I've Made A Huge Mistake (2011 Edition)

1 comment
I'm obsessed with year end lists.  It's always exciting to sit down at the end of the year and rank your favorite records, share with your friends/readers, and also see what others deemed the best of the year.  One problem always arises: give it a few months into the new year and three-four records for the past year will pop up and make you wish you had given them proper due.  I've decided to put an end to this "list regret" and will be doing an annual piece called "I've Made A Huge Mistake" where Hank and I list the three-four records we wish had been part of WLFY in the past year.  To make this list complete I've invited some of my favorite music bloggers to chime in with a list of their own.  I've already found a bunch of records from their recommendations and if you take the time to check these out, hopefully you will do the same.  Enjoy:

For most recommendations, listen links will jump to Spotify or Bandcamp.


The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient
I see you shaking your head, you're right in doing so.  There is no excuse that this record went ignored on WLFY.  I gave it a few spins when it first came out and I'm not sure why, but it never stuck.  Of course, 2012 comes around and now it's one of my top albums of 2011.  It's a majestic record filled with calm perfection as each song burns into the next and is a complete record from start to finish.    

Mark Geary - Songs About Love, Songs About Leaving
I've been on a huge folk kick these last few years and I'm not sure how Mark Geary's newest album Songs About Love, Songs About Leaving went unheard.  This is a spectacular folk record that marks what I've known for along time, Geary is one of the best singer/songwriters we have going right now.  If you have a soft spot for the softer folk, this is a required listen record.  With appearances by Glen Hansard and songs that shake the emotional core, this should have been a record in the same breath as a Bon Iver or the other lauded folk records of 2011.

Miracles Of Modern Science - Dog Year
I love MOMS and even had them on our radar.  The album fell between the cracks because it was released late December and we were in our list making phase at that point.  When I finally came around the record it was to late to post as something new.  MOMS is one of the most exciting and unique up and coming bands we have and I'm sill kicking myself for not giving them the press they deserve.  If your a fan of the early Kings Of Convenience sounds, you'll love MOMS. 

Hank (WLFY)

Bon Iver - Bon Iver
I didn't buy the hype.  Probably I should have, tho not all the way.  This isn't a gem, but a damn fine album.  Even Ellen can't make me hate too much.

Cass McCombs - Wit's End
"County Line" should be a required listen the slow moving roll of the tune overtakes like a steamroller at the end.  McCombs is one helluva songwriter with which to be reckoned.

Carter Tanton - Freeclouds
Again, a great album full of great songs.  Tulsa was a band that always lived on my iPod.  Tanton's earned his place there too.

Tune-Yards - Whokill
Again, blame it on the hype.  Chuck Klosterman describes it far more (& better) than I do.  But hype doesn't change an album's intrinsic worth.

Chuck Norton (Dead Journalist)

Wooden Wand - Briarwood
James Jackson Toth is about as prolific as anyone this side of Robert Pollard, but it was 2012 before I gave a listen to Briarwood. Given that it was re-released a few weeks ago, you get a second chance. It's rough and rowdy; soft and soulful. It's the kind of music that Steve Earle made and the kind of music whose self-life seems to never expire. (What is it with me and food references?) If you only want to listen to one song, listen to "Winter In Kentucky" and embrace your inner anti-hipster. Or better yet, listen to two songs so you can listen to "Wither Away" as well.

The Coathangers - Larceny & Old Lace
Sitting in a pile of CD's on my desk are several - okay, two - albums by The Coathangers. For some reason, I just never get around to listening to their albums. Ever. It's kind of like that cake mix you buy at the store, put in your pantry and never actually get around to making. You always see it and think, "maybe next weekend." Maybe next weekend.

Guided By Voices
No, not an album, but the entire band. I love to throw around the phrase "you can't listen to everything" and it applies to GBV as much as any band. When they were in their heyday, I was listening to other stuff - namely dark wave and experimental electronic - or Modern Rock radio. I was aware of the band. I loved the "Bulldog Skin" video. But I never bought any of their albums until 2012. I don't have any excuses but I won't offer any apologies either. Maybe I needed to be 35 to really get their music. Either way, I'm glad I embraced them this year even if it was 20 years late.

My Morning Jacket - "Circuital" 

I was late to the My Morning Jacket game, having only listened to "Z" a couple of times and not even giving it my full attention, but when "Circuital" came out I decided to give it a proper run. It was my first real immersion into their music, and it blew me away.

I understand that it may not be considered their "best" album, but it's damn good, and maybe it was because I went into it with no real pre-conceived expectations that I came away from it extremely satisfied. From the cacophonous jovial chorus in "Holdin' On To Black Metal" and the ominous foreboding in the first minute of "Victory Dance", to the hopeful country-anthem of "Wonderful (The Way I Feel" and the crunching synths and driving beats on "First Light", it's an album created on multiple landscapes but where the sun and moon both rise and fall just as you'd expect them to.

Slow Club - "Paradise" 

An album that was spoken about nowhere near as much as it should've been, "Paradise" was Slow Club's second album and was a massive improvement over their already-fantastic debut "Yeah, So". 

Sometimes all it takes is a killer melody or infectious chorus to reel me in, and this album was overflowing with both of them right from the album's opening track "Two Cousins". Charming, witty, intelligent, perfectly-crafted, and a mix of youthful Indie-Folk tunes and lover's laments, it's an album I still go back to when I want to have ten different songs all stuck in my head at the same time. The melody on "Beginners" is so catchy and timeless that I still can't accept that they didn't yank it from someone else from a decade long gone.

King Creosote & John Hopkins - "Diamond Mine" 

Since I moved to the U.S. from Scotland the main thing that keeps me connected to my homeland (apart from Facebook) is music. Being a small country it can sometimes take a bit of digging to find the special stuff, especially being so far away from it, but when you do find that gem you've been waiting for you grab it and you don't let go.

"Diamond Mine" is an album that was released in March of 2011 by Scottish singer-songwriter King Creosote and English electronic musician "John Hopkins", but one that I didn't discover it until December. That worked out well, though. The restrained, contemplative nature of the album was the perfect solemn, wintry accompaniment when human heat wasn't an option. 

There wasn't an album released in 2011 with more heart-wrenching vocals, more pictures painted with the words sung, or more blank stares generated by its listeners as it sent you off into a deep zone, than "Diamond Mine".

Little Tybee - Humorous to Bees 
When Atlanta, Georgia orchestral pop collective Little Tybee dropped their sophomore record Humorous to Bees early last year, I had absolutely no idea who they were but the second I hear their jazz-infused brand of folk rock I knew I'd follow the group's every move. . And yet for some very odd reason most likely related to a last minute race to the finish, I completely forgot to mention them in any capacity at year end. Tragic, really. Each and every track on Humorous to Bees is gold.  From their 30 second opener to some of their more longer endeavors, Little Tybee offer up some remarkable rich musical moments with equally as impressive songwriting talent of frontman Brock Scott. It's an absolute shame to forget such a dynamite record but thank heavens for second changes. Little Tybee certainly deserve it.  And with a follow up album set for sometime next month, it's a mistake I hope I don't make again. 

Milagres - Glowing Mouth 
Milagres' Glowing Mouth was actually a discovery made from Sam at Middle Class White Noise's year-end favorite tracks playlist. It's status as a terribly underrated album as well as a band I had next to nothing about certainly had my interest piqued and though I made a mad dash to cover it before the end of last year, it's been on heavy rotation for the greater part of this year so far. Why? Well at first it was because the Brooklyn quintet seemed to remind me so much of several of the year's other masterful releases like The Deloreans and Wild Beasts but as I listened more and more the record began to take on an identity of it's own. Milagres balance grand stadium rock moments with intricate, gently unfolding tracks that steeped in lushness and a vague dreamy atmosphere.  

Friend Roulette - Friend Roulette EP 

When I first discovered Friend Roulette, I was so obsessed with lead track "Sailing Song"  that I failed to regard the whole EP as a worthwhile artistic endeavor. In four short songs, Friend Roulette manage to cover  a pretty broad gamut of styles and sounds. What drew me to the quirky chamber poppers may have been their absolute flourishment in the dark textures of "Sailing Song" but lighter, brighter tracks like "Or Berlin" are just as good, if not better for displaying a more emotion invoking side of the band apart of the utter instrumental onslaught the group is certainly capable of. With the band putting the finishing touches on their debut album, it's pretty clear most of these songs didn't make the cut so they'll stay on this EP where they can best be enjoyed for what they are: Flushed out sketches that display a multitude of the band's talents as skilled musicians, music-makers, and arrangers with hints of further lyrical prowess.  A fitting introduction and endearing placeholder until their album rolls out later this year.  

Chris (Daily Beatz)

As one of the guys voted "top 3 nicest bloggers at SXSW" by none other than the host of this most prestigious collaborative piece of literature, I feel it is my duty to shed that nice guy persona and show how much of a badass I am by completely breaking the rules. You see, Zach has asked me to pick three albums from 2011 that I missed/forgot about/etc in my obligatory year end wrap up, but I've chosen only one. It's sort of my St.Vincent crowdsurfing at Coachella moment. [Aside: I was there, by the way, and it was fucking awesome. I left the set knowing that if I'd been a bit more aggressive in getting up close early on, I could have touched Annie Clark's butt.] I'm a loner, Dottie, a rebel. But really, it's because there is only one album that I can't believe I passed by last year, and it is none other than Hearts by I Break Horses (LISTEN). Yes, that's right, those damn Swedes, consistent purveyors of delicious musical goodness, have done it again. 

The opening track is called "Winter Beats" but its opening digital quasi-arpeggios and synth chords surround you and instantly warm you up, almost literally. This track flows seamlessly into the track that first caught my attention from this group, the perfectly shoegazey "Hearts," which features one of the more intense guitar parts I can remember from 2011, even though it's mostly just playing one note over and over, paired with one of the softest melodies on the album. It's all about contrast, kids. "Wired" is a great transition from "Hearts" to the slightly more subdued second half of the album, followed by the lucid "I Kill Your Love, Baby!" And so on, and so forth. The next time you're lazing on a raft in a pool on a 95 degree Tuesday recovering from Coachella with an amazing view of the mountains within your gaze, you might be in the perfect extremely specific scenario for fully enjoying these 9 soothing but far from boring melodies. 

And to be somewhat topical, let me muse on how interesting it is that you can fall head over heels for a few tracks from an album, eventually listen to the full album once and then forget all about it, only to rediscover it months after you've already omitted it from last year's official list that 5 to 10 people will read of the greatest albums to be spawned in the year before, as though anyone actually cared what you thought. That being said, if I was making my "list" today, this album would certainly be in the top 3, if not number 1. Yeah, there, I said it. But as I believe everything happens for a reason, the timing could be better as I'll be seeing the band open for M83 in two weeks, as my adoration for the duo has reached an all time high. M83 and I Break Horses back to back. It has the potential to rival one of the more glorious bills I've witnessed. I'll also get to see them this fall at All Tomorrow's Parties in Jersey. Because sometimes I go to Jersey for vacations. I Break Horses is essentially the perfect pick for an ATP band. However, if their set does not take place in the intimate Paramount Theatre (as opposed to the more cement-y and impersonal Convention Hall), it shall be considered a crime against humanity, treason, and an act of musical terrorism - the least dangerous kind of terrorism - where everyone's just kind of sad because a band is not playing in the venue that is best suited for their music and just buys another overpriced tallboy. 

Hopefully that was brief enough, Zach, because I'm not such a nice guy, and I break the rules sometimes, and if I was close enough to touch St. Vincent's butt last weekend, I might have even done it. I hope now that I'm an internet badass I'll get more twitter girlfriends.

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

I must seem like I've been living under a rock to just only now get into this record from Girls, but for whatever reason, I never got hooked on this band.  A friend took me to watch their show at Stubbs during SXSW of this year and that was the push I needed to dive into their record.  Kicking myself for missing that one.
Active Child - You Are All I See 

I've been a fan of Pat Grossi's music for a while, and I'd normally post any new videos, tracks that hit the blogs last year.  But I didn't spend enough time with the actual record.  Its such a great listen front to back.
Kurt Vile -  Smoke Ring For My Halo  

Should have trusted a few of my friends on this record, as this album came up in so many conversations last year.  Never too late to go back right? 

Anthony (The Needle Drop)

Steven Wilson- Grace For Drowning

I'm the kind of person who hates unfinished business. I hate walking away from a project. That's essentially what I did with Steven Wilson's Grace For Drowning, and it was mostly because there were albums I've wanted to review more. Honestly, I've never been a big fan of this man's work. His take on progressive rock just doesn't resonate with me. It seems so influenced by some of the genre's biggest players--King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Genesis--but it seems so sterile, too. Like progressive rock that doesn't, you know, rock. I've felt this way about nearly every project Wilson has embarked on whether it's producing for Opeth or putting together a Porcupine Tree album. 

The reason I feel not reviewing his music is such a mistake is because I do feel like the ball is in my court. I've never come away from a Wilson-related album with a pleasant reaction, but then again I've never listened to a Wilson album so many times that I'd feel comfortable reviewing it.

Through my first few listens of Grace, I was liking what I was hearing a little more than usual, but I most of the ideas just felt like I had heard them before on numerous prog rock records printed in the 70s. I didn't really see any reason to gravitate specifically to this record since so many others have scratched that itch in pretty much the same way.

Ultimately, the problem lies with me. I'll keep trying Wilson projects as long as they seem intriguing, wondering what all the fuss is about every time. For sure, I don't find his music unlistenable. Just not mind-bending or exciting, I suppose.

The Caretaker- An Empty Bliss Beyond This World

This album had an intriguing concept and sound, but it just ended up slipping through the tracks for me as I listened deeper. I lot of people seemed to love it last year, though.

Essentially, the album is sample-based and makes use of music recorded off old 78s as source material. The samples are treated with a massive amount of reverb and then looped or faded in various ways. For me, it was like listening to a broken record repeat the same several musical phrases within a track numerous times as it was being played on the other end of a long, long hallway with a tiled floor.

What I mean to say is I'm at one end of the hall, the record player is at the other, and I'm laying down while listening to these dusty old 78s get played. The record player is sending sound careening down the hallway, gaining echo like a snowball does snow as it reaches its final destination. As it hits my ears, the sound is pretty blissful and hypnotic. Yeah, on paper it may sound somewhat drab or annoying, but in practice is pretty much works.

However, I found myself stressing over the process of this music a bit too much to enjoy it. Really? Looped ballroom tunes with tons of reverb on them with--to my knowledge--no added instrumentation or accompaniment (whether it be acoustic or electronic)? It just wasn't something that felt all that interesting to me. I felt myself lulled by the sounds for a short period of time, but felt very disenchanted when the concept felt really basic.

As far as ambient sound collages go, I'm much more passionate about the last Oneohtrix Point Never album. I remember calling the album a surprisingly ambient direction for sample-based music, neglecting to mention the Caretake album I remember hearing earlier that year, which is another "huge mistake" on my part. Now, that does say something about the project being a bit forgettable, though. But having said that, I wish I did review it, since there is something about it that I can't describe. Something attractive. Something I don't hear everywhere. Something.

Kurt Vile- Smoke Ring For My Halo

When Kurt Blew up in the midst of the lo-fi craze a handful of years ago, I wasn't into his stuff, honestly. So, I was never really in a rush to listen to his new album. I had heard several songs, but they weren't so great to me that they warranted more listens, and I even caught the guy live with Deerhunter at SXSW in 2011 and thought he played a pretty good set.

Despite all that, I hadn't actually listened to Smoke Ring from beginning to end until about December, wondering why the hell haven't I listened to this record. Was it because I thought I was missing out on something huge? No. Mostly, it was because I was getting about 5-10 messages or comments a day asking me to review this album. Even if it's a negative review, I like to meet popular requests as much as I possibly can. No, really, I do. I can't get to every album, but...

So, when I finally sat down to listen to Smoke Ring, I couldn't help but chuckle just a little. I wasn't into the lyrics at all, and the atmosphere surrounding most of the songs just make Kurt and his tunes feel so distant that the total package essentially felt really disengaged and apathetic.

I won't begrudge anyone their love for this album, but it just wasn't for me. I wish I had maybe taken the time to sit down and figure that out when the album was originally released, though.

Jeremy Larson (Consequence Of Sound)

Los Campesinos!  - Hello Sadness
It was less an oversight and more of a shift in life circumstances that led me to wearing out this album in 2012. I've always enjoyed Los Campesinos! from this sort of clinical distance, but man, you cross out one of the names on your apartment mail box and suddenly these guys make a lot more sense.

Azealia Banks - "212" (single)
I totally caught up with this in February or something and I don't think I've played a song more than this throughout this whole year. That happens to me a lot with pop music. I wouldn't say Beyonce's 4 had the same profound effect, nor did it peak in 2012, but I started regularly listening "Countdown" about three months after it came out. 

Trash Talk - Awake EP
First let me say that I understand that the only reason I even know of this band is because they have a high profile PR agency, but have you listened to this thing? I loved that Fucked Up basically made another Zen Arcade this year, and David Comes To Life was probably one of my favorite records of 2011, but I kept on playing this Trash Talk EP over and over again after I saw them live early in 2012. It's a great satellite to David Comes To Life, especially if you're just a fledgling hardcore poseur who needs help into the scene.

Dean & Britta - 13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol's Screen Tests
Galaxie 500 and Luna frontman Dean Wareham and partner Britta Phillips set music to 13 of Andy Warhools mid 1960s black and white screen tests. The result is a hazy, hypnotic, and extremely satisfying collection of originals, covers, and remixes, three of which are by Spaceman 3 founder Peter Kember, aka Sonic Boom. Wareham, often compared to The Velvet Underground throughout his career, delivers a pitch-perfect rendition of Velvet rarity "Not A Young Anymore," while Britta leads on a sensual and dreamy cut of Bob Dylan's "I'll Keep It With Mine." How did this not get more press?

Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo

This isn't an album I missed, so much as I avoided for a long time. I listened to quick clips of songs, but perhaps because I was resisting the pressure of the internet hype machine, I never really gave it a proper listen. Researching for an article on Vile and interviewing him this past winter, I finally took the time to sit down with his catalogue. I ended up listening to each of his records dozens of times a piece over the course of just a few nights. The more strung out I became with my last-minute late-night revisions, the more the music seemed to seep into my brain and consciousness, never to leave again. I consummated the relationship this past weekend on Record Store Day when I bought the vinyl.

Happy Thoughts - S/T
Recommended via power-pop royalty Gentleman Jesse, The Happy Thoughts' self-titled debut on Hozac Records is pop-punk at its simplest and most thoroughly enjoyable. None of the records 12 tracks break the three-minute mark and none need to, as half the fun is replaying this LP over and over again, singing along with the band's charming slice of day-to-day minutiae, from the benefits of taking half days to hanging out with Indiana Girls ("It's a lot more fun"). 

1 comment:

  1. Love this feature, Zach! I think we all go through this. For me, if I had listened to PJ Harvey's Let England Shake when it came out, it would've been in my top five. Instead I checked it out through happenstance... last month. I guess because I've never dug much of her stuff outside 'To Bring You My Love.' But this album is something else - it's not even really a PJ Harvey album as much as it's just an important piece of art (without sounding wanky).