ – Summer Camp
Summer Camp’s ‘Better off Without You’ was undoubtedly one of the summer’s most pitch-perfect singles. It’s got it all: the sound, the hook, and the teenage drama of a John Hughes flick. Elizabeth Warmley’s voice is oh-so-satisfyingly derisory as she tells an imaginary jilted ex-lover that “if you said you’re never calling back, I’d be so happy.”
‘I Can’t Compete’ – Balkans
Criminally overlooked this year, Balkan’s self-titled debut was the perfect amalgam of bouncing, jangling, punk-influenced pop. Breakneck single ‘I Can’t Compete’ has it all: gutsy, teenage longing in the vocals, and guitar hooks to die for.
‘Ritual Union’ – Little Dragon
One of the year’s most overtly sensual releases was Swedish synthpop quartet Little Dragon’s Ritual Union, whose title track is an exercise in warm electronics and soulful longing, courtesy of Yukimi Nagano’s stunning voice.
‘Stop’ – Twin Sister
Those who detected funky undertones in the sleepy dream pop of Twin Sister’s debut EP were vindicated in 2011’s full-length Bad Street. ‘Stop’ certainly doesn’t drop the band’s dreamy heritage, but its delightful girl-boy call-and-response and syrupy strings are lovingly inflected with shuffling, irresistible syncopation.
‘Mer’ – Chelsea Wolfe
Eager categorisers have been busy throwing labels at Chelsea Wolfe – ‘goth rock’, ‘doom folk’ – but, truth be told, none can adequately describe her appeal. Dripping with menace, Wolfe’s voice combines with the growling guitar and bass of ‘Mer’ for a resonant, booming catharsis.
‘Raconte-Moi Une Histoire’ – M83
Of M83’s effusive, sonically overflowing double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Jayson Greene wrote that “If a sound has ever made you break out into a foolish, cheesed-out grin you couldn’t suppress, it’s probably here.” ‘Raconte-Moi Une Histoire’ is an obvious case in point.
‘Lay Myself Down’ – Mazzy Star
Few anticipated the abrupt return of 90’s alt rockers Mazzy Star in 2011, but their welcome was warm following the quiet release of the ‘Lay Myself Down’, a tender ballad featuring the peerless, husky tones of Hope Sandoval. Expected a full-length in the year.
‘The Daily Mail’ – Radiohead
Although the long-awaited Radiohead album of 2011, The King of Limbs, fell somewhat short of wild expectations, the steady stream of remixes, singles, and basement tape released by the band in the following months have abated the disappointment. ‘The Daily Mail’, in particular, is a gorgeous, haunting return to form.
Mixer: Farwell to 2011 is also available on Spotify – click here to load the playlist.