Dubstep/post-dubstep/bass music/the wobble sound/whatever was everywhere in 2011. While the clubs and radio playlists focused on the abrasive bro-step sounds of Skrillex, Nero and Skream there was another set of dubstep artists that were doing something more interesting thing at the other end of the post dubstep spectrum.
With more guest singers than a sewing machine convention the success of SBTRKT's debut record is in its cohesiveness. From the soulful Sampha to the poptastic Little Dragon SBTRKT manages to find the best in his collaborators. The record is full of downbeat electronic pop and I love it.
On We're New Here Jamie xx chops combines, re-samples and remixes Gil Scott Heron's 2010 album I'm New Here. Coming just before Heron's death the album has the feel of a tribute, but a fearless tribute. Opening track I'm New Here is a highlight as is the gorgeous My Cloud and the hands in the air closer I'll Take Care of U.
Using chopped up drum loops (Bloom) and reverb washed vocals (Feral) Radiohead showed that the tools of dubstep could be applied to interesting progressive rock music. The Oxford group further embrassed the genre inviting Jamie xx and SBTRKT (among others) to re-work tracks on the TKOL RMX 1234567 collection.
The Horrors have continued progression from goth punks to dark romantic pop masters. Skying has the band trying their hand at the stadium music of the 80's. The Cure, Simple Minds, My Bloody Valentine all the references are checked but this is more than just a re-cast of what has gone before. Skying is a large sweeping beautiful re-imagination.
The album as modern war document. Inspired by the front line artists of wars past PJ Harvey drags her paint brush across the canvas of war touching on aggression, righteousness, loss and the deep dark red of blood.
The albums graphic (I've seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat, blown and shot out beyond belief - The Words That Maketh Murder) and gloomy (There are no fields no trees, no blades of grass, just unhurried ghosts are there - Hanging In the Wire) lyrics are at odds with the inspiring at times pompous music.
Let England Shake is supposedly not a protest album but an observation of wars past and commentary of conflicts present. It is also superb.
Free from his broken heart/log cabin myth Justin Vernon and band have produced an expansive technology assisted (yes, auto-tune) album of love songs. Drawing on place names real and fictional for song titles Bon Iver takes you on a journey one love song (real and fictional) at a time.
Released just days before the death of bassist Gerard Smith Nine Types of Light is a strange TV On The Radio record. Minus the walls of static and subversive lyrics the Brooklyn band seem to be (almost) happy.
The new positive agenda is set on opener Second Song made personal on You and then executed with soul on standout track Will Do. The sparse ballad Killer Crane completes the records subdued first half. Before New Cannonball Blues and Repetition increase the pace towards the stadium sized riffs of closer Caffeinated Consciousness.
It took me a while to get into this positive version of TV On The Radio but the sheer number of repeat plays has revealed Nine Types Of Light; my favourite album of 2011.