Music 2011

It’s that time of the year again. Here is my favorite music list from 2011. I’m embarrassed by the top 2 since they are the top 2 on lots and lots of lists out there. It seems rather uninspired for me to not find something else. I’ve divided the list into three sections. The top 10, then the pretty good but not great set (in order of how much I like them), followed by the bottom part which I found to be sub-par.

1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
2. James Blake – James Blake
3. Chris Merrit – Songs from Brokeland
4. Bjork – Biophilia
5. Incubus – If Not Now, When?
6. O’Death – Outside
7. Matt Nathanson – Modern Love
8. Moonface – Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped
9. Loney Dear – Hall Music
10. Wilco – The Whole Love

The Chris Merrit album is a placeholder. About half way through this year I was so fed up with how boring and unoriginal all the music that was coming out was that I decided to go hunting for someone I wasn’t familiar with. I ran into Chris Merrit somehow. I spent the next 2 months slowly going through everything he had ever put out. I’m not sure I found a single song I didn’t like. I listened to no new music during this time period. My favorite album if you decide to check him out is Pixie and the Bear. Please check it out. You won’t regret it. My description of him is “Ben Folds … but good.” The album listed did come out this year, but it is only a demo so I’d wait until the full mastered album comes out next year.

I’ve written about everyone on this list with the exception of O’Death and Incubus, so I’ll try to keep this short. I’ve hated Bon Iver for the past two years. He put out my favorite album of 2008, but everything since then has been blah for me and I was about to give up hope. Instead he puts out this self-titled album that really is deserving of the number one spot.

Incubus is well-known from the early to mid 2000 time period for their singles “Drive,” “Pardon Me,” “Dig,” and “Oil and Water”. They were known as a mildly experimental, but mostly mainstream alternative rock band. I’m no expert on their history, but it seems they broke up around 2008 with no intention of recording anything together ever again. Good thing they did, because this is by far their most mature effort. It is incredibly subtle and restrained. The songs have a lot of emotion and energy behind them and they didn’t just let it out in a burst of rock. It is carefully constructed and beautiful at times. I’m honestly surprised this isn’t on any of the lists I’ve looked at.

O’Death could be considered “alternative country”. It is a really fun, creative, and often dark side to folk/Americana style music. Maybe you could call it a darker sounding Mumford and Sons. They liberally use banjo and other instruments that got them the name “country” but it never sounds like country at all. They sound more like a rock band with folk influence. I highly recommend it. To me it is the most successful attempt at such a fusion I’ve come across (much better than M&S).

Now onto the list of artist I found pretty good and enjoyable, but there were too many faults to call any of them honorable mentions like I usually do.

Grand Hallway, Florence + the Machine, Fleet Foxes, Death Cab for Cutie, Dodos, Bright Eyes, Elbow, Decemberists, Son Lux, and Wye Oak

Some of my favorite songs came off of these albums, but some of my least favorite songs came from here as well. Grand Hallway is a fantastic band from Seattle and if you ever get to see them live I recommend it. They pack tons of musicians on stage including violins, piano, bass, guitar, vocalists, slide guitar, drummers, and more. They have a great powerhouse sound that only comes across properly live. The only other thing I’d like to say is that Florence + the Machine is Adele done right. See my midway rankings for my complaints about Adele. If you want to know what I was talking about then listen to F+tM to see someone who fixes all those mistakes.

Now on to the bottom. These albums fell short in a major way.

Iron & Wine, Adele, Radiohead, The Antlers, Cold War Kids, Coldplay

Iron and Wine, Radiohead, and The Antlers have all been at the very, very top of my lists in the past. It was sad to have such disappointment in them. The Radiohead album is pretty horrible in my mind. They take all the things I love about them and remove all of those aspects to leave you with a shell of boring. I’ve liked Coldplay in the past, but this was worse than radio pop nonsense earning it the lowest ranking spot. The Cold War Kids also have put out some fantastic things in the past, but this was like an attempt to mimic the Kings of Leon style and the fresh originality of their old stuff got snuffed out.

Lastly, I got the Kate Bush album, but couldn’t fit it anywhere because it was weird enough and I haven’t listened to it enough to conclude whether or not it is nonsense or amazing. She reminds me of Tierney Sutton on this album who I used to love listening to, so there is a bit of nostalgia stuck in there muddling things.

As a concluding remark, this year turned out OK. I definitely listened to stuff not from this year more than any year in the past as I got bored with the current stuff. The finds from the past that I ended up loving involve things as diverse as Iceburn, Arvo Part, and My Bloody Valentine.

Please comment with things you’d think I’d like that I missed (aren’t on the list). I’ve already been informed I should check out the M83 album and the Destroyer album.


2 thoughts on “Music 2011

  1. So, here’s a question: Spotify. Do you or don’t you use it, and how does it change your relationship to new artists, catalogs, etc.? I don’t know how to live in this new age, where you don’t have to work for familiarity with an artist. You don’t have to commit and buy and collect. I see the pluses of free digital collections, but it’s so foreign to the way I learned to experience new music.

  2. I don’t use it. I, on very rare occasion, use Pandora. On those rare occasions I am usually trying to explicitly find something new. Mostly I search the internet for people who have made top whatever lists and find people that have lots of things in common with my lists. When there is something I haven’t heard of on there I just trust that I’ll like it and make the plunge and buy it. This is almost always successful. If I’m really skeptical, I may veto based on the 20 second or so clips Amazon gives you.

    I’m an album person through and through. I can’t stand listening to songs in isolation in random order. An album stands or falls as a whole. To me it would be like watching a bunch of random scenes from movies. Maybe this will have to change in the future as the digital age is forcing individual songs to become the focus, but to me the artistry of really putting together a great cohesive album is way more rewarding than a band being able to make a few great songs.

    Not sure if this answers your question. Also, I keep meaning to tell you that you are my number one commenter of all time still!

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