Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Best of 2011

Again this year, my music purchases were mostly digital. Out of the list below, only two were purchased in CD form, the rest were purchased digitally (via iTunes or Amazon) while a few were streamed on Spotify. I listen to a lot of music and this year was no different... lots of beautiful stuff out there in 2011.

(my reluctant top ten)
10: Tycho - Dive
instrumental electronic soundscapes that, in my case, seem to breed creativity. listen to Coastal Break and see if that doesn't change your mood.

9: Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
to be honest, i'm a fan so it's no surprise that this album makes my list. i can't say that i liked it better than Viva La Vita - but it was a very listenable album. Don't Let It Break Your Heart is the peak, with their signature guitar sound and an amazing hook: When you're tired of aiming your arrows / Still you never hit the mark / Even in your rains and shadows / Still we're never gonna part / Come on over baby / Don't let it brake your heart

8: Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Another creative album that firmly adds itself to the Radiohead repertoire. Not as strong as In Rainbows, but solid all around. Key track: Separator

7: The Appleseed Cast - Middle States EP
just four songs shouldn't perhaps even qualify - but coming in at 27 minutes (including the 14 minute Three Rivers) makes it feel like something more than an EP. The song Middle States has a familiar Appleseed Cast (from the Low Level Owl/Mare Vitalis era. The lead track End Frigate Constellation is the best - with low-fi indecipherable lyrics that build on its mysteriousness. When that last lyric Waiting for the night to come is deciphered a sense of peace is restored before a fuzzy distortion-heavy ending brings closure to a beautifully mesmerizing song.

6: Washed Out - Within Without
simplistic synth harmonies with warm, lush vocals. the lead track is probably the best but future listens may change my mind. Nothing stands out, yet i can't stop listening to it.

5: The Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part 2
After 25 years the Beastie Boys can still hold their own. What a brilliant come back album after such a long hiatus. Genius rhymes. Genius beats. Can't wait to see what Part One will bring. Key Track: Too Many Rappers

4: Explosions in the Sky - Take Care Take Care Take Care
I'll always greatly anticipate any new music from Explosions in the Sky. Take Care delivers in mighty ways in the sense that nothing seems old - but fresh, new, exciting. The instrumentation builds to powerful crescendos that leave the listener awestruck. There is something magical about this band. Take Care adds to the magic.

3: I Break Horses - Hearts
I Break Horses is sort of homemade shoe-gazer music by Maria Lindén and Fredrick Balck of Sweden. The catchy first track Winter Beats builds and builds, moving and pulsating like a functioning cog in a powerful machine - churning and churning; as if part of something bigger. Beats then bleeds into the title track Hearts which chillingly takes shape as more of a layered interlude, with a heavy multi synth backdrop and an eventual unrecognizable vocal mix that becomes another instrument that keeps the machine working. Wired reminds you of where I Break Horses is rooted before a sort of time warp of sound brings unresolved closure. The rest of the album is much the same: an electronic, computerized, expression of the soul.

2: Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
So melodic and dark, Helplessness Blues is a chilling follow up to Fleet Foxes deput from 2008. The title track, released months before, set the stage for a brilliant album. The Shrine / An Argument is musically, nothing short of perfection where each instrument, each lyric, each vocal harmony plays a role in telling a story of heartache and despair. "when you talk you hardly even look in my eyes". what heartache.
The rest of the album captures this same emotion with chilling detail. Helplessness Blues proves that Fleet Foxes deserve one's attention, now and always.

1: The Roots - Undun
Undun is the soulful telling of a typical from-the-streets story of a man, Redford Stevens, who sadly becomes a statistic. It's a concept album from one of the most diverse groups in all of music. Who else can match the talent of The Roots? Who else would dare make a hip hop album like this? Lyricist Black Thought paints a compelling story while raw, soulful instrumentation serving as the canvas. There is just something creative about this album and perhaps that is why i've been drawn to it. The story of the album is tragic - doused in helplessness: And no one’s in the lighthouse / You’re face down in the ocean / And no one’s in the lighthouse / And it seems like you just screamed / It’s no one there to hear the sound / And it may feel like there’s no one there / That cares if you drown / Face down in the ocean...
(the hook from The Lighthouse).
Each track is a sort of puzzle piece, part of some larger story that is tragic and desperate. None the less, Undun may not fully be understood or appreciated for some time - but it's worth digging in to, no matter where you're from and that is why i picked it as the number one album of 2011.

the best of the rest (and thanks to Spotify - i may realize that some below are even better than the ones listed above)

Foster the People - Torches
Mute Math - Odd Soul
Phantogram - Nightlife
Chad Valley - Equatorial Ultravox EP
Real Estate - Days (been listening to this simple group for the last few days and it is growing on me.)
Cut Copy - Zonoscope
Tim Hecker - Dropped Pianos
The Middle East - I Want That You Are Always Happy (there's something special about this album. so simple and a bit different. so raw and honest.)
Loscil - Coast/Range/Arc (if you like ambient, drone-like sounds, check out Loscil.)
Tune-Yards - W H O K I L L
Katie Herzig - The Waking Sleep
Destroyer - Kaputt
The Kills - Blood Pressure
Girls - Father Son Holy Ghost

BEST REISSUE: The Beach Boys - The SMiLE Sessions
This is brilliant. One of the most creative pieces of music ever. I've always thought of Pet Sounds as one of the best albums of all time... i think SMiLE trumps that. Brian Wilson is/was a genius... and a little bit crazy, too. SMiLE is a masterpiece.


here is a recap of top albums from years past:

My Top Albums:

In 2011, i/we watched 139 films (i keep a movie watching log)
My only 5 star rated movie that i watched this year was the remake of 3:10 to Yuma. Loved it. what an adventure.

I also read 29 books. [good reads] my favorite being In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - an exceptional piece of non-fiction literature.

It was another great year.

1 comment:

troy. said...

nice -- always look forward to your lists. love the entire tycho album. you're spot on w/ your radiohead, beastie boys and loscil descriptions. the roots are a band I should be into, but just never got into. i dig some of their singles, but never got into their albums -- i should probably take another listen though. I'm off to hype machine (i'm so 2008) to check out some of these artists I'm not familiar with.

btw: my list is done but awaiting art and uploading.