This year’s list of favorites is fairly sedate (even for me), with just a little ruckus here and there. Lots of morning-coffee music, which I guess says something about my 2011. But music’s strength is its pliability. It can be whatever you need it to be at the moment, especially when we have instant access to virtually any song ever recorded, often for free. Judging by this list, I needed music to be a salve more than a release valve this year.
I also never expected my favorite album to come from someone who held the spot previously, but the iTunes “most played” playlist doesn’t lie. It’s a divisive one, but people who like it really like it.
I picked 15 favorites and several honorable mentions, plus a Favorite Columbus Albums list below — separate but equal in enjoyment and quality. As usual, I limit my lists to albums, so some EPs and 7”s I liked (e.g. Envelope, Sundown, Malefactors of Great Wealth, Dolfish) aren’t listed.
As Chip said about Wussy’s Chuck Cleaver, “One wouldn’t expect the heavily tattooed Cincinnati songwriter to produce his best collection of songs this late in his already highly-prolific career, but that’s exactly what he’s done.”
Look, Life really is what you make it and as dumb and silly and boring and rehashed and cliche as that sounds, that’s the way the cookie crumbles brother. I really have been on a pretty intense YEAH! LIFE! YEAH! IT IS COOL! don’t sweat the small stuff kinda trip and it’s great. Let’s hang out, I will make you LOL. Life’s to short to be boring and stupid. Everyone should be cool and fun instead. Life should be more Celestine Prophecy and less 48 Laws of Power. Gnome sayin?
MP3: Magazine (from Live at Electrical Audio; original version on Pedro the Lion’s Control)
During David Bazan’s last full-band tour, he and his tourmates stopped at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio in Chicago and recorded some tunes live in the studio. The result, Live at Electrical Audio, is being released March 30 on CD and April 30 on vinyl. You can pre-order now, and all pre-orders come with an immediate download link.
Also, mark your calendars: David Bazan (w/ full band) and Headlights, March 28, for a Donewaiting.com/BenCo show at The Summit. Ticket giveaways, concert poster and all that jazz to come. Purchase tickets online here.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
This ranks as one of my favorite shows of the year. Bazan’s alternately booming and gentle voice filling the intimate Clintonville living room felt like a special treat. He played lots from Curse Your Branches, a couple of Bazan-ized Christmas songs (see above) and a few covers (including an unexpectedly great version of Tom Petty’s “Climb That Hill”). I should go to more house shows.
After the jump: More words, more photos, plus videos of “Hard to Be,” “Please Baby Please,” “Harmless Sparks” and a better-quality version of the beautiful Julie Doiron cover “Will You Still Love Me in December?” Continue reading →
Last night David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) played a house show that was streamed live on Brooklyn Vegan, but if you missed it, here it is below. Part of the fun of Bazan’s shows is his crowd interaction — taking questions from the audience, etc. In this particular living room, someone asked him if his new record, Curse Your Branches (out today), is his best record yet. He responded that it’s his favorite right now. I’m thinking it’ll be my favorite for quite a while.