Making that difficult second album look easy, Bon Iver’s frontman Justin Vernon returned in 2011 with a sophomore work maintaining the intimate formula that earned him acclaim. Since the release of ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’, Vernon’s personal brand of alt folk has been a major influence for musicians of all genres. From hip-hop stars such as Kanye West, who sampled one of the auto-tuned tracks on his follow-up EP ‘Blood Bank’; to electronica wizard James Blake, with whom he recently collaborated on the track, ‘Fall Creek Boys Choir.’
Bon Iver’s follow up may have lacked the heartache that inspired his classic debut. It also leaned on complex production with richer arrangements. But somehow Bon Iver’s self titled follow up managed to preserve that spirit of introspection his first album gained from recording in a secluded woodland cabin.
The anticipating single ‘Calgary’ was a good reminder of the qualities that gave the band an instant cult following. Released alongside a cover of Bonnie Raitt’s much praised ballad, ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’, it propelled the album to the top of the charts and helped sell out an international tour as soon it was announced. Even the Grammys fell under his spell by granting Bon Iver a bunch of nominations, included a belated one for Best New Artist.
Lana Del Reyis an artist that’s undoubtedly inspired blog excitement and intrigue in 2011 . The first track to surface from her was ‘Video Games’. An enigmatically stylised video, breathtaking vocal and – potentially surgery enhanced – beauty all combined on one of the most intriguing and original tracks of the year. Internet hacks seemed to immediately fall head-over-heels in love with Del Rey, or grit their teeth while indignantly crowing against her former life as a failed pop artist (Lizzy Grant) and her apparent lack of authenticity.
It doesn’t really matter whether her striking image is of her own creation or that of a pop Svengali. Lana’s looks aside, ‘Video Games’ is breathtaking. Evocative strings, delicate harp and a hushed drum roll are the subtle accompaniments to the singer. The real focal point of the track is Del Rey’s spine chilling vocal. Telling the tale of a doomed relationship, she comes across as mix of Nancy Sinatra and one of the cast members of Larry Clark’s 1995 drama, Kids.
The song was named ‘Best New Track’ by Pitchfork and Del Rey’s debut album, ‘Born To Die’, is likely to be one of the most anticipated LP’s of 2012. While the singer’s first live performances have been reviewed as slightly shaky, it hasn’t shaken the buzz just yet. Let’s hope her album justifies the hype.
Since June this year Drake has been dominating blogs with his sophomore teasers including ‘Dreams Money Can Buy’ – sampled from Jai Paul, ‘Marvin’s Room’ and the duet with Rick Ross ‘Free Spirit’. Since releasing his second album ‘Take Care’, the title track has gone on to make the strongest impact with the commercial crowd. It features one of the biggest selling female artists of all time Rihanna and takes it sample from Jamie xx’s rendition of Gill Scot-Heron’s ‘I’ll Take Care Of You’.
The song features repetitive drums, a deep bassline and harmonic piano chords matched with polite side-chained strings. Drake’s lyrics touch upon past romances and the emotions involved with break-ups. The track reached #9 in the UK official charts and has topped our Shazam Tag Charts in the UK and USA. The album has been received with mixed reviews, although reaching #1 in the Billboard charts. Compared to Drake’s debut album, the overall feel of this is slower and introduces Drake more of a compassionate singer. With most songs produced by his sidekick 40, this was inevitable. Just Blaze’s production of ‘Lord Knows’ is the most dynamic and hard hitting track which also features Maybach Music, other featured artists on the album include The Weeknd, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne and Stevie Wonder.
Odd Future member Frank Ocean released his free 12 track mixtape, ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’, back in February of this year. Even now , Ocean’s tracks are getting regular plays in both the States and UK. Also he’s featured on many ‘To Watch’ lists for 2012, including topping ours. The most favourable track for Shazamers this year has been the slow tempo ‘Swim Good’, which has gained plenty of spins on college radio and the influential UK urban digital station BBC 1Xtra. Quite the achievement considering the track is taken from a free mixtape that’s had no help from a PR company. ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ simply spun a web of downloads through word of mouth and the help of Odd Future leader, Tyler The Creator. The mixtape has since been plugged on numerous blogs gathering attention from musicians including Pharrell Williams and Beyoncé who have both been working with Frank in the studio on new music.
Lyrically adept and with a sensual tone, Frank’s voice simmers over the southern style beat. The track consists of a recurring organ riff that creates the backdrop for repetitive tambourines and distant claps phased to each ear. Frank’s lyrics are heartfelt and gripping with the singer talking about his journey to the ocean where he will deposit his broken hearts filled up in his Lincoln Town Car trunk. Dressed for a funeral, Ocean continues with his story until the listener is left with the reflective sound of seagulls and the tides of an ocean.
Previously available to download for free, his album has now been removed from Odd Future’s download page. Rest assured, there will be plenty more to come from Frank Ocean in 2012.
In a year that is being referred to as the year of the female singer, British ones have fared particularly well. Whereas the record sales were dominated by Adele; there was also an almost unanimous critical consensus at choosing PJ Harvey’s eight studio album ‘Let England Shake’ as the best album of 2011. The Dorset songwriter has created an astonishing concept work about the devastating effects of war, immersed in history and poetry while also managed to expand her musical palette.
After twenty years of solid musical career, ‘Let England Shake’ meant another reinvention for an artist who’s never been happy resting on her laurels. Among the many accolades she gathered, PJ won the Mercury Music Prize, becoming the only act who has won the coveted award twice. Standout tracks were aplenty, but our favourite was second single ‘The Glorious Land’, where the singer samples both The Police’s ‘This Bed’s Too Big Without You’ and HM Irish Guards’ ‘Regimental March’ in a song that resonates as a powerful anti-war anthem.
Perhaps anticipating her end of the year’s critical momentum, PJ Harvey has just released a DVD compiling the short films that acclaimed photographer Seamus Murphy shot for each of the record’s twelve tracks.
Ruby Goe emerges from the release of her single “Get On It” as a credible act who can be mentioned alongside emerging Ones-to-watch artist’s such as; Alex Hepburn, Lioness & Tawiah.
Born on a council estate in Surrey, the death of her mum when she was just three months old, saw her being raised by her father. The youngest of five children, she took inspiration from her family when it came to doing what was necessary to both survive and flourish.
With musical influence’s ranging from the likes of; Prince, Africa Bambaataa, Nina Simone, Cheryl Lynn, Salt’n’Pepa, Cameo and Michael Jackson, Ruby Goe has managed to mix and match the best bits from her influences and forge a sound which she describes as “Retro Futuristic”.
However, should Ruby Goe capture the height’s that were reached by her influences, she surely would need to produce material which sets her apart from the musical climate she is in.
After watching Ruby Goe play to what can be called a “tough crowd” at London’s CAMP on a cold winter evening, the feeling of something left ringing in the ears dawned. This can be attributed to a track titled ‘Sirens’, how ironic or perhaps clever.
Sirens, a mid tempo number starts off with Ruby’s sultry vocals luring listeners with a hide and seek esque tone. She sings “On the ground, on the low, no escape, this is an emergency”. The chorus kicks in whilst blending Ruby’s brilliant sounding voice with a resonating bass and in your face organs. A real treat to the ear to round of a well written tune. There is a chance Ruby Goe will become a household name in the coming years, with tracks like these she does that statement no harm.
So, Shazamers, are you busy with last-minute shopping and looking for gift ideas? Well, if you have a Gleek in your life, we’ve got the answer!! The new Glee Concert Movie DVD is out in stores – and it’s Shazamable!! When your friends or family members are watching the movie, they can use Shazam to unlock exclusive scenes that aren’t available anywhere else – not even in the DVD extras. Using your smartphone to tag the movie when prompted to unlock fun features like:
Song lyrics in time with the music using the LyricPlay feature;
Exclusive behind the scenes footage not seen in theaters;
Exclusive photos of the cast; and trivia about the show
Offers for Glee Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD as well as Glee merchandise
And, every time you use Shazam while watching the movie, your tag will live on in your tag list, giving you access to all the extras that you can see anytime/anywhere!