This was a very good year for music. So much so that listening to all this stuff is sometimes a major distraction when trying to focus on one’s own work as an artist. Still, it’s good to know that there is such a variety of good stuff out there, both on and off of pop radio (which I rarely, if ever, listen to these days).
So here are my 2011 Album Picks, in no particular order:
Black Keys – El Camino
Björk – Biophilia
Ry Cooder – Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down
Munto Valdo – One & The Many
Paul Simon – So Beautiful or So What
Tom Waits – Bad As Me
Death Cab for Cutie – Codes And Keys
Brian Eno – Drums Between the Bells
Yo-Yo Ma – The Goat Rodeo Sessions
Tamikrest – Toumastin
TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Social Distortion – Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
Matisyahu – Live at Stubb’s Vol.II
REM – Collapse Into Now
My Morning Jacket – Circuital
Colin Stetson – New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges
Honorable mentions only because I heard just parts of these and didn’t get to purchase the full albums:
Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials
Tinariwen – Tassili
Wilco – The Whole Love
The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
Radiohead – The King of Limbs
I was also surprised, and somewhat disappointed to see yet another rehash of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, which celebrated a 40th anniversary. I’m still a fan, and the reissue seems to be getting good reviews. It might be worth it for the bonus tracks, but come on guys… how many times can this album be released? I have the 1971 original vinyl, the 25th anniversary edition, and the 2006 live edition (which wasn’t all that good). Sure, it’s a classic album. I always felt Aqualung simply put the nail in the coffin in terms of recognition for subsequent output, locking them in a timewarp for classic rock radio. Guess that is the price of fame.
I also discovered some things from prior to 2011 that are worth mentioning:
Walk Hard – The Dewey Cox Story – a 2008 comedy/parody of bio films like Walk the Line and Ray! The film features high quality music production, showing that the music wasn’t just an afterthought. The songwriting – if a little off color at times – is better than some “serious” music you might hear. Features actor John C. Reilly who performs all of the songs in a variety of genres beyond what should be humanly possible. Amazing. The next Spinal Tap.
The Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens (2010) – How did I miss this one? I only recently saw their 2006 Austin City Limits performance. The stage wasn’t big enough for everyone. It’s hard to get three or four band members together in one room in Central PA. How do these guys do it?
L’Etrange Mr Whinster by Horrific Child (2010) – (CD cover pictured above). A reissue of a 1976 underground Psych classic. It’s definitely an acquired taste. To quote Walk Hard… you probably don’t want any part of this shit. I happen to enjoy it.