I asked some of my favorite musicians from Beirut and beyond, to tell me what their favorite records of 2011 were…
Serge Yared: musician (The Incompetents)
“I start the list by cheating. The album was recorded in 1966-1967, was available as a bootleg but was released officially for the first time this year! As a long-time Beach Boys obsessive I have to put at the top of my list the …
1– SMILE boxset. And by boxset I mean the hardcore one with 5 hours of outtakes and demos. The idea of listening to a work in progress might sound tedious and in most cases it is. But when you have a piece of art that complex being built sonically brick by brick before your eyes (ears, actually – your friendly editor), it takes this game to another level.
2– For the sake of coherence I will include another reissue here: the release of the legendary 1973 concert by the Rolling Stones titled A Brussels Affairs: The Rolling Stones Live In Belgium, only available here… http://www.stonesarchivestore.com/Product.aspx?cp=53655&pc=BGDDRS67 .
This album is a masterpiece of raw energy. The band is literally propelled by Mick Taylor and reaches its zenith with the proto-post rock of “Street Fighting Man”. You can listen to this version on YouTube and you will see the missing link between the Stooges and Spiritualized.
3 & 4– Now the ‘political’ albums: British polls almost unanimously praised PJ Harvey‘s Let England Shake, I preferred its American counterpart, the excellent Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down by Ry Cooder, adapting Woody Guthrie’s protest-song tradition in the late 2000s’ economic crisis context. A highly rich melting-pot mixing pop, rock, mariachi, folk, jazz, reggae, ragtime etc. To me these two albums capture the spirit of 2011 in terms of content and themes.
5, 6 & 7– 2011 marks the comeback of three voices and sounds. Duane Eddy‘s legendary twang guitar sound rejuvenated by Richard Hawley in the excellent Road Trip. In these days of rockab’ revival his style remains unmatched. The second good surprise comes from Kate Bush‘s 50 Words For Snow. This album is totally… off, showing, if need be, another display of her artistic insularity. Kate is in her world: a world preserved from economical and political crises, a world unaffected by contemporary sounds — why should it be, since most contemporary artists try to replicate hers, a world in which collaborating with Elton John is still a good thing. Last but not least 2011 marks the Return of the Sweet Ogre. Tom Waits‘ Bad As Me is an almost perfect album: traditional and experimental, sometimes political, sometimes sentimental and nostalgic: there is something for everyone
8, 9 & 10– I managed to absorb in extremis three contemporary albums that captured the sound of 2011 to me. M83‘ Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Bon Iver‘s and James Blake‘s self-titled albums.
I will definitely listen a lot to M83’s epic double album in 2012. It is in line with the tradition of classic double albums in which each song explores a genre. One can think of course of the Beatles‘ White Album, The Clash‘s London Calling, Stevie Wonder‘s Songs In The Key Of Life, Prince‘s Sign O’ The Times, Bruce Springsteen‘s The River, Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, etc.
I picked an album I admit I won’t listen to very often: it is Bon Iver’s. He forced my respect by (already…) reinventing himself, breaking this loner folky image he built with his first album.
Last but not least, I chose James Blake because he managed to mix perfectly the warmth of white soul with dubstep. He reminded me of Bowie‘s similar effort three decades or so ago to mix white soul with motorik sounds in Station to Station (1976).
11– Forget about Lady Gaga! My favorite pop album is Beyonce‘s 4.
12– Impossible not to cite it. ‘It’ is of course Loutallica‘s Lulu that kept me busy on Facebook for almost two months. A glorious first-degree nadir that could have been totally forgotten had Lou Reed restrained from arrogantly proclaiming it ‘best album ever made’. Reed got used of seeing his albums vilified by the critics before being later re-appraised: it happened with White Light, White Heat, it happened with Berlin, it happened with Metal Machine Music, it happened again with Street Hassle. But no! Lou, it won’t happen with The Raven and it won’t happen with Lulu either, despite its elegiac ending (“Junior Dad”).”