Hank's Top 25 Albums of 2011

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Lia Ices
Grown Unknown

Josh T. Pearson
Last of the Country Gentlemen


Summer Skills

Nerves Junior
As Bright as Your Night Light

Shabazz Palaces

Black Up

St. Vincent
Strange Mercy

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Mirror Traffic

The Mountain Goats
All Eternals Deck

Jonathan Wilson

Gentle Spirit

Bill Callahan

Marissa Nadler
Marissa Nadler

Kurt Vile
Smoke Ring for My Halo

The ACBs
Stona Rosa

Radical Dads

Mega Rama

Gillian Welch
The Harrow and the Harvest

Atlas Sound

When Bradford Cox put out a series of demos and home recordings last year, what was impressive wasn't only the amount (some 3 discs) but the quality.  Cox, on Parallax, takes the remains of last year's impressive Deerhunter album (Atlas Sound's side project or the other way around) Halcyon Digest and crafts exquisite apathetic gems.  I wouldn't be surprised if this guy makes great sandwiches out of the ends of the bread.

White Denim

White Denim earns its place this year with a fantastic EP as well as D, which emerges from your speakers like a 1970s gem gone all futuristic.  Tight, enveloping instrumentation coupled with down-home rock and a garage rock aftertaste, it was a great year for 70s inspired albums (see Wilson's Gentle Spirit above) -- White Denim's release is the pinnacle.


The Rip Tide

Wild Flag

Wild Flag

The Antlers
Burst Apart

You split up the books.  You fight over the toaster.  You get an area rug.  You put it in the new place. You hook up the speakers.  You listen to Burst Apart.

Vetusta Morla

When you buy Madrid-based Vetusta Morla's Mapas, it comes with a bunch of postcards with arcane lines, lyrics, and places for you to sign your name.  It's a genius bit of album artwork that will totally fly under the radar.  However, the meaning is implicit -- you can put yourself in these songs.  To any of my friends who regret Radiohead moving on from The Bends, the answer is Vetusta Morla.  Once you bridge the language barrier, what awaits you is some of the most melodic, crisp, emotive music out there.  Unfortunately, when it comes to the USA, we're generally far too xenophobic to listen to Spanish music much less put something like this on a list.  So, consider this a political act.  Like all great political acts, it comes from a place of personal pride and admiration.

King of Limbs

I'm surprised this is up here, too.  When In Rainbows arrived on my best of list a few years ago, I wrote what I considered to be the greatest Radiohead review of all time:  "Ho hum, another FANTASTIC Radiohead album."  This record was anything but ho hum, and the reception proved it.  A lightning rod for fans and critics alike, King of Limbs was totally unlistenable the first time I heard it -- an arhythmic mess that sounded more like a Thom Yorke album than a Radiohead album.  Perseverance, friends, pays off.  And, yeah, if it wasn't Radiohead, I wouldn't have set it on repeat in the office and finally after the fifth or sixth spin finally heard "Codex."  Like any good key, it lead to a different world.

Tom Waits

Bad as Me

Other Lives
Tamer Animals

If you asked me for a winner of the year, it'd be Sufjan Stevens.  Though there was no album from the (formerly?) prolific Michigander, his fingerprints can found all over Other Lives' phenomenal Tamer Animals.  As Zach points out, this record is as close to landscape painting as music can get.  Probably, if you've read us before, you know that this blog's genesis was a way for Zach and I share music over long distances.  If I were driving one to see my co-creator, this is the record I would listen to, not only because he recommended it, but because like the great expanse of terrain, it seems to cover everything.  Grandiose and lush, each moment seems to defy characterization.  A tribute to the strength of this record is how difficult it is to write about.  A definition as description limits on an LP that feels euphoric, haunted, and ultimately limitless.

Glen Campbell
Ghost on the Canvas

I'll let you in on a secret:  best of lists are meaningless.  I mean, they're great for checking off Christmas lists and making you appear smarter to your friends and family, but ultimately -- what do they do?  For the past couple years, I've taken my own spin on this top spot, placing what I considered to be my favorite record of the year here.  This year, I place what I consider to be the most important.  Don't deride us as Grammy voters yet.  Ghost on the Canvas's import isn't only in the summation of a career but in tireless personal struggle that created it.  An illness and struggle that is remarkably missing from each song.  Like those big fat books that you haven't read and those super long movies that look boring but turn out to be anything but, Campbell's work is monumental and exceptionally touching.  Memories and harmonies in every track, we revel in another's life through each song.  The past doesn't seem to be slipping away, it is painted more and more vividly, making us aware of our own precious mortality and the jubilation.


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