James Christopher Sheppard
on his Top Ten musical highlight of 2011
As we hit the mid-point of the year 2011, James Christopher Sheppard takes a look back and charts his top ten musical highlights of the year so far. With stellar performances, standout single releases and albums that will be listened to for years to come, here’s how James’ top ten shapes up, in descending order, starting with the tenth best highlight.
P!nk ‘Fuckin’ Perfect’
New Mum, P!nk, released the second single from her Greatest Hits… So Far!!! album in March, to much critical acclaim. The video portrays a girl with self-confidence issues, who dabbles in self-harm, but ultimately grows into a beautiful women and mother. As corny as it sounds, it really is a moving song and video and incredibly apt for P!nk at this time in her life. I can not wait for the follow-up to the incredible Funhouse album.
Britney Spears ‘Hold it Against Me’
Britney smashed back onto the scene after a short break at the beginning of the year with the dub-step tinged monster hit ‘Hold it Against Me’. The song is a new direction for Britney, and while the album Femme Fatale may not live up to the standard set here, ‘Hold it Against Me’ is one of the best Britney singles ever.
Lady GaGa ‘The Edge of Glory’ performance at Radio One’s Big Weekend.
Lady Gaga had run into all sorts of critical indifference at the beginning of the year as the response to the first two singles from her album Born This Way were not met with the same ecstatic reception in the UK that she was used to. While ‘Born This Way’ slowly built on people and sold steadily, it still was the least original single she had put out, and ‘Judas’ didn’t do a great deal to help matters. Cut to May and Gaga headlined Radio One’s Big Weekend in Carlisle and performed a piano only version of third single ‘The Edge of Glory’. With no gimmicks, no crazy outfit or political message, ‘The Edge of Glory’ proved Lady Gaga’s musical talent was still as evident as ever and stands as one of her most emotional and powerful performances to date.
Blondie Panic of Girls
Returning with their ninth studio album, Blondie proved on their stunning new album that they are still a force to be reckoned with. The band sound younger and fresher than they have done in years, with Panic of Girls being innovative and full of energy. Stand out tracks include ‘Mother’, ‘What I Heard’, ‘Girlie Girlie’ and ‘Wipe off my Sweat’. Get the limited edition collector’s pack if you haven’t already, featuring an exclusive magazine, prints, a poster and bonus tracks.
Lower Than Atlantis World Record
The second full-length album from melodic hardcore band, Lower Than Atlantis, arrived in April and saw Mike Duce and his band-mates establish themselves as one of the leading alternative rock bands in the UK, getting air-play from Radio One and Kerrang, amongst others. World Record managed to outshine their outstanding debut, Far Q, with killer tracks like ‘Beech Like a Tree’, ‘(Motor) Way of Life’, ‘Another Sad Song’ and ‘Deadliest Catch’. World Record is only the beginning for these guys, which makes them so exciting to watch. Definitely a band and an album to check out if you haven’t already.
Adele 21 and that Brit Awards Performance
You must have been in a coma for the past six months if you’ve failed to notice to phenomenal success of English singer/songwriter Adele’s second album, 21. The album is now established as the longest running UK number one album since Saturday Night Fever in 1978, that’s sixteen weeks so far, and as it stands 21 is still #2. First single, ‘Rolling In The Deep’, was a huge success pretty much everywhere, and has just spent its seventh week at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, while ‘Someone Like You’ rocketed to number one in the UK following the heart-wrenching acoustic performance at the Brit Awards in February. There’s even more to 21 that the massive hits however, with gems such as ‘Turning Tables’, a cover of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong’ and ‘Set Fire To The Rain’. 21 is a record-shattering album, with over seven million sales since its release in January, and its obvious why- just seriously good music.
Incubus If Not Now, When?
Following a five year gap since their last studio album, Incubus finally ventured back into the limelight over the past few months to announce the forthcoming release of their seventh studio album. If Not Now, When? is delicate and mellow, yet mesmerising and powerful, with new Incubus classics such as ‘Adolescents’, ‘Isadore’, ‘Defience’ and ‘In the Company of Wolves’ to add to our already lengthy Incubus playlists.
Patrick Wolf Lupercalia
What can I say about the new Patrick Wolf album, other than it is mind bogglingly good and everyone should own a copy? Patrick is shockingly underrated and still doesn’t receive the recognition he should. He has five brilliant albums to his name and is a musical genius, and Lupercalia is the most coherent and beautiful album he has put out to date. The strings are more prominent than ever, his voice is rich and strong, the brass heightens the shameless loved-up happiness and it is just flawless. Well I think it is anyway, and this is my top ten.
Within Temptation The Unforgiving
Dutch symphonic rock band, Within Temptation, released their new concept album earlier this year, and thank the metal Gods that they are back. The Unforgiving is their freshest album yet, blowing all expectations out of the water. The band haven’t lost any of the drive or love for what they do, and it is so apparent with this release, which sounds like a labour of love, from start to finish. Standout tracks include ‘In the Middle of the Night’, ‘Stairway to the Skies’, ‘Shot in the Dark’ and ‘Faster’. If you love female fronted rock with a difference, you should definitely check this out. The Unforgiving is currently my undisputed album of 2011 so far.
Kylie Minogue Aphrodite: Les Folies World Tour
Yes, my musical highlight of 2011 is undoubtedly the latest concert tour by our one and only Pop Royal Highness, Miss Kylie Minogue. Kylie’s most comprehensive world tour ever, with 76 dates played so far, is a simply stunning show, featuring a camp-as-Christmas set-list, including a glorious cover of Eurythmics’ ‘There Must Be An Angel Playing With My Heart’, the classics ‘What Do I Have To Do’, ‘Confide In Me’ and a rocked up version of ‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’, as well as almost all of the #1 album Aphrodite. The show flows coherently, drifting into each new song with natural timing and features the most intricate staging I have ever seen, with water jets, moving stages and even a real life angel that Kylie flies over the audience on. The Aphrodite: Les Folies World Tour really does show Kylie on top of the world and being the absolute best she can be, which unsurprisingly is better than any other pop star out there. If I could go to this show every week for the rest of my life, I would. Kylie, we salute you.
JCS is the regular music critic for Eyewear; a graduate of Kingston University's acclaimed Creative Writing BA, he currently divides his time between Hull and London, where he is working on a book about growing up gay during the Blair Years.
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