Albums of 2011: Johnny Feeney’s Picks

Last week I posted my list of top 25 albums of 2011. Needless to say there was a lot of great albums missing from that list which I had neglected to include or had not heard over the course of the year. 

This week its the turn of my frequent gig-going accomplice and foreign correspondent who covered Primavera, Johnny Feeney, to pick three albums from 2011 which were so criminally overlooked. Take it away Johnny!

Other Lives  – ‘Tamer Animals’

This second album from Other Lives, multi-instrumental 5-piece indie band from Oklahoma, is a moody, atmospheric affair. Densely layered and highly cinematic in tone, the mood changes breathlessly between haunting despair and, if not exactly joy, well at least the uplifting hope of something better to come.

The lush arrangements of ever-changing guitars, sweeping strings, blazing horns, twinkling keys, driving percussion and soaring harmonies propel the songs forward without ever feeling forced or becoming bloated. Repeated listens are rewarded with more and more revealed each time. But for a rather weak closing pair of songs, it could justifiably be labelled a masterpiece. An album to get lost in.

 Other Lives – As I Lay My Head Down

Veronica Falls – ‘Veronica Falls’

Rousing indie-pop is the name of the game on this debut album from London band Veronica Falls. The styles vary throughout – from the garage rock of ‘Beachy Head ‘ and ‘Found Love in a Graveyard’ to the surf-pop of ‘Misery’ to the beautiful girlgroup-esque ‘The Box’. The wonderfully triumphant closing track ‘Come On Over’ manages to fuse all these styles together into what has to be one of the tracks of the year.

The subject matter may not be the cheeriest (‘Misery is coming over me, Misery my old friend’, for example) but the jangling guitars, cheery harmonies and catchy, hook-laden riffs make for a highly enjoyable listen. Nothing in here is groundbreaking but what Veronica Falls do, they do very well. And clocking in at 36 minutes, this is a record that doesn’t outstay its welcome.

  Veronica Falls – Come On Over

Laura Marling – ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’

Not resting on her laurels after releasing last year’s critically acclaimed ‘I Speak Because I Can’, Marling came back with an even stronger set of songs for this her third album. Though still primarily a folk singer-songwriter, Marling successfully drifts into the previously unchartered territory of country rock and Americana while adding more punch to her music and more bite to her lyrics. The snarling electric guitars in ‘The Beast’ will testify to that.

In ‘Sophia’, Marling has written her strongest song to date. A brutally raw break up song, Marling sings “I’m a good woman and I never did say whatever it was that you did that day”, trusting the person (possibly Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons – they split late last year) will get their just desert on Judgement Day.  At the tender age of 21 and with three very fine albums already under her belt, Marling has set the bar unbelievably high for herself. It would be no surprise should she surpass herself once again.

 Laura Marling – Sophia

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