With the dawning of the New Year only a few days away, let us take a rest from reacquainting ourselves with some of the year’s best LPs to turn an ear to 2011. Some of the UK’s finest — Coldplay, Radiohead, Mogwai, and Glasvegas — are slated to re-emerge with some new tuneage, while other unsung upstarts like Wilder and Jessie J will finally take on the U.S. Here’s a look at five albums (plus one extra) that has Anglophenia totally excited for early twenty-eleven.
British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall (U.S.: January 11)
Has it really been nearly a decade since these clever Brits issued their debut single, 2001′s epic “Fear of Drowning”? Lucky for us, British Sea Power continue to hone their peculiar kind of indie rock without sacrificing the fervor of their earliest singles. They teased us this fall with the Zeus EP while offering a glimpse at their fourth album’s grand canvas. Mixing in Norse mythology, picturesque British scenery, and boogie-woogie pianist Winfred Atwell makes some sense, right? After all, this album is something “where you’d imagine Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Thor having a great time together”. Brilliant!
“Living Is So Easy”:
Gang of Four – Content (U.S.: January 25)
These post-punk provocateurs issue their first batch of new songs in more than 16 years. And they couldn’t have done it without their fans, who donated money online to help the band bring their new sound to life. Content apparently stays true to the confrontational stylings of their seminal 1979 debut, Entertainment!, too. “What we’re trying to do is keep it totally stripped down, where everyone in the band makes an equally intense contribution,” singer Jon King told The Guardian in September. He added: “What I’ve been thrilled by over the years is that our music still seems to make sense to our audiences, however old they are and these days they’re mostly under 30.”
“Never Pay for the Farm”:
Esben and the Witch – Violet Cries (UK: January 31)
Ah yes, one of the most intriguing acts to come around in recent months thanks in part to their striking moniker, which references a dark Danish fairytale, and their jaw-dropping video for “Marching Song”. But more importantly, the Brighton, England threesome’s goth-tinged sonics resonate the best bits of Björk, Portishead, and Siouxsie & the Banshees. Are you swooning yet? And while they lost out to beautiful sorceress Clare Maguire (whose debut LP Light After Dark arrives in the UK on February 28), the band landed in Next Big Thing category at the 20th Annual Q Awards in October. The BBC also hailed ‘em on their Sound of 2011 list prior to the year’s end. Hot doesn’t even begin to cover it. Check out “Warpath” for more.
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (U.S.: February 15)
Miss Polly Jean Harvey settled into a 19th century church in Dorset, England to record her eighth studio album, the follow up to 2007′s piano-laden White Chalk. Apparently, a good chunk of it was written on an autoharp. Hmmm. Either way, having her longtime collaborator John Parish on board, along with ex-Bad Seeds guitarist Mick Harvey and French drummer Jean-Marc Butty should lead to greatness. She’s always been one to stretch beyond her creative limits. In April, she revealed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the new album reflects her efforts in “looking outwards” as compared to her previous works that tapped into “the interior” side of things.
“Written On the Forehead”:
Beady Eye – Different Gear, Still Speeding (UK: February 28)
Don’t cry, Oasis fans. What Liam Gallagher is doing with Beady Eye so far is pretty damn great — dirty garage rock with plenty of swaggering guitars and Liam’s classic vocal sneer has never sounded better. If their first single, “Bring the Light”, was any indication of what a rock ‘n’ roll troublemaker Liam still is, I think we’re good to go. Here’s hoping producer Steve Lillywhite (U2, Morrissey) digs into that some more on their long-awaited debut.
“Four Letter Word”:
Honorable Mention: The Vaccines
Like Esben and the Witch, this London-bred four piece appears on The BBC’s Sound of 2011 list. We love love love their infectious guitar pop/rock and songs like “Post Break-Up Sex” and “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” should woo you like The Drums and The Strokes already have. Their Columbia Records debut should follow later next year.
“If You Wanna Live” on Later… with Jools Holland
What albums are you most looking forward to in 2011?