Monday, December 26, 2011

Dedicated Ears Most Listened To Albums/EP's of 2011

 Over the course of this year I got hooked on post rock, electro pop, Baroque pop and a lot of experimental pop. I had the good fortune to be turned on to a lot of good music, including some on this list suggested by DC from The Waiting Room Radio Show podcast, which I suggest you check out. I am fortunate to be friends with a lot of great musicians and bands and am lucky to know them and see them play. I also want to say thanks to the bands on this list and all bands that have free downloads of their music.  Thanks to you who read this.

1) Tune Yards - W H O K I L L  (Beggars Group USA) Merrill Garbus' move to a label (Beggars USA) did not diminish her inventiveness. The centerpiece of these songs is  her amazing ear for making a melody out of even disparate pieces of sound as on "Riotriot" and "Es-so". It is almost a given just two albums and one ep in that Merrill could make any type of music she desired.

2) Radiohead - King Of Limbs Radiohead releases have varied in their accessibility since OK Computer. This album has something for all Radiohead fans. More relatable songs like "Lotus Flower" and less typical songs like "Feral". Rhythm is centric to King Of Limbs and some of its brightest moments are when the rhythm is right along side the electronic burps and hiccups. At this point you are either in or not with what Radiohead has morphed their sound into. I enjoy it immensely.

    3) Liam Finn - FOMO   (Yep Rock Records) Liam Finn culls sound inspiration from the 50's ("Cold Feet"), and 80's("The Struggle") along with overall production that echoes the 70's. This mixture is held together with Liam's songwriting about girls won and girls lost as well as just boozy good time songs like "Real Late".  This album has a general narrative and I think these songs work really well as an album. One of my top 5 played songs this year was the propulsive "Don't Even Know Your Name".

4) The Juliets - Perfect Season   This Michigan baroque pop quartet is soulfully fronted by Jeremy Freer (piano, guitar vocals). For me it's hard to imagine The Juliets improving on their self titled debut, but they have managed exactly that on Perfect Season. The seamless incorporation of the violin and cello as evidenced on "Fashion" is what sets them apart from others in the baroque pop genre. Throw in the beautiful instrumental track "The Lost Memory" and a smidgen of hip hop and jazz influenced drumming on "G.W.N.L" and you have a complete album.

5) Jump Starts - Ready, Set, Go...    St. Louis duo Justin Johnson (guitar, vocals), and Sarah Ross (drums, vocals) use simplicity in their duo take on 50's pop on tracks like "Long Way Home" and 80's new wave on "Lie In Your Bed". I was fortunate to have Justin send me the original demos a while back and they were good, but this mix is even better. This mix showcases Justin's songwriting and vocals as well as Sarah's loose style drumming that make these song very memorable. They use the simple harmonies well and create clean fun pop songs.

6) The End Of The Ocean -  Pacific.Atlantic  (Future Recordings) Columbus Ohio post rock heavyweights create a sonic landscape on Pacific.Atlantic  that makes this album sound like one beautiful long song with several different movements. From the cinematic "to be buried and discovered again" to the 11 minute slow burn of  "we always think there is going to be more time...", every sound on this album was planned very well.  They are on a great post rock/ambient label called Future Recordings. Check them out.

 7) il abanico - Crossing Colors EP  L.A. via Boston post punk pop band originally from Bogota. Quite the lineage.  I can hear the influence of Central/South American rhythm on "Cold Outside". Another one of my most played tracks of the year is "Keep Calling" with its ridiculously addictive vocals by Juliana Ronderos. The bass line anchors the song. About the only negative was the length. Here's hoping they put out an LP soon. 

8) Wizard Oz - Flower Days  Delicious lo-fi noise pop from Melbourne's  Wizard Oz, about whom there isn't a whole lot of info. I do know that these off kilter songs play a little game trying to hide a catchy melody buried in amongst noise and reverb as on "Horse Tails". Even more experimental is "Wait Up" and the cheery, almost all instrumental "Raiden". This is very catchy stuff that just hides from time to time. Love the looseness of the production on this. 

9) The Black Atlantic - Darkling, I Listen      (Beep! Beep! Back up the Truck) They're back... with another addictive set of songs, this time an EP.  From the sheer scope of the beauty on "The Aftermath (Of This Unfortunate Event)" to the soaring harmonies and interesting percussion on the title track, Geert, Kim, Matthijs , and Simon have made an indelible EP.  It's official release is such that I have only had this since I pre-ordered my vinyl (you can too!) and got the digital DL a few weeks ago.

     10) dusthoney - lipstick chorale   ( On her Jamendo page, dusthoney claims she has made this album by "scattered 'i don't know how to record things' piano improv". I think she's pulling our leg. On "japanese justice" she infuses middle eastern sound break beats with other electronic textures to create a addictive loop. The pretty nature of "forget the sun" gives way to a dissonant trudge of "gunflower". At times I forget I am listening to electronic music and get drawn into the atmosphere of these songs.

   11) Paper Dolls - Sparks   Baroque pop from St. Louis fronted by Jenn Malzone. I'm not sure they could open with a more catchy piano riff than on album opener "Middle Class Fashion" which cedes to a hell of a hook. The experimental vocals on "First Draft" add a really nice touch. This is muscular baroque pop. The time shifts help keep the sound moving and unpredictable.

   12) Lupe de Lupe - Recreio EP   (Fórceps Discos)   Hailing from Belo Horizonte and playing a mixture of noisy shoe gaze on "Brejo das Almas" and including Brazilian music influence rock on "A Escrava Isaura", Lupe de Lupe move about these sounds creating a chameleon of an album. I love the immediacy of the simple production and no overdubbing, making for a glorious raw sound.

  13) Parts and Labor -  Constant Future    Math rock vets offer up what appears to be their last album for a while. This album went back to their roots but with cleaner production than the early albums. There are a lot of headphones and speakers that are happy for that.

  14)  Shy - Shy   California shoe-gaze grunge band that delivers big guitars, dreamy vocals and a 90's centered sound that will make you miss those times but be thankful for this album. Check out the guitar brakes on "Shift". So good. It's only four songs but they get to the point quickly.

    15)  Big Blood - Big Blood and The Wicked Hex (donttrusttheruin)  Superb dark folk by Colleen Kinsella and Caleb Mulkerin. Her wail is very affecting and the way the bass loosely slinks just adds to the darker nature of these songs. "Run" is pretty entrancing. You can download 12 of their releases for free on their Free Music Archive page.

16) Syd Lane - Solstice   Prolific (60 tracks since 2009) Irish songstress Syd Lane originally went by the name Loaded Whispers, and so began my affection for her music. Solstice features dreamy songs like "This Invert Reality" that speak of the summer with their brightness. The gauzy goodness of "The Moon and The Liar" is my favorite track on here, replete with angelic harmonies. These songs are a mix of alt country, 60's folk, and shoe gaze.

      17) Dodos - No Color    (Frenchkiss Records) Merging tribal rhythms and indie pop, the Dodo's stand out again on their second album, No Color.   The David Byrne inspired "Don't Try To Hide It" is my top track on here.

  18) Various Artists - Voy a Explotar Soundtrack  (Club Fonograma) This soundtrack is for a Mexican film. It's got quite a back story you can check out at the link above. I had already downloaded the likes of Jovenes y Sexys and Carlos Reyes. This soundtrack is deep with great songs and is a free download on Free Music Archive.

   19) Twilight Singers - Dynamite Steps    (Sub Pop) Greg Dulli and company never disappoint. Dulli's howl and the tight band move in and out of sounds and tempos. "Last Night In Town" is the quintessential Twilight Singers song. Feels like I am at home when listening to it. Dulli and band deliver their grinding wailing stamp on "On The Corner". 

   20) Northernists - Mama and the Loerie EP   This EP marks the second really good ep in a row for Toronto folk band The Northernists. Their songs reside in a beautiful dream like state with harp, cello and beautiful vocals by Hannah Strauss. The title track is nothing short of amazing, so beautiful. 

 21) Declan de Barra - Fragments, Footprints and the Forgotten  Ireland native and L.A. resident who has a resonant, low pitched voice that delivers these folk songs and reminds me in the best way of Johnny Cash and Nick Cave. The straight forward storytelling on "Sunrise" is quite convincing, especially as he raises the pitch of his voice.


Stephanie said...

Post a Comment