Each December we select our ten favourite artists of that year, acts we think have made an indelible mark on the last twelve months and offered that little bit more than their contemporaries. The votes are in, the squabbling has been done, and so here are our ten Artists Of The Year for 2011 – click the images to read the full articles. And click here to listen to a CMU playlist featuring tracks from each of our artists of the year.
In nearly 35 years as a performer, Björk has never been conventional and has done much to push the boundaries of music in her time. But for her latest album, ‘Biophilia’, she experimented not only musically but also with how the music itself was released. ‘Biophilia’ is an ambitious project that will act as a marker music.
Traditionally the whole of an artist’s activity is a sum of various parts. You write an album, you record an album, you get on the road and tour to promote that album. And while I’m sure that in part the same is true for Amon Tobin, it at least appeared that in 2011 he was working on one complete project, a feat of joined up thinking where each piece was as important as the others.
It was apparent from the first listen of PJ Harvey’s eighth album, ‘Let England Shake’, that it was going to be one of the year’s best, and one that would dominate end of year lists. Released in February, it has since swept up numerous accolades, including Harvey’s second Mercury Prize win, recognised for its brilliant songwriting and the sheer work that went into making it.
Beyonce’s ‘Run The World (Girls)’ launched her fourth studio album, ’4′. Although not as successful as hoped, the ’4′ crusade strutted on, with second single ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ coinciding with a headline set at Glastonbury, a marathon demonstration of her supreme stagecraft, and one of the more glamorous showbiz spectacles yet to flood the Pyramid Stage’s iconic outline.
2010 was a bit of a strange year for Wiley, a mixture of chart success and label disputes. Somewhere along the way, he cracked. He announced via Twitter that he had sacked his manager, before uploading a series of zip files containing over 200 previously unreleased tracks. But since wiping the slate clean and signing a new deal, he returned this year triumphant.
Pulling on all sorts of permutations of UK bass music and Berlin techno, plus a dose of 90s R&B, ‘Emika’ is an album that has its own sound, with no artists clearly definable as influences. It’s dark and edgy but also filled with hooks, and somehow both loud and quiet. Very few artists manage to create such a distinct world in which to place their songs.
Odd Future had their unofficial coming out party at this year’s SxSW; toasted as a hip hop revelation and the true torchbearers of the underground flame. Ever since the LA collective’s many factions have prolificly released singles, albums and mixtapes, harnessing the social potency of Tumblr and Twitter on a scale bordering on revolutionary.
EMA made the move from South Dakota to LA aged eighteen, taking her first footsteps into the music world with alt-rockers Amps For Christ and releasing a 2007 album with drone-folk pairing Gowns before electing to strike out on her own. Her debut album, ‘Past Life Martyred Saints’, has a broad but clearly defined sonic palette, which allows for diverse variety of styles.
A dark, downbeat confection of songcraft and samples, swirled through with a lush falsetto, and made shadowy flesh by Canadian producer-singer-songwriter Abel Tesfaye. I’m talking, of course, about The Weeknd, who this year confounded critics with his ‘House Of Balloons’ and ‘Thursday’ mixtapes, each of which conjured a fireball of fuss.
Three Trapped Tigers
Three Trapped Tigers’ sound is complex, and can be difficult to explain succinctly. Rogerson described it to us with a riddle, saying: “How do you play Aphex Twin live? Answer: make it sound a bit like Lightning Bolt”. But that description doesn’t get over how much they’ve created their own universe of music with their own instantly recognisable sound, unlike any other band.
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