It’s unseasonably hot in the UK at the moment, but now that it’s October, we’re already well into the countdown to the end of the year and thoughts are starting to drift towards those lists we all love to make of our favourite music/films/whatever of 2011. But there’s still some contenders to be released, so here’s the five albums I’m most looking forward to.
1 – Björk – Biophilia
Having heard the songs performed at the Manchester International Festival, I’m obviously really looking forward to the release of the album itself. The whole ‘app’ side of things has passed me by as I don’t have a smartphone, but it doesn’t seem to have changed the world, so we can probably all just focus on the actual music now. It all sounded fantastic live, with the sideshow of the weird new instruments not distracting from the material itself, and it will be very interesting to see how it works on record, not least because Björk has delayed its release to continue working on it after the songs developed during her residency in Manchester. But when one of the most talented artists in the world releases something new, it’s always going to be exciting.
2 – Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow
See above. When Kate Bush announced that she was releasing a new album earlier in the year, there was a lot of excitement, because it’s been six years since her last one. While that’s only half as long as the gap between Aerial and its predecessor, it’s still a heck of a long wait, so there was considerable disappointment when Director’s Cut turned out to be just tweaked/re-recorded versions of older songs, even though it worked very well as its own album. Happily though, it’s also been followed by an actual new album, with just seven tracks, but some lengthy running times, and I love the idea of the ‘snow’ theme. As for the reported Stephen Fry vocals, well, we’ll see how that turns out…
3 – Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu
See above. Lou Reed & Metallica sounds like the kind of pairing you’d get on a song done for a soundtrack or tribute album, not a full album on its own. Even more bizarre is that it comes 11 years since Reed’s last ‘traditional’ album, having spent the time in between doing Poe stories in song form and making music to meditate to, none of which fits in well with the idea of hooking up with a heavy metal group. One look at the tracklisting shows that it’s very long, with only two songs coming in under five minutes and the last five songs all longer than eight minutes. The View, the first song released on YouTube, has met with mostly negative reaction from hardcore fans of both sides rebelling against the other, but I’m keeping any open mind because I like both Lou Reed and Metallica.
4 – Tom Waits – Bad As Me
While Lou Reed’s latter-day career has been patchy and ‘experimental’, Tom Waits has continued in fine form whenever he has felt the need to release new material, and it’s been seven years since Real Gone came out, so this is a welcome return. Judging by the clips of songs we’ve heard on the barking-mad and excellent YouTube video Waits put out a while back, he’s treading a familiar road here, but it’s a road he treads alone, so it’s hard to criticise. Well, as long as you like his particular brand of eclectic bluesy-barroom-oopma-ballads. Which is handy, because I love them, and he’s one of the greatest storytellers in the music industry, so I can’t wait to hear what Waits and Kathleen Brennan have come up with this time.
5 – Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire
After his first two fantastic albums, Ryan Adams was untouchable. His thirteenth album comes at a time when he’s probably still untouchable, but in a different way. He’s made lots of good music in the decade since Gold came out, but has never quite recovered the momentum lost in the Love Is Hell/Rock ‘n’ Roll fiasco, while his erratic live performances and apparently dependence on unhelpful substances seemed to leading him down the wrong path. After the break-up of The Cardinals a couple of years ago, this is his big comeback and is apparently much more what people expect from him than his death metal sci-fi concept album Orion ever was. Produced by Glyn Johns (father of Heartbreaker/Gold producer Ethan), there are big hopes for Ashes & Fire.