So, here we are: a few days left of the fifth month of 2011. Generally one would do a half-year round up after the year was half-over, but there's something special planned for June and nothing on the release calendar we haven't already heard so we might as well get this over.
The new music brought to us so far this year has been - to be polite - less than spectacular. With one notable exception - I bet you can guess what it is - every album I've bought this year has at best left me with a feeling of "is that all?", at worst the realization that it's time to check out of a long-followed career.
So where to begin?
Fuck you, Polly Jean Harvey. As discussed with a friend, we already have one Joanna Newsom and she's fucking awful, we didn't need another. That's over simplifying, obviously, but what the hell? I was willing to give you one album of dressing in a Victorian-style wedding dress singing like a child while playing an instrument you hardly knew what to do with, a second album of similar nonsense is just testing patience now. (That's what those unlistenable John Parish collaboration albums are for, right?) That 'Let England Shake' is earning the best reviews of a career full of (admittedly at times) blind admiration is just more infuriating, and I can't even talk about the crushing disappointment of the live show yet. (How, I ask, does one make "The Sky Lit Up" so. fucking. dull?) We're officially broken up.
Elbow, you're also on my shit list, but we've talked about that before. Don't play it so safe next time and everything will be alright. (Unless, of course, it's not.) We're not over - not by a long shot, I hope - but we've certainly had our first big fight.
The Kills - THE KILLS! - what happened? Thanks for nothing, Jack White. 'Midnight Boom' was obviously was going to be a tough act to follow, but applying what you learned from your time in the Dead Weather was not the right way to go, Allison. A couple of great moments shine through: "Future Starts Slow" starts things off on a promising note and the one/two punch of "Heart Is A Beating Drum" and "Nail In My Coffin" pick things back up after the snorefest of "Satellite" - wrong lead single alert! - but after that it's a slow slide into mediocrity. Shame. (Apparently the live show is still shit hot so I'll have to see about that.)
The Gruff Rhys record has grown on me for what it is - a mid-tempo rehash of ideas explored throughout the SFA records - and it is still perfectly listenable in its own right. More a gentle reminder from Gruff that "yes, I can still do this" after the disaster of 'Dark Days/Light Years' than a classic in its own right, I'll take it for now. (That said, I really wish the - er - phantom of 'Phantom Power' would stop hanging over every single SFA/Gruff Rhys release.)
Hunx, Hunx...the novelty was cute at first but the schtick is starting to wear. (Remember what happened to Gravy Train!!!!? Change it up a bit before it happens again.) To be fair, I've only given 'Too Young To Be In Love' a curiosity once-over but I also haven't felt terribly compelled to return to it.
R.E.M. - really? Really. Oh well.
Dear Sound of Arrows: don't fall apart yet. You'd better have more tricks up your sleeve than a fucking Tiesto remix after making us wait this long.
Which leaves us with:
Duran Duran! Yes, we've talked about this before and, yes, 'All You Need Is Now' is technically a 2010 album, but it's still a blast. So thank you for that, but enough with the £350 special editions and making us go to a zillion different retailers to buy the album multiple times to get everything. (I give the early iTunes release a pass because they were upfront about it and, frankly, it's the best version of the album as far as a listening experience goes. However, you shouldn't need a chart to keep track of what physical format has what.) Also, "Leave A Light On" is a poor, poor choice for the third single.
Boxer Rebellion! A slight step back from the masterpiece of 'Union' but still a solid effort. You're another one that needs to watch your formatting, though - hopefully you learned something from the iTunes fuck up.
There's a 3-track Kenna EP that kind of came out of nowhere and it was a welcome surprise. I'll reserve judgment until I hear more but it's looking good.
And, the winner so far...
Duh. As far as I'm concerned, this is the only album that has landed this year without a whiff of disappointment, a fully-formed debut that delivers on the promise of early material and then some. Thank you also for the lovely 7" singles with complimentary artwork with album-quality b-sides and for generally getting it right.
That said, you also really need to quit it with the formats - it seems every month since its February release there has been another version of the album with some new bonus track and/or disc - and, more importantly, STOP SHOVING THAT FUCKING LAURA CANTRELL VERSION OF "LOOK AT ME" DOWN OUR THROATS! It was terrible the first time we bought it, you can understand why we'd be bitter the third time. In fact, once you've put a track or mix out on something, please try your best to not make us buy it four more times. (How many copies of the Belbury Poly Remix of "Lights and Offerings" does one really need?) I still love you but it's starting to get a bit annoying. Please and thank you.
Also, US tour?
Advance alert: the Battles record is a grower but ultimately pretty great.