December 20, 2011

Top 10 Albums of 2011

Just in time for Festivus, it’s my Top 10 Albums of 2011! Before I dive in here, I should note that this has been a fantastic year for music. It’s clear to me that all musicians got together on January 1, 2011 and collectively agreed to really rock our pants off with new releases. Mission accomplished, collected musicians of earth.

10 Hooray for Earth - True Loves

Usually I don’t enjoy synth-poppy stuff; I don’t feel cool enough to listen to it. It really seems like music for people who wear skinny pants, suspenders, and comically anachronistic eyewear. And yet, I really enjoyed this album. It’s awesomely anthemic music from 1987.

9 Tom Waits - Bad as Me

Ahh, Tom Waits. He’s probably the most polarizing musician around; you’re either in the ‘This dude sounds like Cookie Monster’ camp, or you think he’s the best thing since pork pie hats. I am in the latter camp, and I am relieved that he suddenly decided to become prolific. I would also like to take this opportunity to praise his supporting turn in the unfairly-maligned film Mystery Men.

8 The Decemberists - The King Is Dead

To be honest, I stopped liking the Decemberists for a while. Imagine you have a friend who’s ordinarily fun and witty, but now all he wants to do is talk about Japanese folk tales. I will gladly participate in 15 minutes of conversation about Japanese folk tales, but at minute 16, it is officially time to discuss any other topic in the world. Thankfully, the Decemberists went back to making fun albums for simple knuckleheads like me and now we may rock again together. (Side note: they also released an EP towards the end of the year, Long Live the King, that was stellar.)

7 Wilco - The Whole Love

I know exactly what happened when Wilco began to plan this album. Jeff Tweedy told everyone, “I don’t know what I’m going to sing about, but damn it, there’s going to be some rockin’ organ.” Man, the organ needs to be featured more prominently in pretty much all music, including gangster rap. The same thing goes for high quality whistling, which is also used well on this album. Another great release by a force of consistent excellence.

6 Crooked Fingers - Breaks in the Armor

This album reminds of Frank Black’s first few solo albums; the lyrics are great, there’s a lot of neat instruments and a kinda rollicking vibe, and the whole thing feels very personal. What about Frank Black’s later solo albums? Well, at least he has the Pixies. (Side note: as much as I like this band, I had never really listened to any of Eric Bachmann’s previous stuff. I was blown away by Archers of Loaf this year. Good call, college students of the early-mid 1990s!)

5 Real Estate - Days

Real Estate tried to pull a fast one on me this year. I loved the single of theirs (Out of Tune) that Sirius began to play on its SiriusXM U station at the start of the year, but the album wasn’t to be released for months. When I tried to download it early, I got something vastly weirder and different. I then shared that whatever-you-call-it with some friends with the promise, “THIS IS SO GOOD!” Fortunately, all my friends lost faith in my musical taste a long time ago. Wonderful guitar abounds on this album.

4 Fucked Up - David Comes to Life

I wonder about bands who just cavalierly include an F bomb in their name. Do they realize the mental battle I put myself through in deciding whether to include the whole thing on Goulash? Seriously, guys; think of Goulash. If I were to describe these guys with a simple formula, I’d say they’re the Hold Steady + Refused. Those are two of my favorite bands ever. My one complaint is that I couldn’t find the lyrics to all the songs, and I would really like to obsess over them. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re going to give this a shot, listen to the end of the song.

3 Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

I feel like a lot of people freaked out over this album when it came out, and then I haven’t seen it on anyone’s Best of 2011 list. That’s a little unfair, isn’t it, music critics? How do you think Fleet Foxes feels about that? I’m not just attempting to even out some sort of cosmic karmic balance here by putting these guys 3rd, even though they seem like the band who’d really believe in that stuff. Now, on to this specific album: it’s consistently wonderful. You can play their first album and this one back to back, and it’s like listening to the soundtrack of an epic movie.

2 TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light

I got into a routine this year where I’d listen to this album every morning on the way to work. Let me tell you, that was one Mazda 3 in which man and baby were both rocking. When you think of the music you like the most, do you think of albums in which you like every song or albums that have 3 or 4 truly amazing songs? I am definitely in the latter camp, and this pick is evidence. There are a few songs on here that I’ve only listened to a couple of times (looking at you, Killer Crane), but there are a number of instant classics here (Second Song, Keep Your Heart, Will Do, No Future Shock).

1 The Dodos - No Color

I have liked the Dodos for a few years now. I wouldn’t say they were my favorite band, but they were in the top 10-12. In the fall, Laura and I went to see them here in Austin and I learned something amazing: there are only 2 of them. How did I not know that? When I saw them take the stage, I seriously learned over and said, “Pfffffft. Opening act.” Anyway, once I realized it was actually them, I went from liking them to like-liking them. What I really like about them is that each song has a few different movements, all of which complement each other; it’s like listening to a symphony. And it’s all 2 guys! Unless I’m wrong, and that really was the opening act.

Posted by Cody at December 20, 2011 5:11 PM