Two thousand and eleven has been an odd year for me, and I think for music as well. Between acclimating to a completely different environment and being fully immersed in the music world, I foresaw a serious evolution and transformation of my music tastes prior to compiling my “Best of” lists. After the completion of said lists, it seems that not much has actually changed – not only in the last year, but the last five, when observing which names were included.
To be honest, it was quite difficult to decide on 10 full albums I really enjoyed listening to from start to finish. This could be the fault of BBC6 radio, and it’s persistent nature of turning an “OK” song into a real banger after playing it enough. It could also be the fault of so many let downs and gimmicks. Never in a single year have I looked forward to so many albums that panned out to be so disappointingly average. In a market so over saturated by bands trying to “out-cool” one another and being more conscious of what they wear than how well they play, it’s no wonder that some of names keep recurring year after year or that the best single tracks list was so much more enjoyable to assemble.
But this is it, I’ve done it. I’ve decided what 10 albums and 20 tracks have been the most enjoyable, the least pretentious and will hopefully be a memorable depiction of 2011 – five, ten and fifty years from now.
As for ranking, I must digress to the one brutal truth of end of year lists that my good friend Wes pointed out recently. Ranking is, in fact, arbitrary and simply a tool for building suspense in pinning down one’s judgement on any particular topic. So to avoid that (as you may not know who I am nor care about/for my taste in music), I’ve decided to post my lists chronologically. My hope is for you to have a listen to anything you’re not familiar with and ideally find something to enjoy. That’s why you’re here, right?
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
MP3: Let England Shake
Secret Cities – Strange Hearts
MP3 – Always Friends
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
MP3 – The Shrine / An Argument
Posted in 2011 Favorites
Tagged Amor De Dias, Atlas Sound, BBC6, Beirut, Bill Callahan, Bon Iver, DJ Shadow, Eleanor Friedberger, Fleet Foxes, Girls, Laura Marling, Let's Wrestle, little dragon, Metronomy, Michael Kiwanuka, NZCA/Lines, PJ Harvey, Race Horses, Real Estate, Secret Cities, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, The Black Keys, The War on Drugs, tune-yards, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Wild Beasts
(Separate Columbus list further down. Though, if the lists were combined, some of the local releases would unseat a few here…)
1. Larry Jon Wilson – Larry Jon Wilson
I won’t lie. Talking to Larry Jon and producer Jerry DeCicca (Black Swans) about this album, learning about its origins, and visiting Wilson’s back catalog gave me a heightened appreciation for this masterpiece. So context helps, but even if you know nothing about the back story, this is a stark, beautiful album from start to finish from one of the forgotten country outlaws. Wilson’s Georgia baritone is the sweetest thing I heard this year. For Townes Van Zandt fans, this is required listening.
MP3: Feel Alright Again
2. The Love Language – The Love Language
It’s a rock n’ roll cliché and a PR flack’s dream: Guy breaks up with girl, drinks heavily, pisses off all his friends, eventually sobers up and retreats to his parents’ house to record an album on a four-track. But man does this cliché jangle with some of the best in-the-red pop songs I’ve heard in a while. Stuart McLamb’s Chapel Hill band signed to Merge in October and is slated to have a new release in August, and after seeing the full band (now a 7-piece) put on a terrific show at the Wexner Center in the fall, McLamb’s next outing could be even better with a little help from his friends.
MP3: Manteo I MP3: Lalita
3. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
Every aspect of Andrew Bird just keeps getting better—his voice; his gorgeous, multi-layered violin arrangements; his whistling. It makes for a backdrop so compelling that he can sing about proto-Sanskrit Minoans, porto-centric Lisboans, Greek Cypriots and Hobis-hots and have you nodding your head in agreement instead of scratching it in confusion.
MP3: Oh No
4. Kurt Vile – Constant Hitmaker; God is Saying This to You…; Childish Prodigy
I’m grouping these together so I can squeeze more in, but all three LPs probably deserve a separate spot for different reasons. God finds Vile filtering his psychedelia through John Fahey and Neil Young; Childish kicks the volume up a notch and tones the lo-fi down; and Hitmaker, the best of the three, plays both sides with casual brilliance. “Freeway” is one of my favorite songs of 2009.
5. The Antlers – Hospice
Hospice is one of only a few albums this year that completely transports me whenever I give it my full attention. (Brian Harnetty’s Silent City is another.) A concept album about a hospice worker and a young patient, the songs swell like Sigur Ros then retreat into gingerly tapped piano, lightly strummed guitar or shimmery synth. It’s in those quiet portions that Silberman employs his alabaster falsetto — more hushed than Jeff Buckley but less wispy than Antony Hegarty. Back in March, the Antlers played a show at Cafe Bourbon St. in front of me and maybe three other people. I’m thinking there’ll be a few more in attendance next time.
#6 onward + Columbus list after the jump. Continue reading
Posted in 2009 Favorites, Columbus, MP3
Tagged andrew bird, animal collective, Atlas Sound, Bill Callahan, Bird and Flower, Brian Harnetty, David Bazan, Dirty Projectors, fun., Justin Townes Earle, Kurt Vile, Larry Jon Wilson, Monolithic Cloud Parade, RTFO Bandwagon, Sinkane, The Antlers, The Love Language, The Mountain Goats, The Receiver, the sun, this is my suitcase, Times New Viking, Volcano Choir, Wing & Tusk, Yo La Tengo
mp3: Atlas Sound – Walkabout (w/ Noah Lennox)
This will be my first time seeing Atlas Sound‘s Bradford Cox live, and I’m really looking forward to it, especially after giving Logos a few listens. I’d always paid more attention to Cox’s “main” band, Deerhunter, but this new one is a terrific headphone album of underwater bedroom pop, and so far “Walkabout” is my favorite track. …Nice to have Broadcast on the bill, too.
9 pm Sunday, Black Box on the Mershon Stage. $14.