Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Favorite Albums of 2011

I’ve always preferred to keep my love of music within the margins of the industry. Even with something as marginalized (read: not mainstream) as the “indie scene,” I still prefer to find the niches within the niche. Sure, I could peruse the pages of Pitchfork.com and try to find whatever is the new cool thing to listen (I’ve tried it; it doesn’t work for me), but I’ve always enjoyed how organic music fandom can be, and when the love for a particular album and discovering an artist is a genuine thing, well, there’s nothing more exhilarating than that. I think more than any other medium music lends itself to this kind of enthusiasm; a type of fandom that is all at once exhilarating but rather daunting, too. The reason I think it’s a daunting is because I prefer to listen to music rather than lyrics, so I’ll have to sit with an album for months sometimes before I even form an opinion. It’s why I’m always reluctant to crawl out of my little nook, remove the earbuds of familiarity, and try something new. I like what I’ve always liked. I will stick with a band because it’s familiar or because I have a strong history tied to it. I will also seek other bands that tend to tour with the bands I like. It’s all very homogeneous, but it works for me. It’s why I was so grateful to be a part of Ed Howard’s music club this year; it opened my eyes to a variety of genres that I normally wouldn’t have tried (Jazz and Reggae specifically).

So, this year I really challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone, throw off the shackles of familiarity, and really try to branch out and try new music. What I found was a lot of my tastes zeroing in on the indie genre – I suppose my tastes, having always existed in the margins of mainstream music, would naturally steer themselves there – and I was surprised to find some non-post-hardcore/noise/guitar driven bands that I really liked.

First, I would like to give a special shout-out to The Congos, Sam Amidon, The Drive-by Truckers, Manic Street Preachers, and Miles Davis. What does this hodgepodge of musicians have in common? They were all selections for Ed Howard’s music club, and I’m grateful for the listening experience and subsequent discussions that followed. I look forward to (hopefully) another year of record club conversations. Also, a special shout-out to Mew; a friend of mine recommended them to me this year, and I haven’t been able to stop listening. 

Other albums I liked at times this year: Emery – We Do What We Want; I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business – Gold Rush; Jack’s Mannequin – People and Things; Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math; Russian Circles – Empros; Saves the Day – Daybreak; Thrice – Major/Minor; Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread.

Honorable Mention:

Gloss Drop
Listen to: Ice Cream (linked below)

Battles are a band that I just discovered this year thanks to a friend who is in a band; I can see why he likes Battles and why he recommended them to me. Always a lover of all-things prog, I immediately responded to Gloss Drop, and I understood why a musician would really dig their style, too. There really isn’t a single per se on the album (“Ice Cream” would be the closest, and damn if that isn’t one of the catchiest tracks of the year and one of the most awesomely weird music videos)…it’s more one of those experimental, prog albums that needs to be experienced as a whole.  Other standout tracks: “Futura” and “Wall Street.”

Bright Eyes
The People’s Key
Listen to: Ladder Song

The supposed final album from Omaha’s most notorious singer-songwriter, The People’s Key is more a whimper for Bright Eyes than a bang (if this truly is the final album). A few songs stand out as mature representations of the Bright Eyes sound (that lo-fi, rickety sound found on Fevers and Mirrors and Lifted – the two albums that opened the public’s eyes to Oberst and co.), but overall the album just lacks. It doesn’t have the lasting impression of I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning or the twangy charm of Cassadega; it falls into the more interesting but not quite successful type of album that Digital Ash in a Digital Urn was. The opening track “Firewall” is good enough as an entry into what the listener is getting with this album, and “Triple Spiral” is a helluva catchy tune. The real standout, though, is “Ladder Song” (written for a friend he lost to suicide), a reminder that when Oberst strips away the grandiose, he can still cut right to the core of things with his tight-lipped, warbled voice that can’t help but feel anything but earnest (the track reminds me of the heartbreaking “Lime Tree”).  It’s an interesting album to thing about how so much has changed for the wunderkind; at one time called the next Dylan, he always evolved and did what he wanted to do. Sometimes, for those of us that remember discovering Oberst in 2000, that’s just a reminder of how “safe” his music has become.

Chelsea Wolfe
Listen to: Pale on Pale

The first track, “Primal/Carnal,” is about all you need if you want an introduction into the aesthetic of Chelsea Wolfe. On the opening track, she gives the listener, well, primal and carnal screams for about 20 seconds. After that, “Mer” kicks off the album proper, and it’s a bit of slow-going getting into Apokalypsis when you consider how the album starts, but once you settle in as best you can what you get is something that is the complete antithesis of other female artists that I enjoyed this year (and that will pop up in the top 10). It’s an album that sticks out (especially the track “Moses”) because of how foreboding the album’s ambience is, yet I found myself completely and utterly mesmerized by this odd little album. Standout tracks: “Movie Screen,” “Moses,” and “Pale on Pale.”

Listen to: Bad Things

Probably the best of the lo-fi, female-led, basement style recordings that seemed to flood the internet a year ago. Cults is vastly more interesting and less kitschy than something like Tennis or Best Coast, and it’s mostly because there seems to be real songs on here. If every song on Cults’ self-titled album was like their big internet hit “Go Outside” (which is a great song, by the way), it would grow tiresome, but there is definitely something more here lurking beneath the surface (see: “You Know What I Mean,” “Never Heal Myself,” and “Oh My God”); enough so that it excites me to see what the duo does next.  It’s also short and to the point, which I appreciate; it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and because of that, it almost cracked my top 10.

Kevin Devine
Between the Concrete and the Clouds

Probably the closest thing we’ll ever get to a worthy homage of Elliott Smith’s Figure 8, Kevin Devine is the same kind of musician who has a soft voice with a sense of urgency behind every subtly uttered lyric. Sometimes Devine can get angry and do the emo kid-with-the–guitar thing better than anyone in the industry because he has perspective (and a vocabulary) that goes beyond the diary. Sometimes he really surprises me and aspires to the heights of his obvious hero and main influence Elliott Smith (on his last album, his epic sounding “Brother’s Blood” was like the song to shame all of those emo kids with their guitars). Between the Concrete and the Clouds isn’t anything spectacular, but whenever I’m in the mood for guitar-driven, mature and politically-minded music (without being naïve or in way over his head), I know I can count on Devine to not insult my intelligence. His latest album appears on the fringes of this countdown because of standout tracks “Off-Screen;” “Between the Concrete and the Clouds;” and the outstanding, angsty closer “I Used to Be Someone.”

Ghost Town

Much like Kevin Devine, Mike Kinsella has a soft voice that never has to go for screams to gets its sense of urgency across. The minimalist Owen (which is all Kinsella) has been adding different layers to every album. Ghost Town is probably the most complete and musical album he’s produced. If you’re a fan of this kind of soft-spoken, minimalist music, there are few who do it better than Owen. Simple, strong, consistsnent songwriting is the name of the game here, and Ghost Town is just another in a long line of good but not great Owen albums (it’s certainly not better than his previous effort New Leaves). Still, one of the better albums I’ve heard this year, and I much prefer Kinsella’s minimalism and subtlety over things like Perfume Genius or the folky aspects of something by Fleet Foxes.

Lonely Island
Turtleneck and Chain
Listen to: Motherlovers

I am not a fan of hip hop or rap. Sure, like any suburban white kid, I grew up sampling things like NWA and Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Eazy-E and then tried to get “serious” about it while sampling A Tribe Called Quest (who I still listen to every now and then).  What I’m getting at here is that I don’t have a love of the genre like the boys from Lonely Island obviously do, yet I never felt like the music or the joke was so far over my head that I couldn’t find it catchy and hilarious, and I have to say that that love and appreciation for the genre Lonely Island has is infectious when one listens to the goofy – but never condescending – Turtleneck and Chain.  The key here is that it’s never condescending. There’s some that doesn’t work on here, but the highlights – which most have seen on SNL as Digital Shorts – are so strong that they move beyond parody into really good versions of hip hop songs that are really funny. And that’s the other key element that makes this album work: it’s not just that it’s funny, but the songs are catchy and actually work as hip hop songs. Now, the joke is prominent throughout as the boys mock the bombasity of hip hop songs (specifically the opening track which is a brilliant send-up of all those “We’re back!” type songs) with tracks like “I’m on a Boat” (probably the most popular track and the best video) and “I Just Had Sex.” My personal favorites work best when seen with their respective videos – “The Creep” and “Motherlovers” – but the real highlight might just be “Jack Sparrow” (which is also an awesome video) for the way it allows Michael Bolton to do a Michael Bolton sample without mocking the man. It’s goofy, sure, but it works because instead of drawing attention to how they have Michael Bolton doing something silly they allow it to exist without a hint of mean-spiritedness….the man just loves movies. It’s the rare parody album that doesn’t grow old because there was actual work and a love of the genre that was put into making these tracks. These guys have talent as both comedians and musicians.

My top 10:

10.) Des Ark 
Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker
Listen to: Ashley's Song

Between Des Ark’s previously titled album Loose Lips Sink Ships and this year’s Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker, one would think that Des Ark is some kind early-20s scream band. No, there’s more to Aimée Argote’s band. This time around she’s sans Tim Herzog and doesn’t miss a beat. Des Ark’s previous album was a nice – and pleasantly surprising – variation of the guy/girl dynamic that litters all of indie music. This time ‘round, Des Ark creates an interesting variation on the loud/quiet dynamic found in a lot of post-hardcore acts. Don’t let the cover fool you, this isn’t some sugary-sweet folk album with the soothing sounds of a female vocalists ushering the listener through the album; it’s actually a somewhat challenging – if altogether a little stunted – album of varying dynamics that resonate emotionally. Like another female artists on my lists (EMA), Des Ark is interested in taking that PJ Harvey/Karen O style of modern female-led rock and playing with its darker and more visceral components (for the record, Des Ark belongs to the subgenre known as queercore). There’s a lot buried in songs like “Ashley’s Song,” and there’s a lot of fun to be had while listening to “FTW Y’ALL!” It all makes for an album that is nothing like you would think when looking at the surface (cover art, song titles, and the name of the album), but there’s a lot here that makes Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker interesting enough to warrant multiple listens. 

9.) Portugal. The Man 
In the Mountain in the Clouds
Listen to: So American

One of the most consistent bands of the last five years, Portugal. The Man try their hand with their first major label release and the results are, uh, interesting. In the Mountain in the Clouds marks the first time the band has taken so much time to make an album. Portugal. The Man is usually a band that makes an album a year and tinkers with their sound on tour. However, for the first time in their career they had their biggest budget and spent the most time getting things the way they wanted. Perhaps that means In the Mountain in the Clouds is a less organic and more calculated album than something like Church Mouth, but it doesn’t make it and less of an achievement. Drastically better than their previous two albums, The Satanic Satanist and American Ghetto, their latest effort focuses more on that 70s sound the band perfected with the brilliant 2008 Censored Colors. The album’s bookends, “So American” and “Sleep Forever,” are perfect representations of the kind Air-like sound the band is going for. It’s not their most ambitious album, but In the Mountain in the Clouds is a breezy, easy on the years homage to 70s rock music. Thematically it fits nicely within their oeuvre even if I was left wondering what the extra money and time spent on the album actually produced that was different than what they did on their own label.

8.) The Dear Hunter
The Color Spectrum

You certainly can’t say that The Dear Hunter’s frontman and brain trust Casey Crescenzo lacks ambition. In addition to his epic concept albums (Act I, II, III) , the innovative prog-rocker sought to create an album comprised of nine, four track EPs that would act as representations for each color (plus black and white) in the color spectrum. So we have The Color Spectrum – a horribly uneven brilliant mess of an album. Crescenzo released a neutered version of his project to try and pass it off as a regular album, but skip it all together and immerse yourself in the nearly two-and-a-half hour musical experience. The highlights of the album include: Red, an intense, guitar-driven album with help of Andy Hull (Manchester Orchestra) that drives the album forward (especially the track “The Curse of Cynicism”) and appropriately represents the aggressive nature of the color; Indigo— which is extremely Notwist-y and suits The Dear Hunter well (I especially love the way that opening track to Indigo, “What Time Taught Us,” just builds and builds. Also, “Progress” which is probably the best track on the entire record) – and is an interesting diversion from their normal sound; Violet is an EP for The Dear Hunter fans that wish Casey would hurry up and make his follow up to Act III as it perfectly represents the epic, grandiose rock opera sound that fans of The Dear Hunter have come to expect (especially “Mrs. Malum” which has the trademark Crescenzo Meat Loaf-like lyric belting); and, finally, White ends the project with, once again, relying on Crescenzo’s strength in writing massive, goofy, cheesy prog-rock/opera type songs. If you’re a fan of this genre of music and White’s opening track, “Home,” doesn’t make you want to pump your fist in the air, then I don’t know what to tell ya.

7.) EMA
Past Life Martyred Saints
Listen to: Marked

Wearing ones emotions their sleeve is such a tired old cliché that I’m almost ashamed of myself for what I’m about to do: EMA’s (Erika M. Anderson formerly of Gowns) Past Life Martyred Saints is a painfully emotional album that wears all of its ugliness and obsession with body harm on its sleeve. It’s a powerful experience to make it through this nine track album. And yet, it never wallows in its visceral imagery (“I wish that every time he touched me left a mark” to “20 kisses with a butterfly knife” to “I’ve bled all my blood out, but these red pants don’t show that”) or obsession with body horror elements. In fact, there’s even a bit of softness found in some tracks as they move through their disturbing imagery. Whether it’s the wonderful opener “Grey Ship” that has a tremendous build until it just devolves into a barrage of ominous strings, or it’s the Sinead O’ Connery-like way she utters the line “51-50” in “California” there’s always something here to admire. The album moves swiftly from the dark opener to the haunting middle with “Coda” to the powerful “Marked” (which is more about the painful way she sings the song than music itself…it’s something I can’t shake after listening to it) to the surprisingly upbeat finale “Red Star.” If Gowns was just another monotonous female-led folk band that droned its way through its albums, then EMA is a big step in the right direction for Anderson. Nothing Past Life Martyred Saints feels superfluous. It’s a disturbing album when you delve into its content, but it’s a reminder that hear-on-the-sleeve music doesn’t have to be so one-dimensional. 

6.) Little Scream
The Golden Record
Listen to: Guyegaros

Laurel Sprengelmeyer’s band Little Scream has all the trappings of the oh-so-cute Canadian folk/art rock artists (and this album is recorded with and produced by people involved in Canadian stalwart The Arcade Fire) that seem to be all over college radio. However, Sprengelmeyer is up to more than just aping the best qualities of popular female-led – and Canadian – art rock bands (most notably Feist, Metric, and Land of Talk) as she moved from the states to our neighbor to the North and has adopted some of the best qualities of the Canadian music scene. For a debut album, Little Scream sounds assured and surprisingly well-traveled. There’s enough of a mixture of sounds and ideas on the record so that when the soft spoken third track “The Heron and the Fox” appears, it stands out like it should as a star-making song. Its contrast to the other songs on the album make it all the more heartbreaking and affecting because, for once, we have a musician within this genre that isn’t interested in creating that same type of song for the other nine tracks. The album is sneaky in how good it is; it’s essentially one giant paradox as the album breezily moves in and out of familiar sounding art rock that is actually quite arresting. When “The Heron and The Fox” opens, the listener is most likely going to be ready to dismiss it as just another one of those types of songs; however, when one listens to Sprengelmeyer’s lyrics and the sad, almost exasperated, way that she sings, the song becomes something more: it takes a familiar template and uses it as a catalyst for a tableau of interesting takes on an over-saturated genre. “Cannons” and “Boatman” stand alongside “The Heron and The Fox” as standout tracks, but it’s the creative outlier of the album, “Guyegaros,” that shows just how creative Little Scream is. This is a band to keep an eye on.

5.) Thursday
No Devolucion

It is impossible for one to write about a Thursday album without mentioning their seminal sophomore album Full Collapse. It’s unfair to the band that they can never seem to get away from that album, but there is a reason I bring it up here: No Devolucion finally exorcises the demons of living up to the expectations of following up such an enormously influential album. The 2001 album, Full Collapse, is up there with The Shape of Punk to Come (1998) by the Refused or Relationship of Command by At the Drive-In (2000) as one of the seminal post-hardcore records that shaped the genre and created a glut of gutless scream bands to follow. After the successes of their 2001 album, the band signed to Island Records where they were basically forced to neuter their creativity and create a facsimile of Full Collapse. Frustrated by this process, Thursday gritted their teeth as they completed their contract obligation – an experience that soured them on the process and acted as an albatross they couldn’t shake for their next three albums. Their latest (and possibly last) album, No Devolucion, is a quietly intense and dark album – a reined in version of the visceral intensity that is heard all over Full CollapseNo Devolucion mostly feels like catharsis for the band (especially with final track, “Stay True,” being somewhat of warning to their peers, especially the young and naïve ones, about the perils of signing to a major label) – one giant exhale by its collective members –and as someone who has followed the band since day one and has seen them countless times live, I feel good for them, and so the album almost acts as a relief for fans, too. Listening to No Devolucion I couldn’t help but think of the maturation the band has gone through. The album is dark and atmospheric with a reliance on music more than frontman Geoff Rickly’s vocals and screams (which is what put them on the map); in fact, it’s that refocusing of what the band wants to be known for – and possibly how they’ll be remembered – that makes the album so rewarding for fans. Instead of hitting the listener over the head with his screams, he sits back and takes a backseat approach this go-round and the effect is haunting; it’s everything fans of Thursday have been waiting more than 10 years for. I’ve recently read that the band is on an indefinite hiatus. It doesn't surprise me at all when tracing the trajectory of the band and seeing where they ended up with No Devolucion, their magnum opus.

4.) M83
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Listen to: Wait

An epic album that was one of my favorites and most played this year. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was one of my favorite records to run to, also; the perfect kind of electronic driven album that just succeeds in getting me to finish my workout. When I’m about to get tired, a song like “Steve McQueen” comes on and pushes me to finish my workout. It’s a double album that doesn’t feel padded or convoluted like most double/concept albums do; it has the perfect amount Sigur Ros-y and Mew-y electronic/postmodern pop goodness to keep from ever feeling like the thing spans two discs. Even though the album is full of great singles (the aforementioned “Steve McQueen” and, my favorite, “Wait”), it most definitely needs to be heard as a whole. The musical interludes like “"Where the Boats Go" and "Train to Pluton" are more than worthy companions to the standout tracks on the album (I’d also add the awesome opener, “Intro” to that list) and most definitely deserve better than being skipped over. Like with most music of this ilk, it’s easy for bands like M83 to get bogged down in the “coolness” of their gadgets and the cleverness of their musicianship so that the songs become more like chores. M83 don’t fall into that trap with their latest album. It’s an exciting, massive, exhilarating album that I know I’ll continue to revisit throughout the years.

3.) St. Vincent
Strange Mercy

Somewhere in between Chelsea Wolfe/EMA and Feist/Little Scream lies Annie Clark’s band St. Vincent. Don’t let her spritely like appearance (think Jane Adams or Miranda July) fool you, Clark is familiar with the grandiose – after all she spent time in The Polyphonic Spree and as a touring musician for Sufjan Stevens – as is evidenced by her 2009 album, Actor, and she definitely knows how to bring the rock. Actor, though, had a tendency to get side tracked too easily by its orchestral tendencies; however, Strange Mercy wisely sets aside a lot of what didn’t work on Actor and scales things down just enough so that when a crazy idea does come up, it’s surprising and invigorating instead of superfluous. Clark is easily one of my favorite female musicians working today (go on Youtube and listen to her take on Jackson Browne’s “These Days”…so freaking beautiful), Strange Mercy – just her third album – is a stone-cold masterpiece that announces to the industry her staying power as a major creative force. Some of the my favorite tracks include the funny and subversive “Cheerleader” and “Chloe in the Afternoon” as well as well as the fantastic – and elusive and seemingly deeply personal – album closer “Year of the Tiger.” The sound is more consistent on Strange Mercy than on previous St. Vincent albums with slower, moodier tracks like “Champagne Year” and “Dilettante” providing the listener a more reflexive take than what we’re accustomed to from Clark who has always been someone to keep things, through her artistic approach to music, at arm’s length. With Strange Mercy, though, she melds both the personal and the artistic beautifully in all of the aforementioned songs and especially, in what is probably her most radio friendly song, “Northern Lights.” But even on “Northern Lights,” she can’t help but disrupt the familiar art-rock sound of the song’s opening minutes with a little extra oomph of warbling, disorienting guitars and various noises that listeners of St. Vincent have grown accustomed to. It’s just an all-round brilliant album.

2.) Feist
Listen to: The Circle Married the Line (The link is correct; the song on YT is incorrectly identified)

Probably the most ambitious album Leslie Feist has made to date, Metals deserves major judos for not becoming just another The Reminder. Feist and co. really seemed to go to great lengths with their third album to take the focus away fro “1,2,3,4” and the commercialization of the band and really make something that challenges the listener. Now, I say that without a bit of snark. I loved The Reminder, and I loved the song that was used for all of those iPod commercials, but there’s something to admire about the way she so obviously sought to make sure Metals doesn’t slip into predictability by creating something that followed that same, successful formula. Metals is a challenging album when compared to the whimsical The Reminder (I still listen to “The Park,” “Sea Lion Woman,” and “How My Heart Behaves” on a consistent basis), and that doesn’t make it better, but it makes it more interesting. Feist’s voice and music is the antithesis to the other female artists on this list (with the exception of Little Scream), but it’s just as affecting. The first thing the listener will notice when playing this record is that there is no clear-cut, obvious choice for a radio single on here; in other words, perhaps more than any of her previous albums, Feist has created an album that flows and works together rather than a collection of really good singles. The whole thing has a very 70s Jackson Browne/James Taylor/Carly Simon vibe to it (especially the highlights of the album “The Circle Married the Line” and “Anti-Pioneer”). The end of the album is one of the strongest set of songs in Feist’s career highlighted by the beautiful use of strings and horn arrangements (note: not overuse like so many indie folk bands tend to fall victim to) that find their way in and out of all of these songs without ever being over-bearing or pretentious and showy. The album’s closer, “Get it Wrong, Get it Wright,” is the perfect encapsulation of everything I love about Feist’s often minimalist approach to making music; it’s beautiful and haunting and the perfect lasting impression for what is one the very best albums of the year.

1.) The Antlers
Burst Apart
Listen to: The final four tracks of the album: TiptoeHoundsCorsicana; Putting the Dog to Sleep

The album is essentially an album of two halves: the first more reliant upon the band’s new sound and showcasing the electronics and various sounds they’re playing around with (best used in “Parenthesis”); the second half of the album is the choice side: it’s filled with beautifully constructed, somber-as-hell songs that feel earnest and genuinely constructed. It’s the side of the album I prefer because it showcases how The Antlers really use all of their new musical toys to accentuate what’s already great and special about the band. All of the ambient whirrs and whooshes act as beautiful compliments to Silberman’s haunting voice. “Hounds” and “Putting the Dog to Sleep” are perfect representations of the way The Antlers merger their old sound found Hospice with their new proclivity for using more and more instruments and electronic noises in their music. Pitchfork Media aptly called the album, “nocturnal and desolate.” It’s about the most beautifully desolate thing I’ve heard in a long time.

Leave your list in the comments!


  1. Wow, for all the 2011 music I've listened to this year, the only ones on your list I've actually heard are Battles (I vastly prefer Mirrored and really miss Tyondai Braxton's presence) and M83 (they've never done much for me and this is no exception, unfortunately). And of course I've heard most of those Lonely Island songs and didn't realize they actually did an album of those; honestly, as funny as those digital shorts usually are, I can't really imagine listening to them like a genuine rap/pop album. That may be because I do like rap, though, and heard some really great rap discs this year.

    Of the rest, that St. Vincent album seems to be popping up a lot on these lists and seems like something I should definitely hear. I'll be checking that out before the end of the year for sure.

    Nice list. And thanks for the shoutout to the record club. I've let it drop for now, and the last few convos weren't too active, but I'd definitely like to start it up again in the new year.

  2. Oh, and I haven't heard Cults, but I don't find Tennis kitschy at all; that album will be on my own list, it's just such a fun, brisk, perfectly crafted pop album. Cape Dory makes me so happy.

  3. I also really liked M83. I actually discovered them this year.
    And the last Bright Eyes isn't bad and was probably one of the albums I listened the most this year but it ain't as great as he used to be.
    Since I'm more into metal I haven't discovered the other albums you listed here. However, it I will try to give them a listen!

  4. Ed:

    I agree with you about Lonely Island's music videos. I should have added something in that blurb about how the music videos definitely make those songs more palatable.

    This is the first M83 album I've heard, but I'm kind of a sucker for the dream pop sound, and their latest album -- for how simple it is -- is a prefect example of how those types of bands get songs to build and build and build until they explode with power pop goodness. Is it often one note? Yes, but I love that one note.

    As I mentioned the other day, I'm new to Battles, so I can't wait to check out Mirroed since you like it better than Gloss Drop.

    Okay, so I should have been nicer to Tennis by using a different word than kitschy...but kitschy doesn't always have be to bad does it. Hehe. I suppose when I heard a lot of Best Coast this last summer I just kind of lumped Tennis and Cults in with them upon initial listens. However, Cults was the one that emerged from that small group as something a little different. Maybe I'll have to give Tennis another shot, but I remember thinking that of those types of bands, Cults was the one I preferred as it was pop goodness with a little bit more lurking beneath the surface.

    Thanks for checking this out. I look forward to your list, and I hope you give the St. Vincent album a listen. She's pretty amazing.

    Thanks, Ed!

  5. Michael:

    I'm a metal fan, too, but this year I didn't listen to a lot of it. Any suggestions for good metal albums that came out in 2011?

    Thanks for checking this out!

  6. I see your point about all these lo-fi indie-pop bands, and generally I find that stuff pretty tiresome and limited. Tennis has been an exception that just really appeals to me. I'll have to give Cults a shot too.

    Re: 2011 metal albums, I'm sure Michael will have more, but I loved the new ones from Corrupted (doomy Japanese band), Wolves In the Throne Room (epic black metal) and Mastodon. I also liked Earth's new one, though not as much as their other albums, and in a more mainstream metal vein, Primordial.

  7. The new Mastodon is more mainstream but still very interesting. Less prog more Metal.
    Earth's latest is enjoyable but it lacks in this dirty sound that made me love them at first.
    I kind of liked Demonaz (lyricist of Norwegian black metallers Immortal).
    The new Primordial is awesome too.
    I really liked Opeth's Heritage that plays out as a homage to 70's prog bands that Akerfelt looks up like Camel and the likes.

    Septic Flesh delivered a nice effort with The Great Mass but I still prefered Communion.

    Since I'm not into Folk/Pagan Metal I passed pretty quickly over Viking sensation Moonsorrow. But I think there is still a huge bug around their latest release.

    And in the avantgarde Black metal (BM is one of my favorite metal subgenre) the band Thy Catafalque was the most interesting...

    Unlike many people I really enjoyed Radiohead's King of Limbs. I think this is an album that grows everytime I'm listening to it.

    As you could read I listened to less music than last year... I will try to do the top 10 exercise and let you know the results!

  8. I'm useless to add anything here, but will still say I am marveled at the presentation, and dedication to the year in music. Ah, maybe one day.....