Reviler Best of 2011: Albums (Part 2)
Snow is falling, people are spending money on crap they don’t need and you are starting to dread all of the time you will be spending with your in laws in the next couple weeks. Cheer up. It is also that wonderful time of year where music sites like yours truly pontificate even more than usual, although in a more orderly and concise manner than we normally do (numbered lists!). For the next week we will be presenting you with a plethora of lists covering our favorite (and least favorite) things from calender year 2011. Today we culminate the festivities with our favorite albums of 2011.
1. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse
Possibly Callahan’s best record period (Though its hard to match “Dongs”)
2. Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place
An amazingly strange and ethereal record. Definitely unlike anything else out there
3. John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
The more I listen to Maus’s “Pitiless” the more I love it
4. Dirty Beaches – Badlands
I love the sound of this record – plus it samples one of my favorite Françoise Hardy songs
5. Peaking Lights – 936
So moody, so dark, so delicious
6. Cass McCombs – Humor Risk
It was a tough call between this and McCombs other 2011 album “Wits End.” This one only wins by a nose
7. Chad VanGaalen – Diaper Island
Amazing folk/electronica album that defies the mediocrity that term often implies
8. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Annie Clark’s best yet. She continues her rise to super stardom (for good reason)
9. The Men – Leave Home
A punk/noise album of suprising range and dexterity – these guys can really play
10. Justice – Audio, Disco,
Wasn’t critically loved but hey, I don’t really care. This album rules.
Jon Jon Scott (Sound Verite/Black Corners)
- The Weeknd – House Of Balloons
Toronto’s juggernaut may be the flashpoint where black music goes druggy, raw and emotional. Welcome to post-blackness. Sampling Souixie & The Banshees, Cocteau Twins and ……
Shout out the album’s producer, Doc McKinney (Drake/Muja Messiah/Santigold) a Toronto resident, native of St. Paul,MN.
- P J Harvey – Let England Shake
The U.K. queen of indie grows up quite lovely.
- Kanye West & Jay -Z – Watch The Throne
Watch The Throne is that black eloquence, black excellence, black decadence & black celebration of reaching the elite status so few if any American blacks have ever become a part of, Mazel tov.
- Father’s Children – Who’s Gonna Save The World
Like a lost stripped-down Earth, Wind & Fire from Washington, D.C., circa 1976.
- James Blake – James Blake
There’s great quality in his voice that clearly makes him one to watch, tracks like “Unluck”, “I Never Learnt to Share” and the Feist cover “Limit To Your Love” suggest the arrival of a b brilliant new voice. Blake is both a beautiful minimalist at moments and full of it’s own pretentiousness the next.
- Seun Anikulapo Kuti & Egypt 80 -From Africa: Rise with Fury
Fela’s youngest son, finally capturing the musically fiery spirit of his revolutionary father in a modern context, with the production assist from Brian Eno.
- Radiohead – The Kind Of Limbs
The textures of Kid A aren’t here, even if they were they wouldn’t feel as immediate, perhaps they are no longer as experimental as they once where, or needs to be. Revelatory hardly, expansive, not in the way we come to expect, yet The King Of Limbs is very much a record in the moment, and Radiohead shouldn’t make any apologies.
- Feist – Metals
The former Broken Social Scene breakout artist Feist has returned with a darker sound, without the buoyant singles. Rich in layers, Metals finds Feist exploring the pain in personal relationships.
- Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
Like Kanye West on mushrooms. Shabazz Palaces explores hip-hop textures without abandoning the form, musically appealing to heads that look for adventure and challenges with a new colorful vocabulary. Charles Mingus would be proud, as will Fab Five Freddy. With such a refreshing, freewheeling approach, Shabazz Palaces works like a soundtrack to a Basquiat painting. Musical travels through sound, space and future shapes make Black Up the best “free-jazz rap” record ever.
- Bambara Mystic Soul-The Raw Sound Of Burkina Faso 1974-1979
The title says it all, a glorious collection of West African soul, funk and Afro-pop. Another gem from Analog Africa.
- Atlas Sound – Parallax
Psyched out dream pop from Bradford Cox as he makes a excursion from Deerhunter.
- Bossa Nova and the Rise of Brazilian Music in the 1960’s
Crate digger ‘s goldmine, classic material from Soul Jazz.
- Archie Shepp Quartet with Dar Gnawa -Kindred Spirits Vol.1
Former free jazz explorer, associate of Cecil Taylor, tenor great Shepp reigns in the improv for a collection of vibrant phrasing backed by Dar Gnawa. Modern jazz as defiant and joyful with flourishes of heavy bottom, boom-bap swing.
Contenders: Kendrick Lamar- Section 80, TV On The Radio- Nine Types of Light, Kurt Vile- Smoke Ring For My Halo, Pusha-T- Fear Of God Part II, King Midas Sound- Without You, Lykke Li- Unwounded Rhymes, Bjork- Biophilia, Washed Out –Within and Without, Thurston Moore- Demolished Thoughts, Panda Bear- Tomboy, Random Axe- Random Axe.
STEVE SKAVNAK (@steveskavnak)
1) ST. VINCENT – “STRANGE MERCY” – If you listen to this alone, you’ll swear Annie Clark is performing just for you. Perfect for any morning, day or night of the week, it’s not just her best release, but also the year’s finest.
2) FUCKED UP – “DAVID COMES TO LIFE” – The most accessible hardcore album in years. Loud, grimy and intense. They’ve played it a few times in its entirety, but given Pink Eyes’ disdain for touring, I’m guessing we won’t get so lucky in Minneapolis.
3) BON IVER – “BON IVER, BON IVER” – Adopted local Justin Vernon shed the Kanye hype and released a near perfect album. The only thing missing was a Rick Ross cameo.
4) YUCK – “YUCK” – For fans of Dinosaur Jr., Teenage Fanclub and OK Soda. This year’s go-to retro resurrection was early 90s alt-rock, and Yuck hit every note with perfection.
5) SMITH WESTERNS – “DYE IT BLONDE” – A rock band that actually uses guitars? Such a novel idea! In a world of laptop musicians, Smith Westerns released a straightforward rock album heavy on the guitar hook, something that is becoming all too rare.
6) THE JOY FORMIDABLE – “THE BIG ROAR” – When a band records 6+ minute tracks that seem to last only seconds, they’re onto something.
7) THE DECEMBERISTS – “THE KING IS DEAD” – Colin Meloy’s newest foray was into the roots of American folk music (with a little R.E.M. influence), and possibly one of his most successful adventures to date.
8) LOS CAMPESINOS! – “HELLO SADNESS” – The Welsh septet has always shown flashes of brilliance, but the new record takes them to a whole new level of heartfelt songwriting, while never ditching their sarcastic and self-deprecating delivery.
9) UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA – “UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA” – I don’t smoke weed, but if I did, I’m guessing this would be the perfect soundtrack.
10) KURT VILE – “SMOKE RING FOR MY HALO” – We’ve all said it, but when is he going to ditch the opening gigs and play a headlining set locally?
Male Bonding – Endless Now – With some beefed up production, this glossier, shinier Male Bonding tapped into the pop punk funny bone just like David Comes to Life and last year’s Everything in Between. Just what I needed this past summer.
Fucked Up – David Comes to Life – I love punk music. It will always be a part of me and always be in my heart. David Comes to Life is one of the best punk albums of the past five year and it will probably looked back on as one of the most important. Hail Pink Eyes.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver – Credit where credit is due. The new Bon Iver album is magical, ambitious and magnetic. Seeing the first performance this year at the State Theater made me long for a bootleg.
The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient – There’s many many reasons why The War on Drugs goes over so well with MN crowds. This album is phenomenal and surpasses its predecessor. This album and Smoke Ring For My Halo compliment each other nicely, and for good reason.
Real Estate – Days – I love the first album, but after repeated listens, and seeing these songs performed live, Days raises the bar for the NJ band whose lazy haze jingle jams are as soothing as they are addictive.
Balam Acab – Wander/Wonder – This young producer hit all the right notes and feelings on his lucid, tranquil and watery debut. If genre tags must be used, Wander/Wonder is everything that has, is and will ever be right in respect to Witch House.
Woods – Sun and Shade – Save for No Age, Woods put one probably my favorite performance at this year’s Pitchfork fest. Jeremy and crew made probably their best and most clear album in Sun and Shade and I hope it doesn’t go overlooked.
Tycho – Dive – This visual artist/producer’s long-awaited follow-up album was spacious, concise and beautiful. His glassy production is made with pin-precision ears and it shows on this audio trip.
WU LYF – Go Tell Fire To The Mountain – There’s a lot of hype, mystique and Satanic imagery around this young UK band, but they absolutely deliver on their brooding debut album. They soundly killed it at their show at The Entry.
Honorable mentions: Goodbye Bread, Smoke Ring For My Halo, The Big Roar, Dig Up the Dead, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Lenses Alien, Strange Mercy .
Writer / co-founder