Well, 2011 is drawing to a close, so I decided to put together a list of my top ten albums of the year. I always kinda enjoy doing this yet I realize that no matter who compiles the list, someone is going to have a problem with it. Either I didn’t include “this” album or I blatantly excluded “that” one that should have made it. And it seems more often than not when I check out Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and their like minded brethren the lists just kinda piss me off. It seems they miss so much good music and heap undue respect on mainstream bullplop or the newest flavor of the week. I have on more than one occasion written letters to the editors of said publications expressing my frustration. But now I'm rambling, so without any further delay, here is my list of the best albums of 2011.
10. Shabbaz Palaces “Black Up” Sub-Pop….Shabbaz Palaces is a wonderfully stylized and richly textured hip-hop album from Ishmael Butler. For those of you cats that are as old as me, you might remember
as “Butterfly” from the 90’s group Digable Planets. Continuing where Planets left off and venturing even further out in the sonic universe Butler has crafted an album that sounds new and fresh with each listen. Butler
9. Mogwai “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” Sub-Pop….I’ve been a Mogwai fan ever since I first listened to “Come On Die Young” and I’ve only grown to appreciate their sound more as I get older. Sure, their extended instrumental excursions, soft and delicate breakdowns and sometimes bombastic guitar blasts might not be everyone’s cup of tea but for those who tire of the same old formulaic rock music day in and day out, Mogwai is the Messiah.
8. Kurt Vile “Smoke Ring For My Halo” Matador…Kurt Vile burst out of seemingly nowhere with some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful acoustic guitar driven music I’ve heard in a long time. Think Neil Young or Bob Dylan with a bit of a self depreciating humor thrown in for good measure. A lot of albums sound great the first time around and then don’t quite hold up over multiple listens, especially when talking about music of the singer/songwriter genre. Kurt is not one of these. His melodies are striking and his lyrics clever and insightful.
7. Buzzoven “Revelation: Sick Again” Hydra Head Records….Technically, this album was recorded in 2001, but not having seen a proper release until 2011 I think it qualifies. Buzzoven play straightforward, Sabbath influenced, stoner/sludge metal. I’m a big fan of the genre and bands like Sleep, Weedeater, and Acid King rank among some of my favorite bands of all time so when I stumbled across this at the record store I needed to own it. Pack it up, push play, and puff to this.
6. J Mascis “Several Shades of Why” Sub-Pop….Dinosaur Jr. Frontman J Mascis returns with another great solo album. This time we find him ditching his trademark electric guitar and super fast riffs, for some slower, more mellow acoustic songs and it works well for him. This one’s been on a constant rotation in my player the last few months and I still haven’t grown tired of it.
5. Twilight Singers “Dynamite Steps” Sub-Pop….Fans of the Afghan Whigs and the short lived Gutter Twins know Greg Dulli well. I think his growl of a voice might be trademarked. This guy makes great music. He always has. He always will. Nuff said.
4. Nathaniel Merriweather presents Lovage “Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By” Bulk Recordings….This one really shouldn’t even be on my list as it’s a re-release but I can’t help it. It stands as one of my all time favorite albums. Dan the Automator, Prince Paul, and Mike Patton crafted one of the finest hip-hop albums of the last decade. I’m not even sure if you can really call this hip-hop but this album just drips sex. For those of you unfamiliar with this wonder trio, Mike Patton is the genius behind such bands as Tomahawk, Fantomas, & Faith No More, Dan the Automator is a producer extraordinaire, and Prince Paul did extensive work for 3rd Base and De Las Soul as well as his original group Stetsasonic. Now, go home and make love your old lady!
3.Neil Young “International Harvesters” Reprise….I’m a huge Neil Young fan. Having said that, this is one of the finest live Neil Young performances I’ve had the pleasure to hear. Not much else to say about this one. If you’re a fan get it, if not, well….go listen to Nickelback.
2. Earth “Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light” Southern Lord….Earth have been around for a few years now and they remain somewhat of an underground sensation. Virtually unknown outside of the stoner rock genre, Earth have been composing sonic landscapes of incredible depth and beauty. They’re not even really stoner rock. Ever wonder what it would sound like if Ennio Morricone and Matt Pike got together to compose the soundtrack for a Quentin Tarantino version of Fistfull of Dollars…this is it.
1. Battles “Gloss Drop” Warp….Battles is one of those rare groups that defy genre classification. Equal parts pop, math rock, experimental and electronica, Battles have put together and extremely catchy and memorable album. To put it simply, these guys are fucking virtuosos. Go on Youtube and watch the video for “Ice Cream’. The video is visually stunning yet the music is what will grab you. While not typical of the whole album at all, “Ice Cream” sounds like 311 on massive doses of LSD and crystal meth. Battles definitely aren’t for everybody but if you’re searching for something new and different this is it. Recommended for fans of Mars Volta, Tool, King Crimson.
Label of the Year: Sub-Pop Records
So, that’s it. I welcome all feedback so let’s get a discussion going on this. I’m sure I left something out, but it is only ten and I had to narrow it down.