The conclusion of my list of the best driving albums of 2011 contains no less than twelve albums, so without further ado let’s begin.
Kap Slapp – Audio Approximation
Okay so here is a curveball. This is a remix album – those who loved Girl Talk’s mashup album “All Day” in 2010 should check out the previous Kap Slap album “151”. Those who do not have a clue what I am talking about should know that these albums are free online to download due to the fact that they contain samples of hundreds of current pop songs which cannot legally be resold however much they are mashed together. Kap Slap’s 2011 effort “Audio Approximation” is perhaps not as strong as “151” but it certainly merits a lot of listens and works well in the car for the simple reason that you can never get bored. I dare you to listen to “Turbulent Rock Anthem”, which fairly obviously features samples of LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” quite heavily, and not be curious for the rest of the album. The mood and tempo can change quicker on a remix album than any other type of record and nowhere else is that better demonstrated than on “Audio Approximation”.
Kasabian – Velociraptor
My personal highlight on this list, along with Kanye West and Jay-Z. I don’t think many expected Kasabian to be as good in 2011 as they were when their eponymous debut album was released or back in 2006 when they released “Empire”, or even in 2009 when the last album, “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum” came out. But they have actually stepped up a gear. Apparently it is not enough for this band to outlast all their peers from the mid-noughties – this is surely their greatest work to date. It does take a couple of listens to appreciate the true genius but from the start of “Let’s Roll Just like We Used To” you can tell the band are singing about being stronger than ever. “Goodbye Kiss” is remarkable as is “Days Are Forgotten” and, well, every bloody track.
To me this is the most complete album of 2011 and the one I will play start to finish the most regularly (pretty much every day). I heard it every day over Christmas whilst driving between Edinburgh to my parents’ in the south east and my girlfriend’s in the New Forest and back to Edinburgh. It will always remind me of that Christmas just gone and will always remind me of thoroughly enjoying driving despite often adverse conditions. That is why it is probably my number one choice of all the albums on this list.
Low – C’mon
A solid driving album that will grow on you with a couple of listens. If you really cannot decide what mood you are in, try this one out – it will not disappoint. “Witches” is particularly good to drive to.
M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
The album everyone is talking about, thanks to its huge commercial radio airplay and “Midnight City” being the theme tune to hit television series “Made in Chelsea”. On my radio station, it has been in the main playlist since June, but there is so much more to the album than that one single. For the strangest song you will hear all year, check out “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire”, where a small child talks about being a frog. Charming or creepy? You decide. Either way it’s a cute interlude to a brilliant album that spoils you for quality and quantity, coming in at a whopping 22 track double-disc collection. Personally, I found the band saved the best until last. “Outro” is very reminiscent Arcade Fire and particularly of Peter Gabriel’s work in my favourite album of all time, “OVO: The Millennium Show”, which was written for the breathtaking show at the Millennium Dome in 2000. “Outro” has recently been used for an award-winning timelapse video of Yosemite National park in California, which I visited last summer. The video is well worth checking out – it is the most stunning thing I have seen in a long time. Be sure to have some bass-y speakers though for “Outro” or you will not hear anything for parts of the beginning.
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
I am not going to lie, this album is not really my cup of tea. But it has received huge critical acclaim, has won the Mercury Music Prize and was described by NME as “the biggest foregone conclusion ever” that it won their Album of the Year award. And, more importantly, it is not a bad driving album. “The Glorious Album” describes the countryside you will be driving past and will get you thinking about the country and war and who knows what else. Certainly a thought-provoking album which works well in the car.
Portugal – The Man – In the Mountain in the Cloud
A good indie album that sounds somehow fresh and retro all at once, probably because it utilises instruments better than most indie bands manage. You will either play it once and move on or become addicted – either way, the first listen whilst driving is a great experience, especially if it is winter and you are dreaming of summer.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You
No, it doesn’t live up to their greater work, but check it out for the simple reason that it’s still a fabulous album to have in the car. There are plenty of hidden gems here to be discovered.
St Vincent – Strange Mercy
An underrated album that was actually perhaps one of the top three albums of last year. It is maybe too slow to be a great driving album but check out “Surgeon” if you want a taster before sticking the whole album in your car.
tUnE yArDs – w h o k i l l
This is a strange album that will divide people but has a lot of fans crazy about it. “Bizness” was voted by my radio station as the second best album of the year after “Bon Iver” – to see why and decide for yourself check out “Bizness” before playing the whole album on the road.
Wild Beasts – Smother
If you are already a fan of this band, you won’t be disappointed. If not, ask yourself why not. There is a lot to be enjoyed here, particularly “Bed of Nails”, a cracking track that will liven up any car journey.
Wu Lyf – Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
Simply the BEST album to drive to at night. Listen to it start to finish on a starry night and instantly feel good about life. “We Bros” is a personal favourite but the whole thing works as an album rather than concentrating on individual singles, which is a very good thing indeed.
Yuck – Yuck
“Get Away” is one of the best starts to any album on this list if not ever and then just as you think the album sounds a bit same-y, they pull out something slow and majestic like “Suck”, which holds the album together brilliantly. One of the most underrated albums of last year, for sure.