Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Top 10: Best Music of 2011

Normally, I make a big deal about compiling my year-end list but frankly this year I just haven't been keeping up on music at all.  [so who is this Adele person people keep speaking of?] I think when one is going through some health issues, in general just feeling lousy, one tends to listen to comfort music.  At least that's how I felt most of this year.  It can take a bit of effort to get into new stuff, so I would choose things that have been staples for me for years, and on the mellower side.

But the last few months I have been catching up more and more with the albums I missed, and the albums I bought, but didn't listen to much, and 2011 was an excellent year for music.  I wouldn't say there's one album that just blew away the rest, but more like there were a lot of strong releases by band I enjoy, as well as some good new stuff too.  So here's a brief, dirty list of my favorite albums of 2011.  Likely I'll feel very different about this list in 6 months.

You know what?  I'm going to have to invoke "in no particular order" for a change.  Here's my favorite 10 albums I have been exposed to that were released in 2011:

In no particular order:

Shabazz Palaces - Black Up Great follow up to the 2 stellar EPs released the year before.  Particular tracks #7 and #10, which both have absurd titles, but are 2 of the best songs from 2011.  Songs on this album end abruptly and come at you from the side, it's not a traditional hip-hop approach, it's not a traditional approach of any kind.  Shabazz keeps things interesting, and the music is sincere but still, quite playful.

M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming  M83's best album since Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts.  A very fun sonic exploration.  Still keeping with that slightly 80s feel of the last couple releases - but with a more focused, direct approach here.  It's really good, and the song with the kid talking about turning into the frog warms my heart.

Fleet Foxes  -  Helplessness Blues  Better than their much heralded debut.  These songs are more mature, and seem to have more oomph - I think Pecknold is starting to write more personal songs, and that helps keep the music more rooted in real emotion, not just in pretty harmonies, but there's plenty of that too.  I particularly liked the track Lorelia.

And You Will Know Us By the Trail of The Dead - Tao of the Dead  Hard rock lives on!  You won't find this album on a lot of lists, probably because AYWKUBTTOTD has gone out of fashion, but this is their best effort since Sources, Tags, and Codes so many years ago.  It's a return to the driving energetic, dramatic sound that they are so good at.  And always an amazing live show.

Kayne West + Jay Z - Watch the Throne  I didn't have much hope for this album, but damn, it's really good.  Kayne has kept a lot of the attitude from My Dark Twisted Fantasy going with his collaboration with Jay Z, and some of Jay brought some of that signature toughness.  It's fun and audacious and filled with good beats; essential album for any hip hop/rap fan.

Astronautalis - This is Our Science  The most mature, cohesive, strong release yet by rapper Andy Bothwell.  Its a really great release and I'm not just saying that cause we are friends.  I'm a big fan of sincerity in music...maybe because songwriting can be so cliched and trite - the very nature of the verse-chorus-verse tends to make language simplified and generic...so when artists are able to get across sincerity, while still making great music that you can get into, it's especially good.  Andy's record is like that, and so much more

Cults - Cults  My favorite of the pop indie candy rock records of late.  It's high energy and good rock.  The first half is especially addictive...but I can't listen to it too much. 

The Drums - Portamento  The Drums sophomore effort finds them building on the unmistakeable sound of their first release - the kind of brit pop 80s candy sound that was very refreshing to these ears.  It's back, but much more developed this time around.  These kids are from Brooklyn, and not from 1984 folks.  

Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo  I'm always a bit wary when being introduced to a new singer-songwriter type that I'm not familiar with.  I'm not sure what it is...maybe because if I don't like the message of the songs, the lyrics, it's all over for me...but usually it's the voice.  If you can't get into the voice of a singer-songwriter type of musician it's all over.  With bands, well the music can be so much more important than the voice....it depends I suppose.  Okay, I'm rambling here...point is I was wary, but once I heard this latest by Vile I was sold on his voice, his humor, and his guitar.  Good stuff.  Mellow but not too mellow.

Wild Flag - Wild Flag  Great album by 2/3 of Sleater-Kinney.  Carrie Brownstein really knows how to rock when she isn't cracking wise on Portlandia.  Good stuff. 

Honorable Mentions:  The Horrors, Atlas Sound, The Rosebuds, The Roots, Tune-Yards, Dum Dum Girls, Childish Gambino, We Were Promised Jet Packs

Any who, that's that.  Let me know what your favorites were!  I'm always looking for new good music.


Molo said...

The new Radiohead was good too - takes a while to get into it, but very good music.

Anonymous said...

I love that I only recognize 3 of these.. getting old, ma!
But so interesting to read your take.


Molo said...

Which 3? Obviously Astronautalis, since you have met him...then I'm guessing Fleet Foxes and...Kayne West?

Anonymous said...

You guessed right. And Radiohead...

But no matter.