Friday, December 23, 2011

Top 5 ~ 2011

The readers of this blog and my long time friends know I live for this time of year. The movie High Fidelity and the All Songs Considered podcast consistently have me on the watch for the Top 5 records of the year. I love the process of finding new music and enshrining it into my Top 5. 

It was an interesting year in Independent Music. Electronic Music in it's various forms has surged into the mainstream, a bunch of old timers returned, and the Hip Hop genre has found a way to bring the streets into town cars. This list can be a tricky one. If an artist released a record early in the year, I tend to tire of it (blame it on the ADD). There are also those artist that are expected to be good all the time: Bright Eyes, Death Cab for Cutie, Radiohead, and the Decemberisits ~ I'm sure I will receive hate mail from them for taking their greatness for granted.

Here are my favorites of 2011. Feel free to add yours to the comments section.

Bon Iver by Bon Iver 
Expectations produce pressure. Justin Vernon had released a stunning home recording a few years back, some amazing collaborations, and a great EP. Needless to say the pressure was on the for his second proper full length. He exceeded expectations. His voice is enchanting to the point of being haunting, the vocal harmonies soar like a flock of eagles, and the soundscape towers as high as any mountain. Bon Iver took the space of the first album and filled it with layers of sound while maintaining the music's intimacy. This record will be in rotation for years to come. We all love to see the underdog win!

Sky Full of Holes by Fountains of Wayne
We all have bands that can never do us wrong. FOW have been at the top of my list since Welcome Interstate Managers - they have finally returned to that level of awesomeness. One cannot turn on this record without being thrown into a dance showdown with house guests. This record's early August release was a perfect way to celebrate the Summer. Many rotations on the back deck with beverage in hand while the kids swam in the above group pool.

All Eternals Deck by The Mountain Goats
I first discovered Mountain Goats while playing with John Vanderslice at the Noise Pop Festival at the early turn of the century. Both artists known for creating concept albums. John Darnielle has created flowing narrative over the last 2 decades. Consistently heavy in dialog, always well crafted. Very difficult to do. All Eternals Deck is another masterpiece from the mind of JD. Songs drenched in detail capturing the moments in-between: The metaphor of walks in the rain recalling less than forgettable moments.

Hysterical by Clap Your Hands Say Yea
When this band originated they were poised for a theme song on a reality show, car commercials, and tours with the flavor of the month band. They decided to just make great music. After some time off they return to glory with Hysterical. Within 10 seconds of listening to this album you will remember to power of Clap Your Hands Say Yea......and you'll be thankful they decided to keep it real.

Family Tree by Carlos Forster
The former For Stars front man and his college roommate M Ward had been in the process of a collaboration some years ago. Then M Ward became famous and Carlos decided he was tired of being the center of attention. The return of Carlos Forster is a wonderful reminder of different times....rolling waves, shimmering sun, falling leaves. This album recalls all the innocence of Southern California youth. One of music's truly legendary song writer's back for an encore.

Thank you for listening!


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