Playlists #2: In The Cut?

On the eve of the New Year, Marc Hall considers the fine margins between the haves and the have nots of the past year.

As 2011 passes into the history books, all that’s left is to consider will time be kind?  Will we look back at 2011 as a classic year, or will it be casually disregarded in the annuls of musical history?

The lack of a defining ‘wow’ moment from a musical talent was certainly notable. For the second year running it was the death of a pop star creating the biggest headlines. Does 2011 have more to offer than that?

We’ve seen further successes from the marketing gurus selling music to people who, well, don’t like music. There is no doubting that the £150million earned from Take That’s Progress tour can be considered a considerable achievement. On the other hand, have we seen the tides turn for X Factor, with the latest series considered lacklustre, the winners failing even to get the Xmas No1 spot (without facing the juggernaut of a full on internet campaign this time around).

Critically, the most successful albums released in 2011 are re-issues, with The Beach Boys, Can, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana all in the Metacritic top-rated lists. Time proves kind to some, with nostalgia always playing a part in historic reviews. There’s no doubting however, that 2011 has seen some great albums, with PJ Harvey, Bon Iver, Tune-Yards and Kurt Vile all appearing high in critic’s choices.

This playlist has been designed to highlight some of the artists not fairing quite so high in the end of year shakedown. A few may feature here and there, but none have seen that universal acclaim bestowing greatness. It could be one of these albums that have people gushing when re-issued in 20 years’ time.  

We have the likes of Battles and Yuck, whose records arrived to great fanfare, but couldn’t keep up with the hype machine. Others such as Bill Wells & Aidan Moffatt’s sublime ‘Everything’s Getting Older’, or Scroobious Pip’s ‘Distraction Pieces’ picked up a loyal following, but again didn’t receive the coverage deserved to them.  Also making our cut are Malkmus and Mascis, two songwriters that many see as having overstayed their welcome, regardless of the quality of their latest outputs.

I reserve final mention for the ever consistent Bill Callahan, who 14 albums into his career is surely due the ‘lifetime achievement’ praise that PJ Harvey has seen this year.

As I wrap up my own personal take on 2011, I close with the words of J Mascis: “I think I only like my record this year.”

Marc Hall

Illustration by Laura Robertson

Posted on 31/12/2011 by thedoublenegative