w h o k i l l
Deerhoof vs Evil
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
The Year Of Hibernation
Bad As Me
Ghost On The Canvas
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy
Wolfroy Goes To Town
The most fun album of 2011, Mother Mother's Eureka is the closest thing we'll come to recapturing the sound of The Pixies. Utilizing pitch perfect harmonies, huge percussion, spacey synths, and one of the best current frontmen in indie rock, Mother Mother crafted a record that reminds us that indie rock isn't all about ambient expression or trying to fit into whatever current trends marks a band as cool. Eureka is about writing great rock songs that make you want to move without sacrificing the artfulness or unique qualities that makes Mother Mother such a special band.
Smoke Ring For My Halo
Kurt Vile proves that singer/songwriter music still has a lot of room to be tampered with. People for decades on top of decades have sat alone in rooms with an acoustic guitar and tried to write great music. That makes it all the more impressive that Smoke Ring For My Halo sounds unlike any record before it with its driving guitar riffs wrapped around hazy backing instrumentation and Vile's cutting vocals that start and stop on a dime. Every word is carefully considered and positioned with such genius that even the simplest expressions from Vile can slice its own meaning in half.
2011 will be known as the reemergence of 90's rock with bands like Yuck or Pains of Being Pure At Heart and 60's pop vocal music with bands like Cults or Tennis. Even though I loved the debut release from Cults, The Deloreans took a crack at 60's pop music nostalgia and did it better than everyone else in 2011. Frontman, songwriter, and producer Jeremy Perry might be the smartest musician on this list with his talent, extensive knowledge of music history, and ability to mimic production moves from greats like Joe Meek. This is a band without a team behind them, no pr, no label (independently released), so a lot of people slept on this record, or never heard it in the first place. If you're reading this, I'm begging you to check out "American Craze" from start to finish, you might be surprised what this band accomplished in a basement and with the talent to make one of the best records of the year.
Earthy. That one word says everything you need to know about Other Lives. Every vocal moment or piece of instrumentation feels like thick dirty roots sprawling from the ground, bending, shedding, and eventually creating this beautiful finished product above the surface. Tamer Animals has this natural feel that encases a raw power and emotion that can't be denied. Oh, and there is also so of the most impressive vocal moments of 2011 complimented by a band that has each member exploring the boundaries of their respected instrument. Similar to Fleet Foxes in genre, Tamer Animals embarrasses Helplessness Blues with its creativity and organic feel.
I can't name another person that is having the kind of run Bradford Cox is currently on from 2007-2011. I will be happy to look back on these years and point out that our generations John Lennon was Bradford Cox. He's crafting music that transcends the listen and dispose of way that we treat music today with streaming services and a constant stream of "now you need to listen to this". On Parallax, Cox fills his tracks with beautiful melodies that contradict that downright evil imagery he focuses on with his lyrics. The album doesn't have a weak moment and once again shows that Cox understands what an album is, a collection of tracks that has to work perfectly from one to another, a notion that seems simple but is being quickly forgotten by many in the current state of music that revolves around singles.
All Eternals Deck
Calling All Eternals Deck one of my favorite Mountain Goats albums is a bold statement considering how extensive John Darnielle's discography is. The album has this wild west narrative that is supported by expansive songwriting that compliments the notion of a large land unexplored. Darnielle seems very comfortable in his music, allowing the songs to develop without ever pushing forward or trying to make emotional moment happen. Rather, they just occur, and Darnielle's natural talent shines, making All Eternals Deck a huge achievement for a songwriter who could easily put his career on cruise control.
I've said it a hundred times, but here is goes once more: Black Up is the best hip-hop album I've heard in years. Shabazz Palaces is much more interested in exploring the artistic abilities of the medium of hip-hop, rather than bombastic production and lyrics focused on vanity or self-imposed titles of greatness. I implore any young musicians considering an attempt at making hip-hop music to study Black Up and understand that the medium of hip-hop can be explored, manipulated, and improved by artistic expression just like every other genre of music or art. Shabazz Palaces focus on making a great record and not building a persona or side story that informs the music. That seems incredibly rare today and their mission to create an amazing record that stands alone is an impressive feat in 2011.
For the top three albums of 2011, I point you to my reviews of their records.
King Of The Limbs
As Bright As Your Night Light