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December 9, 2011 / jhsaeger

Best of 2011 Album Review Number Seven and Six
    Long After Dark is counting down its top ten albums of the year every Friday in December until we get to #1.  Last week Daryl Hall’s Laughing Down Crying and Mayer Hawthorne’s How Do You Do came in at ten and nine, respectively.  

8)  The Big Roar (The Joy Formidable) – The best debut album of 2011, The Big Roar was powered by Welsh trio The Joy Formidable.  Released in March, The Big Roar is true to its name, as The Joy Formidable exceed normal standards of volume by cranking up the nob as far towards eleven as it can possibly go.  A 12-track album which runs nearly 50 minutes, The Big Roar is at time alternative rock’s answer to Pink Floyd, as many songs are capped by lengthy, voluminous jams.     

      Even though The Big Roar is not the most diverse sounding record, The Joy Formidable use intelligent lyric-writting and display tremendous passion to make their music special.  One of the biggest sources of that passion is drummer Matt Thomas, who wails away at the drums with such abandon on “Heavy Abacus” and “Whirring” that he is reminiscent of a young Dave Grohl or Taylor Hawkins as drummers who don’t give a damn.  Frontwoman Ritzy Bryan seems to be born for her role, as she calmly delivers her lyrics precision while fearlessly launching into her guitar parts.
     The Joy Formidable gave themselves a great start that will be tough to follow, as they might need to evolve a bit with their songwriting on a second record to give listeners a slightly different look.  If they can manage that they will be a band to watch for in the coming years.

7)  Stone Rollin’ (Raphael Saadiq) – If there is a current leading man in the neo-soul genre, it is Saadiq, who has recorded four terrific solo records over the last decade.  His latest, Stone Rollin’, drifted from the Motown-heavy stylings of its predecessor, The Way I See It, towards a tighter record that was bolstered by some dazzling guitar parts that oozed funk and put back the roll in rock ‘n roll.  
   Saadiq lays down a lethal guitar riff in Stone Rollin’s leadoff track “Heart Attack,” pulling the audience right into the record.  His best effort comes on the sexy title track, “Stone Rollin’,” which is made by a wicked guitar lick from Saadiq.  Stone Rollin’ also served as a gathering place for an impressive list of guest musicians, including Robert Randolph (Robert Randolph and the Family Band), Larry Dunn (Earth, Wind, and Fire) and Larry Graham Jr. (Sly and the Family Stone).  
   The kingpin of the year’s crop of soul-based albums, Saadiq had an impressive start to the year as the head of Mick Jagger’s band for a tribute to Solomon Burke at the Grammy’s.  Not to place too much credence with The Grammy process, but it is a shame that Saadiq won’t be able to return as a nominee in 2012 as his album is a prime example of intelligent pop music.

Take a peak at Jagger and Saadiq being ultra-cool as they pay tribute to the iconic Solomon Burke at the 2011 Grammy Awards:

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