Recently, the Seattle Mikes posted their 10 Best Albums of 2011. Well. Technically I guess it started as a Baker’s Dozen of 2011, but Mike 1 (because I knew him first and like him best) was overwhelmed by the number. Then Mike 2 (because I knew him second and there are no other Seattle Mikes that I know of) decided that albums released in 2011 was too strict of a category, so he went with the albums that meant the most to him this past year. If they’re allowed to deviate from a theme then I see no reason why I can’t, either, so, instead of laundry or cleaning or cooking or anything else before I GET TO HANG OUT WITH MIKE 1 TONIGHT YESSSSS, I present…
2011: A Year in Music
Okay, first of all, I can’t restrict my list to albums, mainly because I’m not the kind of audiophile/total fucking psychopath who collects albums and catalogs them by year. I don’t have that kind of money, time, or tolerance for smug music douchebaggery. Plus, if you haven’t gotten with it by now, it’s really hard to enjoy full albums at a time anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to appreciate an entire album as an experience, but there’s money, time, and attention span to consider. Like it or not, this is no longer a time of albums. This is a time of songs, shows, and pieces of the album experience.
Second, I liked Mike 2’s idea of listing not just albums released in 2011, but also albums he loved in 2011. This makes sense to me because I am not a bandwagon jumper, and sometimes it takes me months or even a couple of years to get around to listening to something. Or I might be having a re-listen, and it’s during the re-listen that everything starts to come together.
Third, I can’t limit myself to ten. I tried. I really did. But I just kept scribbling, and some lines led into others, and I kept remembering great songs or funny little beats and all the stuff that I’ve been sharing with people on my blog, and things got a little out of control.
So this is my non-album exclusive, non-restricted to 2011, cannot be contained list of 2011: A Year In Music.
1. Tom Waits, Bad As Me (album)
No list of mine will ever not include Tom Waits, forever and ever amen.
2. Sleepy Kitty, Infinity City (album)
This is a local band that I’ve talked about before, and I’d like to point out that I wasn’t planning on bringing Barry Jive into this, but if you don’t get this record, you’re an idiot and I feel sorry for you.
3. French Letters, In Tongues (album)
I cannot stress this enough, everyone – you must get this album. If you ever think that you need to hear more music, pay attention to more new bands, expand your knowledge and broaden your tastes, then you need to get In Tongues. You can find it on iTunes (which is incredible!) and then you can listen to it and then we can talk about it for awhile because it is so. Fucking. Good.
4. Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss, Walk Thee Invisible (album)
Several years ago, I went to see Joan Jett at Mississippi Nights (on, um, the night the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series). The opening guests were the Eagles of Death Metal and some band called Throw Rag, the frontman of which looked like Iggy Pop had a baby with Scott Weiland and then that baby (obviously) did a lot of drugs. They rocked my face. Then, earlier this year, Graham happened to be at the Silver Ballroom and saw a two-piece featuring a much more subdued version of the same frontman plus a guy from the Circle Jerks. It’s a stripped Americana sort of acoustic record, completely surprising and beautiful.
5. Handsome Furs, Face Control (album)
Much like my adulthood enjoyment of brussels sprouts, mustard, and staying home on Friday nights, the Handsome Furs are something I never would have liked when I was younger but I’m so glad my tastes have evolved. This album live would be such a fun, get-drunk-on-fizzy-liquor-and-consider-dancing type of show.
6. The Vaselines, Sex With An X (album)
Released in 2010 by a band who mostly played together in the late 80’s. It’s a talented sort of college radio rock with clever, cheeky lyrics and infectious hooks tinged with acerbic feedback. Like someone with a chipped bubblegum pink manicure giving you the finger.
7. Listener (artist)
Spoken word layered with instrumentals and some pre-recorded ambient sound. It’s like listening to poems being read by their brilliantly imaginative writer while this music just sort of thrums in the background and occasionally uplifts the verse.
8. Wagons (artist)
Sometimes (um, often), I review shows where the openers are inexperienced, untalented, and oblivious to the realities of sound problems, crowd control, and bad reviews. Other times (not often enough), I get to see openers that blow the fucking roof off the fucking place. Wagons was one of these bands. I strongly recommend seeing them live, though, as the twangy Aussie country of their records is good, but it doesn’t do them nearly enough justice.
9. Wye Oak (artist)
Listening to Wye Oak makes me feel like I’m Gretel and the band is the witch and instead of throwing me into the oven, they lull me into mournfully intricate half-sleep dreams where sometimes there’s profanity. So, yeah. Pretty great.
10. Dr. Dog (artist)
The 70’s revival stuff usually sucks, but this band manages to take all the good stoner party Van Morrison songs and mix them with a kind of modern, garage-influenced psychedelia that’s just a lot of fun.
11. The Drums (artist)
Do me a favor and open Spotify and listen to “Down By the Water.” Please. Now.
12. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, “Bitch, I Love You” (song)
The whole self-titled EP is modern funky gritty soul awesomeness, but this is the party song to end all parties. It’s funny, sassy, rude, and has that fat rumbly horn section that makes you want to get home and fuck someone.
13. The Black Keys, “Lonely Boy” (song)
I reviewed El Camino earlier this month but it hasn’t been posted yet. I don’t like to focus too much on singles when I’m reviewing, because everyone has already heard them and it feels lazy to me. That said, “Lonely Boy” is eminently sing-a-long-able and the best example of the Black Keys finally becoming a band that isn’t only about the unsaid-but-totally true way in which the singer feels cool for having cheated on all of his past girlfriends.
14. Beirut, “Santa Fe” (song)
I wish I had played this loud while driving around in the summertime. It would have been perfect.
15. Dead Man’s Bones, “My Body’s A Zombie For You” (song)
Apparently Ryan Gosling has something to do with this band? I don’t know, but I first heard this on KEXP and immediately put it on about a million playlists.
16. Lykke Li, “Unchained Melody” (song)
Yeah, it’s a cover. Trust me on this one.
17. These two, covering this song:
Of course, no list would be complete with the biggest music turkey of 2011, which is the AP Stylebook changing the format of album titles to include quotations rather than to be italicized. So ugly, so stupid. So something I’ll ignore every chance I get.
Also, I really tried to like Girl Talk and Bon Iver, and those just did not work out.
My feelings on Bon Iver: I used to use “For Emma, Forever Ago” to drown out distractions while I was studying. I like the album in a passive background sort of way. Then the new album came out and I realized the best use I had for it was calming my kid down on the off chance she was throwing a fit in the car. I had this epiphany about the same time Bon Iver announced they were coming to The Pageant. Three years ago I probably would have gone, but I’m not at a point in my life where spending $30 to stand crushed in among people who are going to try their best to make me feel ridiculously uncool as I listen to the music that makes my infant stop crying seems like a good way to spend the rare occasion I get out of the house completely alone.
So, in conclusion, I like Bon Iver for what they do for me but I won’t make their case.
As I wrote this comment, it occurred to me that I did not discover a single new artist this year. It’s times like these I miss my eMusic account. A little bit.
Consider yourself the recipient of a mixtape (er, CD). I’ll get your address via a message on the Facebook.