Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Year in Music 2011: The Not Top Ten

So over the course of the year, I counted up about 45 or so 2011 releases that I bought this year, in addition to a handful of albums that were released last year or earlier.  They can't all be in the top ten, so here's how the rest stacked up.

Albums that came out in 2010 (or earlier) that I discovered or appreciated this year:

  • Crocodiles - Sleep Forever
  • the 1900s - Return of the Century: Would have been higher on last year's list had I run across it earlier
  • Tame Impala - Innerspeaker
  • Gold Motel - Summer House
  • Army Navy - Army Navy (2008): Also released a new album this year
  • Superchunk - Majesty Shredding: Bought this last year, but didn't pay attention to it much before the Pitchfork Festival this year.  This a really terrific album.  May have been a top 10 last year under different circumstances.
Incompletes - Albums that I bought this year, but for whatever reason barely listened to.  Also known as albums that could show up in the category above next year:
  • Panda Bear - Tomboy: PB released my favorite album of 2008, and Animal Collective released my second favorite album of 2009, yet I couldn't seem to make time for this one.
  • Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness: Just released recently.  Will get around to it eventually.
  • Ivy - All Hours: A band whose albums I will still buy, but need a reason to listen to.  Haven't found that reason just yet.
  • Hooray for Earth - True Loves: Bought on the basis of their EP from a year or two ago.  Didn't strike me after the first lesson.  Need to head back to it.
  • Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues: Just can't seem to get into this group.
  • The Black Keys - El Camino: I'm half tempted to not even include this album in this year's list.  Released much too close to the end of the year for a proper evaluation, though it's pretty good so far.
Releases that I liked a lot, but don't feel right including because they were EPs:
  • My My My - Wishing You Whatever's Best:  Local Chicago band.  Opened for Nicole Atkins.  Put on a great show and gave out free copies of their EP.
  • Superhumanoids - Parasite Paradise:  LA act that opened for Cults and Magic Kids.  Were better than Magic Kids.
The rest of the not top 10:

36) Art Brut - Brilliant Tragic:  Loved the last album.  Was underwhelmed here.  And the antics at their live show this year were a real turn off.

35) Yuck - Yuck:   Everybody seems to love these guys, but I didn't care that much for Dinosaur Jr. the first time around.  Or apparently the second time around.  They're alright, but this album bored me.

34) Radiohead - the King of Limbs: This could also have gone into the "Incomplete" section.

33) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong:  See #36.  While I loved the first album, this was just OK, with a lot of forgettable songs, and nothing as good as the singles on the first album.  Very underwhelming live show as well.

32) the Strokes - Angles:  A couple really good songs, but a lot of meh as well.

31) the Drums - Portamento:  Another in the line of underwhelming second (or third, or fouth) efforts.  Maybe I placed the expectations too high.  Their debut was my ninth favorite album of 2010.

30) Au Ras Au Ras - Au Ras Au Ras:  The brainchild of Tess Brunet.  This is actually pretty decent, but not truly grabbing.  Donated some cash on Kickstarter for this one.  Tess seems pretty cool.

29) Cut Off Your Hands - Hollow:  Finally a sophomore effort I preferred to the debut.  Really late '80s vibe on this one.  Nothing really mind blowing, but fun to listen to.

28) The Raveonettes - Recharge and Revolt:  Kind of a by the numbers release from a band whose baseline is still pretty good.  While I liked the album, it's one that I really didn't go back to after their Lincoln Hall show in April.

27) the War on Drugs - Slave Ambient: Saw these guys three times this year, and this album has some songs that translate really well live.  Still, half of it's great, half of it is forgettable.

26) YAWN - Open Season:  Local Chicago band that was a bit of revelation. Saw them open for Tame Impala and they really impressed me.  Debut album sounds like a cross between White Rabbits and Animal Collective.

25) Nicole Atkins - Mondo Amore:  I liked this one better than her first album.  Sort of skirts "adult contemporary".  Kind of surprised she's not a bigger mainstream act.  She's beautiful and has a great voice, and this album has some really fun songs on it.

24) Those Darlins - Screws Get Loose:  One of the "girl-group retro-pop" outfits that were all over 2011.  Their schtick is GG-RP with a honkey-tonk twinge.

23) Fool's Gold - Leave No Trace:   I need to spend a bit more time with this album, but they've moved from an Israeli-African sound to something that sounds more like Foreign Born, which isn't surprising since most of the guys in Foreign Born are also in Fool's Gold.  Still, since Foreign Born hasn't released an album since 2009's fantastic 'Person to Person', this will have to do. 

22) The Ladybug Transistor - Clutching Stems:  Elephant Six connected act that's been around for 15 years or so.  This album has a bit of Burt Bacharach feel to it.  Great melodies and hooks.  

21) The Features - Wilderness:  Another album that was released pretty recently.  Like their last album, this is one that I won't need to listen to all the time, but it's something I could listen to all the time.

20) Army Navy - the Last Place:  Great power pop hooks.  Nothing too substantial, but fun to listen to.

19) Tennis - Cape Dory:  Girl-group retro-pop - the nautical version.  Sugary melodied songs from a husband and wife about their adventure sailing up and down the East Coast.  

18) Dum Dum Girls - Only In Dreams:  Girl-group retro-pop - the shoegazer version.  Lots of fun to listen to, and Kristen Gundred's voice sounds really nice in comparison the yelling vocals she employed in her last act 'Grand Ole Party'.  

17) Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital:  Another husband and wife act, this time writing the whole album on keyboards.  Still, the guitar heavy tracks, like "Bury Me Standing" are the stand out tracks.  Great live energy.

16) Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost:  And now we start to get into the albums that were probably in my top ten at some point in the year.  Great follow up to last year's 'Album', this has a similar mix of somewhat forgettable down tempo numbers, and really fun up tempo numbers.  Another great mix of melodies.

15) Atlas Sound - Parallax:  Hurt by it's recent release, Bradford Cox moves slightly further away from the ambient waviness of his first Atlas Sound record, and closer to the sound he's perfected with Deerhunter.  As I tend to prefer Deerhunter, it's a move I'm happy with.  "Te Amo" is to Parallax as "Helicopter" is to Halcyon Digest.

14) Destroyer - Kaputt:  I'm never quite sure what to expect from Dan Bejar.  It's safe to say that I didn't expect his latest album to be a foray in Smooth Jazz.  But Bejar pulls it off.  It's not Streethawk, but neither is anything else he's done since Streethawk.

13) Generationals - Actor Caster:  Boy-group retro-pop.  These guys really do it right.  Though I didn't like this as much as 2009's Con-Law, it's still loaded with great pure pop songs.

12) Viva Voce - The Future Will Destroy You:  Third husband and wife duo.  This Portland act took a side trip last year with their Blue Giant project, and released a great country tinged pop album.  Their back in their original format, but this felt more like a melding of Blue Giant and Viva Voce.  

11) the Joy Formidable - The Big Roar:  Pixieish Welsh vocalist Ritzy Bryan delivers some booming energy on this swirling rock and roll debut.  Big, anthemic songs delivered by a power trio that really lives up to the power aspect.  

Tomorrow we start with the top ten.  

1 comment:

Pinko Punko said...

I need to dive into this.

Thanks of this writeup, although Tom Ewing said commenting on lists is stupid, but that's just Tom "Song 4 Matiya" Ewing.*

*Haha, I kind of like that song- don't panic panic