I’ve been wondering all year whether I’ve finally reached that apocalyptic age when you go off modern music and become trapped in a state of near-dimentia reliving the works of past maestros in a virtual rip in the space time coninuum, or if the general quality of music has taken a similar course to that of the economy. Having read around a few other end of year round ups I’ve (thankfully) decided that it’s the latter, and it is indicative of this year that my favourite album is only good, maybe darn good, but not great. It’s not been all sonic malnourishment though. 2011’s three finest gigs were also the three finest of my life, and the number 1 single puts dynamite on 2012’s fire…

Album of the Year

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo

The accepted view of the cognoscenti postulates that 2012 will see the death of the guitar band (see here). In reality “the guitar band” has died many times only to rise once again in the same terrifying manner as one of George Romero’s zombies (I’m looking at you The Stone Roses), and I don’t really care what happens as long as it’s an improvent on 2011. Also, Kurt Vile puts the lie to the banal idea that all the tequila’s been drunk from the guitar bottle. He may not offer anything significantly original or mindblowing, but through the hazy reverb, finger-picked guitar melodies and slurred words Smoke Ring For My Halo gently calms, entertains and reassures you that there are plenty of gifted singer-songwriters plying their trade and coming up with the goods. And, even though Vile is already in his ealry thirties, it feels like the best is yet to come.

Other strong contenders were King Midas Sounds and M83.

Single of the Year

Lana Del Rey – Video Games

Over-hyped? Not a bit of it: Video Games marks the first incline of the ascent of an artist who will surely storm the world with the release of her debut album this month. At this point it’s very hard to imagine her (or anyone else for that matter) besting Video Games, a songs that is so devastatingly poignoint that it seems to have made all other female singer songwriters seem irrelevant. Unbelievable stuff!

Manchester’s Top Three Gigs of the Year (in no particular order)

Elbow at Manchester Cathedral

I know that the amount of praise Elbow receives is getting a little bit boring, and yes, they can be a little bit drab on record, but this may well have been the best gig I have ever been to. I spent days after the show, my eyes glazed over, reliving this epiphany, telling everyone around me (whether they cared or not) just how brillaint they are. It may have been the beautiful, historical setting, or the homecoming setting, but finally, I could see that Elbow deserve and earn every positive adjective and adverb that’s thrown at them. I nearly cried when they played ‘Lippy Kids’.

Full review here: https://www.silentradio.co.uk/10/29/live-elbow-27102011/

Cut Copy at Club Academy

My actual favourite album of 2011 is Cut Copy’s In Ghost Colours, but as it was released in 2008 it was never a realistic contender. Fusing trance, early 90s dance, indie, The Cure and elements of punk, Cut Copy has come up with a recipe that shouldn’t work, but does, and it is one of this century’s great injustices that they are not one of the biggest acts in the world as they are the epitome of perfect pop. They are one of those rare acts that combines accessibility with longevity as if making such music is as easy as breathing air. A brilliant, and overwhelmingly fun, show.

Full review here: https://www.silentradio.co.uk/10/28/live-cut-copy-26102011/

TV on the Radio at Academy 2

From a band that relently underachieves, it came as a massive surprise that they perform with such ostentatious style and conviction. On record they seem court up with the petty-pretentions of Radiohead; live they strut and rock like vintage Led Zeppelin. It’s always the acts you expect nothing of that overwhelm.

Full review here: https://www.silentradio.co.uk/06/30/live-tv-on-the-radio-27062011/

Chris Gilliver

I started out writing for the Manchester Evening News as a freelance journalist back in 2008. The idea that I would be given free access to music and gigs seemed somehow miraculous to me, and I proceeded to take full advantage of the situation. When the M.E.N. decided to constrict its coverage to only the very biggest bands, Simon Poole approached me with a plan to make sure that all the very talented musicians of this world that pass through and/or live in Manchester would not go unnoticed. As the New Releases editor here at Silent Radio Towers, it remains my proud duty to cast a critical eye over the music and reviews that come my way in a manner that is both supportive and fair. Above all, I strive to write as entertainingly possible. Favourite musicians include the Pixies, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Mercury Rev, Os Mutantes, The Knife, Beach House etc etc. I'm a firm believer that all genres (except nu-metal) contain music of great quality...