2011′s Top Ten LPs (My Two Cents)

I read an amusing tweet earlier – Any Decent Music, the Scottish music review aggregator site, announced that “those laggards at TLOBF have finally completed their best albums list, so the Best Of The Best Ofs is now wrapped up”. That’s ADM’s epic undertaking which aggregates “best of 2011″ lists and has produced a top 50 from them. Of all the contributing publications TLOBF took the longest to get their list up, which I think says something about how seriously the editorial team took the exercise. Of course, the whole affair shows just how many publications want a look-in at the best albums game: to the music criticism world, they’re what this time of year is about.

At the same time, having an opinion is what us music writers do, and here’s my hat thrown into the ring. I make no claim that I’ve heard hundreds of records in 2011, and certainly I’ve heard a fraction of even the big ones – but this is my list of personal favourites, the records which have made the biggest impact on me and the ones which I’ll forever connect with the developments the year has brought into my own life. As usual, there’s not a lot of crossover with the lists ADM aggregated, but hopefully a few underheard gems which could do for you what they did for me. More

Live in Berlin: Jim Kroft w/ Ben Barritt

“The bustling Kreuzberg district was the site of my last gig in Berlin, but today provides almost as big a contrast as one could imagine. I have come to an industrial estate in the city’s leafy southern suburbs, to a looming former brewery on Bessemerstrasse. The “Malzfabrik” or “malt factory” was erected in 1914 but is now a dynamic arts venue and business premises. Today it hosts a free summer party with music, arts and crafts, and the sustainable produce that is all the rage in the city. What draws me here are the songs of Jim Kroft…”

Read the rest of the gig review at The Line of Best Fit

To see Scottish pop-rock singer-songwriter Jim Kroft live was a long-held ambition of mine, finally achieved in Berlin last week. My TLOBF live review also includes coverage of the performance by Kroft’s long-time collaborator Ben Barritt as well as a rare appearance of my attempts at photography. Below the cut, see the video for the new single ‘The Jailer’.

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Jim Kroft – “Memoirs From the Afterlife”

Scottish singer-songwriter Jim Kroft recorded one of my top ten records of last year, the wonderful rock/pop opus Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Based in Berlin, Kroft is working on a follow-up and the first thing to be released was this video for “Memoirs From the Afterlife”, which emerged months back but which I’ve only just discovered. Check it out, as well as Kroft’s site which is here.

In Praise of Jim Kroft

Today’s been a really lovely day. I finished, printed and bound my dissertation; I celebrated my next door neighbour’s birthday and ate cake; and my housemates and I went to go and see Iron Man 2, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. So much has happened in fact, that I couldn’t decide which things to blog about, so I’ve decided to blog about none of them.

Instead, I’m going to do something similar to – albeit shorter than, as I’m knackered – what I did yesterday. In that post I mentioned the record Between the Devil & The Deep Blue Sea by Jim Kroft, and I’m just going to restate at length how brilliant this album is. I’ve reviewed it for Concourse (Issue 9 of which is very nearly completed, incidentally, and looking very nice indeed – I’ll link to the online version when I can, as ever) and though I only had about a hundred words, I enthused about the record as much as I could.

I like music with positive messages. Obviously “positive” is a subjective term, and I’m no PMRC Tipper Gore fan, but if I think a song or album puts out a message I feel is good for me personally or for the world, it helps me like that record. It’s not essential, but it helps. Devil is full of positive messages, but not always straightforward ones. “Birthright” for example seems to indicate simultaneously that we’re in control of our lives and that we’re not, underlining Kroft’s brilliant ability to write nuanced lyrics that still sound uplifting and resonant. It helps, of course, that the music is great.

It’s often very orchestral, with some fantastic string arrangements (which as I mentioned yesterday, I am drawn to like a moth to a flame) but there’s also some raucous rock sections, a fine guitar solo or two, a little acoustic work, and everything is tightly performed and smoothly produced. It’s a treat, basically, and Kroft himself is a fantastically warm, honest, open presence, sounding strident in one song and distraught in the next. It’s a great record, it’ll be on my best of the year list, no doubt about it, and you ought to listen. The smart play might be to take a peek at his Last.fm page, as it seems there are some freebies on there if you root aroud. His YouTube is worth a peek too.

// Thought

"There's a flaming red horizon that screams our names..."

Jeff Buckley - "Eternal Life"

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