The Year in Music So Far - Fave Picks 2011

Lady Gaga - Born this way

"I'm on the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge, the edge!!"
Seriously, that is ALL you need to know about this one.

An amazingly cool revision of late 70s / early 80s disco. Think Moroder, Arthur Russell, early Chicago deep groove house! Not so much music to punch the air to, but music for dressing up and posing ... and yes there is a soupcon of literary elitism thrown in ... but lets ignore that.

Concept album alert! But with such lyricism and confident musical poise, PJ triumphs again with her latest album. This is in many ways not easy listening, more akin to a book of poetry that should be digested slowly and carefully. Painfully beautiful is an apt way to describe this.

Its that slight hoarse gruffness in her voice, as though she is attempting to swallow each note as it issues from her mouth in a dust whirl of self doubt and amelioration ... its a beautiful instrument to behold ... listen close with headphones and let those nodules caress you like a love breathing on your neck ... ok so a little OTT, but I'm just masking the fact that I can't really explain why I love this album so much, and why it stands out from the glut of serious singer songwrite chicks out there. Check it!!

Dubstep crossover artist is the new hot young thing for hipster loving dudes and dudettes all over. If the music industry was as robust as it used to be, the pop world would have been swamped by a slurry of dubstep remixes by now. James Blake's offering is not exactly the most immediate of dubstep crossover offerings but it certainly is stirring RnB flecked electronic music done intelligently and transcends its heavily auto-tuned remit with some trully inspiring and emotive melodies. Must buy!

Jamie Woon - Mirrorwriting

This is the pop face of dubstep crossovers. I foresee numerous writing and production credits in the future for young Jamie Woon, but for now lets hope he's able to gain some traction with this collection of soulful pieces, at least until the likes of Kanye and Beyonce come knocking. Not entirely successful, but worthy of a special mention.

tUnE-yYarDs - whokill

Ok how do I describe this? Playfully Urban perhaps? Post Bjork, every chick and her ukele (in this case) has been inflicted with the quirk. But Merrill Garbus' vision is intelligent, sophisticated and yet wonderfully naive. And she has some chops on her too. Really quite brilliant.

Do we file this under folk or under electronica? Or will the Rock/Pop/Alternative moniker cover this off sufficiently? This is ghostly pop, full of layered acoustics and vocals and reverb and cross fades .. the works ... almost chantlike in execution, it is a slow burner but the beauty stays with you long after the CD stops spinning in the carriage.

Who can forget that Fatboy remix of Brimful of Asha! It was everywhere, literally everywhere at one point. Such great heights and understandably Cornershop never quite recovered. But I do like this low key, samplelicious, ethnic english funk that they do so well. It all sounds rather dated and twee, but it certainly has a groove, double-O or otherwise. And Bubbley Kaur's Punjabi vocals add a dash of exoticism that is oddly familiar. Fun and groovy!

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