5. Synthetica – Metric. I have liked most of what Metric has put out since I first heard “Black Sheep” in Scott Pilgrim. The heavy beats, Emily Haines’ beautiful voice, electronic over lay, etc. is a great package. This album takes a step beyond what was done on Fantasies and other works. It not only has the synthesizers and passion of your typical Metric record, but the song writing is the best yet. Listen to the lyrics and they are not angry or sad or happy, they are introspective with something to say about youth in North America and where these generations are going. Great stuff.
Suggested tracks: Speed the Collapse, Breathing Underwater, Clone.
4. Celebration Rock – Japandroids. I am late to this band. This album is so good; I may not listen to their first one. I loved the feeling of nostalgia mixed with modern awareness, what does that mean? Imagine if Who’s Next was written and came out today. It is heavily influenced by that classic The Who album, but it has a sensibility about current adolescence. Japandroids understand what young people are thinking, but also know that all teenagers are self involved and will get over it. I love the raw love of classic rock that oozes from this album; I will listen to it over and over again.
Suggested tracks: Adrenaline Nightshift, Continuous Thunder, Younger Us.
3. Transcendental Youth – The Mountain Goats. I just discovered TMG this year, it’s an awesome feeling to find a massive backlog of a band that you really enjoy. The vocals and emotion timed with radical swings in music make for some of the best listening in modern music. Transcendental Youth is no exception. It starts out with a song about Amy Winehouse and “all the Amy Winehouse’s in the world”, simple, sweet, and sad all at the same time. They are a little older guys, but they a so connected to the world of music and the culture that every day people come in contact with. They understand your feelings, and they can put words to it. Plus this album has a killer close in title track.
Suggested tracks: Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1, Cry for Judas, Harlem Roulette, Transcendental Youth.
2. Put Your Back N 2 It – Perfume Genius. This is the album I have listened to the most this year. I love it from beginning to end. Mike Hadreas is a breath of fresh air to me. His music is hypnotic and his vocals are haunting. He is so open and honest with his feeling and his being and he is sharing it with everyone who will listen. I listened to this album all the way through twice before looking him up and watching his videos, dude is a pure talent who shows his vulnerability while grabbing you by the hand leading you through the pain. I haven’t really absorbed his other work yet, but this album really connected to me on a deep emotional level. I hope I get to see him live someday.
Suggested tracks: Hood, Dark Parts, No Tear.
1. Attack on Memory – Cloud Nothings. As much as I enjoyed PG, this album was the most fun, rocking, potential classic of anything else I listened to this year. It transported me to younger days and made me want to pull out my guitar and jam. I believe the best albums make you want to take action. This one did that. Shadows of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, and Zounds are obvious. It just bangs and rises, then floats down. From beginning to end it is steering-wheel-bashing goodness. I look forward to listening to this again, and to what Cloud Nothings will do next.
Suggested tracks: Stay Useless, Wasted Days, No Sentiment, Cut You.
Hands of Glory – Andrew Bird
Reign of Terror – Sleigh Bells
Port of Morrow – The Shins
Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II – Earth
‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
5. Bon Iver- Bon Iver, Bon Iver
This was at the top of a lot of lists. I really liked it; they matured a lot with this album. It breaks from some of their normal tendencies and takes some electronic risks that pay off. Anyone who hasn’t heard them is missing out on a great band with a bright future.
Selected tracks: Holocene, Beth/Rest
4. Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues
This was one of my most anticipated albums of 2011. It is Woody Guthrie back from the dead. Great folk poetry and lyrical hooks and harmonies that get stuck in your head. Robin Pecknold shines brightest yet on this album, his voice is soothing, while challenging. Great road trip record.
Selected tracks: Helplessness Blues, Grown Ocean
3. Middle Brother- Middle Brother
Yet another folk album. This was the best one in a long time. Best new band, hands down. Comprised of songwriters from Dawes, Deer Tick, and Delta Spirit. I think they are better than the other 3 bands combined. It is witty, self-deprecating, funny, and soulful. It rocks like the Beatles and then rolls like Dylan. Must listen to for hipsters and folk lovers alike.
Selected tracks: Blue Eyes, Middle Brother
An unexpected wonder that was unequalled last year. Thanks to good friend for suggesting and making me listen to this album. I had given up in this band, but this record renewed my faith. Solidly at that. It is musically their best work, vocally their best work, and lyrically genius and funny. I listened to this album more than anything else in 2011. Go. Buy. It. Now.
Selected tracks: Second Song, You
1. The King of Limbs- Radiohead
There is so much to say about this album. I did as much when it was released. Other than the Beatles, I do not know of a band who consistently raises bar with every single album without fail. While it may not be my favorite Radiohead album ever, it is their best musical work to date. I am not sure why I am writing this. You either like Radiohead and already know all of this, or you don’t and this album can’t change your ignorant opinion. I know, a little harsh.
Selected tracks: Lotus Flower, Codex
Not a GREAT year for music, but a pretty good year. All said and done, I did not have a musical void to fill with billboard top 20, so from that viewpoint, I am pleased.
Named after a Talking Heads song, Radiohead started as few snobby British art school kids. Now they can only be viewed as the greatest band in the world. This is proven in their latest album; how it sounds, what it represents, how it was released. This band breaks all the rules of the modern music world. It is more then releasing their own record online, they did it without anyone leaking it, they did it cheap, and they are making the money.
In Rainbows (2007) in a similar fashion and they made $30 million! With the current state of music being leaked, ruined, and controlled by some faceless entity in a window office, Radiohead does things their own way and people follow without question. I am a follower.
I started listening to Radiohead around 2002, this was late to the party. I was 15. I was blown away by this band. I had only ever been blown away one other time, that was when I listened to The Beatles when I was a little kid. I knew this band was different then every other thing out there. I am extremely fond of Thom, Johnny, Colin, Ed, Phil, and Stanley (he is in the band!)
The King of Limbs marks yet another leap the band makes. As significant as the change from The Bends to OK Computer to Kid A. This is them getting better, which I thought to be impossible. It is simple and touching, and it expands and shrinks, it rises and falls. It came as a shock mentioned last week, delivered an entire day earlier then announced, and again I am blown away. It is really, really good.
My current favorite part of the 8 track is the three-in-a-row masterpiece of Lotus Flower, Codex, Give Up the Ghost. Lotus Flower will be the first track most people listen to because it has been mentioned the most, and has an incredible video of Thom contorting artistically. It may be the best new track, it has rhythm, grace, and shows off Yorke’s vocals like all the best Radiohead songs do. It is followed by Codex, which is a throw back to the haunting simplicity of Exit Music (for a film). This song slows the pace and sets you up perfectly for the acoustic pound of the beginning of Give Up the Ghost. This song really gives it to you; great guitar beginning, incredible chorus, perfect climax and conclusion to this genius trifecta.
Cannot suggest this album any stronger.
Suggested listening: It is only 8 tracks, listen to them all.
part 2 of 3
5. The Drums – The Drums
Out of Brooklyn comes my favorite new band of 2010. The Drums are upbeat and lively, this album was perfect summer fun. With key tracks such as “Let’s Go Surfing” and “I Need Fun in My Life” you get a sense of joy, as opposed so many of depressing songs coming out of the independent arena. This band has fun and they write fun and they make you feel fun. Catchy, musical, and awesome!
Listen to: “Let’s Go Surfing”, “I Need Fun in My Life”, “Me and the Moon”
4. The Social Network Soundtrack – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
With The Social Network being my favorite film of the year, it is no surprise I also loved the soundtrack. It is amazing because Trent Reznor has no history or credentials when it comes to film scores, and yet he blows me away. This soundtrack is simple while being highly complex at the same time. It flows so perfectly in and out of consciences thought, you feel like you are in a dorm room creating Facebook, you feel as though you speaking to attorneys, and you feel as though you have betrayed your best friend. Music is perhaps more connected to feeling then pictures, at least in this case I listen and I am transported to the environment of the film. I also feel is prophesizes the future and it has a post-modern quality that lets us know Facebook will always be around.
Listen to: “In Motion”, “Penetration”, “Magnetic”
3. The Age of Adz – Sufjan Stevens
Stevens’ first linear thought since Illinois, this was a return to songwriting and less experimental then his previous two releases. Like The Suburbs, it is mature and it is impressive to see where Sufjan Stevens has come to, with haunting vocals, simple melodies, complex chords. You need to listen more then once to actually understand that this album is his best yet, maybe not your favorite, but from beginning to end, his most complete.
Listen to: “Futile Devices”, “Now That I’m Older”, “Impossible Soul”
2. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
After 2005 there was a very high expectation for this little band from Canada, and I am one of the many who was sadly disappointed with their sophomore effort, Neon Bible. I was skeptical when listening to The Suburbs and it surpassed my concerns and came to be my favorite Arcade Fire album thus far. It is mature in its mixing and writing and epic in its vocals and production; you scream and hum in the same sitting. Like a blast to the ears, this album was an instant hit in my car and on my stereo.
Listen to: “City with No Children”, “We Used to Wait”, “Sprawl II”
1. The Wild Hunt – The Tallest Man on Earth
The Swedish folkster, Kristian Matsson, has come to write, perform, and record like the great folk heroes of the 1960s. This is one of the few albums this year that I listened to all the way through over and over again. What is it about European folk pop that makes it so much better? I really want to know, but Matsson is the best for right now. Other then Dylan and Bazan, I do not know of a more relevant folk writer for his time. His screeching vocals and his absolute soul is what brings you to believe this guy could actually break your heart with his music. A perfect album in all regards.
Listen to: “You’re Going Back”, “King of Spain”, “Love Is All”
One of my favorite films, and novels, is High Fidelity. So in accordance with the game played in that story, I will be doing “Top 5” lists and reviews over the next few days for the past year.