Friday, December 16, 2011

The Year in Music: Favorite Album of 2011

#10 - Smith Westerns - Dye it Blonde
  #9 - Peter Bjorn & John - Gimme Some
  #8 - Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer
  #7 - Cults - Cults
  #6 - tUnE-yArDs - W H O K I L L

  #5 - Wild Flag - Wild Flag
  #4 - Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo
  #3 - St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
  #2 - Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

#1 - PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

PJ Harvey is kind of a weird artist for me.  There are bands that create albums that I will buy sound unheard based on how much I love their previous work.  There are bands who create albums that I will check out a few times before purchasing, usually if I'm not altogether familiar with their work.  And there are artists like PJ Harvey.  I have two of her albums, and they're both fantastic.  But I'm never really sure whether I'm going to like the next one.  Part of it is because her style is always changing.  This album sounds absolutely nothing like Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea.  In fact, if you didn't know they were from the same artist, you probably wouldn't be able to tell.  Her voice doesn't even sound the same.

Maybe I just have a thing for concept albums centered around wars.  My favorite album from last year was Titus Andronicus' The Monitor, an album loosely based on the Civil War.  This time around, the Battle of Hampton Roads give way to the battle fought by ANZAC forces in the Gallipoli campaign.  The references to Gallipoli (and war in general) are all over the album.  There are almost too many to list.  She sings about death at Bolton's Ridge on "All & Everyone", and returning to the scene 80 years later in "On Battleship Hill".  

Musically, this is not the album you'd expect from the same woman who produced Rid of Me.  It's more orchestral, not quite as in your face.  It's more of a quiet reflection of the horrors of war and its effect on Harvey's England, kind of a "what hath we wrought" attitude.  I can't really describe why I like this album so much, but it's definitely filled with earworms.  There probably isn't one song that stands out above the rest, and I'd guess that four or five different songs have been favorites at one point or another.  But I suppose that's what makes an album great.  

Here are the first four tracks from the album, in order, plus the sixth track, which may be my favorite song of the moment.  She did really cool videos for the whole thing.

Let England Shake The Last Living Rose The Glorious Land The Words that Maketh Murder On Battleship Hill