Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Year in Music: Second Favorite Album of 2011

#10 - Smith Westerns - Dye it Blonde
  #9 - Peter Bjorn & John - Gimme Some
  #8 - Eleanor Friedberger - Last Summer
  #7 - Cults - Cults
  #6 - tUnE-yArDs - W H O K I L L

  #5 - Wild Flag - Wild Flag
  #4 - Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo
  #3 - St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

#2 - Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

As I mentioned yesterday, it's often an album that either greatly exceeds my expectations or wasn't on my radar at the beginning of the year that scores very highly on my list.  This album falls into the latter category.  I was familiar with the name, but thought of her as a Swedish teen-pop style singer, and maybe there's a case that her first album falls somewhere into that category.  But this album is much deeper, much more mature.  And at the end of the day, it's an album that has yet to bore me.  It seems to get better with almost every listen, and it's been a "go-to" album all year, something I can turn to when I'm in a 'no preference' sort of mood.

It's really not the type of album that I would have expected to like, but there's something about the driving drumbeats on the up-tempo tracks, the entrancing melodies on the down-tempo tracks, and the desperation in her voice as she sings lines like "Every night I rant, I plead, I beg him not to go".  She puts herself into all sorts of different roles on this album.  In one song she's a lonesome girl who's love is unrequited, on the next she's a prostitute announcing "You gon' get some".

But I think what I ultimately love about this album is the pacing.  I like songs, but I'm still an albums guy, and I love an album that I can listen to start to finish without ever feeling like a I want to skip a track.  More than that, I love albums that are more than the sum of their parts, and this album feels like that to me.  I starts of strong with an upbeat, drum-filled "Youth Knows No Pain", then slowly drifts to a crawl at "Unrequited" three songs later.  But it's back to the driving beats of "Get Some" and "Rich Kids Blues".  And what a 2011 album be without a call-back to motown style pop with "Sadness is a Blessing"?  It slows to a trickle on "I Know Places" before making one last triumphant charge on "Jerome", and coasts to a finish with the brilliantly harmonied "Silent My Song", which was just terrific in concert with the help of openers First Aid Kit.  I seriously suggest listening to the whole thing all the way through.  

Youth Knows No Pain Get Some Sadness is a Blessing Jerome

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