Late last year Darren Hayman posted on Facebook that Fortuna POP!’s white middle aged men roster, which he is proudly part of, was in fine form, with imminent releases from Pete Astor, formerly of 1980s band The Weather Prophets, and Steven Adams, ex-The Broken Family Band.
On reading this it was the first time I’d even considered that Adams actually middle aged given the youthful twinkle in his eyes. Even his cynicism, displayed lyrically and with his sardonic wit on stage, is often that of a cheeky teen rather than a depressed old man.
Here, on what is perhaps his first ‘middle-aged’ release, he casts his eye over his and his fans’ advancing years but still with a youthful twinkle. For example on Togetherness, about the appalling way too many British people treat those from other countries, the delivery is far from preachy or serious, instead its cheekily accompanied with one of the album’s most upbeat melodies.
And on Ideas, another standout track, the self-deprecating tone of a middle aged man desperately trying to save a relationship with ideas that have not yet formed could easily apply to a teen. Perhaps it could also be about the performer Adams, urging his audience to stay with him as well.
This tongue in cheek look at aging is perhaps best shown on The Back of the Bus as the young care free teens shouting from the back of a bus are transported into middle-age where “now, it’s just massage music”.
Musically, this is a more low key sound than his full band Singing Adams indie pop project of recent years but more slickly produced than his last solo outing, 2013’s House Music, which was recorded in his living room. With studio production from Dan Michaelson this feels very much like a solo album that allows the lyrics to shine and is perhaps his best release since his Broken Family Band days.
by Joe Lepper
To buy Steven James Adams – Old Magick click here.
The press release describes this debut from London quintet The Leaf Library as “wonderfully-woozy, drone-pop about meteorology”. The reality though is a hit and mostly miss album that at best can be compared to one of those nothingy, cloudy days where the most exciting weather development is a slight breeze or a bit of drizzle.
It is difficult to capture the sparse magic of Young Marble Giants, the sense of atmosphere created by Talk Talk or the subtle, fuzzed up melodies of Yo La Tengo. Nevertheless The Leaf Library make a stab at sounding like all three, with pretty poor results.
Opener Asleep Between Stations drifts along pleasantly without ever really reaching its destination, while Tilting offers slightly more promise with trumpets coming in, but never raises itself above Broken Social Scene album filler status.
Acre is a six-minute master class of anti-climax that sadly is just plain boring, while Sailing offers little more. My notes just say “dull, dull, dull” for this one.
Pushing/Swimming fares little better, sounding like a real mess, particularly the percussion. It’s a bit like a Cocteau Twins gig that inexplicably is being held in a secondary school woodwork class.
But occasionally they nail it. Slow Spring has some nice guitar picking, not intricate enough to garner a “wow” but nice enough. Rings of Saturn has a great guitar hook and is the only really good track on an album that has borrowed too much from other bands and offers nothing new.
Leaf Library are clearly yet to find their own voice but Rings of Saturn at least offers hope that there’s an interesting band in there somewhere.
After eight years of fun live shows, five albums and genre crossing pop the Broken Family Band called it quits in 2009.
For their passionate fanbase it was a sad moment. A band whose back catalogue was packed full of catchy songs skipping merrily across indie, rock, folk and Americana and all glued together by frontman Steven Adams’s clever, witty lyrics was no more.
The Broken Family Band
In the great annals of music, whatever they may be, Broken Family Band will be lucky to get a footnote but that doesn’t make this compilation album any less important. In fact, listening back to these tracks this is just about the most essential album I can currently think of for any collection. Sure, they never fully captured their live spirit on disc. But the songs here are nevertheless awesome pop, bittersweet but never sad, and fun without ever straying into parody. Take Living in Sin, about falling in love with a Satanist, there is just the right balance of comedy and sorrow. On For Milton Mapes they set the template for John Grant’s magnificently melancholy solo work.
As a collection this hits the nail on the head. All their fan’s favourites are here from Hey Captain, with its indie rock breakdown midway through, to the electric guitar pop of At the Back of the Chapel, its got tracks that seem familiar, but never stormed the charts or garnered huge radio play.
But as the compilation moves along the country twinge becomes more of a full twang and it seems clearer how they were getting increasingly hard to pigeon hole and market.
An appreciation of whether you are a Broken Family Band kind of person will probably best lie in final track John Belushi, which for me perfectly encapsulates their blend of laughter with sadness and pop with country.
So, our advice is buy this as a perfect tribute to one of Britain’s best bands you may not have heard of. And if you like it then delve into their full albums, where tracks such as Michelle from the album Balls, Cocktail Lounge from Welcome Home Loser and Hello Love’s Dancing on the 4th Floor await.
By Joe Lepper (with additional material from Eve Lepper)
Steven Adams, songwriter and frontman of Singing Adams, loves to muck around with words. On Moves, the second album by the former Broken Family Man’s indie pop focused act he plays around with clichés, messes with metaphors and delivers another set of bittersweet tales of relationships and life.
Most often he clearly delights in taking a familiar saying, digging a little deeper, adding a bit of realism and suddenly making these cozy words feel a little more sinister.
Take the track London Trocadero for example and lines such as “we try and keep our heads above water” before adding “we keep on ducking under.” The chorus also plays on this theme when he sings “I think it’s the end of the world, or its a joke I never got. Is it funny because its true or funny because its not?”
In promoting this album Adams is keen to point out it is an attempt to “make a London album.” In many ways he’s succeeded, with the tracks full of images of tiring commutes across the capital, in particular the images of trains on Theme from Moves and the social media references in Building A Wall.
There’s also some fine indie pop here, as there was on the band’s 2011 debut Everybody Friends Now, with this latest album featuring two killer singles, the jaunty Good Luck and the downright raucous Dead End.
But while these are great songs, it is the slower, more maudlin tracks that are the most interesting on Moves, with the slow electro pop of London Trocadero and the piano ballad What Happens Now, standing out in particular.
When we caught their live show in Bristol in September 2011 they delighted in playing word games with the crowd in between songs. This love of playing with lyrics coming across far stronger on this album than the band’s debut.
And as with the slower tracks on this album it was the tender, final song of the set St Thomas, from Adams’s solo album Problems (2008) that was recorded under the Singing Adams name, that stood out more than the indie pop.
We have to admit the year started badly in terms of album releases. By March we were struggling to think of more than a couple of excellent album releases let alone begin a shortlist of 20.
Then winter turned to spring and the flood gates opened with new bands emerging and some old stagers reliving their glory days and in some cases bettering them. We have our first ever classical music entry in an end of year album list, some great new UK folk music and a staggering achievement in song writing by one familiar face in our end of year lists.
We’ve even found room for an album about 1970/80s wrestling by one of the music industry’s funniest and most caustic writers and artists.
In the end its turned out to be a pretty fine year for releases, as two of the biggest names of 1990s alternative music battle it out for our top two places. Get your bus fare ready, prepare to race down to your local independent record store, and enjoy Neonfiller.com’s Top 20 Albums of 2011.
20. Johann Johannson – The Miners’ Hymns
In a year of public sector cuts, strikes and the Gleision mining tragedy this soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson to Bill Morrison’s mining documentary of the same name helped it become our first classical music entry in an end of year list. The haunting and powerful music he creates to depict the brutal hardships of the industry and the chaos of the 1984 strike were recorded live at Durham Cathedral, which gives it added gravitas. Read our full review here.
19. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
This Texan band’s follow up to its critically acclaimed previous albums The Stage Names and The Stand Ins brings more fire and bite to their sound as frontman Will Sheff took co-production duties. At times cinematic, at others indie rock not one of its 11 tracks are skippable. Among are highlights are opener The Valley and one of its singles Wake Up and Be Fine. Read our full review here.
18. John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves
Former Ariel Pink collaborator John Maus has plunged deep into the murky waters of the early 1980s to deliver one of the most stark, fascinating and strangely enjoyable slices of synth pop you will hear all year. Among our highlights on this, his third album, is the track ‘Cop Killer’. Read our full review here.
17. The Leisure Society – Into The Murky Water
This second album by The Leisure Society gives us the urge to jump in our Neon Filler branded Morris Minor, dress up in our Prisoner gear and take a dip in the murky waters of Bognor Regis or Portmerion, stopping off for some fish and chips and a pickled egg. This eccentric, most English of albums was one of the highlights of our summer. Read our full review here.
16. Timber Timbre – Creep on Creepin On
Featuring core multi-instrumentalist members Taylor Kirk, Mika Posen and Simon Trottier this peach of an album by Canada’s Timber Timbre seems to inhabit another universe where 1950’s B-movie soundtracks and dirty rock and roll rule supreme. It’s a strange mix that works thanks to Kirk’s soulfully odd (or should that be oddly soulful) vocals and the added instrumentation of pianist Mathieu Charbonneau and saxophonist Colin Stetson to add to its vintage charm. Read our full review here.
15. Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell – Kite
Just like the Mercury nominations we like to feature a new folk act in our end of year round ups. This year’s slot goes to the excellent Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell. Nominated for a 2011 BBC Folk horizon award, given to emerging new talent, they have clearly caught the ear of Radio 2’s Mike Harding and his production team. Rachel Unthank and her husband Adrian McNally are also admirers and produced this wonderful debut from the pair in Northumberland. Read our full review here.
14. Singing Adams – Everybody Friends Now
This debut album from former Broken Family Band man Steven Adams’ latest project was one of the best indie-pop releases of the year, mixing Adams’ clever and poignant lyrics with a fine bunch of melodies. His band are a bunch of seasoned indie and alternative musicians and live they are well drilled outfit. We have been so impressed that they topped our Top Ten bands to watch out for in 2012 list. Our highlights on this excellent album include the singles I Need Your Mind and Injured Party. Read our full review here.
13. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse
With its stripped back feel, punctuated with squealing electric guitars and flutes, Apocalypse can be an unsettling listen at times, but not for too long as Callahan’s luxuriously deep voice has a calming influence and can easily draw you back to normality. Read our full review here.
12. Battles – Gloss Drop
There are so many striking aspects to Gloss Drop, the follow up to the crazy, cartoonified thrill ride that was Battles’ last album Mirrored. The range of singers including Gary Numan, the sense of fun and above all some superb drumming are just some that immediately spring to mind. Read our full review here.
11. David Lowery – The Palace Guards
The Palace Guards is the first solo album from Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven front-man David Lowery. It’s taken a while to come out but its been worth the wait. This is among the best work from one of alternative music’s most engaging songwriters. Read our full review here.
10. The Miserable Rich – Miss You In The Days
Three albums in and The Miserable Rich are really hitting their stride as one of the UK’s most innovative acts, mixing compelling story telling with chamber pop and most importantly some damn fine tunes. Among the highlights on this their third album is the swirling Ringing the Changes. Read our full review here.
9. Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?
This solo album from New Pornographer Calder has the professionalism and confidence you’d expect from a seasoned performer and her personality shines through lifting it above the norm and adding real charm to proceedings. The album was recorded while looking after her mother who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. This gives the album an underlying sense of melancholy in places that adds an emotional depth few songwriters can manage. Read our full review here.
8. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck
The Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle’s song writing and survival instincts grow stronger with each release. With three different producers there’s a surprising consistency as he exposes his hidden demons and offers up some bittersweet tales of the famous along the way, from Charles Bronson to Judy Garland. Uplifting stuff. Read our full review here.
7. Low – C’Mon
C’mon may just be this year’s great American album, with echoes of Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons throughout. With very precise production from Matt Beckley and the band, which is fronted by husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, they have created an album that is melancholy, epic and just plain beautiful in places. Read our full review here.
6. Destroyer – Kaputt
An immaculate attention detail in recreating the sounds and production of the 1980s has helped Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer) become the second member of Canadian super group The New Pornographers to enter our Top 20. Bejar has never sounded better as he takes the role of world weary rock star reminiscing in style. Part New Order, part Prefab Sprout, this is arguably his best album to date. Read our full review here.
5. Wilco – The Whole Love
The Whole Love is probably closest in style to previous album Wilco (The Album) but that little bit better. It also shows a band at the peak of its powers, playing with confidence, inventiveness and real skill. You get the pop Wilco, the rock Wilco, the experimental Wilco and the soft melodic Wilco, all of which adds up to one of the most satisfying releases of the year. Read our full review here.
4. Luke Haines – 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s and Early 1980s.
The former Auteur and author of the excellent book Bad Vibes returns from a two year recording break to turn his attention to the world of British wrestling from around 30 years ago. Witty, concise, well executed and completely unlike any other album we’ve heard this year. Haines clearly isn’t quite ready to throw the towel in just yet on his recording career. Read our full review here.
3. Darren Hayman – January Songs
Busy doesn’t even come close to describing Darren Hayman’s year. He was involved in the Vostok 5 art exhibition and album about space explorers, released an album of piano ballads The Ships Piano, plays bass in Rotifer and is involved in all sorts of Christmas releases for Fika Recordings. His crowning achievement though for us was to write, record and release a song a day during January. The end product January Songs, which is available to download and from January 2012 in CD format, contains some of the former Hefner frontman’s best work and offered a great example of social media interaction between artist and audience, who helped him along the way with lyrics and ideas. Read our full review here.
2. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic
Thanks to production from Beck the former Pavement frontman has ditched some of his rock star, guitar squealing cliches to reveal one of his best albums for years and certainly his best since his Pavement glory days. The finely honed single The Senator is among our many highlights. Read our full review here.
1. Boston Spaceships – Let It Beard
Narrowly pipping Stephen Malkmus to the top spot is another veteran of the 1990s US alternative music scene, Robert Pollard and his act Boston Spaceships. The album echoes a number of Pollard’s favourite classic acts, the Beatles are in there, but it is The Who that are the most obvious influence on this guitar drenched album. It has the Pollard stamp throughout and you can’t imagine anyone else producing a record quite like this now, or any time in the last 30 years. Read our full review here.
Last year London band Django Django topped our list of acts to watch out for in 2011. As autumn came they didn’t disappoint as they began unveiling tracks from their forthcoming highly promising debut album.
Another to justify their place on the 2011 list was The Miserable Rich, who unveiled their superb third album Miss You In the Days in October.
This year we look at our top ten bands to watch out for in 2012. Some have already being wowing festival crowds and attracting attention in the blogosphere. As 2012 progresses we predict these bunch will climb up the festival bills and garner even more praise. Sit back and enjoy Neonfiller.com’s top ten acts to look out for in 2012.
10. Alice Gun
Just before the 2011 Mercury nominations were revealed a few names cropped up among bloggers, including ourselves, for possible inclusion. One of those names was little known singer -songwriter Alice Gun, whose debut album Blood and Bone impressed us greatly when it was released early in 2011. It’s sparse, it’s eerie and a beautiful debut that was sadly overlooked by the Mercury panel. Comparisons to PJ Harvey are inevitable, but Gun is her own artist and we are expecting big things of her in 2012 as word of her talent spreads.
Tigercats from London are that rarest of bands, an indie-pop act that you can actually dance to. After a string of singles and EPs they are finally ready to release their debut album in 2012. We’ve had a sneak listen to a couple of tracks already and we predict it will bring them to a far wider audience than the small band of wise indie-kids that have already discovered them.
The album will be backed by a series of tour dates. Among our favourite Tigercats tracks, and one we are keen to see live is Easter Island, which was released in August 2010.
8. Free Swim
Free Swim are one of those unusual bands that pop up in our inbox occasionally that leave us lost for words. The first email we received was to promote their debut EP Two Hands Is Ok, about a man who was so busy he had to graft another set of arms onto his torso. The next time it was to tell us of EP #2 Yolanda the Panda, about the adventures of a mountain climbing Panda. The subject matter may be comical, but they are serious about their music, sounding like a cross between Super Furry Animals and King Missile. A whole bunch of other reviewers from 6Music to XFM also agree. Live they are a force to be reckoned with as their bassist becomes a real life Super Furry Animal by donning a giant panda costume. A funny, interesting band that are set to release their third EP in 2012 and continue wowing crowds with their unusual live show. Here’s some footage we took at one of their 2011 gigs, in Brighton.
7.Kill It Kid
How Kill It Kid are not already one of the UK’s biggest bands is a mystery. Their 2009 self titled debut album’s mix of rootsy blues and rock wowed critics, but failed to shift CDs. But 2012 could prove to be their year as they continue touring to promote 2011’s excellent second album Feet Fall Heavy, which features a bigger and bolder sound. We predict a main stage slot at one of the major festivals in 2012, surely the perfect stage for their ballsy approach to rock. What’s more in Chris Turpin and Stephanie Ward the band, which formed at Bath Spa University, are blessed with two excellent singers.
During our visit to Glastonbury this year we made sure we spent alot of time at the BBC Introducing stage. First up on the Friday were Brighton’s Twin Brother and what a performance they put on. Held together by the sumptious vocals of singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alex Wells, the band evoke classic mid 1980s sounds of Aztec Camera and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. Twin Brother also played the Anglo-French White Nights festival during 2011 and a string of dates are booked in for 2012.
Here’s an acoustic version by Wells of Send Me A Letter, a track from one of their planned releases during 2012.
5.Two Wounded Birds
Margate’s Two Wounded Birds were another act that dazzled us at the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury. Surf-punk is probably the best way to describe them as they mix classic punk, with surf and rock and roll. They are also gaining alot of attention from national radio stations and online broadcasters, including 6Music and NME online.
4. Dry the River
Festivals have been key to Dry The River’s excellent 2011, bringing their energetic live sets to events such as Glastonbury and Brighton’s Great Escape. Gradually they’ve been building up a solid fan base thanks to their mix of accessible classic rock with an alternative, folk edge. They start 2012 as part of the Q:Now the Sessions events playing XOYO, London in January and are certain to start climbing up the festival bills during the summer. In a few years time we wouldn’t be surprised to see this band, which formed in East London in 2009, headlining a festival main stage.
Already Idaho 20-something Trevor Powers, who performs under the name Youth Lagoon, has generated plenty of buzz in the US. His debut album The Year of Hibernation, which has been released on the influential Fat Possum label, has been given near universal critical praise, including a coveted Best New Music tag from Pitchfork. His subject matter of love, loss and anxiety is still immature at times, but he is at the start of what promises to be a long career. We are confident that the US buzz around Powers will soon spread to the UK. Watch out for European tour dates in 2012.
2.The Revival Hour
DM Stith is one of the gems of US label Athmatic Kitty’s roster. The multi-instrumentalist has spent much of 2011 supporting label mate Sufjan Stevens on tour and promoting his dramatic debut album Heavy Ghost. For 2012 he is taken a slightly different direction with his new porject The Revival Hour. This collaboration with John Mark Lapham from The Earlies was formed through a mutual love of Roy Orbison and judging by their first single Hold Back they have been heavily influenced by the 1960s. An album is due out in 2012 and is set to feature contributions from Stevens, My Brightest Diamond and Shearwater. Hold Back is one of our highlights of 2011 and we anticipate the album to be one of the best of 2012.
1. Singing Adams
After splitting from the Broken Family Band its songwriter and lead singer Steven Adams (pic: second from left) has taken an indie pop direction with his next project Singing Adams. Bringing in indie stalwarts Matthew Ashton, Melinda Bronstein and Michael Wood the band perfectly compliment Adam’s bittersweet and often humourous song writing. We saw them in September in Bristol play to about 70 people, a far cry from Adams’ time with festival favourites Broken Family Band. This meagre crowd is set to grow in 2012 once word spreads. They are a well drilled and engaging live act and in 2012 are set to release their second album. Some tracks were trialled at the gig we saw in September and we were left impressed. Watch out for this band at a festival or venue near you, they could soon be your next favourite band.
The band’s debut album Everybody Friends Now was one of our highlights of 2011. Here’s one of our favourite tracks from the album, I Need Your Mind.
Shame on you Bristol. Singing Adams, one of the best live bands in the UK, come to town and only 70 or so of you turn up. Slightly taken aback at the lack of numbers at this early gig at The Cooler nightclub, the band took to the stage, inhaled slowly and decided to give those that did turn up a gig to remember.
Singer and songwriter Steven Adams, who as former frontman of the Broken Family Band is more used to playing in packed venues and festivals, said, “it may take awhile but we’re going to take you to church and melt your face,” before blistering through an hour’s set of banter, tracks from their debut album Everybody Friends Now and some new ones destined for their second album.
As the band started with debut album tracks such as Old days and Move On, Adams beckoned the sheepish crowd forward and even gave them some party games as a reward.
Hybrid band names that are “just so wrong” is a game they have brought to the stage and ask the crowd to join in with. After offering up the excellent ‘Men at Bjork” the band delight as the crowd shout out their own versions after each song.
It warms the heart to hear a tightly played track finishing and someone shouting out “Trextc” or “DuranDurannielennox.” Among my highlights was someone getting it only half right and shouting out “Fred Westlife” in a frighteningly appropriate broad west country accent.
Not that they needed banter. This new project for Adams has marked a change of direction from his Broken Family Band days more towards indie rock. It’s a change he excels it, especially as he has assembled a fine bunch of indie loving musicians. The intricate, melodic bass playing of Michael Wood, the tight drumming of Melinda Bronstein and the indie riffs, part Teenage Fanclub, part Pulp at times, of guitarist Matthew Ashton, all combine well with Adams’ voice and understated showmanship.
What does remain from his Broken Family Band days is the singalong nature of the songs. Often the crowd are asked to join in with the choruses. Not in a cheesy way, these are choruses that demand a crowd to sing with, even if it is just 70 strong.
But this mini tour is something of a farewell to their debut album as they trial new songs and prepare to go back to the studio for album number two. On this performance of the newer songs it’s going to be a stormer, especially Building A Wall.
Enough of the future though, for the encore the band performed their version of St Thomas, with its sing along chorus of ‘when you come to Oslo, I’ll teach you how to sing.’ This final track is from Adams’s solo album Problems from 2005, which was released under the slightly different name of The Singing Adams.
Seventy people may not have had their faces melted but they certainly had a good laugh with a band that don’t let a little thing like a little crowd put them off.
The Mercury 2011 nominations are now in. Those that have made the list include Adele, Elbow and PJ Harvey. It’s an eclectic, albeit safe, list again from the Mercury panel but here we list three albums that wrongly slipped under the judges’ radar.
Alice Gun – Blood & Bone
Recorded in London and the Lake District, there’s a real sense of drama and space to this debut album by Gun. This is created through a perfect, sparse use of instruments, mainly played by herself and focused around her cello and piano. The feel is eerie, almost scary at times, but beautifully matches her vocals to create something that could only really have come from a UK artist. Her similarities with PJ Harvey, who was nominated, perhaps put judges off. We think there was room enough on the list for both though, especially as Gun draws on far broader English folk influences.
Featuring former Broken Family Band singer songwriter Steven Adams this UK act hark back to a golden era of indie music from the likes of Teenage Fanclub and The Wedding Present. Underpinning this debut are some damn fine tunes with Adams revealing himself consistently as one of Britain’s great modern songwriters. Shame Mercury judges failed to notice this as well.
This very English indie pop act already have an Ivor Novello nomination under their belt and we had high hopes that this second album by the band would attract the attention of the Mercury panel. As well as some classic eccentric pop there’s once again a fine attention to production and detail.
Here’s the full list of those that did receive a Mercury nomination
Adele – 21
Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!
Everything Everything – Man Alive
Ghostpoet – Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam
Gwilym Simcock – Good Days At Schloss Elmau
James Blake – James Blake
Katy B – On A Mission
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – Diamond Mine
Metronomy – The English Riviera
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Tinie Tempah – Disc-Overy
Welcome to our round up of 2011’s album releases so far. Our early thoughts are that compared to the same time last year 2011 hasn’t been as great. True, there’s been some fine albums, but far less competition to get into our top ten and only one runaway contender for the top slot.
The list below picked itself fairly easily but whereas in June last year we pretty much already our Top 20 Albums of 2010 list in place. There were a handful that did narrowly miss out though, and are more than likely to feature in our end of year Top 20. These include Johann Johannsson’s classical masterpiece Miners’ Hymns and newcomer Alice Gun’s Blood and Bone.
Another feature of this year’s list is the dominance of American acts with a folk, country leaning, with just three UK acts making our list and one Canadian.
Sit back, get your early Christmas lists ready and enjoy Neonfiller’s Top Ten Albums of 2011 ….so far.
10.Singing Adams – Everybody Friends Now
Featuring former Broken Family Band singer songwriter Steven Adams this UK act hark back to a golden era of indie music from the likes of Teenage Fanclub and The Wedding Present. Underpinning this debut are some damn fine tunes. The future of UK indie music is in safe hands. (Read our full review here)
9. The Leisure Society – Into the Murky Water
A beautiful, inventive and thoroughly English pop record that more than matches this former Willkommen Collective act’s stunning debut The Sleeper. (Read our full review here)
8.Bill Callahan Apocalypse
With its stripped back feel, punctuated with squealing electric guitars and flutes, Apocalypse can be an unsettling listen at times, but not for too long as Callahan’s luxuriously deep voice has a calming influence and can easily draw you back to normality. (Read full review here)
7.Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Timeless harmonies and lush pastoral folk arrangements are the hallmarks of Fleet Foxes and this their second album sticks close to the formula. It’s beautiful stuff at times, with real care taken over production values. (Read full review here)
6. The Decemberists – The King is Dead
A change of pace and style for Colin Meloy’s band on an album that is most influenced by the radio safe country pop of REM. (Read our full review here)
5. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck
John Darnielle’s song writing and survival instincts grow stronger with each release. With three different producers there’s a surprising consistency as The Mountain Goats expose their hidden demons and offer some bittersweet tales of the famous along the way, from Charles Bronson to Judy Garland. Uplifting stuff. (Read our full release here)
4. David Lowery – The Palace Guards
The Palace Guards is the first solo album from Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven front-man David Lowery. It’s taken a while but its worth the wait as this is among his best work. (Read the full review here)
3. Okkervil River- I am Very Far
The Texas act are back with an ambituous, cinematic indie rock album. Among our highlights are opener ‘The Valley’, with pounding drums and a string arrangement that is part ‘Bellbottoms’ by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, part Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. (Read our full review here)
2. Destroyer – Kaputt
Although this was the only one of our Top 10 that made NME’s lacklustre Top 50 albums of 2011 so far list, don’t let that put you off. Dan Bejar has never sounded better, harking back to an early 80s sound, it is part Prefab Sprout, part New Order as Bejar takes the role of world weary rockstar reminiscing in style. (Read our full review here)
1. Darren Hayman – January Songs
Our runaway top placed album goes to former Hefner frontman Darren Hayman and his successful attempt to write, record and release a song a day in Janaury. Not only did he come up with 31 excellent and diverse songs, featuring a range of artists such as Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris and Spanish band Litorol, but he also created a multi-media experience that gave his audience a unique insight into the song writing process. Each day to compliment the song, he also released a video, video diary and artwork. People were invited to submit ideas and help with lyrics and our co-editor’s runaway dog Arthur even inspired a song. January Songs is a superb effort that is going to take some beating if it is to be toppled from first place by December. (Read our full review, including a link to buy this download only album, here)
The British music scene is a peculiar place where some of the most creative, talented people are allowed to remain cloaked in so called cult status.
Take Darren Hayman for example. He is churning out some of the best music by a UK artist in recent years, most recently his January Songs project (review here). But after two decades in music where are his Mercury nominations? Where is his own ATP Festival? Or his millions of global record sales?
The same can be said of Steven Adams, who over the years has been producing some similarly fine music with The Broken Family Band and now the more indie music focused Singing Adams, building up a small but dedicated army of fans without huge commercial success.
Singing Adams are at pains to point out that they are very much a band, rather than merely Adams’ backing band. The Line of Best Fit felt their disdain recently on their Facebook page, after daring to suggest this was the case.
So in the interests of avoiding a similar rollicking let it be known that The Singing Adams also feature this bunch of seasoned musicians: guitarist Matthew Ashton, whose bands have included Saloon and The Leaf Library; drummer Melinda Bronstein, who has played with Absentee and Wet Paint; and bassist Michael Wood, of Michaelmass.
Everybody Friends Now shows they are right to push this collective argument. It is arguably more pop-savvy than Broken Family Band’s output, with its trumpets and guitar riffs, courtesy of Ashton in particular clearly showing he is a keen student of classic British indie guitar bands.
Nevertheless it would be wrong to totally underplay Adams’ direction and on Everybody Friends Now there are inevitable similarities with The Broken Family Band such as their bittersweet lyrics and similarly catchy hooks.
Among our favourite tracks on this album of welcome consistency is the single ‘I Need Your Mind,’ one of the most infectious tracks of the year and with some pretty filthy lyrics as well (or possibly they are innocent and we just have filthy minds).
Other highlights are the thoughtful ‘The Old Days’ and ‘Injured Party’, which is wonderfully reminiscent of the glory days of mid 1980s indie music, most notably The Wedding Present.
The only curve ball in all this Summer indie pop is the piano heavy final song ‘Married Woman’, which may just be the best track on the album, with its sumptuous vocals and trumpet arrangements.
What is so good about this album is that at its core is a fine bunch of great indie pop songs with some clever lyrics and a heart. That’s actually quite an achievement considering the fairly middling output of other acts that get far more column inches such as The Vaccines. Already Everybody Friends Now, like Hayman’s January Songs, is a contender for one of our Top 20 albums of the year slots. I guess that minor accolade will have to do while they wait patiently for the Mercury nomination and platinum disc.