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2011 in music

Jude Mason


For four of the stand-out albums of 2011, simply remember your A,B,Cs.

A is for Adele's 21, which found the perfect combination of critically acclaimed and massively popular. It became not only the year's biggest seller, but the biggest selling UK album this century - dethroning the sadly departed Amy Winehouse's Back To Black. The two albums are not entirely dissimilar bodies of work, echoing a 60s soul vibe and displaying the ability to stay in heavy rotation both on radio and in everyone's kitchen/car/iPod.

B is first for Bon Iver, whose self-titled second album is a thing of fragile and beguiling beauty.  More layered and expansive than his true-folky debut, the album evokes a mood that can be both melancholy and uplifting all in the same breath.  It is, quite simply, gorgeous.

The other B is for Black Keys, who hustle their way into my Best Of with a December release. El Camino is a wonderfully rambunctious affair delivering hip-quivering, straight-up garage rock that, with Dangermouse taking production duties, is far from one-dimensional.  Warning: Beware of listening to this in the car, I was so moved by the swagger earlier that I very nearly got myself a speeding ticket.

C is for the Civil Wars.  With their perfectly intertwined harmonies and light country-tinged melodies, the duo's debut, Barton Hollow, is a work of simple loveliness that earned them a pair of Grammy nominations. 

Further along the alphabet there were other stellar releases.  Feist's Metals divided opinions by being just different enough from her debut The Reminder to hold the faithful but lose those drawn in by the poppy sweetness of '1,2,3,4'.  Then a seemingly unlikely pairing of Scottish folk and electronica came up trumps for King Creosote and Jon Hopkins with the sparkling Diamond Mine, and Paul Simon's So Beautiful Or So What proved there's plenty of life (and classic tracks) in an old dog.