"The list game is as integral to rock as statistics are to baseball. In fact, it's not criticism I've been taking too seriously all these years but list making. I worry over my criteria. (Do I pick the albums I play the most or the ones I admire the most?) Then I worry over the imperatives of the list itself, which transcend the merits of particular records. (To be truly satisfying, for instance, a ten-best list should have some sort of aesthetic and historical balance; if it doesn't, something is wrong with the year's output of albums or the reviewer's listening habits, or both.)" -Ellen Willis, Out Of The Vinyl Deeps
This year I found myself wrestling quite a lot with my relationship to music. Well, more specifically, with my relationship to music delivery systems.
Every year, I feel like I purchase more music than the previous year, but when I look at my annual intake, I always end up with the same amount of albums - roughly I average one a week, which is close to the same intake I've had since high school. But this year I bought fewer CDs (a handful really), more record albums and more downloads than in previous years. In fact, I don't own a CD version of any of the albums in my top 20, but I do own a number of them on vinyl. Some I only own digital files of (which to me doesn't feel like ownership - and it is important to me to OWN the music I love). And I find that no matter how much I might like an album, if I don't actually have a physical copy of it, I just don't feel as emotionally connected to the music.
This year I also ran into an interesting and disappointing music-related situation during the holidays. My nieces are now old enough to want to consume music, so for Christmas they asked for iTunes giftcards, and being a good uncle, I obliged despite my personal feelings on the subject. But here's the problem. A decade ago, my nieces would have asked for CDs of their favorite artists. And as a good uncle, I would have obliged. But also as a good uncle who happens to know a lot about music, I most likely would have tossed in a CD or two for them of something they didn't ask for. Something I thought they should check out. Maybe they would have an awesome "my uncle turned me on to cool music" story to tell, or maybe they would have never listened to it. But at least there was the possibility of guidance. But now, in the iTunes giftcards/digital download age, that opportunity is gone. Sorry, kids, you're on your own moving forward.
So when do I download? When do I buy vinyl? And what about CDs? No one ever really loved them, but aren't they going away in 2012?
I've come up with this rule: Shop local first. I check my local record stores - Celebrated Summer, True Vine, Jojo's South (all in Hampden, by the way), and Soundgarden. If I can't find what I'm looking for in a physical format - then I opt for digital. Online and digital is, and should always be, a last resort - not a first choice. There are "support your local scene" reasons and there are local economic reasons for this. But my rule is: "Shop local first. Shop online last." And I apply that across the board. And anyone who doesn't do that, regardless of their rationale, just does not care much about their local scene/community.
And then there's Spotify. I may later find out they eat babies or don't pay artists or something like that, but right now, it is the best listening station in the world. And between that and Atomic Music Club, it's safe to say that I've heard more music this year than any other year in my life. And what I heard was a vibrant, thriving music culture - but a largely fragmented one - remarkably rich output generally relegated to genres within genres, niches within niches.
But there was so much great music that I heard this year, I had initially thought of doing a Top 50 list. I thought better of it after seeing how many great year end music lists I got from Shank readers that doing so would be tiresome and unnecessary. So I wrote a top 20 out and then included another "bottom" 20 with just links to check out but without explanation.
And while there is a little overlap in some of the lists, some names you'll see in several places, the sheer volume of unique entries and the diversity of them I think lends credence to my take on how vibrant and, at the same time, fractured music culture is.
Where possible, I have linked most of the albums below to Spotify - so if you have an account and are interested, you can more easily check out the music.
Feel free to ask me for a copy of my annual Shank's Best Year End Mix CD. While supplies last.
Also, here are the past 5 years of my annual year end mixes on Spotify if you are interested. These aren't entirely complete as Spotify doesn't have everything (several Double Dagger entries and a Lizz King entry is missing from previous years, for example), but it's as complete as I could get it.
And finally, before I start my list, I feel compelled to acknowledge my gratitude to R.E.M. who broke up this year. It may not be cool or hip, but I loved R.E.M. I would not be the person I am today without having discovered Murmur in early high school. I may not have had any interest in most of their output since Automatic For The People, (honestly, at the time, I called almost every one of their albums from Fables of the Reconstruction on their "pop" or "sell-out" album), but they were a band that set my musical interest down a path that has lead me to many great things, and for that I will always be thankful. -Benn Ray
Okay, on with the show. After the jump.
by Benn Ray
1. SMiLE Sessions by The Beach Boys
Decades in the making... And I have to say, the delays with this set coming out drove me crazy. I was so stoked, I even went to a pot-luck dinner listening party some friends threw and was more excited about that than if it was my own birthday party. First there's the beauty of the box set itself. The design is exquisite. Then there is the decadence of the set - 2 books, 5 cds, 2 LPs... there is so much. And the multiple CDs of Brian Wilson's modular recordings invite fan remixes. There's the historical significance. I can't listen to SMiLE and not think would could have been - what might have happened had the Beach Boys released it. Chances are good it wouldn't have been commercially successful - but how would their rivals the Beatles have responded? The band that is the single-most important, influential in modern rock music is the Beach Boys (there, I said it) - moreso than the Beatles, The Stones, Who, Elvis, etc., you can year Brian Wilson in more good music today than any other single influence. What would the release of SMiLE back in the '60s have done to that influence? Who's to say? But then there's the music - you can hear a man fighting his with his own sanity in the music - soothing harmonies - thudding plodding rhythms both at odds, but put together beautifully. SMiLE is big. It's so, so, big. And when I listen to the record, I feel it's weight. And more than once I found myself in traffic, listening to this album embarrassingly in tears because of its beauty, because of its bigness and because of what was lost. And no, I don't consider it a "reissue" since SMiLE was never officially released.
2. Last Summer by Eleanor Friedberger
This was one of those releases that caught me off guard. I'm a fan of Friedberger's band with her brother, Fiery Furnaces. But I didn't really think I'd be into or need to check out their solo stuff. Man was I wrong. She captures a magical, hip 1970s vibe with the songs here (complete with a "waiting for the man" line). Last Summer is so good that I can't not not listen to the whole album every time I hear the opening notes from "My Mistakes". And in fact, it's one of those records I want to consume immediately, all at once so I can do it all over again.
3. Mirror Traffic by Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks
Big year for Malkmus! The Pavement tour and Mirror Traffic, which may not only be his strongest solo release, it rivals some of Pavement's later albums. I love guitars and there are guitars here. And what's Steve doing on "No One Is (As I Are Be)"? Is he goofing on Will Oldham? I think he is. Playful, strong, fun. Good indie rock can save your life. Don't believe me? Just listen to the first 3 songs on Mirror Traffic and then call me a liar.
4. Cults by Cults
I caught a couple of songs from Cults in late 2010 and was sort of excited for them to release an album. I even saw them play a show at MICA where they barely had enough songs together for a full set. So I wasn't sure how sustainable their sort of Spector girl group sounds built on a foundation of recordings from cult leaders was, but then the album came out and it immediately became my summer record. More than gimmicky, the cult thing feel like a level that blends well with the creepy things Madeline Follin frequently sings. And the Robert Longo-esque cover photography also adds an excellent iconic image to accompany an album I think will stick with me for a while.
5. Father, Son, Holy Ghost by Girls
Girls manage to achieve a succinct collection of pop perfection while displaying vast array of roots in a way that avoids derivation. Your first listen will reveal a familiarity that fades upon repeated listenings and then returns as a kinship. Girls sound delicate and strong at the same time - which is no small feat. You feel their sensitivity without ever finding them precious or twee, because, well, the more you listen, the more you realize they aren't. In fact, they are the opposite of it.
6. Is That Clear by Nick Waterhouse
There isn't thing about Nick Waterhouse and his record that isn't a surprise. First, the LP design and Nick's style on the cover suggests that this record is some kind of obscure '60s garage, r&b, white boy northern soul, cocktail gem that someone thankfully discovered and released, but nope. It's new. It's still all of those things, but it's new. In fact, Nick is in his mid-20s. And the attention to detail on the cover carries through every song on this EP.
7. Cannibal Courtship by Dengue Fever
I've been a fan of Asian '60s/'70s psyche and garage rock for years now. And that's how I stumbled across Dengue Fever. They were doing some re-mix/rerecording stuff with Khmer-core (which is what I call the Cambodian rock cassettes by artists that were all slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge for just making that music). Well, the band has developed their own sound from those origins and the result is Asian-American Retro-Modern Psyche Cocktail Garage Ensemble sound that is at once retro and modern.
8. Cape Dory by Tennis
Like Cults, I heard a couple singles off this album in 2010 and was super-excited when this album came out in 2011. But then, unlike Cults, I promptly lost interest. It was only after I realized that I loved it every time one of these seafaring-themed Spector-esque girl group sounds pop songs came up in a shuffle that I started rethinking the album. Had my own expectations gotten in the way of hearing what was there? (I'm currently wrestling with that very issue with the new Guided by Voices album Let's Go Eat The Factory - it happens quite frequently. But the fist step to dealing with it is realizing it's an issue.) I'm going to say yes, my expectations were the issue, because every song on this record is a winner. There's a unifying theme and sound. As an album, it works. But it also gets my vote for one of the worst record covers of the year. Come on - you sail around the world, writing songs on your sailbout and this is the cover you come up with? What, you couldn't bring a digital camera with you?
9. Thrashin by Total Slacker
Who ain't nostalgic for the '90s now? From the beginning Tommy James-esque opening riff of "Psychic Mesa" to the end to the end notes of the final 10-minute psyche-noodle track "Koolz Mccrulez", there is something to grin about and nod along to on every second of Thrashin - which is not a simple '90s indie/alterna-rock throwback but something more akin to an upgrade. Favorite line from a song this year: "Stealin' from Salvation Army is the greatest thrill of all cuz you're stealin' from Republican parties". It's funny because it's true. Look it up.
10. The King Is Dead by The Decemberists
Is it ironic that the year that R.E.M. broke up was also the year another band delivered the best R.E.M. album in years? Well, it helped that the Decemberists also had Peter Buck play guitar on a few of the tracks. Look, I know there's hipster reactionary hate toward the Decemberists (which to me sounds increasingly like a manifestation of self-loathing than anything else - look nerds, you can watch football on Sundays all you want, but you know they'll never accept you as one of them so stop hating on your theater-geek brethren/roots). I know Colin Meloy can sound like a male Natalie Merchant, but damn these songs are good. Thematically and tonally, The King Is Dead totally works. You can't not feel "Calamity Song." You can't. Unless you hated Life's Rich Pageant. And if you did, then really, I don't care much what you think about anything. Look, if we can relearn to love the White Stripes, you can get over whatever psychological impairment exists that causes you to hate on the Decemberists.
11. Lounge Lizards by Purling Hiss
Okay, terrible band name. So terrible I almost completely overlooked them. Fortunately I didn't. This is what Lounge Lizards is like: You have a friend who is WAY into, say, Sonic Youth. And he just started a band. And that band has recorded a collection of demos on a casseette, most likely via a boombox. 8 weeks ago you gave him a lift somewhere. Yesterday you were cleaning out your car and you found that cassette on the floor, under the passenger seat, mixed in among empy soda cans and fast food containers. When you pop that cassette into your car's 15 year old cassette deck - this is what it will sound like - right before the cassette unspools and is eaten by that infernal machine.
12. Carrion Crawler / The Dream by Thee Oh Sees
Much to my relief, Thee Oh Sees released 2 albums this year. I say "to my relief" because I've come to expect a good Thee Oh Sees album annually, and while Castlemania was kind of interesting (and had the better cover), that's all that it was. Carrion Crawler/The Dream on the other hand has the sort of smart, catchy, pysche-garage-rock that I was expecting. Whew.
13. Sleep Rough by Brain F≠
This is just way more than simple noise punk. There's too much song here to dismiss it so out of hand. And the interplay between female and male vocalists really make the record. Rough yes, but also very, very rewarding. The band name thing is kind of a drag though. Are they Brain F? Brain Flannel? Brain Funequal? I just call 'em Brain Eff.
14. Smoke Ring For My Halo by Kurt Vile
I've long been a Kurt Vile fan, but early on I wondered how many of his bedbroom hazy, vocally reverbed records I'd need until I got the point. Well, it seems like Kurt got the point too and he's beginning to grow into more mature directions and that is fun to hear. Plus, I enjoy puzzling over the ever-increasing religiosity of his songs.
15. Mountaintops by Mates of State
The songs on this album sparkle and shine impossibly bright. But be warned, they are also ridiculously commercial. As in TV commercial. As I listen to this album and try to enjoy the songs, I get the sneaking suspicion that I've heard them as television commercials (and I have) and they start to feel like soundtracks to product sales. I can't just enjoy the songs without feeling like someone is trying to sell me something - which is a shame because the songs here are great, dazzling indie-pop.
16. Beautiful Rivers and Mountains: The Psychedelic Rock Sound of South Korea's Shin Joong Hyun (1958-1974) by Shin Joong Hyun
Shin Joong Hyun (or Shin Jung Hyun or Shin Jung Hyen) is Korea's godfather of rock-n-roll. He's kind of like Elvis, Brian Wilson, Phil Spector and Brian Eno all rolled up into one psyche-rock/pop person. This gorgeous collection is covers less than 2 decades of output, before he was effectively silenced for political reasons.
17. Civilian by Wye Oak
Wye Oak's most mature and most fully realized album to-date. They really don't feel like a Baltimore treasure anymore - they feel more like a gift we've given the world. Jenn and Andy have unique sound now that is all their own - a haunting and powerful one. I can't wait to hear what they do next.
18. Days by Real Estate
A sound that is both retro (of the '80s and '90s simultaneously) and modern. Real Estate creates an evocative album with Days that blends indie pop with indie rock. I'd call it indie soft rock if that didn't sound insulting.
Plus just look at how the right photo with the right font can make something look so desirable.
19. Deerhoof Vs. Evil by Deerhoof
Deerhoof has been around for almost 20 years now, with over 10 releases under their belt. For a band like them, where they are at their best with crunchy and vicious guitar hooks juxtapozed with the heavily accented and girlish vocals of Satomi Matsuzaki - well, after so many years it can be hard keeping it fresh. Here you hear a band with a firm sense of self begin to reach in new directions for a challenge, for fun, for a modern take on their sound and the results are rewarding.
20. Indestructivel Machine by Lydia Loveless
Loveless is like a young Neko Case - she's a country firebrand with a punk pedigree. She sings about drinking and fucking. She sometimes teeters on the verge of runaway voice syndrome, but hey, she's young.
-THE BOTTOM 20-
21. Larceny & Old Lace by The Coathangers (link to video)
22. It's A Corporate World by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
23. Here Before by Feelies
24. Demolished Thoughts by Thurston Moore
25. Several Shades of Why by J Mascis
26. Goodbye Bread by Ty Segall (link to video)
27. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
28. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two by Beastie Boys
29. Constant Future by Parts And Labor
30. Bad As Me by Tom Waits
31. West by Wooden Shjips
32. Rocknroll Submarine by Urge Overkill
33. Brilliant! Tragic! by Art Brut
34. Wild Flag by Wild Flag
35. Wit's End by Cass McCombs / Humor Risk by Cass McCombs
36. Tan Banjo by Davila 666
37. Slave Ambient by The War On Drugs
38. D by White Denim
39. Blood Pressures by The Kills
40. Tomboy by Panda Bear
5 BEST BALTIMORE ALBUMS OF 2011
by Benn Ray
I should point out that this year, Baltimore lost 3 of my all-time favorite bands. Double Dagger, Secret Weapons and Ponytail all called it quits in 2011, leaving a gaping hole in the local music scene. To those bands I say thanks for all the tunes. To everyone else I say, let's fill in that hole, eh?
1. Well-Intentioned World by The Jennifers
Wow. Just wow. This was the album I always hoped the Jennifers would release. Hooky as shit. Lotsa guitars. The Andy Partridge influence is played down to just an influence. This goes down as one of the best Baltimore records of all time. Classic guitar pop. There is not a clunker on the whole record. And each time you listen you find a different song that works its way under your skin.
2. Remote Unelectrifed Villages by Yeveto
Beautifully arranged art rock instrumentals. Playing this feels a lot like creating a soundtrack to you own life. Dark, moody, even narrative without vocals, Yeveto's mesmerizing music is both engaging and atmospheric in the best sense of both words.
3. Civilian by Wye Oak
4. Electric Tarot Deck by Celebration
Celebration decided to move forward without a major label with Electric Tarot Deck. And while that may have resulted in their album not getting as much national notice as their previous records, the freedom did result in their best album. Singer Katrina Ford has never had better command of her impressive vocal capacity. Musically, Electric Tarot Deck mixes soul in with their pysche rock bombast and creates celebratory and intense dance rock songs.
5. The Gathering by Arbouretum
More guitar pysche prog rock from Arbouretum. Melodic and sludgy, dense and trippy. On this record, Dave Heumann's impeccable guitar arrangements are evenly matched by bass-player Corey Allender's increasingly heavy low end. Just a great listen.
A BEST-ISH 10 FOR 2011
by Steve Ashby
Cults by Cults
I think Phil Spector might have dug this album. This is what all the people listening to She & Him should have been listening to instead.
Yuck by Yuck
This could very well be my album of the decade. At the very opening you get a heavy dose of Electr-O-Pura-era Yo La Tengo, with some Dinosaur Jr. and a few other '80s/'90s indie bands thrown in for good measure, and the band proceeds to live up to that potential: this is how you WANTED Yo La Tengo to sound, if they just stopped noodling themselves into tangents.
The King Is Dead/Long Live The King by The Decemberists
I'm lumping these two together. This album should comfort anyone worried about R.E.M. breaking up this year; just listen to "Calamity Song" and know everything's gonna be ok.
Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars
Prettiest album this year. Low key, acoustic, and harmonic. Especially enjoyed their reworking of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back."
The Whole Love by Wilco
This album plays like what the radio station in my head might sound like. The opening track sounds like what I wished Radiohead sounded like, with some Spoon thrown in on the chorus for good measure. Track two I wouldn't be surprised if the liner notes said that the Attractions were backing up the band. The rest of the album doesn't quite live up to the potential of the first two songs, but it comes close.
What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? by The Vaccines
While I hoped for a little something different from the Jesus and Mary Chain guitar feedback that starts off "Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)", this album was fast, energetic, and absolutely fun.
Kaputt by Destroyer
Not Destroyer's best work, but I really enjoyed the New Order reference in "Blue Eyes."
The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams by various
It was nice to hear some unrecorded Hank Williams songs resurface, and Jack White's Hank Williams impression was worth the price of admission all by itself.
Let England Shake by PJ Harvey
Once I got past the many voice filters she uses on this album, I really warmed to it. A good soundtrack for the year.
Hot Sauce Committee, Part Two by Beastie Boys
While the rest of the album doesn't quite live up to the promise of "Make Some Noise," it was a real joy to hear the Beastie Boys go old school with their first album with vocals in nearly a decade.
Past Life Martyred Saints by EMA
Smother by Wild Beasts
Wild Flag by Wild Flag
Skying by The Horrors
Smoke Ring For My Halo by Kurt Vile
Blood Pressures by The Kills
Strange Mercy by St. Vincent
Bad As Me by Tom Waits
Ashes & Fire by Ryan Adams
Diamond Mine by King Creosote & Jon Hopkins
J.MO'S GUIDE TO SHITTY NEW PUNK ROCK RECORDS THAT HE REALLY LIKED IN 2011
by Jess Morgan
Jess Morgan sings for South Carey and pledges to lose at least 60 lbs in 2012 so he doesn't look so ridiculous in that Germs shirt and tight jeans anymore.
Vacation by Bomb The Music Industry
So stoked I listened to Scott Jones and saw them for the first time this year. I've obviously been missing out for a long time. Super fun as fuck all-over-the-place punk rock.
Turn Me Off by Deep Sleep
This record makes me want to make music, lose weight, stay up late and rage hard. Their break-up is my second least-favorite hiatus news of the year. Easily on my short all-time list of under-appreciated Baltimore bands, and a constant musical inspiration.
David Comes To Life/David's Town by Fucked Up
I could probably go on for a while about all the various reasons why I like Fucked Up. But the thing I like best is the way that they consistently confound expectations with each new release. I celebrate their entire catalog. Plus, "David's Town" has a bunch of songs that sound bovver jams.
Ghostfunk by Ghostfunk
My favorite mashup of the year. Ghostface Killah vox over Afrobeat jams. I will put up the Youtube for "Psychedelic Woman" weekly.
Joyce Manor by Joyce Manor
Total Jawbreaker worship. Count me in. Played at the Art Space back in the spring and slayed it.
The Other Side Of Darkness by Night Birds
This seems to be a consensus favorite amongst my peers, and for good reason. Mike Riley billed it as a great mix of early '80s California HC filtered through an East Coast sensibility (I'm paraphrasing). I can co-sign that.
The Lack Long After by Pianos Become The Teeth
Valiantly picking up the reins from Ruiner as Baltimore's gift to the world. Screamy and intense and fuck it gives me shivers.
7 by Puerto Rico Flowers
Too misanthropic for the hipsters to be down. This is the sound of skinheads crying. Get depressed and wrap yourself in this warm blanket.
Shed by Title Fight
Happily picked up for $5 out of Celebrated Summer's used CD bin. Lifetime rip-off comments aside, I think they're just grand.
13 Chambers by Wugazi
Straight from the chambers of Chocolate City, Shaolin. The proof that Fugazi was an amazing go-go band. R.I.P. Ol' Dirty Bastard.
J.MO'S GUIDE TO SHITTY NEW PUNK ROCK SINGLES THAT HE REALLY LIKED IN 2011
by Jess Morgan
Black God 7" by Black God
Louisville sluggers (ex-Endpoint/BTGOG) debut with a HC burner. Yet another in a number of great releases from No Idea this year.
With Joe Riley 7" by Captain, We're Sinking
More of a career tip o' the cap. I'm super psyched to see people get into these guys in 2012 the same way I did this year. Energetic, melodic two vocalist emocore that makes my head want to explode.
Slow Burn 7" by The Creamers
I just recently downloaded this, and was totally blown away. There are mosh parts for the kids, and syncopated parts for the headbangers. If you see this in someone's record bin, get it.
Sterile 7" by Leather
Just fucking filthy mid-tempo Philly HC.
Universal Order Of Armageddon double 7" by Universal Order Of Armageddon
A blast from the past...just in time for a quick reunion. One of the only area bands I knew about when I moved here in 1994. Overjoyed to have seen them this year.
TOP 2 "REISSUED" VINYL LPS OF 2011
by Eric Allen Hatch
U.F.O. by Jim Sullivan
This is crucial music with a story so intriguing that you may want to buy the record just to read its liner notes. The short version is that this fixture of the LA psych-folk scene recorded a Wrecking Crew-backed masterpiece of songs dealing with UFOs and lost love (often in the same song). After it barely got released, he packed up his belongings to head to Nashville, where he hoped to be better understood; instead, his car was found abandoned in a New Mexico desert, his body never found. The record collector’s site Waxidermy rediscovered an even rarer, even more visionary mix of this album some years ago, which circulated on blogs for a while before finally getting this deluxe vinyl reissue.
Who’s Gonna Save the World by Father's Children
This Adams Morgan, D.C.-based outfit started out with a sound not unlike the soul-jazz of somewhat-early Earth, Wind, and Fire mixed with the sharp bite of very-early Funkadelic. Unfortunately, their major label “debut” in the late '70s is supposed to substitute gloss for grit (I’ve never found my own copy), while this earlier completed album, filled with infectious tunes, deep production, and sharp social commentary, sat unreleased for decades. Luckily, Numero stepped in with some typically lush reissues moves for this fantastic set, which history should record as Father’s Children’s true debut. An essential chapter in the histories of both soul music and the DC scene!
TOP HIP HOP SINGLES OF 2012
by John Bachman
Gucchi Gucchi by Kreayshawn
So what if Kreayshawn will be on VH1’s one hit wonders in 20 years. This song is a banger. Before it came out, Odd Future’s dj used it in her warm up, and I was blown away. Still not tired of it.
Yonkers by Tyler the Creator
This song helped lead the OF charge this year. Unfortunately, we haven’t heard much from them since, coupled with a hit or miss Goblin album. But I will still put this one on.
Nasty by Nas
Ah... the old Nas. I’ve never been a huge Nas fan (gasp,) but this song brings you back to the “Made you Look” era that everyone loves.
Need Some Bad by Slick Rick
After this track came out, everyone realized that Slick Ricky D had never done a track with Primo. Well, here it is. A great beat paired with Rick’s witty lyrics. The only issue is have is the two shout-outs to Jonah Hill, since it appears on The Babysitter soundtrack.
Ronald Morgan (ft Edan) by Blu
You know that scene in PCU when the guy that has been watching movies for his thesis finally finds a movie with all 3 actors in it, that’s what this song is like for me. A crazy psychedelic beat matched with a Blu and (rare) Edan verse. One of highlights from Blu’s No York album, that may or may not ever be released on a major label.
Primetime by Jay Z & Kanye West
A bonus cut, throw-away track. But my favorite on the Watch the Throne album. Simple, but not too repetitive beat that returns them to their humble (if ever...) beginnings.
Are You...Can You...Were You. by Shabazz Palaces
Hard to pick one song from this album. They all have similar vibes and just sound perfect driving at night. A former member of Digable Planets, and barely-present beats and tones that give you a musical buzz.
Huzzah (remix with Despot, Das Racist, Danny Brown and El-P) by Mr. Mfn Exquire
Possibly my favorite song of the year. It made people hear of Exquire, put Despot back on the map (an old Def Jux alum,) made me actually like some of Das Racist, helped carry Danny Brown through his great year, and offered a new verse from El-P. And it’s funny.
Bass by ASAP Rocky
My friend Sara asked me if I like ASAP Rocky. There was a lot of hype at the time for his video for Peso (also a great track,) but the title slide for the video showed a girl with fronts. I assumed ASAP was a girl. He is not, but is a dude from NYC, that makes songs like he was from Texas riding shotgun with Paul Wall.
4 THINGS I DIDN'T GET IN MUSIC IN 2011
by Steve Ashby
4. Bon Iver.
The beauty of his first album wasn't the voice, or the music, but the power of the songs themselves. You could feel someone working through pain to try to overcome it, and you weren't sure at the end of it if he had or not (and you suspected he hadn't). None of that has been present in any of his albums since; they're just the same drone, sometimes with auto-tune, and seems to venture closer and closer to late '70s/early '80s light rock.
Didn't they used to be a rock band? For the past decade it seems they've been reusing the same sounds, same bass lines, same beats, same drawn out vocals. It's almost like they're really putting in a lot of effort to phone it in. Either that or they're trying to become an electronica jam band.
Just typing that out annoyed the piss out of me. But even beyond the obnoxious capitalization, I don't get how this band keeps showing up on best of lists. The music sounds to me like someone took the rejected songs from Paul Simon, Sting, Laurie Anderson and a horde of cancelled children's tv shows and threw them up in the air and recorded what it sounded like when they hit the ground. Bloody awful dissonant noise.
1. She & Him.
Ok, I get that it's Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. I get that she did that singing thing in Elf many years ago, and they put out a Christmas album and all, and her name is Zooey which is vaguely Salinger-esque and that she's the IT girl for hipsters and it's cute and all, but seriously, people. If it wasn't Zooey singing you'd think it's crap. That means it's crap. Having someone famous or hip sing crap music doesn't make the music good. It just makes it sung by someone you know. If you want to listen to it, great on you. Just stop pretending it's good.
As Chuck D once said, "Don't believe the hype."
BEST MUSIC OF 2011
by Brian Dubin
Hello all. This year was incredibly busy for me and I got to hear and see so many incredible bands. I'm really lucky to be living in Osaka now. I think it's my favorite city in the world. Really. Anyway, I didn't have time to write up little blurbs for these releases like in the past, so if something looks interesting or good to you, I highly recommend seeking it out! These are my top 10 favorite albums/EPs and 7"'s from 2011. I recommend checking them all out because each album/record is very different from the next. Have a great 2012 everyone!
II by The Psychic Paramount
New Album (Japanese version) by Boris The US version has the same songs, but in a different order.
JPN by Perfume
The Gathering by Arbouretum
Haava 7" by Haava
Skizophrenia! 7" by Skizophrenia!
Paranoid Void Recorded by The カルマ
Aesthetica by Liturgy
Hypocrisy by Unarm
Lounge Lizards EP by Purling Hiss
TOP 10 RECORDS OF 2011
by Mike Faloon of Go Metric
1. Summer of Indifference by Black Wine (Don Giovanni)
2. 50 Words for Snow by Kate Bush (Fish People)
3. Cylinder by Cylinder (Clean Feed)
4. Western Problems by Future Virgins (Starcleaner)
5. Well-Intentioned World by The Jennifers (Beechfields)
6. Mind Spiders by The Mind Spiders (Dirtnap)
7. The Other Side of Darkness by Night Birds (Grave Mistake)
8. Knows Your Sins by Underground Railroad to Candyland (Recess)
9. Bad As Me by Tom Waits (Anti)
10. Hyphenated-Man by Mike Watt (Clenched Wrench)
THE BEST RECORDS OF 2011
by Dana Murphy of Unregistered Nurse Promotions
Sleep Rough by Brain F≠ (Grave Mistake)
Racey Roller by Giuda (White Zoo)
Lounge Lizards by Purling Hiss (Mexican Summer)
Lost Tribe by Lost Tribe (Blind Prophet)
Henge Beat by Total Control (Iron Lung)
Badlands by Dirty Beaches (Zoo Music)
One & Only by Obn iiis (TTT)
As High as the Highest Heavens... by True Widow (Kemando)
The Spits V by Spits (In The Red)
Forever Won't Wait by Steve Adamyk (Dirtnap)
Royal Headache by Royal Headache
Beyond Living by Milk Music
FAVORITE MUSIC OF 2011
by Howard Yang
Let England Shake by PJ Harvey
Kaputt by Destroyer
The Magic Place by Julianna Barwick
Dancer Equired by Times New Viking
Past Life Martyred Saints by EMA
Eye Contact by Gang Gang Dance
Gloss Drop by Battles
David Comes To Life by The Fucked Up
The Harrow & The Harvest by Gillian Welch
Last Summer by Eleanor Friedberger
New Brigade by Ice Age
Dr. Lecter by Action Bronson
Slave Ambient by The War On Drugs
Smile by The Beach Boys
Social Climbers by Social Climbers
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming by M83
Looping State of Mind by The Field
Ravedeath, 1972 by Tim Hecker
Haflat Gharbia by Omar Souleyman
Enough Thunder EP by James Blake
40 ALBUMS I DUG (A-Z)
by Michael Tully, Hammer To Nail
Atlas Sound - Parallax
Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part 2
Bill Callahan - Apocalypse
Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Bonnie “Prince” Billy - Wolfroy Goes To Town
Caitlin Rose - Own Side Now
The Caretaker - An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
Cass McCombs - Humor Risk
Cass McCombs - Wit’s End
David Lynch - Crazy Clown Time
David Wingo - Take Shelter Soundtrack
Destroyer - Kaputt
DJ Quik - The Book of David
East River Pipe - We Live In Rented Rooms
Explosions in the Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Frank Ocean - nostalgia/ultra
Fucked Up - David Comes To Life
Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest
The Go! Team - Rolling Blackouts
Jonny - Jonny
Kort - Kort
Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
The Ladybug Transistor - Clutching Stems
Michael Montes - Septien: Motion Picture Soundtrack
Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire - Lost in Translation
Olafur Arnalds - Living Room Songs
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Real Estate - Days
The Roots - Undun
Shabazz Palaces - Black Up
Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
Tom Waits - Bad As Me
tUnE-yArDs - W H O K I L L
Ty Segall - Goodbye Bread
Tyler The Creator - Goblin
Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Vetiver - The Errant Charm
A Winged Victory For The Sullen - A Winged Victory For The Sullen
THESE DON'T SUCK: FAVORITE POP CULTURE OF 2011: MUSIC
by John Nagle
John Nagle is a writer based in Baltimore, Maryland. His work has appeared in Baltimore Metromix, B-More Live, 411Mania.com, and his sadly neglected blog, Rant n’ Rave With John Nagle. He can recognize Phil Collins’ “Easy Lover” from the first cymbal crash.
1. Anthrax: Worship Music (Thrash ain't dead!)
2. The Roots: Undun (Gold, Jerry)
3. Real Estate: Days
4. The Biters: All Chewed Up
5. Butch Walker and the Black Widows: The Spade
6. Mastodon: The Hunter
6. Dum Dum Girls: Only in Dreams
7. Smith Westerns: Dye it Blonde
8. Fucked Up: David Comes to Life
9. Sloan: The Double Cross
10. Wye Oak: Civilian
Florence and the Machine: Ceremonials
The Copyrights: North Sentinal Island
Motorhead: The World is Yours
Drive-By Truckers: Go-Go Boots
The Horrible Crowes: Elsie
The Happen-Ins: s/t
TV On the Radio: Nine Types of Light
Ryan Adams: Ashes and Fire
Will Dailey and the Rivals: s/t
Favorite Box Set:
The Beach Boys: Smile
Elvis is Back! (shocking, no?)
The Rolling Stones: Some Girls
Lady Gaga: Born This Way (Where did the hooks go, Germanotta? WHERE DID THE HOOKS GO?!)
Most Inessential Album:
Justin Bieber: Under the Mistletoe (I'll take A Christmas with Shaun Cassidy, thank you very much.)
Way to be Ahead of the Curve, John (Albums I Discovered This Year)
Superdrag: Regretfully Yours
Sunny Day Real Estate: Diary
The Jayhawks: Hollywood Town Hall
Rose Tattoo: s/t
The Undertones: s/t
Mission of Burma: Signals, Calls and Marches (I know, and you can all shut up)
Count Basie: The Atomic Mr. Basie
Sam Cooke: Live at the Harlem Square Club (Thanks to Scott Mullins for that one)
Waylon Jennings: Lonesome On'ry and Mean
Kinks: Kinda Kinks
Audio Comfort Food
Cheap Trick: At Budokan
Iron Maiden: Anything, but usually Powerslave, Live After Death or Somewhere in Time
The Ramones: Anything, but usually It's Alive!
Rush: Moving Pictures
The Faces: Five Guys Walk Into a Bar
The Marvelous 3: ReadySexGo!
Pretty Boy Floyd: Leather Boyz With Electric Toyz
Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run
Superchunk: No Pocky For Kitty
Al Green's Greatest Hits
From Elvis in Memphis
The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
David Bowie: Young Americans
The Clash: Give Em Enough Rope
Elton John's Greatest Hits
Guns n' Roses: Appetite for Destruction
The Gaslight Anthem: The '59 Sound
Rod Stewart (who is AWESOME, despite what certain people think) Every Picture Tells a Story
Frank Sinatra: Songs for Swingin' Lovers!
The Replacements: Tim
Poison: Look What the Cat Dragged In
TOP 50 RECORDS OF 2011
by Matt Kirby
1. Black Up by Shabazz Palaces
2. James Blake by James Blake
3. Room(s) by Machinedrum
4. We're New Here - Gil Scott Heron & Jamie XX
5. King of Limbs by Radiohead
6. 936 by Peaking Lights
7. Nostalgia/Ultra by Frank Ocean
8. House of Balloons by The Weeknd
9. Watch The Throne by Jay Z/Kanye West
10. Parallax by Atlas Sound
11. Brothers by The Black Keys
12. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
13. Collections 1 by Teebs
14. III: Arcade Dynamics by Ducktails
15. Bad Vibes by Shlohmo
16. Paisley Palm Trees by Michael Uzowuru
17. w h o k i l l by tUnE-yArDs
18. Undun by The Roots
19. Days by Real Estate
20. Underneath The Pines by Toro Y Moi
21. Defaults by Hard Mix
22. Tomboy by Panda Bear
23. Love Kraft by James Pants
24. Space Is Only Noise by Nicolas Jaar
25. Dreams Come True by Cant
26. N O Y O R K. by Blu
27. You Stand Uncertain by FaltyDL
28. Some Cold Rock Stuf by J-Rocc
29. Dedication by Zomby
30. Mind Bokeh by Bibio
31. Pleasure by Pure X
32. Let England Shake by P.J. Harvey
33. The Dreamer/The Believer by Common
34. Cults by Cults
35. SBTRKT by SBTRKT
36. Paddywhack by Idiot Glee
37. Terra by Julian Lynch
38. Cabaret Cixous by Maria Minerva
39. Coastal Grooves by Blood Orange
40. Wander/Wonder by Balam Acab
41. Anika by Anika
42. Diaper Island by Chad VanGaalen
43. Electronic Dream by AraabMUZIK
44. Black & Brown by Danny Brown & Black Milk
45. Garage Grooves 1 by Clueless
46. Instrumental Mixtape by Clams Casino
47. Apocalypse by Bill Callahan
48. One Nation by Hype Williams
49. Hexual Sealings by Knxwledge
50. Medicine Show No. 12 by MADLIB
THESE DON'T SUCK: FAVORITE POP CULTURE OF 2011: PODCASTS
by John Nagle