Best of 2011
2 January, 2012, 8:16 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

‘Coming out of blog hibernation to bring you my “Best of 2011” list (oddly enough, the last recorded post on this blog was the release date of my favorite record from this year. A few things have changed since I last blogged – most significantly a new and way better job and the birth of a joint venture between myself and my girlfriend Samantha. Admittedly I kinda slept on listening to a lot of records that came out this year. Instead, most of my music listening consisted of going backwards and listening to bands I’ve always loved (read: lots of 90’s bands) or discovering records I should have in 2010 (I’m looking at you Shannon Wright’s Secret Blood). But there were definitely records released this year that I thoroughly enjoyed. (Yes, I liked that new Bon Iver record… No, it does not appear on this list)

Sonic Youth - SYR9

11. Sonic Youth – SYR 9: Simon Werner a Disparu
I loved The Eternal, but this release reminds me of my favorite era of Sonic Youth recordings. This release fits right in with records like SYR1, Washing Machine, NYC Ghost & Flowers and the like. Like many, I’m a little concerned for this bands future output (and sad for the people involved) due to recent developments. I have no doubt that the individual members will continue to make great music (Thurston Moore’s solo outing from this year was considered for this list) in other outlets, but the future of this particular collaboration seems uncertain.

Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972

10. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
Soundtrack for a trip to the ether. Seriously, this is what the most amazing dreams sound like. Played many times during early mornings or late nights working on freelance projects.

9. Battles – Gloss Drop
People may have been skeptical about this release due to the departure of vocalist experimentalist Tyondai Braxton. The vocals were a new thing for Battles on their last release and seemed to be a large part of the success of that record. The band not only succeeded with this record, but outdid themselves – enlisting a handful of guest vocalists to give these new songs an even greater dimension. Add to this the amazing visuals the band put together throughout the year. From the jaw dropping performance of “Wall Street” in Paris’ City Hall and the hilarious video for “My Machines” featuring new wave icon Gary Numan.

8. The Appleseed Cast – Middle States EP
The fact that The Appleseed Cast is still making music in 2011 is impressive and inspiring. The band has long proved themselves as something different and more complex than their “emo” beginnings. In four songs the band proves that they might just have their best material still in them. The 14 minute B-side improv jam is worth the price of admission alone.

7. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will
It’s no secret I like the band Mogwai quite a bit. But this year the band pushed themselves a bit and introduced some new textures and approaches to their sonic palette while reminding everyone why they are seasoned veterans in the game of controlled chaos.

6. The Psychic Paramount – II
Take the skill and craft of a band like The Mercury Program and add in some fuel-injected catharsis… and you’re maybe just getting close to describing The Psychic Paramount. This record made me want to listen to lots of “heavy” records again. Not that this record sounds like you’re typical “heavy” record, far from it, but The Psychic Paramount pour every amount of the best kind of aggression into this long player.

5. Radiohead – The King of Limbs (Live from the Basement)
Sure, I liked the studio version of The King of Limbs alright. But, like 2001’s I Might Be Wrong, the band show that they are possibly at their best when fleshing their shit out in a live setting and all the little nuances in their studio creations come screaming to the forefront. Things that are barely hinted at in their previous form become the lifeblood of each composition and propel each song to new heights.

4. The Drift – Blue Hour
The death of a close friend and band member can have a devastating effect on a band, not to mention the personal lives of all involved. The Drift picked up the pieces after the passing of member Jeff Jacobs and put together this stunning statement in celebration of his life. Equal parts pensive/meditative and tribal celebration of life.

3. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lenses Alien
I never bought into the hype surrounding this band with their last release. I tried to really like them… and they just sort of seemed “OK”. On a whim, I listened a song from this record that was floating around the interwebs at the time. Suddenly I was hooked. But could the rest of the record be this good? Yes. Yes it could. Seemingly more focused, more catchy and more agressive and more better than any previous output.

2. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
All the best parts of the previous M83 releases congealed into one beautiful double album. Either Anthony Gonzalez was holding out on us all these years or his entire career has been building to this.

1. Wye Oak – Civilian
Without a doubt, this is the record that I kept coming back to again and again, every song becoming ingrained with each spin. A perfect listen from to start to finish. Lush, dreamy guitars, the soulful and husky voice of Jenn Wasner, the steady pulse of the drums – not overly complex, but every hit perfectly placed – all make for a listening experience that is haunting and beautiful. The song “Holy Holy” gets stuck in your head and doesn’t leave without a fight. It starts out alternating between dirge and terrifying squall before it’s glorious climax immerses you in a wall of sound that you’ll never want to escape from. Similarly, “We Were Wealth” begins in a state of beautiful melancholy before transitioning into a surge of beautiful noise. The band most certainly delivers in the live setting as well. If you can believe the “big moments” sounding even bigger as Andy Stack plays one-man-rhythm-section, handling drums and keys simultaneously, you’ll be swept off your proverbial feet for sure. I was anyway.


Mastodon – The Hunter – Atlanta’s favorite sons of metal soar to new heights.
The Soft Province – The Soft Province – One current member and one former member of The Besnard Lakes make one hell of a catchy dream pop/gaze album.
The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient – Bossgaze. In all seriousness, a lush record with raw beauty.
Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care – EITS return with a record as strong as the material that originally made them great.

Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream – In a recent interview regarding the reissue of Siamese Dream, Billy Corgan stated: “I captured Chicago suburbs, 1991.” Being in that exact place at that exact time, I have to agree. He did. This reissue does a great job of paying the proper respect to the original album. It always kinda bums me out when a band chooses to re-do the artowrk on these things (*AHEM* Jawbox’s For Your Own Special Sweetheart) but honestly, the artwork is done very well if you were to consider it without the original packaging in mind.

Sigur Ros – Inni – Stripped of their string section and sounding as raw and powerful as ever.

Yo La Tengo at The Variety Playhouse
Minus the Bear at Masquerade (due mostly to all the early material played on their 10th anniversary tour)
Wye Oak and Explosions in the Sky at The Tabernacle

The Life and Times
The Appleseed Cast
Shannon Wright
Bear In Heaven
Codeine Reissues
Sigur Ros

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Super 8

If you’ve read all the way through this, I say “thank you.” Lists are silly little things sometimes. For a good read on such things as lists and their complexity go here. I definitely have similar thoughts on the matter.

P.S. I miss Do Make Say Think. Their albums always sound like they are meant for the turntable.