Eleven Choice Albums of 2011

11. 13 Chambers – Wugazi:  What can I say about this project? Every track works like it was meant to be. An earful of distortion, aggression, and angst – Wu Tang and Fugazi mash-up your adolescence revisited, but louder.  The whole album plays like a summer barbecue – effortlessly engaging, with hot, busy, sweaty, fatty tracks full of volume sizzlin’ like steaks on a grill. I love it.

Favorite Track –  “Forensic Shimmy”  – (ya’ll know the lyrics)

10. Lumpy – Life, Man: Bryan Highhill is a brilliant one-man band who’s music never fails to make me smile. His newest album is yet another drunken, loopy joyride that is great when you’re in the mood for a little bit of sunshine. Not to mention that he jacks up every track with fatty trumpet lines, which in my opinion, can never go wrong.

Favorite Track: “One Thing”

9. Fiest – Metals: This is not the cheerful, girl-in-the-sun sound of Feist’s last album, The Reminder. Instead, the tracks are dark and heavy. Often syrupy and definitely not sweet, they remind me of thunder and dark moss. Partially because the album lyrically dwells on land, water, and sky, and partially because the vocals are expansive and tumultuous, this album is like a night at sea. Distinct from Feist’s last sound, this is a brave (and successful) attempt to leave behind a perfectly good formula for stardom and try something new. For her bravery, she beats out The Strokes return album for a spot in my top 10.

Favorite Tracks: “The Circle Married the Line

8. Juvelen – 1: I’ve loved this man from the first words I heard him squeal through my speakers. I thought he was a 16-year old boy when I saw his video, but it turns out he’s nearly 35, (Swedish) and brilliant.  He makes a marvelous Prince reincarnate, and I absolutely adore him for it. He doesn’t play the guitar, but nobody is ever going to touch the real Prince. This kid gives it gallant run, and the result in something deliciously, delightfully dance-y, bass-y, and full of joy. A couple of the songs miss the mark, but if this album doesn’t make you need to dance, it is because you suck, or you’re sad and have forgotten how to live.

Favorite Track: “Don’t Mess

7. Casiokids – Aabenbaringen Over Aaskammen: Usually calling something “easy listening” is an insult, but I say this about this Casiokids album in the best way possible. I mean it absolutely as a compliment- there is nothing obtrusive or demanding about this album. It goes down easy and works like a charm. Think Postal Service without the lyrical density (because I don’t speak Norwegian) meets Múm…always with that layer of that symptomatic Nordic wistfullness we’ve come to expect from those pale northern terrains. Put simply, I like it.

Favorite Track: “Det Haster!”

6. Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears – ScandalousIt’s exactly what it seems, doesn’t require much explanation. Black Joe Lewis is a turn of the century blues man revisited. His six-man band plays dirty, grungy blues licks that are perfectly familiar. What makes this even better than the ‘back then’ is the fusion of his dirty blues sound with sassy Motown horn lines. This album showcases a full brass section that keeps this album on my top 10 year round. Drink something dark and sticky while you listen to this. Then have a cigarette and get laid. In that order.

Favorite Track: “Mustang Ranch

5. Cuckoo Chaos – Woman: Jeremy and Jackson are a formidable team of songwriters who have been working together on various music projects for over a decade. Their newest band, Cuckoo Chaos, is their most rhythmic and groove driven thus far. Woman is a perfect party album…or one of those sonic stories made for cruising down Hwy 1. They definitely sound like a band that lives 10 minutes from the beach, and their time in San Diego shines through the tight vocals and bass-y punch lines. They’ve been compared to Vampire Weekend in  every review, but since I love Vampire Weekend, I’ll repeat that mantra here. Fun times all around.

Favorite Track: “Just Ride It

4. Thao and Mirah – Thao & Mirah: Mirah has been one of my favorite singer/songwriters for many years,  getting more play on my playlists than anyone but Joanna Newsom. For this album she teams up with Thao (from Thao + The Get Down Stay Down) for a playful collection of perfectly girly songs, just they way I like them. Mirah’s voice on this album rings clear as her own, and her tracks are probably my favorite on the record. The  album feels more like a compilation of Thao and Mirah songs, as opposed to a collaboration between the two. Not every song speaks to me, but the upbeat, neo-grunge production (by Merrill Garbus!) makes this still a fun bunch of tunes overall.

Favorite Track: : “Little Cup

3. Scott Garriott – Dragon in The Doorway: This album by Scott Garriott is a compilation of previously released tracks from his earlier records. He’s a modern day blues man with obvious folk/ rock influences. It sounds like he keeps a collection of Dylan albums by his bedside. Probably the most prolific songwriter I’ve ever known, Scott is a lyrical fountain of wit with a signature sound all his own. If you don’t know Scott’s music, I recommend getting to know it before the cool kids start wearing his t-shirts and you have to hear it from them. Because of the sheer number of plays this album has garnered from me since summer, it has earned the #3 spot on my list this year.

Favorite Track: “Endless Path Behind The Shed Blues (Wildberry Song)

2. Alexander – Alexander: This album comes from the leader of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a big favorite from last year. Turns out his name is not Edward, it’s Alexander Ebert. This album has some familiar (Zeros) sound, and half a dozen other musical styles as well. It’s eclectic, but not random, a unique soundscape that borrows from electronic, hip hop,  funk, and pop rock influences. Each track stands alone, but together the album plays seamlessly as well – a huge feat for such a broad talent.

Favorite Tracks: “Let’s Win” and “Truth” — > Note: if you watch only one video off this post, make it this one. 

1. tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l sMerrill Garbus is a vocalist you just can’t turn away from. Her power and control is mesmerizing. Often she twists melodies around in ways that are much too intricate to be as delightfully pop and digestible as she manages to make them. Every note is a wonder and a delight. She also does her own production, for which I have so much respect and admiration. I find her work on this album truly inspiring.

Favorite Tracks: “Powa” (!!!) and “Gangsta

Happy Listening.  Happy New Year.


Honorable Mentions: The Strokes – Angles, Austra – Feel it Break, Broken Records – Let Me Come Home, Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Note: every album mentioned here is available for purchase on iTunes.


~ by Vy on January 6, 2012.

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