Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Interesting Albums of 2011 (So Far)


Albums that I think deserve special attention:



Destroyer, Kaputt
Radiohead, The King of Limbs
R.E.M. Collapse Into Now
Bon Iver, Bon Iver (I’ve only heard half of it so far, but it’s a very good half)
East River Pipe, We Live in Rented Rooms

Favorite Songs (Not from the above albums, because the above albums each have enough excellent songs on them to make picking one or two not worth it.):

The Low Anthem, “Boeing 737” (This is the best song of the year so far. The rest of the album is just good.)
Thurston Moore, “Benediction”
The Belle Brigade, “Losers”
David Lowery, “Deep Oblivion”
The Decemberists, “Down By the Water”
Iron & Wine, "Tree By the River"
The Mountain Goats, “Damn These Vampires,” “Estate Sale Sign”
The Wilderness of Manitoba, "November," "Hermit"
Wye Oak, “Civilian”

There are a lot of albums I like this year, but not nearly as much as the top five. Maybe when I hear the whole albums from AM, or Hospital Ships? Who knows. Anyway, here’s the list of what I’ve listened to this year. NOTE: I don’t own all of these albums, and have not necessarily heard all the tracks from each of them. I stream a lot of music from promotional websites, NPR, etc.

Acid House Kings, Music Sounds Better with You
Akron / Family, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth And Journey Of Shinju TNT (Folk prog rock! It's quite fun. And it sunds like they're having fun as well.)
Alexi Murdoch, Towards the Sun (which is quite old, actually)
AM & Shawn Lee, [As Yet Untitled] (Not Out Yet)
Amy Bezunartea, Restaurants & Bars
Apex Manor, The Year of Magical Drinking
The Asteroid #4, Hail to the Clear Figurines

Banjo or Freakout, Banjo or Freakout
The Belle Brigade, The Belle Brigade
Bill Callahan, Apocalypse (Several wonderful moments right next to several cringeworthy moments.)
*Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Bright Eyes, The People’s Key (I want to like Bright Eyes, and I almost do.)
Braids, Native Speaker
British Sea Power, Who’s in Control
Broken Bells, Meyrin Fields EP
Buffalo Tom, Skins

Campfire OK, Strange Like We Are
The Cave Singers, No Witch (A lot of folk rock energy. I like it a lot. It comes across like a combination of The Rolling Stones and the Eels. Put THAT in your pipe.)
The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow
Cloud Nothings, Cloud Nothings
Cold War Kids, Mine Is Yours
Cowboy Junkies, Demons (It should have been better than this.)
Cut Copy, Take Me Over (Yikes, the 1983 flashback was terrible.)

David Lowery, The Palace Guards (Solid album that feels like a cut and paste job. But a good cut and paste job.)
The Dears, Degeneration Street
Death Cab for Cutie, Codes and Keys (Like Bright Eyes, I feel I should like them, but they just bore me.)
The Decemberists, The King Is Dead (Almost perfect arrangements of rather forgetable songs.)
Deerhoof, Deerhoof vs. Evil
*Destroyer, Kaputt
DeVotchKa, 100 Lovers (I go back and forth on this one. Depending on how I feel about his vocal drama. Right now I like it.)
The Dodos, No Color (Excellent guitar work. Kind of like Memomena, but even more frenzied. It makes me kind of dizzy to listen to it all the way through. The vocal delivery reminds me a lot of Paul McCartney, fwiw.)
The Donkeys, Born with Stripes
The District Attorneys, Orders From (Another solid indie rock outfit.)
Drive-By Truckers, Everybody Needs Love (Another band people keep telling me I should like but I don't.)

*East River Pipe, We Live in Rented Rooms
Elbow, Build a Rocket Boys!
EMA, Past Life of Martyred Saints

Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (A lot like their other work. Very good. But I keep forgetting to listen to it.)

The Generationals, Actor-Caster
The Get Up Kids, There Are Rules
Grails, Deep Politics (It feels a bit like a guilty pleasure.)

Ha Ha Tonka, Death of a Decade (Good country-rock. I didn't think there were any new country-rock outfits out there. It was nice to see them at it. )
The Head and the Heart, The Head and the Heart
Hospital Ships, Lonely Twin (From the tracks I've heard so far, this could be a great album.)

I’m from Barcelona, Forever Today (I really like when all 27 of them sing. It has very good moments.)
Iron & Wine, Kiss Each Other Clean (Wobbly as an album, but with some very good parts.)

James Vincent McMorrow, Early in the Morning (I thought I was going to like it, then I hated it, and now I'm OK with it.)
Justice of the Unicorns, Animals Will Be Stoned (I've only heard two songs so far: Look them up. It's hard to explain.)

Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring for My Halo (Great vibe, but no real stand out tracks. He hs a little of that drone thing going on that really bothers me in Panda Bear and Animal Collective, which is, he repeats himself a lot. He's touring with Thurston Moore [Sonic Youth] which should be a good show.)

Low, C’mon
The Low Anthem, Smart Flesh (I wish they could be as good all the way through as their best songs are.)
The Luyas, Too Beautiful to Work

The Mountain Goats, All Eternals Deck (Much better than their [his] last album. A few excellent tracks and a few phoned in. And a few solid ones.)

Noah and the Whale, Last Night on Earth (They’re turning into the David & David for the next generation.)
Northern Primitive, Northern Primitive

Oh Land, Oh Land
Okkervil River, I Am Very Far (Another band I'm supposed to like, and I kind of do.)

Papercuts, Fading Parade
Parts & Labor, Constant Future (Excellent album for running. Heavy metal drums over an indie rock base.)
Peter, Bjorn & John, Gimme Some
Point Juncture, WA, Handsome Orders (This might be a good one, from the couple tracks I've hear so far.)

*R.E.M. Collapse Into Now
*Radiohead, The King of Limbs

Say Hi, um, uh oh
Smith Westerns, Dye it Blonde
Startfucker, Reptilians

Telekinesis, 12 Desperate Straight Lines
Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts (A few really good songs, but it also drags. Or perhaps just wanders off now and then in the acoustic strumming.)
The Twilight Singers, Dynamite Steps

John Vanderslice, White Wilderness (I keep thinking I should like this.)
Virgin of the Birds, Fugitive Works (Free EP) - I like this one a lot. And it's free.
Voxhaul Broadcast, Timing Is Everything

The Wilderness of Manitoba, When You Left the FIre (I've only heard a few songs, and they're wonderful.)
Lucinda Williams, Blessed (Is it her or is it me?)
Wye Oak, Civilian - Very good most of the way through.

Yuck, Yuck

16 Comments:

At 5/22/2011 6:22 PM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I don't know if you've heard it (or if you like Animal Collective), but Panda Bear's new album (Tomboy), should be somewhere on that list.

 
At 5/23/2011 5:50 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Should I change my mind? Tomboy, for me, was like sitting in a gym while someone played two different songs at the same time on two boomboxes out down the hall where they're playing teh same songs in different order over and over. It's all echoes and reverb and a zombie glee club trying to do Gregorian Chants. Or something like that. Still, I should have put it on the list.

 
At 5/23/2011 7:28 AM, Blogger Fuzz Against Junk said...

I think it's solid. I mean, it's nowhere near as good as Person Pitch, or most of Animal Collective's catalog, but I think songs like "Slow Motion" and "Alsatian Darn" are memorable.

I do get a kind of gym class feel from it though, which wasn't a bad thing because I work out to it all the time. It's a good album to jump rope to.

If you haven't given Animal Collective a chance (or you've only heard Merriweather) give "Feels" and "Sung Tongs" a try as both are considered the highlights of their career.

 
At 5/23/2011 10:52 AM, Blogger Elisa said...

Okkervil River is one of my favorite bands, but their older stuff is better. The last two albums are kind of overproduced, and sadly, I think they've worked out a lot of the Pain & Misery that made them great.

Out of curiosity, are you attuned to gender imbalances in your music collection as you are in your reading lists?

 
At 5/23/2011 11:09 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Elisa,

I wanted to say somethign about that, but I can't figure out what to say.

When it comes to indie rock, I'm just not finding much from female fronted bands that I really like this year. I do like the new Wye Oak, and the new stuff from EMA as well, but they're the only two that are currently making my top ten. (But others, like The Wilderness of Manitoba and The Belle Brigade have prominent female members.)

Is indie rock a male playground? I don't want it to be. Neko Case, please make another record! And Lucinda Williams, please make a good one!

 
At 5/23/2011 11:11 AM, Blogger Elisa said...

I think it is, yes -- not just indie rock but regular old rock too. Some genres, notably country, seem to have gender parity but rock I think is a dude's world.

 
At 5/23/2011 11:20 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Pop, on the other hand, is owned by women. I was looking at a sales chart the other day, and the top eight of ten selling singles were all from women.

There's, of course, the other category of indie rock, which is the acoustic singer-songwriter, and that one has a good gender balance. It's just that for me they all get a bit too twee. I like electric guitars. Why don't women like playing them? The Besnard Lakes was wonderful last year, showing it can be done, and it can work. I just today downloaded the new EMA album Past Life Martyred Saints. Right now I'm thinking it’s genius. Sometimes I get too crazy for new things though. I have to give it a week.

 
At 5/23/2011 11:25 AM, Blogger Elisa said...

I doubt it's that women don't like playing them. I'm guessing it's about whether they feel welcome in electric guitar circles. Katy Henriksen could speak to this better than I could.

 
At 5/23/2011 11:30 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Was Sonic Youth for nothing then? That's very sad to think.

In my left of the dial, 90s mode, Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo felt like a new begining of what was going to happen. What happened to that? I blame Death Cab for Cutie, because I like to blame them for stuff.

 
At 5/23/2011 11:34 AM, Blogger Elisa said...

Throwing Muses was my favorite lady-fronted indie rock from the '90s.

 
At 5/23/2011 11:39 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

And now Kristin Hersh just wanders. I adored Hips & Makers. Now that a both acoustic and powerful.

She was the best lyricist going for quite some time.

"I married a brewer to keep me from drinking. I married a boxer to keep me from fighting."

Seriously good.

 
At 5/23/2011 11:44 AM, Blogger Elisa said...

Yes, I love her lyrics. "Why do I like you? 'Cause I do. Why do I like you? 'Cause I'd kill to be you."

 
At 5/27/2011 1:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, John--you're worse than our President and his errant Queen toasting. Elisa, Boston's Best Poet must always be referred to as Elisa, Boston's Best Poet. Were you raised in barn? I hope she doesn't take your head.---Sam

 
At 5/27/2011 3:19 PM, Blogger Elisa said...

I'll be merciful ... THIS TIME

 
At 5/29/2011 8:12 PM, Blogger helloloretta said...

As I told Elisa, I could write a book about this. But I will say there are plenty of women who enjoy playing electric guitars.

 
At 6/02/2011 6:00 PM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

OK, I'll take that as a given, then. So what is it, if anything, that's keeping them from indie rock, and rock in general? I know stories of the rampant sexism from promoters and other performers in the 60s - 70s. How are we doing with that? One thing I do see, is that a lot of indie bands have female members, but not as many are lead by females (in the Wye Oak way) as I would think there would be.

 

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