The sounds and songs the stars fell in love with in 2011

Anna Calvi, Ghostpoet and Leslie Feist all made great albums this year. Here, they and others pick the music that rocked their year

Rufus Wainwright

Danny from Danny Fingers and the Thumbs stopped me in the street in New York City earlier this year and gave me the album What's Normal Is Weird. I fell in love with it and haven't stopped playing it since.

Kelly Rowland

My album of the year is Adele's album 21. She's a superstar. I think people can understand her emotion and relate to that. She's so vulnerable and honest. It's fantastic.

Chris Karloff: Kasabian

Connan Mockasin's Forever Dolphin Love boasts some pretty insane bass- playing and as a bassist myself I have to applaud his technical prowess! I've been buzzing off the six live tracks the most – they're even better than the actual recordings.

Ghostpoet

I'm obsessed with Metronomy's The English Riviera. From the first soar of strings and seagulls on the opening track to the dance-floor indie-funk of "Love Underlined", it's the only album I've consistently listened to this year without skip track-itis or boredom setting in. I love the lyrics, their playfulness always puts a smile on my face. The melodies are darn right mean, gentle, danceable, fun, and emotional, all at the same time. The fact that time stands still when I hear a track off it out in a shop or in a passing car is another tick for me. It's a modern-day masterpiece, for sure.

Leslie Feist

I'm a long-time fan of the Constantines. I remember once I climbed down into a volcano in the Canary Islands with their album Shine a Light on my Walkman, and it felt like an apt soundtrack. I saw [singer] Bryan Webb play a couple of songs solo at a songwriters' night maybe eight years ago and was blown away. The power of the Cons' music was all the more potent for being delivered quietly by one guy – I felt like I was seeing Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen or Dylan, but of my own time. That show was a massive influence on me and this year he finally made a great solo album, Provider.

Wretch 32

I'd say Example's Playing in the Shadows is my favourite album of this year. It's such a good body of work. Then seeing him live really helped me connect with the album in a different way. There's bangers on there and some feel-good songs, too.

Hayden Thorpe: Wild Beasts

An album which you love is often an album that you wish you'd made, and that's how I feel about Burst Apart by The Antlers. It's unapologetically beautiful, and that's a rarity that's ballsy and tricky to pull off. The melodies just keep giving; it sounds like falling in love.

John Grant

I'm a big fan of the bass clarinet, so when one reared its lovely head at the beginning of WhoMadeWho's Knee Deep album, I knew I was going to fall in love. It's a dark and moody record which I think of as the perfect melding of the organic and the electronic. You can tell they've studied music, but not in a bad way. It's also a smart but not annoyingly clever, uplifting and inspiring album. It makes me feel refreshed and throw around the word "genius".

Anna Calvi

If I was a man, I'd like to sing like Hayden Thorpe from Wild Beasts. Their album Smother is great. It's full of subtleties; chords are implied rather than over-emphasised, and the drums are integral to the melodic interest of each song. Wild Beasts have their own unique sound, and I love it.

Tinchy Stryder

My album of 2011 has to be Jay-Z and Kanye's Watch the Throne. I feel like it's such a creative album, and while it's a collaboration, it sounds like it comes from one mind. Listening from start to end feels like you're somehow watching a movie.

Colin MacIntyre: Mull Historical Society

I love Feist's Metals for its lights and darks. She writes little ear-worms that keep reappearing weeks after you last listened. She isn't afraid to reinvent herself, and the album has this feeling of being near the sea about it. I like the percussion that sounds like fishing implements being knocked together in some romantic way, and the menacing backing choirs. Feist also manages to say "chickadee" a few times, which is nice. Plus, the bittersweet "Anti-Pioneer" has a killer title.

Stella Mozgawa: Warpaint

Let England Shake by P J Harvey is simply a masterpiece. She oscillates between intimate and extroverted levels of protest, and I don't think I've ever heard an album that's quite so sure of itself. It's powerful without being preachy and I love the way it sucks you in and continues to unravel with every listen. My favourite album of the last five years, let alone 2011.

Edwyn Collins

A Place to Call Home by Wide Sea. I've adopted them. They're from Frankfurt, or near it anyway, and came to Kilburn. The four of them live in one tiny stinky room, two bunk beds. For [the love of] music, you see? I was learning to read again [after his stroke], and MySpace helped me a lot. They found me, I heard their songs, and [recording engineer] Seb Lewsley agreed we must record them. Huge tunes, four-part harmonies, clear thinking – maybe it's because they're brothers, Arthur, Paul and Patrick; Bart is the cousin. It's beautiful, it's easy. The record companies are over now, so we formed AED and hatched a plan. We'll release it, lads!

Lou Rhodes: Lamb

The buzz prior to the release of James Blake's eponymous debut made me a little sceptical, but when I finally listened I was intrigued from the opening bars of "Unluck". It was his half-cracked vocal that really got me – it seems too soulful for his years. The album has been the soundtrack to my 2011, each song evoking its own significant moment.

Nicola Roberts: Girls Aloud

When I heard that Beyoncé's "Run the World (Girls)" had sampled Major Lazer's "Pon de Floor", I was excited that she might have done a whole record of hard electro beats. When I downloaded the album 4 and it wasn't what I expected, I was a bit disappointed but not for long! In time I could see that the songs represent exactly who Beyoncé is. I play "Countdown" before I go on stage. It's a vocal marathon that Beyoncé sails through, five key changes and all. She inspires me to do my vocal exercises and stay dedicated. I keep telling myself Beyoncé wasn't built in a day.

Chris Difford: Squeeze

If Jimmy Savile were still with us I would ask him to fix it for me to be in the Arctic Monkeys for a day – no medal needed! Suck It and See is the sound of a band in its prime, and the production brings out the best in the songs without distraction. "Brick by Brick" is a fantastic festival song and "Piledriver Waltz" coughs me up into a silk hanky. I ramp the album up in the car and dream of a studio where I can make an album so good.

Rhys Webb: The Horrors

While most provoke with volume, Connan Mockasin's delicate touch is captivating and mind-melting. Forever Dolphin Love is beautiful, psychedelic pop music that sounds like it's been beamed down from another planet. Kraut rhythms drive slinky bass-lines over expanding soundscapes, and ethereal melodies take the listener to a galaxy far, far away. The title track and "It's Choade My Dear'' are great starting points for those who want to fly with Connan.

Aidan Moffat: Arab Strap

I fell in love with Slow Club's Paradise as soon as I heard it. It's a gorgeous, soulful, sexy record with an undercurrent of sadness, which is exactly the way I'd describe Dusty in Memphis. I can offer no higher praise. The melodies sound fresh yet familiar, the lyrics are great, and the production's bright and perfect. When I listen to it, it makes me physically ache.

Tim Burgess: The Charlatans

I've watched The Horrors grow and mature into Britain's best band – and potentially Britain's biggest export. The US, South America and Japan can't get enough of them, and mainland Europe loves them too. Albums that make these lists are often those that are universally liked, but overlook Skying at your peril. It's a Northern-soul-meets-shoegaze-meets-stadium-rock-meets-whatever-Roxy-Music-were kind of thing, and it's not a compromise. Go and buy it from a proper record shop!

Frank Turner

As a big fan of Josh T Pearson's old band, Lift to Experience, I was intrigued to hear that he'd resurfaced with a solo album, Last of the Country Gentlemen. I wasn't prepared for what lies within it, though. It's harrowing almost beyond belief. The lyrics are laid bare on a sparse acoustic canvas and they cut like broken glass. It's a masterpiece in which Josh channels the darkness of failure in love.

Jim James: My Morning Jacket

When I hear Tripper by the Fruit Bats it's like the beginning of the universe. It's so pure and crystal clear, like the hollow inside of a single feather from the wing of Pegasus, or a tiny molecule that is part of the DNA that makes up the cells of a unicorn's horn. It's so simple it's almost impossible. I weep with joy whenever I listen.

Ron Mael: Sparks

Once upon a time, I would participate in these year-end musical suggestion charades in the hope that an under-appreciated artist might have a small uptick in sales from my humble suggestion. Those days of "buying music" (so quaint, don't you think?) are gone, so nowadays I recommend packaging (although my suggestion is still better musically than Adele, Robyn and Gaga combined). The Genius of Miles Davis is another repackaging affair, but what a repackaging. Housing the eight already released but now hard to find metal boxes in one trumpet case, and including a replica of Miles' mouthpiece and, for fashionistas, a T-shirt, this is an overpriced, unnecessary, and wonderful box with, as a bonus, the most exquisite music of the past century.

Emmy the Great

There's a song called "I" on the Nicola Roberts album Cinderella's Eyes where she lists a series of hopes and fears, likes and dislikes. It's stuff like, "I don't like people who make comments on the internet"; "I hope one day we stop striving for perfection"; "I hope people like my new direction." It sounds a bit silly, but it's actually incredibly honest. Her whole album is similarly surprising and touching. I've listened to it more than anything else I bought this year.

Gruff Rhys: Super Furry Animals

I listened to The Strange Uses of Ox Gall by H Hawkline because he's my neighbour in Cardiff, but the songs seeped into my ears and never left. "Ballast" is an incredible song evoking his seafaring upbringing on Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. It's a textured record sounding like some lost American college rock band crooning in the hull of a sinking schooner.

Lisa Hannigan

Reverie by Joe Henry is a beautiful meditation on the dreamlike half-light of the mind. Gorgeous melodies and lyrics intersperse with incidental sounds like the barking of dogs and the hum of lawn mowers. It's a record that creates an atmosphere all of its own.

Miles Kane: The Last Shadow Puppets

I first knew about Kasabian's Velociraptor! when I heard "Days Are Forgotten" on the radio. It reminded me of this amazing Serge Gainsbourg track called "Requiem Pour Un Con". It has a similar beat but Kasabian's song is heavier and more up-tempo. I'm on tour with Kasabian as we speak. When they play "Switchblade Smiles" – that's a real moment.

Kate Rusby

Tumble Bee by Laura Veirs is a children's album, but it's one of those magical records that appeals to both children and adults, not all cutesy as many albums for kids are. Veirs looked to the wealth of American folk songs for inspiration, and what gorgeous little gems she has found. My brother gave me this album for my birthday. I adore it and my two-year-old daughter loves it, too.

John Stanier: Battles

My top album of 2011 is Ghost People by the Dutch dance-music producer Martyn. It has a lot of energy, and on songs such as "Popgun" his mix of styles is flawless. My favourite track, "We Are You in the Future" takes me back to the early 1990s when I would shop for 12-inch singles at the now-defunct Container Records in Hamburg. The album's artwork is also interesting. It reproduces an 18m high painting on the side of a building in Poznan, Poland by his friend and collaborator, Erosie.

Dhani Harrison

I really love the way Build a Rocket Boys! was mixed. I saw Elbow play it live at the Coachella festival in California and it was awesome. They seemed like really nice guys, too. I'd just got the record before I saw them, so that made the live show even better.

Becky Unthank: The Unthanks

Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell's voices intertwine to make the most beautiful sounds. From "There's a Disease", the first track on their album Kite, you are plunged into their hushed, magical world. Jonny's bittersweet, self-penned songs never cease to amaze, and he bares his soul with charm, intelligence and wit. Lucy's "Winter Got Lost" is poetic, intriguing and soulful. They're a perfect match.

Gotye

I like the way Sam Beam [AKA Iron & Wine] keeps pushing the sound of his records. The Shepherd's Dog surprised me in a wonderful way with its more expansive instrumentation and band sound, and Kiss Each Other Clean brings more sonic surprises: distorted organs, electronic drum samples and funk bass-lines. Beam's gentle, expressive voice holds it all together, and the images his lyrics conjure up are wonderfully vivid.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform