OK, yeah so I’ve officially made the release date cut-off for WD best-of honors December 1st. Thus releiving me of the obligation of addressing/fitting in what I anticipate being two killer new albums from The Black Keys (I know you’re dissapointed Mike) and The Roots. I’m certain you’ll hear more of them.
That being said (what does this expression mean exactly?), here’s a little prelude. When I decided to go “public” with WD early in 2010, I saw in the calendar ahead a bunch of my favorite bands (DBT, Arcade Fire, The National, Wolf Parade) releasing new albums and I wanted to write about them (and clearly a bunch of other random shite). As such, (that being said?) I’m certain I had some preconceived notions about how I would receive the music of 2010 that translated into my year end lists last year. (N.B. Please feel free to infer that this makes me a liar, or at least disingenuous). That was not fully the case in 2011. So below might actually be a more genuine list. (N.B. I think I just inferred I was a liar). That being said as such, this was a lot harder to do this year and I’ve probably changed by mind 60 times and will do so 60 more. But here’s where I am today: Honorable Mention and 10-6 this week. 5-1 next.
Honorable Mention – Live on Ten Legs by Pearl Jam (for a band with untold shit-tons of live albums, this one is really great); 21 by Adele (I love you, you smokey little chublet); House of Balloons by The Weeknd (misspelling intentional..this is weird R&B party scene drugged out New York we can’t understand, but great) – The King is Dead by The Decemberists (I battled all year with how good I thought this album was. Next week it might be in the top 10) Nine Types of Light by TV on the Radio (Not their best album, but really good and really good for TVotR is a career highlight for most bands); Smoke Ring for My Halo – Kurt Vile (Just missed the cut. One of my favorite albums of the year)
10. Bon Iver by Bon Iver – I’m convinced there will be a point in my life, many years from now, when I listen to this and it will all make sense. I’ll understand it as the great and magical piece of work the SMCs proclaim it to be. I’m not there. It reminds me of the very first time I saw Apocolpyse Now. (N.B. 100% guaranty this is the only year-end music review you will read wherein Bon Iver is compared to Apocolypse Now.) I liked it, but it took more, several years (even reading Heart of Darkness on which it is based) to finally get it, to understand how all the pieces fit thematically. I feel like this will happen someday with this album. But like I said, I’m not there. Parts of it take my breath away, with their beauty (and maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s more like a Terrence Malick movie). But parts of it sound like he just got really stoned and fucked around with an auto-tune and synthesizer. I may forever regret ranking this album this low. But then again, I may not.
Highlights: Holocene, Perth, Towers
9. Father, Son, Holy Ghost by Girls – I told you once about giving up on this album and then resuscitating it. What I complained of before as unevenness seems (after several additional listens) now more purposeful and less chaotic. Girls first album was a great drug-fueled but wistful shit-show (that was also unreal), the second seemed like an understated coda of that early ethos. And now on FSHG it seems like principle singer/song-writer Christopher Owens (whose biography is so fucking unbelievable, you’ll just have to read it yourself) has taken those efforts blended them with many types of music creating a forward looking retrospective (think through that won’t ya?). Looking at it like this, FSHG reminds me very much of Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy. Not musically, or thematicly but just in its expression of Owens’ Freudian ego. And, like Vitalogy, the music kicks serious ass, too.
Highlights: Vomit, Honey Bunny, Alex
8. Let England Shake by P.J. Harvey – You know I’m a sucker for albums with coherent themes. The themes in Let England Shake are so coherent, this may actually be one long song puctuated by Polly Jean’s melodic fury and wondering flourishes. It’s maybe the best pop-it-in-and-listen-to-the-whole-thing album of the year. I think I wrote originally, that there were a lot of ways an album like this (a multi-faceted condemnation of and love note to her country) could have gone wrong. But it doesn’t The more I listen to it, the more I’m convinced of the remarkableness of this feat.
Highlights: Last Living Rose, In the Dark Places, Let England Shake
7. Ceremonials by Florence + The Machine – Florence, you have the voice of an angel. No, not a hymnal toting, Carol of the Bells, haloed and benevolent angel. But a powerful and redemptive angel with flaming red hair and titanium wings protecting us from the wicked with the sonic fury of her unstoppable voice, a Valkyrie leading her vast angelic machine in holy onslaught against every incarnation of joylessness in a bleak world. (Bam! Did I get all the adjectives in there?) Also Ceremonials takes the award for album I most often left blaring on 10 when I turned off my car only to be scared coffee spilling shitless at ignition time the next morning. FLORENCE!
Highlights: Shake It Out, That’s What the Water Gave Me, Breaking Down
6. The Whole Love by Wilco – Did any of you give up on Wilco? I know they’re my old friends, but I kinda almost did. I felt like they were about to sit in my memory as some of that music I still enjoy, but really dug “back then.” As such I felt the need to be particular with whether TWL was really good or just better than the last few Wilco efforts so much that it reminded me of prior greatness and I overvalued it. It stands up. This is their first release on their label. Which given both their unbelievable history when it comes to record label shenanigans and their lean toward experimentation, part of me expected TWL to be a hair letting down noisy shit-show. But it’s not. It’s Wilco, fully realized embracing everything that ever made me love them. A fantastic album.
Highlights: One Sunday Morning, Art of Almost, Capitol City.
See you next week. Enjoy.