Bob Boilen at NPR Music has been a worthy guide to good music for me for years now. So when he said today that King Creosote and John Hopkins: Diamond Mine is the best album of 2011 so far, I had to listen. I'm listening now and very much enjoying it. It's quite magical. Go stream it in full before the May 24 release.
If the year ended right now, I'd know my favorite record of 2011. Out May 24, Diamond Mine does what audio does best: It takes me far from the here-and-now.
This labor of love, seven years in the making, opens on a café terrace in a Scottish town. Jon Hopkins sets his field recordings, rich in regional accents and casual conversation, against a lovely, spare piano. It's a few minutes before these soundscapes give way to the quivering vocals of King Creosote, at which point the scope of this collaboration becomes clear. This is storytelling through sounds and with song — bring your own pictures.
Creosote, a.k.a. Kenny Anderson, and Jon Hopkins describe this unusual record as the "soundtrack to a romanticized version of a life lived in a Scottish coastal village." Hopkins is a sharp musician: Electronics are his tools, dance music is how he fills nightclubs and textures are how he fills songs. Creosote is a prolific songwriter based in Crail, a small fishing village in the northeast of Fife, Scotland.
There's acoustic guitar and melodic-yet-ambient accordion holding these tunes together. The words to the songs seem to reflect big dreams — perhaps unfulfilled — set against the wonders of the everyday. This is a record for your late night or your quiet Sunday. Put it on when you when you need calm or you're prepared for a mental journey, and be grateful that in a fast-paced world, King Creosote and Jon Hopkins stopped and took their time.