Time goes so quickly, doesn’t it? It seems only a few weeks ago we were here last, looking at the year’s best music. 2010 was pretty good, but 2011 has been much better. So many great records, but Real Gone’s favourite was without a shadow of doubt the big studio comeback from prog-rock legends Yes.
YES – Fly From Here
Their first new studio material in a decade, it was so good to have Yes back. The album featured some of their best recordings since 1994’s ‘Talk’, while frontman Benoit David proved you don’t need Jon Anderson on board to make a decent Yes record. The whole of ‘Fly From Here’ stomps over the band’s last three studio records featuring Anderson…and then some. And to think another reviewer said the band were bereft of ideas and had to resort to scraping the bottom of the barrel with Buggles leftovers. About 50% of ‘Fly From Here’ had roots in some unfinished business, ‘tis true enough, but neither Yes nor Buggles could find a suitable use for those pieces of music back then. Now, it’s a different story: now the fit together wonderfully and surprisingly naturally. In short, ‘Fly From Here’ is bloody superb. [Review here]
DEAD EXS – Ressurection
Discovered absolutely by accident. The debut release by New York garage-blues duo The Dead Exs is raw, fairly raucous and comes with absolutely no pretence. Recorded live in the studio with a couple of microphones, the energy in the duo’s material really comes across. If you have a liking for garage-based noises, you could do a whole lot worse than buy this record. If you haven’t already, go and do it now. [Review here]
DEVIN TOWNSEND – Ghost
You never know what you’re getting with Devin Townsend. You’re just as likely to get a complex progressive metal release – or something atmospheric – as you are to spend an hour with him shouting over pneumatic sounding extremities. However, despite his liking of progressive metal and rock, he’s never delved into atmospheric music to such levels as this before. ‘Ghost’ – the fourth album from the Devin Townsend Project – revels in acoustic guitars, flutes and soft voices, creating a new age/prog masterpiece. The album would have almost certainly found a spot in Real Gone’s end of year favourites, but after an absolutely gorgeous live show at London’s Union Chapel, there was no questioning ‘Ghost’s absolute brilliance. [Review here]
POWERMAN 5000 – Copies, Clones & Replicants
Poor Powerman 5000 seem to find it difficult getting good press. The band – fronted by Rob Zombie’s little bro, Spider One – often seem dogged by lacklustre reviews. Their 2011 release ‘Copies, Clones and Replicants’ didn’t break the trend and gathered some particularly scathing comments online. Ignore them: this album is fabulous! Spider One and his crew turn their hand to the covers album with ease, putting their own stamp on tunes by Devo, M, INXS, The Cars and more, with brilliant results. Should a covers album deserve a place among the year’s best musical achievements? If it’s as good as this…absolutely. [Review here]
MUTINY MUTINY – Constellation
Grinding. More grinding. Discordant guitars. Throbbing basslines. Ever wondered what would happen if a band took the best elements of Melvins, Slint and Sonic Youth and then dished them back up with a bit of their own style? Wonder no more! While most of the alternative press were busy fawning over Yuck throughout 2011, Seattle’s Mutiny Mutiny were the year’s true heroes with regard to nineties revivalism. For those who still hanker after the spirit of the nineties festival circuit, ‘Constellation’ is not to be missed. [Review here]
Okay, those were the five unmissable albums, but naturally, there was a truckload of other great releases throughout the year. After a six year hiatus, Jane’s Addiction returned with ‘The Great Escape Artist’, a record which was disappointing at first, but repeated listens uncovered subtle depths. Although the album was severly lacking Dave Navarro’s huge overdriven guitars, the album was still much better than most alternative bands could hope for… New Jane’s Addiction material is always welcome, no matter how long it takes. French punks The Black Stout released their debut EP, which combined the sounds of Rancid, The Distillers and a couple of other disctinctive influences, resulting in something special. A second release – an eight song vinyl – is promised for 2012. Another covers album, the appropriately titled ‘Covers’ by Holmes showcased some great musical taste and a sense for reinvention, while Scandinavians Team Me released an absolutely fantastic EP full of songs which showed a strong love of The Flaming Lips and Polyphonic Spree. Since old-school rock and AOR is very important to Real Gone, there have been various melodic rock discs reviewed, but none were as fine as the 2011 release from ex-Virginia wolf man Chris Ousey. While 98% of the best AOR/melodic rock was released in 1985/1987-89, this was a release which proved there’s still some great stuff out there…
As always, as well as discovering lots of new bands and music, there have been the omnipresent old favourites as well as the reappearance of things from the past. With the amount of good power pop circulating this year, we’ve also found ourselves enjoying ELO. Since an increased tolerance of bearded Brummies wasn’t actually that high on the agenda, this comes a surprise. It’s either the fault of Daniel Tashian and The Silver Seas, or those guys from Farrah. Either way, ‘Out of The Blue’ has found its way back on the semi-regular playlist for the first time since the early 80s.
Aside from lots of great music, 2011 saw big changes at Real Gone, as we moved from being a regular blog to a fully-fledged website. With the move came two important changes: the addition of a news column and a live archive. The news column is important and somewhat of a necessity, but the live archive is just a bit of fun… There are so many great live shows uploaded to YouTube and the like, it seemed to make sense to try and round a few of them up. Y’know, Real Gone does the leg-work, so you don’t have to…or something. The beginning of the year also saw Real Gone being quoted in Classic Rock Magazine, so here’s hoping for more – and greater recognition – in 2012!
A big thank you goes out to the various bands who’ve found Real Gone this year and sent us stuff for review, with a particular shout out for The Dead Exs who helped Real Gone host our first ever prize giveaway. Thanks also to the various labels who’ve sent stuff out and the promotions companies who tirelessly plug away – the guys at Planetary have pointed more than a few interesting bits this way over the course of 2011. Thanks also to the various Twitter folk who’ve helped spread the word by re-tweeting various links and stuff – a quick tweet can sometimes go a very long way! Lastly, a huge thank you to Colin at InkaDesign who provided invaluable help with the big move and various changes this year.