Saturday, December 24, 2011

Best albums of 2011

2 British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall
Over the last five or six years British Sea Power have gradually become one of my favourite bands. I had heard a bit about them earlier than that, but 2005's Open Season was their first album I bought, beguiled by song titles like North Hanging Rock, Victorian Ice and Oh Larsen B combined with a fiercely intelligent indie rock backing.

Third album Do You Like Rock Music? continued the trajectory with songs about The Great Skua, Canvey Island and eastern European immigration. The music was still loaded with tuneful, catchy indie rock, reproducing all the best bits of their legendary live shows in the studio, but with a bit more light and shade than on Open Season.

In Valhalla Dancehall they tackle the current state of British politics and society. Released in February the first song Who's in Control sounds eerily prescient about the summer riots, decimation of public services and occupy movement:
Were you not told?
Did you not know?
Everything around you's being sold
Do you not care?
Were you not there?
Everybody else was going spare
What's yours and mine?
Does this escape you all the time?
Sometimes I wish protesting was sexy on a Saturday night
It is also a superbly exhilarating bit of crunching, jump around rock music with a nod to 70s punk like the Clash. Second song, We are Sound, ups the energy even further before winding it back a little on the slow building Georgie Ray. Another furious charge through Stunde Null and Mongk II, before another respite on the sparkling Luna and soothing Baby. Living is so Easy's scathing commentary on rampant consumerism and its corresponding apathy brings us back to the state of British society.

A couple of more abstract songs, one angry burst of sub-two minute punk and we hit the twelve minute epic Once More Now which builds gently for about seven minutes, before collapsing under its own weight and then gently dissipates over the remaining four minutes. Album closer Heavy Water has an elegiac, melancholy feel, but is oddly uplifting with its worries about being on the wrong side. Valhalla Dancehall certainly proves that they should have no worries on that count.

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