A random assortment of NFI’s favourite records of 2011 (Pt. 3)

So in parts 1 and 2 I listed a bunch of stuff that I liked. In part 3 I will reveal my actual favourite record(s) of the year, and run through some of the other releases that almostmaybecoulda made it into the main attraction…

Big Kids - Don't Be A Baby coverBig KidsDon’t Be A Baby / Phone Home

Inexplicably neither of these got reviewed, so the EP and the LP get listed together. Besides, if I didn’t do this I could go on about the band for a bit too long.

Don’t Be A Baby is what I like to describe as a perfect EP. That’s not just because it’s perfect, even though it is. It’s because it’s only got three songs on it but you don’t care because every song is just so. Fucking. Good. Phone Home recycles ‘I Am a Romantic Comedy Dude’ from the EP – which is fine by me as it’s probably my favourite Kids song – alongside eleven other tunes. If I’m honest the EP kicks the LP into submission but that’s not to say the LP lacks its moments.

Big Kids - Phone Home coverI’ve not yet even tried to describe just why I reckon Big Kids are so good. It’s a little difficult to articulate this with something that you love so deeply, but I’ll give it a go. They’re a three-piece – guitar, bass, drums, one singer – but buck the trend of most modern punk rock three pieces in that they don’t simply fill out their sound with dense, fat, buzzing power chords. Instead they make extensive use of intelligent dynamics alongside smart, original songwriting and excellent hooks, with the bass and guitar both switching between chords and lead/single note approaches as the song demands. Big Kids also have superb lyrics that really speak to me, in that they are self-effacing and slightly despondent but at the same time filled with an undercurrent of who-gives-a-fuck-anyway optimism. They’re resigned, basically, but cool with that. The vocal delivery is also awesome as fuck. Look it up: that’s a technical music reviewer term.

Baaasically these dudes are my favourite band of the year, without question. I was hugely disappointed when their UK Brighton date (and tour?) were cancelled. I really hope they make it back over soon for all us romantic comedy dudes.

SOME OTHER RECORDS I THOUGHT WERE GREAT OR REALLY LIKED THAT AT ANOTHER TIME MIGHT HAVE BEEN INCLUDED OR AT LEAST DESERVE AN HONOURABLE MENTION: 

A Winged Victory for the Sullen – s/t. Extremely moody instrumental post-rock. Soothing at the same time as being tremendously affecting and a little sad. I am not the sort of person who sits and listens to post-rock in a thoughtful mood, but this makes for a fantastic soundtrack to many, many things.

Baton Rouge – Fragments D’eux Mêmes. A side-project from members of the awesome French screamo outfit Daitro plus some cats from 12XU. I don’t know 12XU and won’t try and pretend I’ve heard them, but Daitro I really dig. Mainland European screamo is where it’s been at for the past few years, although at the moment there are exciting crossover things here in the UK and some sweet US bands are on the rise.

Bomb the Music Industry! – Vacation. It could hardly be a best-of list from NFI without mentioning recurrent favourites BTMI. Jeff just gets better and better at writing this shit.

Childish Gambino – EP. One of the first rap albums I’ve ever heard which made me think, “woah, this guy is actually talking about stuff which feels relevant to my life.” Maybe there is a lot of rap music out there that is filled with this level of self-effacing depression at the same time as it indulges in the usual self-aggrandisement and pussy-chasing you expect from the genre. I dunno. I dig this EP, though, and the backing tracks are sweet to boot.

Crazy Arm – Union City Breath. It’s Crazy Arm doing what they do! This album is a big improvement over Born to Ruin and is an unashamedly political punk rock album which, in today’s heavily ironized too-cool-to-care musical environment is a breath of fresh air – especially when backed with musicianship this taut and songs this well-crafted.

Dananananaykroyd – There Is A Way. It’s a real shame that Danana have decided to call it a day, but at least they left us with this second album full of cheeky, quirky rock treats. It’s not as outre as their earlier material – the twin drum kits appear to have been mostly jettisoned which, novelty or not, I miss – but it’s still a lot of fun.

Gateway DistrictPerfect’s Gonna Fail. Reviewed here.

GIRAFFES? GIRAFFES! – Pink Magick. Delicious, quirky, noodly psychedelic math rock named after a Dave Eggers book.

Johnny Foreigner – Vs Everything. I actually don’t remember any of the songs on this album, but every time I play it, or every time a song from it comes on via shuffle, I really enjoy it. It feels like a stronger album than Grace & the Bigger Picture and though it’s almost certainly not the classic that Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light was, it’s a record I want to spend more time with. I think it will prove a grower.

Our Sunday Affairs – Welcome Home Kiddo. The last few years has given us an astonishing quantity of noodly post-emo music and a lot of it has proven very enjoyable indeed. A lot of people have been talking about Dikembe but the record that stuck in my mind was actually this one.

The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck. Mountain Goats: still awesome.

Snowing – I Could Do Whatever I Wanted If I Wanted. Reviewed here.

Tom Waits – Bad As Me. Tom Waits can do no wrong… or if he does he hides it well.

We’ll Go MacheteStrong Drunk Hands. Reviewed here.

I also started writing a lot about Hard GirlsHello before getting suspicious and double-checking when it was released. Yep, 2009. For some reason it was showing up in the wrong place in my iTunes library, and I guess that I got confused between that and having listened to ‘Quinceanera’ about three dozen times lately.

And that’s your lot. Man, writing all of this was pretty exhausting. I really hope you check out some of my recommendations if you’ve not already heard them!

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