The Best Put Together Releases of 2011 (so far)...

I was going to do a post with my favourite albums of the year so far, but I thought it'd be a bit boring when it comes to my end of year lists with possibly half of a post repeating itself, so instead I'm going to do my favourite purchases of the year so far (obviously I like the music too or I wouldn't have been buying the record / cd in the first place...). The definition of favourite purchase basically means some fantastic artwork, packaging, bonus discs etc etc. I'll start right off and say no, I have not included Radiohead, I like "Creep" and I like 'The Bends', then a couple of 'Ok Computer' tracks aside I've not really much time for them (sorry!)...

In the increasingly instant world we live in where it is quicker to go to Google and type in "artist" "album "mediafire" (oh hello people who arrive here thanks to that search) than to even buy a digital version of an album from iTunes etc, let alone order a CD from old fashioned methods like your local indie store (if you are lucky enough to have one) or HMV (and it's even getting to the stage where it's if you are lucky enough to have one of those as well), or the day or three (and a hell of a lot more when you order that US only vinyl with exclusive b-side) it takes postie to bring your on-line orders.

That rambling paragraph is me saying that I personally think (some) artists and labels should try and become more competitive in the digital era of the twenty-first century, perhaps by adding value to their releases to make them more of a piece of art, as well as a physical form of music which nine times out of ten is going to end up being burnt onto the purchasers iTunes library anyway.

I know I'm not alone in saying that it's much more exciting to get home and open a gorgeous, well put together release than a simple CD in a jewel case with a single card inlay. Yes this sort of release may only appeal to geeks like myself, but it makes for a happier geek than one who's paid £7.99 for the download album and one who is more likely to pay that extra bit of money on that 'deluxe' / 'bonus' / 'expanded' / 'special' / 'collectors' edition.

So after another waffling paragraph, here are some the best put together releases of 2011 so far (I'll refrain from mentioning the music in this post - I'll link to my labels if you want to read more about the artists, unsurprisingly I've featured them all previously):

Whirl - Distressor 12" (The Sweet Sounds of Nothing) Buy

Let's be honest and say the sight of Nicole Kidman's rear (from Eyes Wide Shut) has helped propel this 12" ep to the list, it's a lovely bum indeed.

I think the band have been forced to change their name from Whirl to Whirr, they've a new release due soon too. The vinyl sleeve is a Classy b&w shot and I could happily stare at it all day.

I'll just keep on looking a little longer.


Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic) Buy

Now I really wanted to purchase the gorgeous looking vinyl release of this but I was put off by the RT price of £27.99, later I saw a special edition from Lykke's site priced at even more £35.00 but it does include the CD, vinyl, mp3's and a lithograph (whatever one of them is!).

I've not got that because I've got the CD edition, but it's nice by itself, resembling a classic vinyl cover with a booklet containing lyrics in a very nice packaging that certainly is ten times nicer than a jewel case, possibly the best standalone standard CD release of the year so far (maybe Esben and the Witch could take this title too?).

EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions) Buy

EMA's debut solo album came out on CD but better still on old fashioned gatefold vinyl (with mp3) with the lyrics on the inside cover, it's lovely, utterly lovely.

The Rough Trade bonus disc is superb as well, you get that free with the vinyl purchase, perfect.

Austra - Feel it Break (Domino) Buy
Austra's debut LP on Domino is another delicious looking gatefold vinyl with the lyrics on the inner jacket, the outside white and inside black. It's a double vinyl this one which is nice and I'm sure people with more audiophile ears than I would comment that the optimum playing time on the record improves the quality? Yes, it might do. I can't tell but it sure does sound lovely.

Stricken City - LOSING COLOUR (Self ReleasedBuy

Stricken City's final release was a limited CD (compact-disc, do you remember them?) housed in a lovely gatefold 7" vinyl jacket, with a separate lyric insert - mine has a lovely (well not that lovely as it means it was the end) last gig stamp on it, shame I never got it signed too, unfortunately I tend to hide when not behind a computer screen!

Their debut was gorgeously presented too, SC had a proper knack of creating some nice artwork. Hopefully when they return (in whatever form they do), it'll be just as good.

British Sea Power - Valhalla Dancehall (Rough Trade) Buy

British Sea Power provide us with a big poster with lots of colourful horses on their latest release 'Valhalla Dancehall'... Why the hell not I say!

Another double gatefold vinyl (it does seem I'm somewhat fond of them) with double heavyweight records and mp3's too, it's very nice indeed, as you can normally expect with a Rough Trade release.

Josh T Pearson - The Last of the Country Gentlemen (Mute) Buy

More half naked women on the front a cover bias, as well as the impressively bearded Josh. T. Pearson of course. The limited vinyl release is almost as wonderful as the music (well it's not really). An exceptional double heavyweight vinyl set which comes with a free CD for digital / portable use.

The lyrics are on each of the vinyl sleeves, it's great having the lyrics, they are sheer poetry. The words of "Sorry With A Song" take up the whole side of one of the sleeves. This album needed a beautifully put together release and thankfully Mute have provided just that.

Russian Red - Fuerteventura (Sony) Buy

Russian Red's second album comes with an exclusive offer from her own site and it's a lovely, lovely package at £15.99 (shame the postage is so much!).

Contained in an oversized box is a tote bag, a heavyweight gatefold vinyl with lyrics (free downloadable at checkout mp3) and five large postcards (that in all honesty won't get much use), nevertheless it's had some proper care and attention put into it and looks rather nice on top of some of my music storage units.

The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar (Atlantic) Buy

This box-set sold out pretty quickly, but for the lucky people who got one (and even luckier who got a drug bag containing a piece of Ritzy's guitar - or is it a piece of a desk?!) it's a rather spectacular set, an oversized box with signed certificate, a badge (that would probably fall off your shirt if you wore it) and then the music and film too.

The album is contained inside a normal jewel case but there are three more discs in the set, firstly an audio CD containing some bonus tracks included a couple of previous singles and more exciting than that, a few exclusive tracks that never made the final album.

Then two DVD's, one a wonderful 45 minute set from the Mercury Lounge, New York and the other containing a documentary / promo's. I do hope the band release these extras by some other form at a later date as it'd be a shame for them to only be seen by the people who got this set.

Birds of Passage - Without the World (Denovali) Buy

Birds of Passage debut 'Without the World' was released by a label who are highly regarded for taking great care of their releases, Denovali, and yet again this one is absolutely stunning.

Thick heavyweight vinyl (I got the white one but you can also get it marbled), the cardboard jacket is beautiful but the real treat is a stunning poetry book which comes housed in the sleeve, with Alicia's words and her brother, Bruno's artwork. It makes for a perfect companion to one of this years essential releases. Buy it.

If you've downloaded a few of these albums using the method I mentioned earlier, why not take the plunge and support the artists who made it. Who knows, if enough people do they might even sell enough copies for the artists to have enough money to produce a follow-up.

That's my waffle / ranting over anyway. What's been your favourite release (to hold) of the year so far?

EMA - California
scarlet monkeys - without the world by birds of passage
Corridors by {Stricken City}
Lykke Li - Sadness Is A Blessing