FMD: End of 2011

2011 has, what, 40-odd hours left before its spent corpse is a dried husk caught by the winds of time and blown to the far corners of the earth. So, on its deathbed, let us throw the year a final party by praising and dissecting the musics released during its now-ending life. I suggest (though I never demand) commenting with your 2011 Top-X list[s] in lieu of randomness.

[Next week, in respect for the year passed and those preceding it, we will all only have 2012 releases in our random tens. Hopefully a dozen or so good albums come out next Tuesday.... says Elvis, the Monkees, the Who, and Noel Gallagher are among the top titles. That just raises the challenge level!]

Before I get into what I thought was great about the year that's not quite dead yet, I want to say that my lists are a reflection of my tastes, and that I believe taste to be particular. Furthermore, my tastes may be more particular than most as I'll often find an artist that sounds very similar to one I'm fond of, and be left cold by the second act, without being able to put my finger on what the difference is. This is why there's no Radiohead or TV on the Radio or Arcade Fire or (various other clearly talented acts) in my list: I'm just not that into them, and I've fruitless time spent listening to music I'm just not that into while attempting to pin down why I'm not that into it, or to try to get what others obviously get out of it. The prior left me nitpicking music so that I could claim that the artists were inferior to what I listened to (which wasn't true, overlooked similar faults in the stuff I did like, and lead me to believe myself to have superior taste). The latter left me numb to what I actually like in music and why I even listen to music.

So screw that, here are my lists! Maybe you'll find something interesting. Maybe not.

Artist of the year This website is like a prolific version of what MTV's unplugged wanted to be, only for the indie-type set. And not all acoustic. But they release three new live-in-studio sets, typically four or five songs, from various artists every day (one only on weekends). I'm sure there's some garbage there, but I mostly go for artists I've heard of elsewhere. In 2011 alone, the site released sets from Zola Jesus, Colin Stetson, Tristen (with the Ringers), Naughty By Nature (with Solid Gold), Bobby Bare Jr., Scott H. Biram, EMA, Lydia Loveless, Low, and Shabazz Palaces. In particular, I liked the EMA set better than her album (religious FMD readers may remember that I said that after hearing it I thought she could replace Kim Gordon in SY if such a move were necessary to allow me to hear "Death Valley '69" and "Catholic Block" live yet a few more times). Loveless's set, an acoustic set of four songs from her awkwardly produced debut plus one new song, adds life and energy that wasn't exactly there for the first album. I kindof consider the Daytrotter session to be the bonus tracks to the album. I mean that specifically for Loveless, but it's basically true for all of them. So, think of a recording artist you like, search them, and see what you find.

Top Albums of the year.
1. Colin Stetson New History Warfare, Vol 2: Judges
One thing that bothered me about the movie the Matrix is what the music of "the Future" sounded like: Meat Beat Manifesto's "Prime Audio Soup". No, that's what the music of the present sounds like, my head said (probably because I had the record). The music of the future could have sounded like Judges. Other than Vol 1, this album feels like it has no real antecedent, at least of which I'm aware. Cheapo and the Electric Fetus both filed it as Jazz, probably because it's solo saxophone. Please let me know if there are other jazz artists doing anything like this: relentless arpeggios (I think he likes them more than the Knife), and thick underlying drones, where the breaking of the held tones are as important to as the tones themselves. I know that what he does is technically amazing, but I'm just blown away by the sounds he makes and the depth of feeling contained. Even if he did this careful digital editing via samples of Britney Spears records, it's my top record of the year by far.

2. [Daylight]

3. Lydia Loveless Indestructible Machine
What I've wanted to hear from country music for a the last few years (since I started giving Nashville a chance): a performer with a solid, consistent voice, indebted to the history, but not to the rules that states that treacly sentimental ballads must be on the same album with songs about shooting exes and unapologetic drunkenness. (Directed at the second Miranda Lambert album.) Lydia Loveless skips the sentiment, punks up the arrangement to the level of the Waco Brothers, and sings about drinking, depression, cheating, and religion with a consistent voice. I just wish there were more than nine songs (Daytrotter session to the rescue).

4. The Weeknd House of Balloons
Amazing depravity: the stark beauty of complete hollowness. Viciously and cruelly selfish, focused solely on self-gratification at the expense of others. The compression on the vocals complements the inhumanity of the content, while the lush production makes it all seem so enticing. Is this R&B taken to a logical end? Post-R&B? This was the first of three mixtapes/mini-albums/EPs released in 2011 from the Weeknd, but the second didn't thrill me, and the third came out just before Christmas. I wasn't going to listen to it while at home celebrating the birth of Christ with the family. This is for headphones. It's a guilty pleasure in a different sense than the cliché.

5. Andy Stott Passed Me By and We Stay Together
I've been listening to Stott for four years now, and he's been working towards this for years. His techno-house singles have become more minimal and mechanical as they've progressed. He released only one single in 2010, which in retrospect makes it look like his was ramping up for these two mini-albums as his big leap forward. Basically removing all danceability from his sound, leaving us with slow, heavy basslines, echoes, and effects. Yet the sounds are so thick that they'll remove all the air from the room if played loud enough. It's great when a marginal artist in a minor genre that you've happened to latch on to delivers on his promise like this. Bravo! Also, if you feel like you need one more, he polished a turd by BNJMN.

6. Tim Hecker Ravedeath, 1972
Just about every year, I have one fuzzy ambient-ish record that I listen to a lot. This is the second Hecker album I've gotten into in such a way, and it's much better than Harmony in Ultraviolet. In the very first piece, "The Piano Drop", Hecker makes static shimmer. Neat trick, it makes me shivver.

7. So So Radio, Dustcovers
Technically, this came out with three days left in 2010, but no one I know listened to it before me, so I'm not going to dock it for being less than 100 hours younger. I probably listened to this more than anything else from January 27th into July, when I decided I should listen to something else before I make myself sick of it. But after pacing myself and searching out what I had missed (like Colin Stetson), it's still fresh and exciting pop-rock that deserved a better fate than having its lead single buried in an episode of Scrubs. This is one of those things where I have trouble answering "What is it you like about this over many acts that may seem similar, AMR?" Well, the singing, the lyrics, and the drumming. The singer meshes with his lyrics so well, showing the right amount of strain in his voice while on ambiguous lyrics that you question whether he's delivering the lyrics honestly, metaphorically, ironically, or with entendre. He knows, but he doesn't want you to know. Also, I like the drumming at the end of "CST" a lot, but I don't know enough about drumming to compare it to anything else.

8. Peaking Lights 936
I was never big on the hip sound of 2010: Chillwave. To me, it sounded like weak versions of early-80's new wave music disguised by the artifice of rough mixing and fuzz. (I might be biased, I've hated Ariel Pink since I first heard him.) Peaking Lights takes this Chillwave disguise and applies it to dub. The roughness of the recording make it compelling, but the dub behind it is bona-fide. Adrian Sherwood's clean-up remix proves that.

9. Tristen Charlatans at the Garden Gate
I'm surprised this showed up here, she's pretty much a simple singer-songwriter with some decent pop production, which really isn't my bag. I added this in March just because she's on the same label as Linfinity, and I never removed it from my iPod and listened to it a whole lot. To be honest, it's charming, and doesn't pretend to be bigger than it is. Or maybe it's just the way she sings "Druuugs" in the song I linked to above. So I probably like this for all the reasons I like So So Radio.

10. Zola Jesus Conatus
This might not belong here. It didn't hit me as hard as her 2010 EPs, Stridulum and Valusia, but then after seeing her perform most of the songs live, it really gelled and I really thought it was at least on par with the EPs. But now, I'm forgetting why (and haven't been listening too much lately). So, do I trust my opinion from when I was listening to it or my current opinion of my recollection of it? Option 3, re-listening to it again carefully, will make me miss my own deadline. The production's cleaner, as she's further removed from her experimental-noise beginnings, but the vocals seem to have lost some of their immediacy. Maybe that's why it was better after I saw her live: I grafted my memory of the immediacy of the live performance onto the studio recordings.

Statement of the Year

God Bless the Meat Puppets!

-Lucas Long, Ha Ha Tonka bassist
I've written at length about what of my musical interests I owe to the Meat Puppets. Luke boiled it down.

Top Songs of the Year
1. Lydia Loveless "More Like Them"
I usually reserve the songs list for songs not included on my albums list, to prevent this list from being a repeat of the album list, but also to keep from having to pick favorites. But, this song so grabbed me and ran with my thoughts that it was clearly my #1 song of the year and had to be listed. When freealonzo and I saw her at Lee's, she introduced this song as "about dumping your loser boyfriend, I guess." She's definitely Midwestern with that amount of understatement. The song is about the numbness and retreat of depression (though not spelled out, maybe I'm reading too far into it), excessive drinking, and stubbornness, (and yes about dumping your loser boyfriend, although you maybe just as much of a loser). It's witty, it's sad, it's true. I want to quote every line from it. Here are a few:

I'd rather stay home and drink gallons of wine. That must be why no body stops by.

Why can't I be more like them? The kind of people that feel sad when relationships end?
Well, Honey, I don’t want you now, but it’s not about him. Oh honey, why can't I be more like them?*

You just need to get laid, why can't I be like that?

Why Can't I be more like them: The kind of people who can still manage to get upset?
Well if you think I'm so f---in' emotionally dense, it's cos I am. Why can't you be more like that?

*On the Daytrotter version, the line is the crueller:

So if I don’t want you now, but it’s sure not about him. Oh I do wish that you would be more like that.

2. Lana Del Rey "Video Games"/"Blue Jeans"
Both as equally gorgeous and effortless as the other. I for one don't give a lick how "genuine" her "look" or "sound" is: I care only: are the records good? And they are! She's playing SNL early in the new year despite not being that much of a live performer (anecdotally and using Youtube), and I didn't get happy vibes from her newest single, so I hope she's not about to come crashing down, because I really do love these two songs and the two or three others she made videos for and which she kept on Youtube. Both sides of the single specifically though are great. Her ever-changing (as different copyright-holders require her to remove the footage she's sampled, bit-by-bit) videos are also pretty great, but she's had to abandon spending her time on making videos herself to instead tour Europe (and probably finish the album). Which is a pity.

3. Beyoncé "Countdown"/"1+1"
[I need to go to bed. Maybe I'll write this later.]

4. Katy B "On a Mission"/"Louder"
These were released in 2010 as singles in the UK, but none of her music was released here until this year. I first listened to these while pulling an all-nighter to finish an actuarial education thing on time. "Louder", especially with its kick drum and line "I've been awake for a day now / 24 hours" during a breakdown really got to me even if she's singing about the joy of clubbing and I was working. Yes "Joy": unlike the club of most current pop & R&B, a joyless place to drink at and party at (see the Weeknd, who do this well), these songs remind me of when I did go clubbing, which I did solely for the fun of it. "Louder", my favorite song from Katy, isn't even on the album (as it was the b-side of "Mission"), which is why I don't own a copy of the CD. Its absence and the presence of some lame filler tracks (she's got three other good singles) is why you're reading this here.

5. Frank Ocean "Novacane"
The album lags a bit, but this single has everything I loved about the album and nothing I disliked. The pulsing beat's like an electric heartbeat. No surprise he's producing for Ye and Jay. Odd Future seems the unlikely fit for him.

6. EMA "F---in' Around"
This is a non-album track that's only available from her Daytrotter session. It's the best Kim Gordon song in years, beats songs about Mariah Carey or Britney Spears. (OK, that's not fair, "Massage the History" is epic, and "Sacred Trickster" is pretty good, too.)

7. Shabazz Palaces "Recollections of the Wraith"
Daytrotter entitled this song "Toooonnniiiight!", which works better. The album's too complex for me, but this song, pairing the former Ish Butterfly with a kick drum, a simple click, and then a single female voice "Oooh" ing as the chorus, hits everything I'd want to hear from the Digable Planets 17 years later. "Clear some space out, so we can space out."

8. Wu Lyf "Dirt"
This album actually annoyed me by how much it made what was cool in this song sound lame by putting the elements in mediocre songs that get repetitive. But this song is still as awesome as it was. Mysterious, mystical, and primal, it sounds like coming war, like an adult version of Animal Collective's "We Tigers". It's the ritual music before heading off to likely die for your clan, while a village elder puts paint on your forehead. Although it ruins the mystery in part by flashing the lyrics on screen (they're not warning you that "Jah Rule is not your friend"), do check out the awesome video. Seems the coming war may have been the occupations. (Caveat: as I first heard this song with the video, I have a hard time separating how much of the awesome to attribute to each.) All that and I'm a sucker for the organ drones.

9. Ha Ha Tonka "1928"
I was a bit disappointed by HHT's Death of a Decade: it felt less like an album than their first two, I can't put my finger on anything else. The songs are still just as good, I just don't get the feeling of "Holy Crap is this fantastic" from the entirety that I did from the others, especially, Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South. My favorite song is probably the bonus track, about the dancehall fire in 1928 in West Plains, MO. Nothing like a peppy tune with the chorus "The best kids in this town are dead!" No one makes history songs that seem relevant (not lessons) like HHT.

10. Julianna Barwick "Prizewinning"
The Magic Place didn't seem that different than the Florine EP, excpet for this song. When it would play, with it's long fade-in on a pulse that grinds just a bit like a hard drive when it's quiet, I would usually wonder what my computer's hard drive was doing. But pulse + drums + Barwick's looped vocals (like rays of sun through a cloudy sky) = Beautiful.

11. JKR70 Presents Clay Hughes "The Love I Gave Ya"/"Gotta Soul"
[I need to go to bed. Maybe I'll write this later.]

Archive Releases of the Year
1. Plastikman Arkives 1993-2010
If I spent $200 on it, it'd better show up here. But: great packaging, fantastic attention to detail, pages in the book that were made identically to the CD: blotter paper, thick silkscreen, embossing, black panel with window to dark purple, etc. Richie provides notes on most of the new material, including the new remixes he commissioned for the project. I'm not enough of an audiophile to know the remaster from the original, especially since I mostly listen from mp3, but the mass of music collected, and its quality is fantastic. I'm very happy with it. (I do wish there was some live video on the DVD.)

2. Naughty By Nature Anthem Inc. (bonus tracks)
Naughty by Nature took their first album in a while with KayGee producing as an opportunity to re-record five of their biggest hits, including "O.P.P." and "Hip-Hop Hooray" without using any samples. I assume they didn't like how much money Mikey Jackson and his brothers were making every time "O.P.P." was used. Much like how we'll never see the original versions of Star Wars again, NBN is probably hoping they can use the sample-free version from here on out. And they're not that bad.

103 thoughts on “FMD: End of 2011”

  1. Wow, you set the bar pretty high AMR. For those that didn't see it, I posted a video of More Like Them on Wednesday under the Boneyards vid. You can check for yourself what AMR is talking about,

    1. This is what happens when a metered internet at work combines with home responsibilities, and I've been more absent from the WGOM for FMD discussions than I wanted to. All my time thinking about this stuff has happened when I'm working or busing, or going to bed (I sleep with headphones). Add to that Christmas gifts of DVDs that I've been watching once the kids are in bed. Then as I promised it and thought too much about it to just flake on it, I loaded up on stimulants and took the whole night to put all the thoughts I've had down, without going back to edit or see if anything is repeated or too long or whatever.

      Then I went, put in a DVD, and laid on the couch to make my wife think I'd fallen asleep on the couch. With my mother's sleep difficulty, she's been too concerned about late nights from me.

  2. I only bought 5 albums that were released in 2011, here they are from favorite to lest favorite

    Black Keys El Camino - There was a sticker on the plastic wrapper that said 'Play It Loud!' and since I obey all sticker on the wrapped I did, and was not disappointed! Its like a 35 minute rock party with the levels pumped up to 11. Fave tracks (if I were to pick): 'Lonely Boy' 'Gold On The Ceiling' 'Run Right Back'

    The Features Wilderness - I will buy anything The Features put out, and I will probably like anything they put on a record. I dont know why, its just one of those things I guess. Favorite track: the slow burner rock of 'Fats Domino' (you cant hear the lead singer too much on this clip, but the only thing I see on YouTube) has pretty much been stuck in my head for 4 months now

    Peter Bjorn and John Gimmie Some - After hearing the full song of 'Second Chance' instead of the short clips of the song they use on the tv show "2 Broke Girls" I decided to pick it up. Its so cool that I have decided to dig a little deeper in the PB&J catalog. Fave song:'Second Chance'

    Fountains of Wayne Sky Full of Holes - I like FoW. I like and own all their studio albums. But, this album kind of disappointed me. I cant quite place it, but something felt off about this album. But there were enough songs to keep me listening to it through most of the summer. Fave track: 'Radio Bar'

    Foster the People Torches - After hearing the song 'Pumped Up Kicks' once over the loudspeaker of the golf course maintenance bay I was working at over the summer, I literally said out loud to myself 'what was that? it was awesome' and pretty much bought the album that week. But man, the rest of the album didnt really sounds like 'Pumped Up Kicks' and was bummed out. But, like FoW, there were enough tracks to keep me coming back to the album....or maybe I really really wanted to like my purchase and almost forced myself to like the album by listening to it over and over. Fave tracks: 'Pumped Up Kicks', 'Houdini'


    album that was released in 2010 but didnt buy until Jan of this year and would of been #2: Fitz and the Tantrums Pickin Up the Pieces
    albums that were released a while ago but didnt buy them until this year: Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band Live Bullet, Nick Lowe Labour of Lust


    random 10 for today

    'South Side' - Moby Play
    'Little Sister' - Queens of the Stone Age
    'Human' - The Pretenders
    'Hold On Tight' - ELO Strange Magic: The Very Best of ELO
    'Between a Laugh and a Tear' - John Mellencamp Scarecrow

    'Do It This A Way' - Squirrel Nut Zippers Bedlam Ballroom
    'Im In Disgrace' - The Kinks The Kinks Present: Schoolboys In Disgrace
    'Night Moves' - Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band Night Moves
    'Welcome To The Machine' - Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here
    'Breakin The Chains of Love' - Fitz and the Tantrums Pickin Up The Pieces

  3. I don't believe I actually purchased or heard any new albums from 2011, so I'll probably be pretty absent from giving any thoughts on the heavy metal world from this past year. I just don't have the spare change to buy both beer ingredients and music, so beer it is.

    1. Would Top Beers of 2011 belong somewhere else? Do you have authorship priveleges?
      At the end of each year, everything that can be subjectively evaluated should be listed so that the best may be praised.

      1. Whoa. Yes, this makes sense.

        Maybe I'll do one of those, and a video game list as well over at Casa de Leche. I could do a movie one, but I haven't seen a lot of 2011 movies.

          1. Dude: You are more than welcome to do a "Pint-Sized Review" post. I don't own that label, I just brought it to the table.

            1. I'll get something ready for next week. Monday is book day, so Tuesday.

              Also, slightly off the music topic, but on topic of scheduling, I'm going to try and get around to reviving the EEE for this Monday.

      2. Heh, I'm probably not the greatest guy to do the top beers list either, since I drink mostly my own stuff. I suppose it'd be the "top awesome things cheaptoy did in 2011" list.

  4. Comments on your list, before I put mine out there.

    - The Tim Hecker album has been on nearly every year-end list I've seen. I'll have to pick it up and check it out.

    - I gave Zola Jesus a shot at one point this year, but it didn't do anything for me.

    - Consistently, the Andy Stott albums are higher on other's lists than on mine. I liked Passed Me By, but it just missed my 10 of 2011.

    - I still haven't given Colin Stetson a listen. Not sure if I will or not. Saxophone isn't my thing.

    - Alright, I've got to find some youtube links and I'll have my own 2011 novel up soon.

      1. Fair enough. Musicianship (in the sense of how well an instrument is played) isn't really an important criteria for me. I haven't yet found a saxophone piece that connects with me, the sound of the instrument just doesn't really match my taste (I have the same problem with the violin).

          1. Right. Why it's so odd to find it in "Jazz". It's not Jazz, but what is it? I think it makes some sense as an "Electronica" except for the fact that it's made entirely acoustically and other than the few vocals, done in single takes.

            In my iTunes, I see I had it listed as "Electronic", my grab-bag genre. I know I had it once as "Rock". Neither is right.

              1. Over at rateyourmusic, it says "Experimental" with "Post-Minimalism" influences.

                Post-minimalism's wiki says: "Beginning around 1980, Post-Minimalism developed from the foundation of Minimalism, often displaying even more influences than the latter - including Rock, Jazz, World Music, Folk, Sound Art, Noise, and sometimes even a touch of the Romantic"

                So there's that, I guess.

                1. More information than you require...

                  For the definition of post-minimalism that I consider... well, definitive, there's this 1998 essay by Kyle Gann, who has spent more time thinking and writing about minimalism and its offshoots than just about anyone.

                  [Post-minimalism] music was tonal, mostly consonant (or at least never tensely dissonant), and usually based on a steady pulse. The music rarely strayed from conventionally musical sounds, although many of the composers used synthesizers. Postminimal composers tended to work in shorter forms than the minimalists, 15 minutes rather than 75 or 120, and with more frequent textural variety.

                  It seems like maybe "totalism" fits, but that's really splitting hairs:

                  The "total" in totalist music implies, among other things, having your cake and eating it too: appealing to lay audiences, yet also providing enough underlying complexity to intrigue sophisticated musicians. Totalist music, like postminimalism, tends to be rather restricted in its harmonies, but unlike postminimalism, it doesn't adhere to consonance or prettiness. Rather than rely on a steady beat, it often sets several different tempos going at once. Totalist music is rhythmically complex, but always complex against a beat, never with the arrhythmia of serialism. Totalism is also more eclectic in its sources and more abrupt in its transitions than postminimalism, with little direct concern for stylistic consistency.

                  Either way, these are subdivisions of classical (or whatever) music, a general label which seems like it fits pretty well.

                  1. Classical so often implies strings and stuff, and seems as inappropriate as "Jazz".

                    I do better with these definitions if I can have good examples.

                    But, with your wider exposures, I'd love for you to take a few listens and let us know where you think it falls.

                    1. Classical also strongly implies something that happened in the past, which makes it a very limiting label, IMO. Instrumental is often just as descriptive and sometimes more useful. Plus, there's the "classical" and "Classical" music distinction as well.

                    2. I think both of those things are common implications of the term classical, but given my interest in contemporary classical music (sometimes called 'art music', 'serious music', or most pretentiously 'new music') I find it's easier to just go with the broadest possible interpretation of the term 'classical music', then refine the categorization of that music in question as the situation requires (minimalist, saxophone, electroacoustic, etc.)

                      Instrumental (to me) describes the scoring of the music (does it or does it not have vocal parts) not the genre of the music (which describes rhythm, tempo, complexity, etc.) On the other hand, Stetson's music, which is so focused on the potential and various aspects of a particular instrument would perhaps fit the label 'instrumental' as a genre more than most anything else. Now I'm going to end up spending time thinking of other examples of the 'instrumental' genre.

                      Back to the question at hand, having listened to the album once through, it comes pretty close to classic minimalism in places, but it certainly has some commercial music influences (length of pieces, the vocal parts) that make it hard to fit under a contemporary classical label.

                      It reminds me a bit of Missy Mazzoli, and her work with Victoire. So I did a search for "kyle gann + missy mazzoli" to see if the expert had weighed in. That led me to this from Judd Greenstein's wiki page:

                      He is often identified with a group of young New York-based composers like Missy Mazzoli [and others] who fuse the accessibility of minimalist classical music with popular vernaculars to create genre-indifferent works, commonly labeled "indie-classical." In a detailed analysis, musicologist Kyle Gann remarked on Greenstein's typically polymetric compositional structures, giving his music a "foot-tapping pop surface in front of a background rhythmic complexity," akin to the 1980s advent of totalism.

                      So, totalism or indie-classical would be the labels I would put on Stetson's music.

    1. I probably put the Stott albums as high as they are because of my history with his earlier singles. Watching him grow makes the album more worthwhile to me.

  5. Albums (in no particular order):

    Boston Spaceships -- Let it Beard
    Cults - Cults
    Lydia Loveless - Indestructible Machine
    Wilco - The Whole Love
    The Decemberists - the King is Dead
    Watch the Throne -- Jay J and Kanye West
    Feelies -- Here Before
    Adele -- 21

    Shittiest album(s) of the year: That dreck by Bon Iver and Bjork (tie)

    Here's my random:

    1. We 3 -- Soul Asylum
    2. Either Way -- Wilco
    3. Scarborough Fair - Simon and Garfunkel
    4. The Ugly Vision - Guided By Voices
    5. An Unmarked Product - Guided By Voices
    6. Kicker of Elves -- Guided By Voices
    7. Action Time Vision -- Alternative TV
    8. Roll Away Your Stone - Mumford and Sons
    9. The Hardest Park -- Blondie
    10. Woodgrain -- Wilco

    Bonus: Love My Way -- Psychedelic Furs

    Wow, rare straight triple shot of GBV, nice way to end 2011.

    Finally, below is a video of Wilco playing Art of Almost on Letterman. Stick around to the 6 minute mark for a killer Nels Cline guitar solo.


    1. Love Cults, but also love Bon Iver (which I thought was a huge leap over For Emma). I've never been a huge Bjork fan, so I'll agree with you there.

      1. Bon Iver is just one of those guys that I don't get popularity wise. The first album put me to sleep the latest one just grates on me. I immediately change the station if I hear it on the radio.

                  1. My entire team made the same misspelling last Spookymilk Survivor. I choose to believe it makes me look more intelligent that I do not know the correct spelling.

    2. We obviously agree on the Loveless and the Björk.

      I don't list my "worst" list because I don't want to repeatedly listen to crap, and I don't want to search out more crap, and I prefer not to confuse my distaste for something with my disapproval. But, having loved Bjork's music for most of the two decades since the breakup of the Sugarcubes (I can remember seeing the video for "Hit" on 120 Minutes, so I was barely aware of her before "Human Behaviour"), I feel that I can call it a "bad" album. I wouldn't even call it "most disappointing" because I had inklings she was headed this way, and just held irrational exuberance that she'd fix her trajectory.

      The Björk album is pretty much all the bad things anyone's ever said bad about her actually turned into an album. Tuneless, self-indulgent, self-impressed, impenetrable as if that's a virtue. Until now, Volta had been my least-favorite of her albums. The two best songs from Biophilia might be the fifth and sixth best songs were they on Volta. The remaining eight songs would instantly be the worst song were any of them on Volta. At least Volta had Antony. I paid cash for that crap, yet haven't paid Stott, Tristen, Hecker, or Peaking Lights. I need to fix that soon.

      Clodagh Simmonds, the primary member of Fovea Hex, put Biophilia on her top ten. Maybe that's why their debut album was not on mine despite the high ranking of their first three EPs.

      1. I suppose my 'worst' would probably be that New Kids/Backestreet boys combo CD that my wife bought and insisted on listening to once or twice while we were in the car. I can't think of a more unpleasant listening experience than two boy bands well past their expiration dates trying to make a last stab at relevancy (failing miserably) - this includes LMFAO.

        Generally, I don't make worst of lists, for similar reasons to those AMR posted. I come from the "taste is subjective" school when is comes to most music, and if a person likes something I hate, it's kind of a dick move on me to try to disparage that. Rather, I generally try to recommend some to them that they might like - usually with limited success.

  6. I finally got the stupid song list posted just now. My computer died last night as I was putting the finishing touches on what ended up being a 2000 word writeup. I logged back into blogspot, only to find the entire thing gone, even what I'd saved before.

    I'll have album thoughts a bit later today.

  7. My favorite 2011 albums:

    EMA - Past Lives of Martyred Saints: Listened to this more than any other album this year.

    Three Trapped Tigers - Route One or Die: I may actually like their EPs better than this, so consider this a stand-in for all the Tigers albums I acquired this year.

    The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar: Big loud fun rock.

    Chelsea Wolfe - Apokalypsis: Not quite a complete album, but enough good songs to warrant inclusion here.

    Earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1: Take Earth’s slowed-down drone approach to blues and add a cello for a bass line. Yes, please.

    Wye Oak - Civilian: I can’t listen to the title track on this album just once.

    That’s 6 albums, 4 rock with female singers and two with no singers at all. I sense a theme.

    Demdike Stare - Tryptych: You’d think that 3 hours of almost ambient dark techno would get boring. It really doesn’t, I’ve listened all the way through this many times.

    Emptyset - Demiurge: If I may steal a review from spooky, “This is evil music”. It’s deliberate and noisy and it’s great, another electronic album I listen straight through.

    Vladislav Delay Quartet - (self-titled): This grew on me. There’s a lot to digest here, but I think I like this better than the other electronic/jazz thing Delay is a member of (Moritz von Oswald Trio).

    To make it an even 10, I’ll include one classical album which requires a decision between Michael Gordon’s Timber (which I think I’ve mentioned enough times already) and ...

    John Luther Adams - Four Thousand Holes: This isn’t even Adams best stuff of the year (see: Inuksuit), but it’s still plenty good.

    I didn’t get this year’s Fucked Up or Black Keys albums until about a week ago, so they weren’t really considered for this, similarly a couple of albums from ‘010 were not added to my collection until this year, so The Social Network Soundtrack, Sleigh Bells, and Diamond Eyes (the latest Deftones album) were excluded from both last year’s and this year’s list even though they were very good.

    5 Artists that I was introduced to (and enjoyed) in ‘011 that aren’t listed above:

    The Body
    The Goslings
    A Winged Victory For the Sullen

    And, at long last - 10 songs that my iPod played at random.

    * Moses - Chelsea Wolfe - The Grime and the Glow
    * Moya - Godspeed You Black Emperor - Slow Riot for Zero Kanada
    * Prodigal Son - The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet
    * Mandala - Circa Survive - On Letting Go
    * Dancing Fool - Butthole Surfers - Independent Worm Saloon
    * That’s Not Really Funny - Eels - Souljacker
    * Fist - Deftones - Adrenaline
    * Section XI - Grand Valley State Univ. New Music Ensemble - Music for 18 Musicians (S. Reich)
    * 13 - Three Trapped Tigers - EP3
    * The Day I Tried To Live - Soundgarden - Superunknown

    1. I was very interested in A Winged Victory For the Sullen, but couldn't find it available to listen to anywhere. I heard a lot of good things about it, though.

      That Demdike Stare album is good, I just was never able to find a three hour block where I was free to listen to it (great headphone music, though).

      I just heard the Joy Formidable for the first time a week or two ago. Seemed interesting enough for a deeper listen.

      1. Also, Demdike Stare is starting a new project, Elemental. Similar to the last one they are releasing a bunch of EPs, then collecting them and adding a few new songs for a monster album.

        I'm waiting with interest to see what it's like.

      2. I haven't listened to Demdike Stare, but I downloaded it a few days ago, meaning to. Maybe once the New Year starts.
        I doubt I'll listen to it straight through.

    2. Emptyset would've shown up in the "Also Receiving Votes" section of my list.
      I listened to the V Delay Quartet, but didn't really get into it. I think I prefer the Moritz Von Oswald Trio (particularly the Live album), although neither really held my attention enough.

      Speaking of Sasu Ripatti, Luomo had a new album this year, and in limited listens, it holds none of what's great about Vocalcity or The Present Lover or even Paper Tigers, although I like mostly just a few songs rather than the whole album.)

      I've sampled the Three Trapped Tigers, too, and what I've heard on some of the EPs seems more varied. Probably not in my wheelhouse though.

      I dig the Larsen album Cool Cruel Mouth (which Zack pointed to), but as I said on first listen, It feels like nostalgia, "Annie's Rap" is basically a sequel to Coil's "Things Happen" (although Little Annie Anxiety isn't as intoxicated). I don't think I listened to it enough as its own piece of music.

      I just added A Winged Victory for the Sullen to my playlist a few weeks ago (other than the free single that I think I got from Pitchfork). I know it sounds a lot like Stars of the Lid, but not sure how it compares.

      Would you like to expand on the sound of Gowns., The Goslings, or The Body? (I hope the last one is built on Jesse Ventura samples.)

      1. The Delay Quartet making my list surprised me. I went back and listened to all the albums I got this year, and that was the one that benefited a lot from another listen or two.

        To me, Winged Victory for the Sullen pulls in more orchestral influence and is just a little less ambient than Stars of the Lid (a little bit more going on).

        Gowns is Erika Anderson's earlier band, it's a more hazy, druggy version of EMA. Red State has a few songs that stick with me, but it's a very up and down album.

        Gowns - Rope

        The Goslings are loud, distorted, noise rock. Emphasis on loud. It's kind of like Sunn O))), distorted and played at 4x speed.

        The Goslings - Croatan

        The Body showed up on some best metal of 2010 lists for All the Waters of Earth Turn to Blood and the music is as happy and carefree as the album title indicates. Doom/industrial/noise hybrid (but with a choir).

        The Body - Empty Hearth

  8. Thoughts on AMR's list before actually giving my own...

    * Lana Del Rey could be the best album of the year if she's able to maintain the impossibly high bar she's set for herself. I liked "Blue Jeans" better than "Video Games", but both are excellent tunes.

    * I need to hear that Colin Stetson album. I keep putting it off...

    * House of Balloons is sick in just about every meaning of the word. Thursday was disappointing, but I've heard that the new one is pretty great. Seriously, though, dude... three album-length free releases in one year? Slow. Down.

    1. 1. LDR has some good songs in her Youtube backcatalog: "Diet Mtn Dew" and "Kinda Outta Luck." (Diet Mtn Dew Video now absent, audio only, a pity. Her homemade copyright-ignoring music videos really helped sell her to me as more than a one-hit wonder.) Her earlier (now iTunes-deleted) stuff was decent, too, but I don't think it would have stood out to me. Anyways, I'm really curious to see how well she pulls this all off. (I'm near-certain to watch SNL live for the first time in ages.)

      2. At least listen to a few of the Stetson clips, either the one I linked to, or his two clips from the Take Away Show.

      3. Maybe the Weeknd feels they overthink themselves if given too much time, and a pre-ordained rapid release schedule keeps them fresh and moving and not over-thought. I assume the best tracks will be eventually collected and sold by a major label.

      I noticed "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls" is not available from Soundcloud. Maybe someone made an effective copyright claim on that sample. That'd be a pity.

      1. Concerning "House of Balloons" not being available from Soundcloud, I wonder. They did, after all, lend that sample to Mindless Self Indulgence. It'd be a shame if one of the best songs of the year became some weird sort of legal limbo song and didn't appear on the album proper (whenever that might come out).

  9. I had a poor year for listening to music, I'd struggle like hell to think of 10 albums that were all from 2011 that I really loved. EMA was my favorite thing I heard this year, though. That I can say with certainty.

  10. Normally here I would list my Great Purge of 2011, along with any new music. But as I'm still hard drive-less on the laptop and running the Ubuntu CD, that will have to wait.

    Off the top of my head, I'd say my favorite new artist of 2011* would be Childish Gambino, followed by Ha Ha Tonka. Biggest letdown would have to be Lupe's Lasers by a mile.

    *This being music I first became aware of in 2011, regardless of how old it is. Conceivably Elvis could be a 2011 artist if I'd somehow never heard of The King before.

  11. Upon further review, Feist Metals is my album of the year.

    Keen eyes (and ears) will recognize that man wielding the bass saxophone.

    1. Is that Stetson on the Bass Sax on that clip?
      I remember you said he was on the album, and I've been meaning to ask you on which songs he plays.
      If that is him, it's kindof like hiring Antony Hegarty to play piano: he can do it well, but that's not really using his talents to their fullest.

      1. Keen eyes (and ears)

        A combination of two things, I suppose. One, a man's gotta eat. And two, I'd imagine he has a lot of respect her. He doesn't strike me as someone who would sell out.

        The digital booklet doesn't list who plays on each song, but he is credited with Bass, Baritone and Tenor Sax, Bass and Tenor Clarinet, French Horn, Flute and Trumpet. It seems as though only two or three songs don't feature those instruments, so I'd guess he is all over the record.

        1. It appears he's fed himself as a studio musician for a while, as he's been on albums by Ms. Feist, Yeasayer, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Tom Waits, and TV on the Radio. Basically, his presence on an album looks highly correlated with its presence on the top-20 Pitchfork list for its year of release. That still doesn't mean that fans of Stetson should seek out those releases (though I may give them a listen).

          Turns out that I own what is basically the first release he appeared on.

  12. Greetings from central IA.

    When it comes to "...of the Year" with music, I'm not up-to-date enough to comment, but I'll toss out my Song of the Year here since it happens to have been released this year:

    1. I heard a song of his back in 2008, when Supermayer remixed "Hearts a Mess". He was gonna be the next big thing, I was withholding judgement. Now that I've heard a second song, I'm cautiously optimistic. Sounds like something Peter Gabriel fans would like, actually appeals more to me than that though.

      If he actually gets US distribution this year, you may be hip next year.

      1. Rhu_Ru shared this song (and very cool video) with me a few days ago and Peter Gabriel - whom I do love - jumped to mind, yes.

        I may seek more of this out today. I've spent the last few hours going through E's Best of 2011 list (today it's St. Vincent, Wye Oak (my favorite of the day) and The War on Drugs), so I should save some for later.

        1. Yeah, after forgetting about the guy, I may need to check into him now. (I seem to remember it being hard to find his stuff in 2008, maybe filesharing hadn't made it to Australia yet?)

          Any insight to name pronunciation? Got-yuh? Goat-Eye? Gert-uhll?
          That name will make crossover more difficult. I mean, with an easier name, Autechre (Aww-teh-Curr to me) would've been as big as Aphex Twin. (Not really, but this is the only tough-to-pronounce name I could produce in the minute I thought about it.)

        2. I'm finally creeping towards some shut-eye and then I hear/see your Hearts A Mess post and spend the next 25 minutes following "Gotcha" links around teh internets! THANKS RHU! but seriously, I'm with nibs on this one, I really enjoyed it.

  13. 1. Generationals - "Trust"
    2. Ben Harper - "Whipping Boy" - Welcome to the Cruel World
    3. Cake - "Daria" - Fashion Nugget
    4. David Bowie - "She'll Drive the Big Car" - Reality
    5. Wilco - "Far, Far Away" - Being There
    6. Gnarls Barkley - "The Boogie Monster" - St. Elsewhere
    7. Bruce Springsteen - "Erie Canal" - We Shall Overcome...
    8. The Airborne Toxic Event - "Wishing Song" - The Green Album
    9. Belle & Sebastian - "The Blues Are Still Blue" - The Life Pursuit
    10. Billy Bragg & Wilco - "Walt Whitman's Niece" - Mermaid Avenue
    B: Johnny Cash - "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" - American IV

    1. I was watching a repeat of Craig Ferguson last night and the musical guest was Cake. I didnt know they were still around

        1. They had the #1 album in the US for a week! The week before or after the Decemberists did it.
          (One of those two set the record for fewest sales for a #1 record, but still...)

            1. I actually got the new Cake album for Christmas, too. Fashion Nugget was the first CD I bought myself when I got a boombox.

              1. I think I've gotten every album of theirs from their third to the present on the day it was released. I like them far more than their lack of variety deserves, I think, but whatever.

              2. My first CD? Ice-T: O.G., Original Gangsta. The guy who sold me the CD player included it so I'd have something to listen to (any of his CDs), and then wanted it back a few weeks later. I told him that I wouldn't have paid as much without the CD. I think he just bought himself a new copy.

                My first cassette though was either the California Raisins, (although I may have been too much a kid for that to count), or the three of Paul Simon's Graceland, Lionel Richie's Dancing on the Ceiling, or Phil Collins's No Jacket Required, my share from a family subscription to BMG.

                My first LP, when I was a kid, was dialogue and sound effects from The Empire Strikes Back.

                1. My first two discs - bought on the same day - were Cypress Hill's Black Sunday and Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger (which appeared on DG's list today, yeeha!). A few days later I added Belly's Star.

                  If I must, my first cassette was either by the Fat Boys or was Poison's Look What the Cat Dragged In.

                  1. Nice choices for first CD, although Cypress Hill was at least twice as good as Black Sunday.
                    I own a Cypress Hill Black Sunday baseball cap. It was a somewhat misguided Christmas present from some high-school friends. It's my lawn-mowing yard-work cap. When I get caps that fit my noggin without fully extending the adjusta-strap, I don't toss them away.

                    1. I agree with that now for sure, but at the time Black Sunday was all over MTV, and 16(?) year old Milkman couldn't resist.

                      I had that same cap. I lost it, like I lost everything between the ages of 14-18.

                2. First cassettes - either the unplugged albums from Neil Young and Eric Clapton (from Dad), or Aerosmith - Pump

                  First CD - Offspring - Smash (from a friend, for free)

                  First purchased CD - Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill

                  1. the first music I ever purchased was the single of "Popcorn" by Hot Butter. It was in the "oldies" bin, because the song had been out for more than a month (this was 1972; I was 9).

                    I didn't purchase any albums until I got to college, although my then-girlfriend bought me Spruce's The River in 1980. We listened to that a LOT.

                    I joined one of those record clubs in college. I think the first thing I ordered might have been Pretenders II.

  14. Man, I thought we weren't doing lists till January 6th. I have at least a couple things from 2011 I still need to listen to before I can finish mine, so I won't be able to do it till next week.

    1. That's cool. I was implying that this would be the week. ("Until the year is more than 99% complete.")
      I also put it up because I took the week off work and [thought I] would have time to put this together during the week.
      And since I'm not working today, I have time to respond etc.

        1. I'm nothing if not inconsistent.
          Sorry if I stole your thunder. Reasons for not using that date were: 1. The work thing. 2. E-6 and Nibbish releasing theirs, 3. realizing that there will be no more releases in the year (unless someone leaks something online today or tomorrow).

          1. Nah, no worries, no thunder stolen. I just have to make sure I live up to setting myself up as The Only Guy to Release His List on January 6th!

  15. One thing that I like putting my best of a year list together for is to remind myself which albums I should actually spend money on. I've only paid for four of my top ten (although a fifth was offered for free). Time to fix that.

  16. I'd like to comment more on some of the lists, but my aunt and cousin are coming for dinner and I've got to start cleaning and cooking.
    Tonight or tomorrow!

  17. So, here's my top ten. The rest are over at Nibbishment.

    10. Viva Voce
    The Future Will Destroy You

    RIYL: Pretty much anything. Seriously. Why aren't you listening to these guys?

    Husband/wife duo Viva Voce are a great band that I haven't been able to get anyone into yet. They make good rootsy rock music. Sometimes she sings, sometimes he sings. Listen to their music.

    9. Doomtree
    No Kings

    RIYL: Vaguely indie-ish rap that doesn't succumb to standard indie rap tropes

    With No Kings, Doomtree really branched out their production to new places. Almost all of them worked for me, and the rappers themselves sounded fresh and up to the challenge, ready to tear into that new direction.

    8. Childish Gambino

    RIYL: Clever lines and good hooks, smartasses, rappers who enjoy Rugrats

    This album is kind of a combination of the bite I wanted from a Tyler, the Creator CD mixed with the pop and R&B sensibility that Drake infuses everything with. Thanks to Andrew for the heads up.

    7. Cults

    RIYL: Catchy, retro tunes with dark secrets, small, coastal new england towns

    I didn't buy the hype last summer, but the debut album was alluringly dark, yet catchy. It was sort of like if Best Coast joined... well... a cult.

    6. The Antlers
    Burst Apart

    RIYL: Sad songs, songs about the endings of beautiful things, the end of Old Yeller

    I'm slowly coming around on The Antlers. Not just this album, but their whole discography. This one still reigns supreme, though. A thoroughly emotive and exhausting listen.

    5. …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
    Tao of the Dead

    RIYL: Doodling dragons on the back of your chemistry notebook

    Trail of Dead keeps insisting on making the music bigger and bigger, at this point it's in for a penny, in for a pound. That means, that for every tightly spun barnstormer, there's a 17 minute proggy beast. Luckily, I enjoy it all.

    4. Radiohead
    The King of Limbs

    RIYL: The Kid A side of Radiohead, Thom Yorke, Skittery Beats

    I'll admit, if this wasn't Radiohead, I don't know if I would have given it as many listens as it needed to grow on me. Once it did, though, it stuck with me. There's not a weak track on the album.

    3. TV on the Radio
    Nine Types of Light

    RIYL: All thing funky, the vocal stylings of Tunde Adebimpe

    I was sort of surprised to see how much this album got slept on. It's definitely moving further toward TVotR's funky side than their previous offerings, but hearing songs like "Second Song" proves that's actually a pretty good thing.

    2. The Go! Team
    Rolling Blackouts

    RIYL: Cheerleaders, explosions (of confetti), saying everything in double dutch time

    The formula hasn't steered them wrong yet, why would they change it - especially when they seem to have come closer to perfecting it here than ever before.

    1. Bon Iver
    Bon Iver, Bon Iver

    RIYL: Beards

    It's the fashionable pick this year, but it got that way for a reason. I tried to resist the siren call, it didn't work. Each of these songs feels like part of my daily life at this point. If the lyrics don't quite have that naked emotional honesty that The National struck last year with High Violet (and I don't think they quite do), the music itself does more than enough speaking. It whispers, it strains, it breathes, it squalls - and Justin Vernon's weirdly compelling voice sails the album through that storm. In the Grammy nominated (!?) Holocene, he sings "...and at once I knew, I was not magnificent..."

    Meh, I disagree.

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