December 05, 2011

Eleven for 'Eleven (Plus One)

Quickie little post with a drop in the flood of year-end "best-of" lists that will soon be deluging all of us. I don't do "best-of" lists anymore—they're silly and divisive—so I'll just list my favorite albums that were released this year. Most of these may not end up on every "Best of 2011" list but they're my favorites. The covers are shown above in the order below:

1. Slave Ambient by the War on Drugs
My favorite of this year—I love the whole album. "Brothers" is glorious, along with almost all the others. If I have to pick a favorite song, it's "Come to the City"—it reminds me of a July drive up Highway 126 from Ventura to Fillmore and back again.

2. Tomboy by Panda Bear
Love this one all the way through, too. Good for, say, a drive down Pacific Coast Highway from Oxnard to Santa Monica, through Malibu. "Tomboy," "Alsatian Darn," and "Afterburner" are the best of a great record. Epic easy listening as it were.

3. Let England Shake by PJ Harvey
I'll buy anything she releases, but it helps that this one is as resolutely weird as any of her other albums. It also helps that "On Battleship Hill" is one of her best songs ever.

4. Build A Rocket Boys by Elbow
It would be hard for Guy Garvey and co. to top last year's Seldom Seen Kid, and this doesn't—but that doesn't mean it's not great in its own right. It's Garvey's show this time; he's a great singer and lyricist. "Lippy Kids" and "The Night Will Always Win" are my standout tracks.

5. The Whole Love by Wilco
Wilco's first truly independent release starts weird ("Art of Almost") and ends mellow ("Jane Smiley's Boyfriend"), but is absolutely consistent throughout—for better or worse. If you like them already, you'll like this. If not, well…you obviously hate puppies and kittens.

6. Weather by Meshell Ndegeocello
Excellent follow-up to 2009's differently excellent Devil's Halo; once again Ndegeocello pares down her band to a small combo, but plays her grooves a bit slower than the last album—with only one eruption of bass riffage on "Dirty World."

7. The Palace Guards by David Lowery
Lowery goes solo from Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven with a little help from his friends. Clever and poignant tunes, especially "I Sold the Arabs the Moon," easily among the best of Lowery's great canon.

8. Nine Types of Light by TV on the Radio
The centerpiece of this album for me is "Will Do," and while the whole disc may not be as awesome or fun as their previous two albums, it's still better than most of what anyone else releases these days.

9. House of Balloons by the Weeknd
The first of two mixtape/free download albums in 2011 by this Canadian, who (fairly or not) seems to be the skeeziest, creepiest R&B auteur since Tricky slithered out of Bristol. This album tops Thursday for its sheer shock value from the get-go: "High For This" is pretty intense, and the album only spirals deeper from there.

10. Stone Rollin' by Raphael Saadiq
"Heart Attack" is easily one of my favorite tunes this year, in all its Motown-tinted glory. Saadiq does that, and Stax/Volt impressions too, in that great way that people do when they truly love the music and bleed it from every pore. Second-best bit is an achingly beautiful song called, hilariously, "Go to Hell."

11. The King of Limbs by Radiohead
The insta-release reception unfortunately overshadowed this one just as much as 2007's In Rainbows, but that was a better album by far. "Lotus Flower," "Bloom," and "Codex" from this one are as good as anything in their catalogue, though. Good night-driving music, like they do.

Honorable mention: El Camino by the Black Keys. It was just out today, of course—but it's the fuckin' Black Keys, right? I'm pretty sure it'll be something I like.

Also deserving a nod is Collapse into Now by R.E.M., not because it's their best or anything, but it's better than the last two, and since they've since disbanded and it's the last original R.E.M. album ever, I thought it was a nice way to take a final bow.

Good year for music overall outside of these picks, too. Not as good as 20 years ago...1991 was a great year for rock & roll, wasn't it?



    To iTunes!

  2. Follow up: The new album is rad. Lonely Boy is a killer opening track. And what a quote for a "can't quit you" song: "Well your mama kept you but your daddy left you, and I shoulda done you just the same"! That sure makes the situation sound ugly, eh?


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