6.Battles, Gloss Drop (Warp) A wacky-absurd and heavy driving prog-experimental foray that leaves a definite impression, with memorable guest spots by Chilean vocalist Matias Aguayo in the album's lead single, the island swaying-hardcore-ska-metal-WTF? number, “Ice Cream,” and British rock icon Gary Numan in the metallic wailing “My Machines” (awesome video below).
7.Metronomy, The English Riviera (Because Music) Just discovered this UK band on their third album and while the lyrics aren’t clever — even a bit humdrum at times — they’re also memorable and the music is sticky addictive electro-wonky pop that grows on you like a fungus with its boy-girl harmonies, moments of Dark Wave drama, and tastefully light use of horns. Check out "The Bay" below.
8.Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi, Rome (Capitol) The fruits of a collab between producer mega-talent Danger Mouse and vet Italian composer and arranger, Daniele Luppi. The two spent more than five years working on this project that assembled surviving performers of 1960s and '70s Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western scores. Norah Jones and Jack White provide guest vocals on this excellent, high class LP. Listen to "Two Against One" featuring White below.
9.Morningbell, Basso Profundo (Orange Records) A surprise last-minute addition to my list from a Gainesville psyche rock band. Their fifth studio album has definite retro appeal with its sexy hip-shaking grooves, bouncy jangly pop appeal, and the dreamy falsetto of frontman/guitarist Travis Atria. Listen to "I Could Use A Little Help" below.
10.Akron/Family, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (Dead Oceans) The band synthesized elements of their earlier lo-fi freak-folk experimental sound into their more recent crunchy-progressive rock vibe; the result is a bizarre odyssey that goes back and forth between moments of noise and serenity. "Silly Bears" below.
Bonus 11. White Denim, D (Downtown Records) Yet another awesome band from Austin, this swirly psychedelic rock/neo-prog/garage and acid blues outfit draws on the aesthetic of pretty much every awesome band from the 1960s and '70s — Pink Floyd, The Who, Steely Dan, Allman Brothers — and experiments with what they have to present swirling, epic songwriting that tends to bedazzle and get hooked you posthaste. This is White Denim's fourth studio album and debut as a four-piece with second guitarist Austin Jenkins. "Drug" below.
Click here to check out albums of the year with a local slant.
Also worthy of mention: The Black Keys, El Camino (Nonesuch), Caveman, Coco Beware (Original Recordings Group), The Dodos, No Color (Frenchkiss), Rachel Goodrich, Rachel Goodrich (Yellow Bear Records), Sondre Lerche, Sondre Lerche (Mona), The London Souls, The London Souls (Soul on 10), My Morning Jacket, Circuital (ATO), Thundercat, The Golden Age of Apocalypse (Brainfeeder).
1.Lemuria, Pebbles (Bridge 9) Lemuria is simply delightful. A few years ago, my friend Matt suggested I see them play at Transitions. (Thanks Matt!) Since then, I've been hooked on Lemuria's indie pop with a punk twist, and I am definitely not the only one. Lemuria is a Fest favorite, playing larger venues each year with at-capacity crowds singing along to every word. Pebbles, their second full-length and first on Bridge 9 Records finds Lemuria polishing their sound with an emphasis on showcasing both Alex Kerns' and Sheena Ozzella's voices individually rather than relying exclusively on the traditional dual-vocalist call-and-response style. Still on the fence and need another reason to take a chance on this record? It was produced by indie rock favorite J. Robbins. Photo of Lemuria at right from Fest 10; click here to check out the full 30-minute video of the band's complete set at FEST 10 and click here to see more of my favorite shots from 2011. 2.Frank Turner, England Keep My Bones (Epitaph) 3.Criminal Culture, Wax Phantom/ Criminal Culture Split 7" EP (Kiss of Death) 4.Fake Problems, Real Ghosts Caught on Tape (Side One Dummy) 5.Auto!Automatic!!, Auto!Automatic!! (Brokenmold) 6.Greenland Is Melting, Where Were We (Paper + Plastick) 7.Have Gun, Will Travel, Mergers & Acquisitions (Suburban Home) 8.How Dare You, The King, The Clown, and The Colonel (Anchorless) 9.Ninja Gun, Roman Nose (Sabot Productions) 10.Sleepy Vikings, They Will Find You Here (New Granada)
1.The Smiths, The Smiths Complete (Rhino) This box set is too definitive to ignore. It collects the skill of the esteemed Mancunians, The Smiths, across eight records: four studio albums, three compilations, and one live album. Gracefully remastered — with the sonic approval of guitarist Johnny Marr — the anthology cleans up the classic albums without robbing them of any authenticity.
2.PJ Harvey, Let England Shake (Island/Vagrant) 3.Ghostpoet, Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam (Brownswood Recordings) 4.Foster The People, Torches (Columbia) 5.M83, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (Mute) http://vimeo.com/31133188 6.Tom Waits, Bad as Me (ANTI-) 7.Sigur Rós, Inni (XL) 8.Wilco, The Whole Love (dBpm) 9.Jónsi, We Bought a Zoo Soundtrack (Columbia) 10.Yelle, Safari Disco Club (Barclay) "Comme Un Enfant" below.
1.Kate Bush, 50 Words For Snow (ANTI-) The reclusive genius that is Kate Bush had a very uncharacteristic year; she not only released Director’s Cut, a compilation of reworked material chosen from some of her previous albums, but she also released a brand new studio album that elated the majority of her rabid fan base. The songs on 50 Words share a commonality in that they are all full of imagery and themes of snow. But there's so much more beneath the layers of white billowy powder. Metaphors and Bush-like bizarre wordplay run rampant throughout the album's seven very long songs. Kate is back with her best album in years. I know I'll be listening to this one long after 2011 comes to an end...
...and a heartfelt nod goes to the best and most cleverly and economically packaged reissues of the year: Suede. All five of the superb albums in this dynamic Britpop band’s catalog got the royal treatment and were remastered, included a full extra disc of demos, live tracks, etc AND brought along a DVD of live performances and promo videos.
1.Foo Fighters, Wasting Light (RCA) Foo Fighters delivered their most well-rounded album of their career. Big riffs, bigger hooks, and some memorable guest appearances — Bob Mould on “Dear Rosemary” sings with palpable emotion — made Wasting Light my favorite of 2011. 2.Mastodon, The Hunter (Reprise) 3.Marksmen, Sister Of Mine (self-release) 4.Theophilus London, Timez Are Weird These Days (Reprise) 5.Book Of Black Earth, The Cold Testament (Prosthetic) 6.Grouplove, Never Trust A Happy Song (Canvasback/Atlantic) 7.The Joy Formidable, The Big Roar (Canvasback/Atlantic) 8.Wugazi, 13 Chambers [Wu-Tang Clan and Fugazi mash-up mixtape) 9.The Decemberists, The King Is Dead (Capitol) 10.The Black Keys, El Camino (Nonesuch)
Grouplove's "Colours" video below.
1.M83, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (Mute) It wasn't difficult to pick my top album, since I've had Dreaming obsessively on repeat since its release. It's an ambitious double disc that delivers on every bit of promise M83's given us glimpses of in the past; Anthony Gonzales' talent has crafted a nearly flawless album. At once atmospheric, soaring, and dramatic, there are as many sprawling soundscapes as there are ferociously uncontrollable dance songs. M83's huge shoegazy disco, played at full volume, is a perfectly 'of the moment' sound that deserves every "best-of" nod it's getting; the widespread recognition has been long overdue. 2.Toro y Moi, Underneath the Pine (Carpark) 3.Maritime, Human Hearts (Dangerbird) 4.Vetiver, The Errant Charm (Sub Pop) 5.Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes (LL) 6.Peter, Bjorn & John, Gimme Some (Startime) 7.Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop) 8.The Roots, Undun (Def Jam) 9.The Black Keys, El Camino (Nonesuch) 10.The Mattson 2, Feeling Hands (Galaxia)
"Midnight City" by M83
Honorable Mentions: My Morning Jacket, Circuital (ATO); Bon Iver, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar); Theophilus London, Timez are Weird These Days (Reprise); Real Estate, Days (Domino); Akron/Family, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinzu TNT (Dead Oceans)
1.Beirut, The Rip Tide (Pompeii) With a resonant vocal that creaks under the weight of his emotion, Zach Condon has grown up since his band's debut 7 years ago. Their second release still has that old/other-worldly charm that made you fall in love with them in the first place, but it resonates with more intimacy and spaciousness; and when it goes off, it really goes off — those isolated moments on The Rip Tide that sweep you away. 2.Girls, Father, Son, Holy Ghost (True Panther Sounds) 3.Surfer Blood, Tarot Classics EP (Kanine) 4.The Roots, Undun (Def Jam) 5.The Dodos, No Color (French Kiss) 6.The Black Keys, El Camino (Nonesuch) 7.Radical Face, The Family Tree: The Roots (Bear Machine) 8.Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop) 9.Akron/Family, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (Dead Oceans) 10.Those Darlins, Screws Get Loose (Oh Wow Dang Records)
Every year, we break it down for you — the best albums of the year. This year, I've kicked off the post with my Editor's Picks, and because opinions are entirely subjective (we don't all listen to the same music, I'm aware), I've also rounded up the CL Music Team's submissions for their favorite albums of 2011. Enjoy — and get ready to stock up your music library.
1.tUnE-YarDs, w h o k i l l (4AD) I’ve been listening to this album relentlessly throughout the year. The music is delightfully quirked-out psychedelic art pop/avant Afro poptronica as crafted by New England native Merrill Garbus; tUnE yArDs is her solo project. Garbus creates percussive-intensive and propulsive drum loops, throws in ukulele, electric bass, glitter-washed sonics and the occasional blast of drunk-n-high horns, and as a final important touch, sets her crazy high vocals against it all, her multi-layered outbursts ranging from repetitive nonsensical utterances and exclamations to bird-like coos and cat-in-heat cries, to her fall-back wildly passionate wails. Garbus delivers lyrics in crushed together streams-of-consciousness, and throws out lines like "The worst thing about living a lie is wondering just when they'll find out" (from "My Country," a riff on the patriotic tune that diverges completely out into left field). Reminds me of Dirty Projectors, with less rock and more blissful electro-pop moments. Check out "Bizness" below; also one of my favorite videos this year.
2.MuteMath, Odd Soul (Teleprompt/Warner Bros.) Seriously badass '70s-vibing prog-psyche rock with plenty of crunchy grinding guitars, fatty fuzzed-out bass and synthesizers, and some electro-groove moments to keep things from getting too overly throwback. "Blood Pressure" below.
3.TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light (Interscope) The buoyancy and sexiness of 2008’s Dear Science permeates the avant rock outfit’s fifth LP. Themes of love, society and politics are explored against dark, loop-and-horn-infused experimental sounds marked by elements of electro-rock, hip-hop, psyche-soul, funky R&B bounce and moments of melodic grooving pop. "Second Song" below.
4.Extra Classic, Your Light Like White Lightning, Your Light Like A Laserbeam (Manimal Vinyl) San Francisco's Extra Classic offers up a mesmerizing, soulful, hazy-layered groove-and-psychedelia take on dub reggae. The sextet captured the sonic quality of old Jamaican recordings by laying it down all-analog, on 8-track tape, and using vintage recording equipment from the 1960s and '70s. It definitely has a very warm quality to it, as if the musicians are playing amid a hanging cloud of ganja smoke. Listen to "Congo Rebel" below.
5.Cloud Control, Bliss Release (WEA) The first full-length from a new Aussie band radiates feel-good sunshine. Mellow, psyche-folk with surf rock and Afro/tribal percussive tendencies, vocals that range from ecstatic yelps and whoops to lovely multi-voice harmonies and straight-forward nasally singing, and plenty of unexpectedly catchy hooks. "Gold Canary" below.
READ THE REST OF MY PICKS ALONG WITH A ROUND-UP OF THE CL MUSIC TEAM’S PICKS FOR 2011 AFTER THE JUMP
I was born on a Sunday Morning.I soon received The Gift of loving music.Through music, I Found A Reason for living.It was when I discovered rock and roll that I Was Beginning To See The Light.Because through music, I'm Set Free.It's always helped me keep my Head Held High.When I started dancing to that fine, fine...