2011 Albums of the year

With 2011 done and dusted, here’s a quick round-up of my favourite albums of the year. It’s very long overdue, but my mom says better late than never.

#10 Wilco - The Whole Love

This album really surprised me with how left-field it sounded, yet all the tracks were entirely listenable and every bit enjoyable. I can’t say I’m a Wilco fan, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. #10 was a fight between this and El Camino, which was very good, but I loved how The Whole Love felt fresh.

Favourite tracks: Art of Almost, Dawned On Me

#9 Washed Out - Within and Without

What I most appreciate about Washed Out is that there’s a new age quality to his music; atmospheric and reviving, almost like a Gregorian chant. But it feels very modern and very, well, chill. Like lounging at Cafe Del Mar with an ice cold glass of hipster.

Favourite track: Amor Fati

#8 Porcelain Raft - Gone Blind EP


Okay, so this is an EP, not a full-length. It’s a small cheat! Porcelain Raft’s music is danceable, fresh and undeniably cool. One of the several one-man-bands on this list, it is incredible the keys and switches that Mauro Remiddi can wield to make us weak in our knees. The LP is due out in 2012, and we’re sure it won’t disappoint.

Favourite track: Tip of Your Tongue

#7 Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Radiohead might arguably be the best thing to happen to music since The Beatles. I was watching a BBC documentary about REM, and how they achieved their success without ever compromising on their sound. Radiohead are sort of the present day version, no? Constantly evolving and always staying ahead of the fray, Thom and gang have mastered the music biz, and the art of the body-twitch dance while at it.

Favourite tracks: Separator, Codex

#6 Wu Lyf - Go Tell Fire To The Mountains

Wu Lyf can very simply be described as mysterious, powerful and enigmatic. They have a distinctly unique sound that only they can pull off. Frontman Ellery Roberts doesn’t sing, he doesn’t shout. He proclaims. That blissful combination of poppy Real Estate-esque guitar riffs with those protest rally vocals make this young band one of the most exciting musical acts of the year.

#5 Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Girls’ sophomore LP offers up more of what the band does best - timeless love songs that flow from the depths of all our hearts. Close your eyes, sway from side to side, let the head do its banging and the music float into your ears and tickle your little heartstrings. This album will probably inspire more teenage serenades than James Brown at an open mic night. It only leaves one small unanswered bit: why doesn’t Christopher Owens wear his hair asymmetrical anymore?

Favourite tracks: Honey Bunny, Magic, Vomit

#4 Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes wow again with impeccable harmonies and inspired instrumentation. Helplessness Blues displays incredible growth for the Seattle band; keeping to their distinctiveness and giving fans what they expect, yet evolving the music into a fuller, lusher sound that is still undoubtedly magical.

Favourite tracks: Grown Ocean, Battery Kinzie

#3 Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Justin Vernon and gang made the most beautiful, most compelling and most sophisticated album of the year. Magnificent lyric and enchanting sounds draw landscapes and evoke feelings of sadness and hope that even the most dramatic episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition cannot conjure.

Favourite tracks: Holocene, Towers, Perth

#2 The Antlers - Burst Apart

The Antlers are a band that I am very passionate about, and Burst Apart was my most anticipated album of the year - I practically stalked NPR for first listen. There is an earnestness and honesty about The Antlers that comes across in the instrumentation, as well as the vocals. That is incredibly rare and very special. As we’ve learned to expect from the boys, in this LP,  the emotion is enveloping and it’s easy to get lost in the swirling symphony of feedback and Peter Silberman’s relentless cooing.

Favourite tracks: Hounds, No Widows, Corsicana

#1 Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation

This album, this band, just blew me away. Every track on here sticks in your head. They are triumphant and pensive, with the most amazing arrangements that build to a glorious finish. Amazing stuff. Trevor Powers, you are genius. I can’t get enough.

Favourite tracks: Montana, The Hunt, July

Bon Iver at AIR Studios (4AD/Jagjaguwar Sessions)

Clarity, empowerment and absolute immersion in music is difficult to describe, but surprisingly effortless to feel.

www.boniver.org

Favourite songs of 2011: 10-1

Here’s part 2 of my favourite songs of 2011 list; each baby sprung from the loins of the musician to tickle my ears and awe my brain cells. This year, the only condition made was that only one song from each album would qualify, thus preventing my over-zealous love for The Antlers from overrunning the list. 20 to 11 can be found right over here. You can also scroll down and it should be tucked comfortably below this one.

Happy new year! Have a great 2012, everyone.

#10: James Blake - The Wilhelm Scream

www.jamesblakemusic.com

#9: Monster Cat - The Courier


#8: Fleet Foxes - Grown Ocean

www.fleetfoxes.com

#7: Feist - Graveyard

www.listentofeist.com

#6: Radiohead - Separator

Sorry about the weird subtitling. For the full session, head over here.

www.radiohead.com

#5: Youth Lagoon - Montana

www.youthlagoon.blogspot.com

#4: James Blake and Bon Iver - Fall Creek Boys’ Choir


www.jamesblakemusic.com
www.boniver.org

#3: Bon Iver - Holocene

www.boniver.org

#2: The Antlers -  Hounds

www.antlersmusic.com

#1: Wye Oak - Civilian

I’ve been Wye Oak obsessed ever since I first heard “Civilian” on KEXP. To quote a younger, less festive, and intensely less Christmas-hammed me,

The title track to their latest album Civilian is the standout in a collection of songs that’s punctuated by cool nonchalance and haunting clarity. The intense rumble in “Civilian” brews insecurities and discontent until the tension explodes in a flurry of guitar noise.

The rest of the list was difficult to form and rank, but “Civilian” emerged easily as number one. It sounds so sinister yet it is utterly sincere. She unveils her vulnerability and comes out stronger, braver and well, number one.

To listen to the studio version of the track or read the previous post on the song, click here.

www.wyeoakmusic.com

(images via Monster Cat and Vibetothis)

The National - “Rylan” & “I Need My Girl”

Today I wrote a hymn (sung to the tune of When Doves Cry):

God oh God. You are so good.
Because Matt’s face is so fuzzy.
And Justin Vernon looks like Seth Rogen
Not skinny Seth Rogen
but when he was in that stoner flick
with James Franco who had long hair.

But back to Matt. He and his band
of brothers Devendorf
and hobbit-looking Dessners
just released two new songs.
The best things since sliced bread
or some other catchy word that rhymes with bread.

Pineapple Express, that’s the movie
I was talking about. That movie
had almost as much hair as there
was on stage when The National
debuted “Rylan” and “I Need My Girl”
which I sometimes imagine is about me.

Okay so I guess When Doves Cry is quite the stretch but the facts are in the videos below:


"Rylan"


"I Need My Girl"


"Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" ft. Justin Vernon

www.americanmary.com

"Train Song" by Bon Iver, Feist and Colin Stetson (Vashti Bunyan cover)

This Bon Iver/Feist/Colin Stetson cover of “Train Song”, the Vashti Bunyan song that has been making the rounds on TV as a Samsung commercial, is another example of a great live collaboration of indie heavyweights.

The tune’s been through a bunch of renditions, more notably Feist and DCFC head honcho Ben Gibbard’s contribution to the charity album Dark Was The Night, but this live version is my favourite of the lot, with Feist’s flawless vocals, the magical Justin Vernon touch and lots of romantic cooing.

Download the track via The Wounded Jukebox, and listen to Vashti Bunyan’s original here:

www.myspace.com/vashtibunyan
www.boniver.org
www.listentofeist.com
www.colinstetson.com