Top-whatever best-of-whatever-year lists as a general concept kind of bug me, but certain people bug me for mine. I don’t like to put one together until the year is really over, because you never know, someone might release an album on December 31 that blows your mind. A lot of writers would just put it on next year’s list. I’d be interested in discovering the optimum date near the end of the year to release an album that it would establish a presence on two different years’ lists. Also, there’s more music coming out than people can really keep up with. At the end of every year I find myself with a long list of “meant to check out but didn’t” and “listened to once, thought it sounded rad, then never got around to a second listen.”
I’ve assembled a long playlist of stuff that came out in 2011 and also lined up some links to stuff I can only get at in streaming form right now. I’m listening to it and writing a little bit about each here. By the end I hope to have a top ten decided on. It may take several days.
Joe Jack Talcum & The Powders / Samuel Locke Ward & The Boo-Hoos Just Add Tears split LP Joe Jack’s palpable sense of longing and Sam’s raging punk sarcasm turn out to be great foils for each other. Both frontmen share much of the same band on this record as on their recent tours together, The Powders being a kind of reconfigured Boo-Hoos rhythm section with Sam on keyboards, and both wrote some amazing songs for this release. The album was performed and recorded pretty much live-in-the-studio to keep it raw like Sam likes it. Wistful melancholy and sardonic fun whipped into a parfait.
Mutwawa Mayan Mutations cassette/download EP – An intriguing stew of hypnotic, pseudo-ethnic/cultish electronic beats and other synth tomfoolery.
Elder Dead Roots Stirring – Elder grow to head and shoulders above the stoner-rock pack. An album made up entirely of long epic tracks that always jam but are never merely “jammy.” Nailing the sweet spot where rock can be compositionally ambitious without being pompously pretentious. Fuzz meets melody perfectly. I could listen to stuff like this all day.
Ed Gray The Old Bending River – Tom Waits and Jason Molina snowed-in together in a remote farmhouse with fuzzboxes.
You Are Home … – a tour through musical landscapes of astonishing, delightfully weird, sometimes maddeningly repetitious Neu-age beauty, that ends with a sucker-punch to the balls.
Graveyard Hisingen Blues – These Swedes basically seem to be operating in the spirit of everything cool about early Led Zeppelin, and/or a more gritty-blues version of Witchcraft. It’s damn good. It’s interesting how this kind of throwback bluesy heavy rock basically has two separate scenes that are into rarely-overlapping sets of bands that nonetheless bear a lot of common sonic ground, the dividing line seeming to be somewhere in the areas of the headcount of the band, the tightness of their playing, and how much mystical, fantasy, or occult shit is in their lyrics. Particular corners of the metal scene made a lot of noise about this album, and well deserved, but ye indie-rockers who dig on such as Pack A.D., The Black Keys, or the venerable ol’ Stripes would be well advised to check it out too. Also gets bonus points in the cover art category.
Het Droste Effect s/t EP – Fuzzy space-rock instrumentals with hooks ‘n’ concepts ‘n’ shit.