Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Favorite Music of 2011

Alright. Here we go.

I've been holding off on posting this because it's been an excellent year for music and trying to sort it all out is an incredibly daunting task. But, I start a new (temporary) job tomorrow (yay!) and that will really eat up my blogging time. So best to do it now.

Also, it seems that every year I do this a little differently. This year is no different. Let's get started.

Top 10 Albums of 2011

1. Eddie Vedder: Ukulele Songs
My number one album of the year was a no brainer. Mixing Eddie Vedder's baritone voice with the little ukulele just had my name written all over it. I loved Eddie Vedder for years and this year just took it to a whole other level. His show back in June kind of changed my life. Okay, not really. But I don't think any other live show I attend will compare. As for the album, it's delightfully sweet in an unobnoxious way. It's earnest. It's 16 little tracks that cut you right to your heart. It's true. It's what he wanted to do. It does not feel gimicky or trendy. It feels like it comes right from the heart. The songs crush me in a very good way and they helped me through a very painful year. I love the ukulele and I love Eddie Vedder. Thanks for making this album, Eddie.

Top 3 Tracks: "Goodbye", "Without You", "Broken Heart"

2. Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes
Oh, Lykke. How you are not a pop star on the level of Katy Perry I'll never understand. You are miles above them all. But, honestly, I like you just where you are. Wounded Rhymes is fierce. That term is lame, but it is what it is. Every single song on this album either makes me want to dance or sing and never do I want to press the skip button. The chorus's are big, the beats are bigger. Her voice is heartbreaking and ferocious. And the lyrics...don't let the drums and dancing overshadow those lyrics. She has a way with words and ideas and thoughts that I think get overlooked by all the production. She is awesome. Wounded Rhymes is awesome.

Top 3 Tracks: "I Know Places", "Sadness is a Blessing", "Love Out of Lust"

3. Haley Bonar: Golder
Haley Bonar just keeps getting better and better. With each album I just think, how? You can hear her growth as an artist with each album. Golder kicks off with the big sound of "Candy Machine Gun" and closes with the sweet lullaby "Wendybird" and everything in between nestles in perfectly. Her voice has never sounded more confident. Her band is killer. And the songs are near pop perfection. As a songwriter, I am insanely jealous.

Top 3 Tracks: "Candy Machine Gun", "A Piano", "Sad Baby"

4. Tristen: Charlatans at the Garden Gate
I stumbled unto Tristen. She opened for The Elected back in July. I thought I'd buy an album because, why not? And I'm so glad I did. She is so good. This time next year everyone will be talking about her. She's like Jenny Lewis meets the Beach Boys. She's big on harmonies and sounds that swirl around your head. She also occasionally plays the ukulele, so bonus. Her songs are stories. She is a storyteller. And a good one. Don't be late to the Tristen party.

Top 3 Tracks: "Tadpole", "Baby Drugs", "Eager For Your Love"

5. PJ Harvey: Let England Shake
As I look over all of the top albums of the year lists I am shocked that this album seems to be forgotten. This is high end quality stuff here. It won the mercury prize. How is it suddenly dismissed? It just goes to show what a great year for music it's been. Let England Shake is a concept album of sorts. An homage to her homeland - all the good, bad, and ugly of it. Polly Jean has transformed her sound again. Seriously, do any of her albums sound anything like the one before it? This album just sounds cool. It feels important - but not in a pretentious way. Okay, so maybe it is slightly pretentious, but so what. It's really good.

Top 3 Tracks: "The Last Living Rose", "England", "Written on the Forehead"

6. Wye Oak: Civilian
I fell in love with the song "Civilian" immediately - I'll get more into that later. I didn't get the full album for a while. It's dark. It's brooding. It's rocking. And the band consists of two people and I have no idea how they make all of those sounds.

Top 3 Tracks: "Civilian", "Doubt", "Fish"

7. Agnes Obel: Philharmonics
Quiet. Elegant. That's what this album is. It makes you want to light candles and drink wine while sitting in a big fancy chair in your best clothing. I feel very fancy when I listen to it.

Top 3 Tracks: "Just So", "Beast", "Close Watch"

8. Radiohead: The King of Limbs
I can say that this wasn't going to make my list. I never really sit and listen to it as an album. But when each song individually shuffles onto the iPod, I really enjoy them. I mean, it's Radiohead. Do they ever do anything wrong? And "Codex" is a true masterpiece. I can't tell you how many times that song would come on and I would stop what I was doing to go check the iPod to see who it was and everytime I would say, Radiohead? Really? Good stuff to just put on.

Top 3 Tracks: "Codex", "Morning Mr Magpie", "Feral"

9. Pink Mink: Pink Mink
This album is fun. It is super super fun. Spunky ladies singing about the end of the world, Scott Seekins, and hidden beaches. Fun....Fun. Fun. Fun.

Top 3 Tracks: "End of the World Delight", "Earthquake on the Loose", "Hidden Beach"

10. Bon Iver: Bon Iver
Sigh. Why does it make me mad that this made my list? I fucking loved For Emma Forever Ago. LOVE IT. This album was a bit of a let first. It definitely sounds way over produced. For Emma had such an ease about it. Such an intimate vibe. This one sounds like: "Hey! I've got a bunch of money now! Let's go into a super fancy studio and use EVERYTHING!" Which, I guess, hey who wouldn't do that. But, I can't deny the beauty of some of these songs. True, true beauty. People really don't write beautiful songs anymore. At least, its not what you hear in the popular music world anymore. You can tell a lot of thought went into each arrangement. It really is something to marvel at. And, honestly, the only reason it's at the end of the list is because of the last track "Beth/Rest". That is the most god awful thing I have ever heard. It sounds like it should be on the Top Gun soundtrack. Maybe it's a joke. Maybe that's what he was going for. Either way, it bumped the album all the way down to number 10.

Top 3 Tracks: "Perth", "Holocene", "Michicant"

Album that would probably have made the list if I ever would have got around to buying it:
My Morning Jacket: Circuital.
I really want this album. I almost bought a couple of months ago on my last major CD shopping trip, but put it back. I listen to the snippets online and the songs they play on the radio and they sound so good. Why don't I own it yet? Probably because I only go on big CD shopping trips every few months now and this one just keeps falling behind. And I no longer buy albums online digitally, so it's not just a download away for me anymore.

Honorable Mentions:

Adam Svec: Weak in the Waves - Local songwriter who can really write songs.
Caroline Smith & the Goodnight Sleeps: Little Wind - This is a great album that just fell short of making the Top 10 because I haven't fully immersed myself into it yet. Really good stuff, though.
The Elected: Bury Me in My Rings - It makes me sad that Blake Sennet, formerly of Rilo Kiley, does not get the accolades his female counterpart, Jenny Lewis, does. He writes really fun, catchy pop songs. This album is loaded with them.
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - This has the same problem that Caroline Smith has in that it just came out too late that I haven't been able to fully explore it yet. I love Noel, though. And I love everything he does - even the stuff most people would consider mediocre. I really dig this album, though.

Songs of the Year (in no particular order)

"Civilian" - Wye Oak.
This song kicks my ass. It's one of those songs that every time it comes on I am certain that this will be the time that I am finally sick of it, but nope. I just turn it up louder. The guitar on this track is something else. And I can never not love a pounding kick drum.

"I Know Places" - Lykke Li
After we returned from our trip to London and Paris and after Murray died and things just started to get icky, I would listen to this song and drift off and think about those places and truly think of just running away. "I know places we can go, babe. The high won't fade here, babe". It just feels so personal. It feels like she's saying it to you. Like you're listening in on a very personal moment between her and someone who matters to her. This song brings me hope.

"In My Mind" - Amanda Palmer
Amanda is my new idol. I just think she really has everything figured out. And this song is kind of about that and just makes me swell up every time I listen to it. Just beautiful.

"Tanktop" - Caroline Smith & the Goodnight Sleeps
I know this song came out in the summer, but I ignored it at first. Now I just want it to be summer again. Like really hot summer so I can listen to this song while sitting outside in my tanktop with my friends.

"Weaks in the Waves" - Adam Svec
I'm a sucker for these kind of songs. Just listen to and you'll see what I mean. It's kind of impossible not to like a song like this. Once again, another beauty.

"Go For the Throat" - The Elected
Big, fun, pop song. How is this not a big hit on all the indie rock stations? Play The Elected already for cryin' out loud.

"Codex" - Radiohead
Like I said above, this song surprises me everytime. It's gorgeous. It makes me stop what I'm doing and listen. It takes over a room.

"The Last Living Rose" - PJ Harvey
"Goddam, Europeans, take me back to beautiful England" is the first line from this song and goddam it. Yes. Please take me back.

"Goodbye" - Eddie Vedder
After Murray died, I could not listen to this song. But now...well, who am I kidding. I'm listening to it now and I just started crying. I miss my dog.

I could not find a good YouTube video for this song. Probably for the best. I have my own imagery.

So, that's that. That's the music I've enjoyed in 2011. Until next year...there seems to be a lot of really great music due to come out.

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