Various - Rough Trade Shops Counter Culture 11
Ever since 2003, Rough Trade have released a compilation album of all the musical highlights of the year just gone, calling it Counter Culture. This year’s compilation features tracks from some of their albums of the year, including AOTY Last of the Country Gentleman by Josh T. Pearson, the artwork of which is now dominating the assorted floor mats in Rough Trade East. It also features some of the most exciting up and coming artists that came to our attention last year, such as Holy Other, Clams Casino and Still Corners.
The first half of Disc 1 is so relaxing it lulls you into a dream-like state. Packed with soothing vocal tones and muses on nature, you can imagine listening to this whilst going to sleep as you enter the wilderness of your mind. Breathy female vocals come in the shape of ‘Into The Trees’ and ‘Ships In The Rain’, by Still Corners and Lanterns on the Lake. The former is accompanied by a wobbling organ line, with guitars sweeping and colliding in the background, the latter with ghostly vocal harmonies as Hazel Wilde beautifully utters "Ships in the rain/I’ll see you again."
Last year saw the collaboration of King Creosote and Jon Hopkins as they released the Mercury nominated Diamond Mine. ‘Bats In The Attic’ features on Counter Culture, and as with the other songs on Diamond Mine, you can’t help but be enthralled by Creosote’s beautiful voice, laced with a strong Scottish accent and surrounded by sporadic piano chords resonating as each fades into the next. Garnering the #3 spot on Rough Trade’s Albums of the Year, it was inevitable that Kurt Vile should be featured. ‘Peeping Tomboy’ showcases the best of Vile with skilled guitar work and his gruff monotonous voice foregrounding.
The second half of Disc 1 cranks the pace up, featuring the likes of Real Estate, SBTRKT and Little Dragon. Little Dragon manages to get a double spot as Yukimi Nagano also features on ‘Wildfire’ as well as ‘Ritual Union’. Elsewhere, Ghostpoet; another Mercury Prize nominee, raps about loving someone like ‘chicken soup, biscuits and lemonade’, it’s almost as bad as Ed Sheeran describing someone’s body as "crumbling like pastries" but somehow Ghostpoet manages to not make it sound completely cringey.
The second disc is more electronic orientated with the likes of Canadian producers Azari & III, Holy Other and Factory Floor. Factory Floor’s music is always repetitive and extremely noisy but the Angus Andrew remix of ‘A Wooden Box’ transforms it into something completely different, taking away the grit and grissle of a raw and unrelenting 8 minutes of pounding electronic-drone to leave the bare bones of a haunting Lynchian song. Although it’s not all surprisingly soothing as Icelandic punk band Iceage create a racket on ‘You’re Blessed’ that would give you a headache if it was any longer than 2 minutes.
Basically the alternative version to the Now That’s What I Call Music series, this is obviously much more appealing and picks out the best for those who might’ve missed out on these musical gems. If anyone can manage to pack a whole year of music into 40 songs, it has to be Rough Trade and they really have picked some of the best from 2011 for you to reminisce about.