Top 10s of 2011
From Reviews, Words
posted on December 27th, 2011


I think it’s been a fantastic year for LPs. Even if fewer punters want to listen to whole records, still the classiest talents want to make them. How did Decemberists, Sam Duckworth, She Makes WarThe Horrors, MJ Hibbett, Standard Fare, EMA, Grace Petrie, tUnE-yArDs, Metronomy and Matt Creer not even make it into my Top 10? All made superb records in 2011. But oh no they di’in’t, my 10 favourites are…

1 PJ Harvey – Let England Shake

2 Scroobius Pip – Distraction Pieces

3 Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

4 The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient

5 Nicola Roberts – Cinderella’s Eyes

6 British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall

7 Something Beginning With L – Beautiful Ground

8 Fucked Up – David Comes To Life

9 Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones

10 Tom Williams & The Boat – Too Slow


The Muppets – ‘Am I A Man Or Am I A Muppet?’

Standard Fare – ‘Darth Vadar’

Joanna Neary – ‘Youth Club’ closing song

Franz Nicolay – ‘Do The Stuggle’

Jim Bob – ‘Mr Blue Sky’

James Blake – ‘A Case Of You’

This Is The Kit – ‘Easy Pickings’

tUnE-yArDs – ‘Bizzness’

The Singing Adams – ‘The Old Days’

Hugh Laurie – ‘Swanee River’

Second annual honourable mention for Jon Boden’s Folk Song A Day project, which in June successfully completed a new recording of a traditional tune every day for a year. Inspiring and brilliant. Also excellent was Darren Hayman’s January Songs, where he wrote and shared a new song each day for a month. Insightful into process.


Carter USM, Tim Ten Yen at Edenfest, Mr Spoons’ garden, south-east London

Clowns at The Hydrant, Brighton

ONSIND and others at Book Yer Ane Fest 5, Dexter’s, Dundee

Robyn at The Roundhouse, London

Jim Jones Revue at Blissfields 2011

Midwinter Picnic 3 at West Hill Hall, Brighton

Tom Williams & The Boat, My First Tooth, She Makes War, The Borderline

The Singing Adams at The Basement, Brighton

Frank Turner, Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo, Franz Nicolay at Newport Centre

Dive Dive at The Frog & Fiddle, Cheltenham


In 2011 I did 112 shows (solo, Hoodrats, Milne, activist stuff, short spots and a few public talks). This top 10 is just based on how much I enjoyed the time onstage – doesn’t mean much about the whole night, or audience quality, or even how well I played. It’s just that magic (hard to explain) ‘thing’ onstage:

1 Laurence, Jølle and Kenneth’s basement party, Copenhagen

2 The Hoodrats in Cheltenham, Swindon & Art Uncut gig, London

3 Falmouth University on their new Yamaha CF6 grand piano

4 Carter USM, me and Tim Ten Yen in Neil’s garden

5 Cambridge Portland, supported by MJ Hibbett and Anna Madeleine

6 The Church stage at Indietracks Festival

7 frantic Pecha Kucha talk about Twitter and post-Capitalism at Brighton Digital Festival

8 Edinburgh Fringe – pretty much the whole thing, especially the final two weeks

9 York, maybe Edinburgh and/or Reading on Franz Nicolay’s tour

10 Robin Ince’s late night show, Comedy Stage, End Of The Road Festival

Honorable mention to Matt Creer’s brilliant gig in a church in Douglas on the Isle Of Man, which was magic but for the absence of some Manxie friends. Also honourable mention to the Aberdeen Lost & Found show where (entirely coincidentally) the stage set was toilets, because they’d had a play on set in a public loo.


Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle

Game Of Thrones

The Shadow Line

Breaking Bad

Human Planet

Curb Your Enthusiasm

30 Rock

Bruce Parry’s Arctic


The 10 O’Clock Show

(I’m sure The Killing and The Slap would be in here but I haven’t watched them yet)

*EDIT* just realised (watching Adam Curtis on the Screenswipe review of 2011) that I forgot the magnificent series All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace. Stick that in at number #1 and drop the 10 O’Clock Show off the list. 🙂


1. Isy Suttie ‘Pearl & Dave’ at Edinburgh Fringe

2. Adam Curtis’ BBC archive blogs

3. collection of English and Scottish ballads Franz Nicolay found me in Buxton, published in 1868

4. Private Eye, a vintage year for Hislop & co.

5. Joanna Neary ‘Youth Club’ at Edinburgh Fringe and the Three And Ten, Brighton

6. Jason Burke – The 9/11 Wars (book)

7. Louis CK’s Beacon Theatre $5 special

8. debate about protest songs at Interrogate! Festival in Dartington Hall

9. Caitlin Moran – How To Be A Woman (book)

10. Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast, thanks to Franz Nicolay

11. Margaret Cho at Edinburgh Fringe and Brighton Comedy Festival

12. Boring 2011 (even though I only saw 2 hours)

13. Tom Price ‘Say When’ at Edinburgh Fringe

14. MJ Hibbett & Steve’s ‘Moon Horse’ at Edinburgh Fringe

15. Charlotte Young and Mark Dean Quinn’s Darwin show

16. Josie Long in various places

17. revisiting Chomsky vs Foucault

18. Crunch Festival in Hay-on-Wye

honorable mention: Jim Bob’s second novel is extraordinary and brilliant but I’ll list it when it’s published (2012 I believe).


Time Magazine named ‘the protester’ and I agree. Specifically, my heroes of the year are: UK Uncut, Anonymous, Art Uncut, @BendyGirl and The Hardest Hit, Josie Long and Neil Griffiths’ Arts Emergency campaign and the global Occupiers.


Of course: government, bankers, corrupt media and the tax dodging corporates are ugly villains but I’ve got a personal one this year: celebrity conductor Charles Hazlewood. He briefly got involved with a project developing an orchestra for musicians with disabilities, which UK charity Drake Music had been working on for years. But when his participation didn’t work out and he walked away, suddenly he was developing his own near identical project with TV production company What Larks. I wrote about it in the Morning Star and Private Eye picked up the story – but mainstream press steered clear, with the Evening Standard even publishing a puff piece for his plans. I can’t imagine much worse than stealing ideas from a charity.


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