Thursday, 12 January 2012

2011: As told by an observer. By James Nuttall

Flicking back through the pages of 2011’s NME issues, you’d swear that boy bands were going to reclaim music. This aside, its apparent that women have given the guys a run for their money in music this year, and as ever the oldies are still occupying the front covers.

The Vaccines, or as they are better known “the band of 2011”, failed to take off with the momentum many critics prophesised. Opening for the Arctic Monkeys managed to impress NME but did little for others. In fact as the year draws to a close Howler, the Vaccines opening act, appears to be getting more attention with their upcoming debut.

The Arctics themselves have entered into a ‘win some, lose some’ with their fans. The new album, Suck it and See, certainly took on a different flavour to their previous releases, and the title suggests that Turner and his pals are testing the water with a more mature sound. Despite the overflow of positive reviews some fans are less than thrilled with this compared to their previous work, whilst others have just started to turn on to the Arctics thanks to their different sound.

To talk about 2011 even generally, it would be ludicrous to not mention Adele. An album that hits the number one spot in 25 different countries, that isn’t hip-hop, shows that there is hope for music today. It’s also great to see another Brit in the big leagues who is there solely by being able to write and sing. Wearing long black dresses, Adele shows her audience nothing more than pure talent as weaves the story of how she set fire to the rain.

Florence and the Machine have delivered another critically acclaimed epic. Hitting number one in seven countries Ceremonials has set Florence Welch to be the arena filler in 2012.

Another breakthrough for womankind was Beyonce being the first ever female to headline Glastonbury. Since there’s no festival next year, we can only hope that another woman will hold one of the top spots in 2013… who else is taking bets on Adele or Florence?

Thankfully, it has been a year primarily ruled by the British music scene. Unsurprisingly, Rihanna has released more of the same: another album of droning pop and collaborating with Calvin Harris on a decidedly average single. The only thing she’s done in 2011 worth mentioning was to be told to “cover up” by an Irish farmer when she was filming another soft-porn music video in his field.

It’s also seen a lot of the classic rockers making a return to the radio.

Stevie Nicks released her first solo album in 10 years, In Your Dreams, and also played her third UK show in 30 years as a solo performer, supporting Rod Stewart at Hard Rock Calling. Actually coming over the water made the album peak at number 14 in the UK charts. A big step forward considering 2001’s Trouble in Shangri-La stalled at number 43. It’s a nod back to her two nights at Wembley in 1989, which helped propel The Other Side of the Mirror to number three.

Her ex-boyfriend and Fleetwood Mac sparring partner, Lindsey Buckingham’s Seeds we Sow may not have hit the top 20, but has received positive critical reviews. His musical creativity and unflappable guitar parts made many critics bow to his skill. It’s also pushed back a Mac reunion for another year. This was another landmark as Buckingham was booked to do his first ever UK solo tour. However, the articles calling him youthful and energetic were soon writing retractions when this tour was cancelled due to a band member throwing their back out.

This suggests it’s time we started getting more excited about the up-comers again, rather than waiting for the dinosaurs of rock to deliver time after time. That’s said without even mentioning Metallica’s disastrous collaboration with Lou Reed.

The biggest news on the British music scene this year is arguably the Stone Roses reunion. Many sceptics are already trashing it as the Roses just trying to make some cash and foreseeing a disappointment. Others are on the edge of their seats for the return of the revolutionary Manchester band. Time will tell.
If the Stone Roses aren’t your thing, you can absorb the storm another Mancunian has been making this year. Noel Gallaghers Flying Birds album has convinced pretty much everyone that here is a bona fide solo performer. More so than Beady Eyes debut, which the critics seem to have turned on since Liam’s big brother stepped in; I can’t see them having Christmas dinner together this year.  

Of course, one cannot forget to mention the musical talents that passed this year. Gerry Rafferty, the composer of smash-hit Baker Street, finally lost his battle with alcoholism in January. A bad year for bassists as the Shadows lost Jet Harris and former Weezer bass player Mickey Welsh died from a suspected overdose.

The most publicised and surprising, yet tragically expected death was of course Amy Winehouse. Within hours the jokes were being sent via text to everyone: most of them pulling puns about her hit Rehab. Three days after a guest appearance at a show in Camden, she was found dead in her home. Winehouse is another great to join the 27
club, along with the likes of Joplin, Hendrix and Morrison.

 She went out with a bang at least. December saw her album Loneliness: Hidden Treasures entering the British charts at number one. That’s a not-back to her predecessor, Janis Joplin. Her album Pearl went to number one stateside after her death in 1970.

All in all 2011 has been a rollercoaster of a year for music. Deaths, reunions and breakthrough solo albums from the greats have made it one interesting ride. Somewhere on the space-time continuum we will surely encounter another year of turbulent relationships and exciting releases from other artists. Hopefully it will be in the not too distant future.

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