Here are a few of our favorite albums from 2011…
The Dears – Degeneration Street
I’ve been a moderate fan of the Dears for a while but they never really grabbed me until this album. Lots of great tracks – in particular Blood really gets me going. Tiny Man is quite excellent also.
Peter, Bjorn and John – Gimme Some
I think this one is pretty obvious – a great band releases their most energetic offering to date. Stand out tracks are Dig a Little Deeper, Eyes and Down Like Me. The third track, Second Chance, is just about as killer a pop tune as you can ask for. 11 tracks of pure fun.
TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
Another obvious pick but I was super excited about this one. I love these guys and there was a big gap between records which was partially filled by a terrific collaboration by singer Tunde Adebimpe and Massive Attack (one song called Pray for Rain) and guitarist Kyp Malone’s awesome solo project Rain Machine. Standout tracks are: Second Song, New Cannonball Blues and Will Do (my definite favorite).
Metal Mountains – Golden Trees
Languid, melancholy and beautiful. A wonderful psych-folk collaboration between Samara Lubelski, Helen Rush and Pat Gubler. Great way to ease into the day or to wind down after a long one. Standouts are Flickers Within/Without and The Golden Trees That Shade Us.
Chad Vangaalen – Diaper Island
I was dying for this one to come out. Vangaalens 2008 release, Soft Airplane, was an album that I listened to obsessively. I thought it was genius though I could only find a few folks in my circle that agreed with me (his shaky vocals and quirky compositions are a bit much for some people). It’s a desert island disc for me without a doubt – Diaper Island however, is not. It is actually a great record though and still makes my list with lots of brilliant tracks such as Peace on the Rise, Blonde Hash and Sara.
Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread
A mellower and less frenetic album for Ty, Goodbye Bread let’s his songwriting shine through. Punk-tinged and lo-fi garage rock. The title track, Where Your Mind Goes, I Can Feel It are favorites with My Head Explodes topping the list.
Fennesz + Sakamoto – Flumina
Accomplished and prolific Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto jumps from record to record creating outlandish experimental electronica to pristine, traditional piano pieces. There is a lot to love in a huge catalog of solo albums and movie soundtracks but my favorites have been collaborations with some of the best of the ambient/glitch scene including Christopher Willits, Alva Noto and Christian Fennesz. Flumina (his second pairing with Fennesz) is a dream. Airy and gorgeous.
Trouble Books and Mark McGuire
Guitarist Mark McGuire creates intricate soundscapes for the Ohio-based trio Emeralds and on his many solo recordings. On this album he teamed up with another Ohio band, Trouble Books, adding his futuristic flavor to their spacey sauce. A great album that often makes you feel like you’re floating in a near-earth orbit (or maybe that’s just me). Standouts are Local Forecast, Song for Reinier Lucassen’s Sphinx and The Golden Waste.
Iron and Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
I’m not sure that this is my favorite album from Iron and Wine but I love how adventurous Sam Beam got with his arrangements this time out. It’s a pretty dramatic leap with some excellent results. Walking Far From Home and Rabbit Will Run are killer cuts with Your Fake Name is Good Enough for Me being one of my favorite I&W tracks ever.
Chelsea Wolfe – Apokalypsis
Melodic and haunting. Lo-fi and with sounds ripped from industrial music this album could be the soundtrack to an art house horror film. Listen to Mer, Tracks (Tall Bodies) and Moses.
Wye Oak – Civilian
Sultry vocals interrupted occasionally by jarring, jangly guitars. This rock duo from Baltimore really shine on their third full-length release Civilian. Dog Eyes is so upbeat for them and so unique a tune that it was an instant favorite. I wish I had caught them live when they were not too big to play in their own hometown. Other favs are The Alter and Holy Holy.