The Top 40 Albums Of 2011: 5 – 1

From Radiohead to Modeselektor

Clash concludes it’s in-depth rundown of it’s Top 40 Albums of 2011 with Radiohead, Battles, PJ Harvey, The Horrors and Modeselektor.

5. Radiohead ‘The King Of Limbs’

Subversive and claustrophobic, Radiohead’s accurate sniping at our iPods from the fringes of outsider rock continued with another delightful ambush. Taut, obsessive rhythmic landscapes were coloured in by Thom’s processed angst and murmurs of vague, sad guitars that matched the restless year of social reformatting. This is interloper rock from a band that rarely fucks up.

Best Bit: : The heartbreaking thrall of ‘Separator’, a classic even by Radiohead’s leading standards.

Matthew Bennett

4. BATTLES ‘Gloss Drop’

If there was one album this year that made you feel like you’re full of mushrooms, it’s Battles’ triumphant return as a trio. Invading our lives and taste like some bastard aural hallucination or a Fitz Lang-devised psychedelic mechanism, we were knocked on our arse again. Daubing architecture onto the back of our eyelids and stuffing colours into our ears, ‘Gloss Drop’ is a bizarrely emotional voyage into synthesia: “The most puzzling element to me,” said Dave Konopka, “is the amount of emotion that has been wrung out in the making of this album, and how much of that comes through in the music. That’s something of a gift that was never anticipated, and something that can certainly not be faked.” With warped vocal collaborations from Matias Aguayo, Gary Numan and Kazu Makino, Battles more than compensated for their departed ‘singer’ Tyondai Braxton: “Now that we are a power trio,” continues Konopka, “I feel our message is much more direct and to the point. Within our music, we are in constant conversation.” To be fair it sounds more like a galactic dinner party!

Best Bit: ‘Wall Street’ – a prophetic vision of financial institutions overrun with new sounds and life.

Matthew Bennett

3. PJ Harvey ‘Let England Shake’

This album, made by a diminutive Dorset lass, has unquestionably entered the canon of great war art. It contains the same force and visceral power as the poetry of Sassoon, the novels of Hemingway, the paintings of Nash, the bloodied tableaus of Goya, the claustrophobia of Coppola. It is a concept album in the most successful sense.

She resides over the historical song cycle like some Stygian matriarch, carrying us wearily from the trenches of the Great War, through the mindlessness and poor judgement of the Gallipoli campaign, to the testimonials of those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her chastisements are never literal though, they are about loss and how little we have learned. Its politics reside on a human scale, in language despairing and questioning; lambasting the senseless waste of life and freedoms brought about by any conflict.

The traditional musical arrangements around which these stories flourish are dense and melodic, shifting layers of beauty, familiar yet still surprising, created in league with her near familial collaborators, Parish, Harvey and Flood. Her voice is more nuanced than ever, dipping and rising from pained caterwauling through breathless lisping, to occasional over enunciated affectation. It’s damn near perfect.

The narratives unfold leaving us breathless, humbled, powerless; it’s the sort of empathy you feel in your gut. Its cathartic, uncompromising tone is genuinely sinister, but in the most corporeal way. You can feel dirt between your fingers, you can taste the blood, you can see mothers weeping on their knees. Astonishing and indispensable.

Best Bit: The haunting, elegant and bitterly elegiac ‘In The Dark Places’.

Anna Wilson

2. The Horrors ‘ Skying’

Read our entry for The Horrors’ ‘Skying’, including an interview with the band, HERE

1. Modeselektor ‘Monkeytown’

Read an interview with Modeselektor’s Gernod and Szary as their ‘Monkeytown’ album is crowned our Album of 2011 HERE.

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Read Clash’s full Top 40 Albums Of 2011 HERE

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