Friday, January 6, 2012

WYMA Favorite Music of 2011 (hl)

I'm doing this list in ascending order, you know, for dramatic effect. I hope all the video embeds don't bog down the speed, but all that sort of crap is outside my sphere of cognition. Here's a list of albums that I loved, but aren't on the list:

Rival Schools -- Pedals
Future of the Left -- Polymers are Forever (EP)
Dropkick Murphys -- Going Out In Style
The Dodos -- No Color
David Bazan -- Strange Negotiations
Touche Amore -- Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me
Unknown Mortal Orchestra -- Unknown Mortal Orchestra

So here's the list:

25 (Tie) The Fucking Cops – Fuck You Up With Some Truth (EP) and Pujol – Nasty, Brutish & Short (EP)

I’ll be damned if I can’t get past the first freaking entry and I’m already cheating. Thing is, these are EPs anyway, so from a quantity standpoint, they only add up to one proper album anyway. Honestly, both of these records are so irresistible that leaving one of them out would pretty much make me sad. If you value my opinion at all, and there’s no reason you should except for the fact that I’m right, you need to own both of these.

Cleveland’s The Fucking Cops make crunchy, angsty punk with a pop groove. Check out “For Whom the Taco Bell Tows”, a nearly perfect punk song (with a lead that sounds straight off of Copper Blue) – definitely one of my favorite tracks of oh-11.

WYMA Review

I learned about Nashville’s Daniel Pujol and his self-named band from a post of John’s earlier this year, and their garage fuzz has been in steady rotation since. If, as the record’s title suggests, this is the soundtrack to a Hobbesian state of nature, sign my ass up.

John's note on Pujol

24. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light

You know, maybe it says more about me and my pedestrian tastes that I’d rank an album this good, by a band as groundbreaking as TVOTR, as my number 24. I chose the video for “Caffeinated Consciousness” because it is one of the best showcases of the prodigious talent of bassist Gerard Smith, who died last April.

23. Male Bonding – Endless Now

This English three-piece (a 4 piece live) plays a straight ahead, airy punk music that’s exploding with hooks, and drummer Robin Silas Christian gives it all a nice orthopedic crunch. Their last album, Nothing Hurts, was one of my favorites of last year, and they surely haven’t forgotten anything or wussed out at all. The band has posted a nice series of live videos of a bunch of songs from the new album on Youtube. Here are a couple of my favorites:

WYMA Review

22. Mikal Cronin – Mikal Cronin

I’d have thought the property values in the San Francisco area would be too high to support the number of garages necessary for the sheer volume of terrific music pouring out of the Bay Area. Mikal Cronin is the latest product of this fecundity, and yes, I just said fecundity, which is a nasty word just to even look at. This album is pure pop music, and noisier than hell. Last year when I listed Mikal’s good buddy Ty Segall for his excellent album Melted, I mentioned that his tune “Girlfriend” might well be the song of the year. I think the same can be suggested of the track below – “Apathy”. Really, can a song be much more perfect?

21. Colin Bugbee -- Hallé (EP)

I downloaded this intense and beautiful seven song ep for free from Colin’s Bandcamp page a couple of months ago, and reviewed it here in November. Since then it’s been played in my family’s house or car about seventeen times a day, and no one’s even beginning to get tired of it. If the young Alabama singer-songwriter’s marketing plan was to offer something for free that would make people line up in advance to pay good money for his next record, well, it worked with me. There’s no reason to miss this terrific record – it’s still available for free download here.

Here’s my favorite tune, “21 Overnight”:

20. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

I’ve probably said a half dozen times on this site that with very few exceptions, I don’t listen to contemporary music for the lyrics. That rule doesn’t apply to John Darnielle. When I was a kid our basal readers for English class had lyrics by Dylan and Lennon/McCartney right beside poems by Auden and Yeats. The “cool” stuff made for a great intro to the “old” stuff, and opened doors to writing and art that likely would have remained shut. I think Darnielle’s writing does the same sort of thing. But I don’t want to understate, by ignoring it, the quality of the music on this album. These are bracing, beautiful songs, and you can hear the expanded role of Jon Wurster as this magnificent band continues to evolve. Check out this live performance from an appearance on Letterman earlier this year.

19. Russian Circles – Empros

Geneva, the 2009 effort from this fascinating, primarily instrumental trio from Chicago, was one of my favorite albums that year (although I didn’t pick it up until January of 2010). Empros, released in late October of this year, is even better. It’s more aggressive, and yet more accessible. The opener, “309”, is flat out thrilling, leaving you at the edge of your seat as the rest of the album unfolds. Oh, and there are vocals near the end, so I guess the overused term “post-rock” no longer applies. I think they’re now “post-post-rock” or something. This live video doesn’t have the sound quality of the studio version, but it’s worth it to see drummer Dave Turncrantz at work. Imagine, though, playing this on a good stereo cranked to the point where that kickdrum is nearly tearing your woofers a new one.

18. Machine Head – Unto the Locust

Nearly 20 years in, the prodigal, recovering nu-metallists have released their second album in a row of malicious, virtuosic mayhem. To call them bombastic is to mark them with high praise. Bombastic, you say? How about album opener “I Am Hell”, divided into three movements and subtitled “Sonata in C#”? Damn straight it’s awesome. Here’s the official video for “Locust”. It’s, err, pretty heavy.

17. Gauntlet Hair – Gauntlet Hair

I walked into Schoolkids Records one Friday a couple of months ago and started whining to my friend John K. about not having bought anything decent in a good while. Always ready with the excellent recommendation, John hooked me up with this terrific album. I reviewed it here last month. Heavy on atmosphere and effects pedals, but still unmistakably guitar-and-drums, this is a refreshingly different and original band. It’s also a band with one of the best and most hilarious videos of the year.

Gauntlet Hair - Top Bunk. from Neighborhood Watch on Vimeo.

WYMA Review

16. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

This album has found its way onto three of our four year-end lists, and I damned sure can’t improve on the praise already bestowed on this excellent band and album.

15. Mastodon – The Hunter

I didn’t review this album because even though I bought it the day it was released, there were already a thousand reviews out there saying pretty much what needed to be said and then some. The same can be said of its appearance on all the year-end lists. It’s enough to get one all existentialist, as in, if someone farts at a Mastodon show, can it be smelled? Hey, it wasn’t Leviathan, but it’s still a very fine record – made all the finer by lyrics like “I killed a man ‘cos he killed my goat.”

14. Centro-matic – Candidate Waltz

Goddamned groupthink on this blog – every last one of us put this album on our list. I guess we can defend ourselves by noting that this was the only album on each list, and also by pointing to the fact that a common, deep love for this all-time great band had a lot to do with bringing us together as chums many years before our fearless leader John gave birth to this blog. By the way, if you’ve never seen this band live, you need to put it on your bucket list right above opening day starter for your favorite baseball team.

13. Joyce Manor – Joyce Manor

This first album from the Long Beach, California four piece is 10 songs clocking in at just under 19 minutes – a minimalist punk approach that has provoked a maximalist buzz, including being named Album of the Year by the staff at the excellent It’s a nice accolade, and well-deserved. This record is pretty well close to perfect – with loud ripping guitars exploding with hooks, and songs that stay around just long enough. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Jawbreaker, but for me it evokes early Weezer. Check out the epic (3 minutes!) album closer “Constant Headache”, and then the brilliant “Beach Community”.

12. The Bloody Hollies – Yours Until the Bitter End

In his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon observed that “[h]istory is indeed little more than the register of crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” If Gibbon were to chronicle the inexorable decline and fall of our own culture, he would ask: “Why in Sam Hell isn’t “I Dream of Bees” the national anthem of the United States of America? That song is fookin nasty.” Right on, Ed. Right on.

WYMA Review

11. We are Augustines – Rise Ye Sunken Ships

This was supposed to have been the second album of Billy McCarthy’s old band, Pela, whose first record, Anytown Graffiti, was one of the best of the last decade (Scott shares this opinion with me, which makes me right). I think Billy McCarthy has a singular ability to capture a life experience in a piece of music with an emotional insistence that’s neither cloying nor excessively sentimental. And that’s true even without knowing the staggering backstory of what he’s overcome to be able to realize his vision. The song below, “Book of James”, is about Billy’s brother. Below that is a beautiful cover of a tune from the first Crooked Fingers record (it’s on the album).

10. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo

The utter scrumtrulescence of this album is well-chronicled by Scott and Jim.

9. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire To the Mountain

Don’t let the canny self-promotion by this Manchester, UK four-piece sour your first impression. They back it all up with a sound that’s so completely original that the only band I can think of to compare it to is Gauntlet Hair – oh yeah, and Gauntlet Hair didn’t even have an album when this was released. Completists will be happy to learn that the CD comes with lyrics, and that the lyrics are, in fact, in English. They did a great version of one of their best songs on Letterman two nights ago.

WYMA review

8. 40 Watt Sun – The Inside Room

The ink’s not dry on my review of this album. It’s like, I don’t know, metal for adults, if that can be said without sounding like Beavis and Butthead. Come on, give it a try.

7. Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler / The Dream

John Dwyer has now officially surpassed the surpassing work he did in the Coachwhips. This is the second album of the year for this SanFran band, and their 8th full-length in five years. It’s psychedelic punk at its most irresistible. It has the energy of a live show, and yet the production does all the right things at all the right times; viz, Dwyer’s guitar leads in “Contraption/Soul Desert” and the popping bass of Petey Dammit! on album closer “Heavy Doctor.”

6. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

What can I say new about this band or this album? It was Pitchfork’s AOTY, and when it’s not straying dangerously close to 70s softrock, it’s pretty much overwhelming.

5. The Twilight Singers – Dynamite Steps

Greg Dulli is a national treasure. Is there anyone who, through stories of sleazeballs and skanks we’d never open the front door for, tells us more about ourselves? I don’t mean to get all aesthetic or anything, but he’s kind of like rock music’s Fritz Lang. And I struggle to identify a single weak album in more than 20 years of output. Dynamite Steps might not go down in history as the finest hour of the Twilight Singers (see Blackberry Belle), but it’s a towering achievement and, as usual with Dulli, better than pretty much anything else out there.

WYMA Review

4. Red Fang – Murder the Mountains

The second album from this Portland band establishes them as a standard bearer for the old school, 70’s style riff-metal. There are no elves, knights or necromancers (well, almost none) – just a lot of shotgunning PBRs and healthy American destruction. If you haven’t bought a metal album for awhile because you think it’s become all growling and burstbeats, this album will bring you back.

WYMA Review

3. Restorations – Restorations

Yeah, this Philadelphia band’s album is number 3, not number 1, but if I had to recommend one 2011 record to all my friends, whether they preferred metal or pop, hip hop or electronic crap, this would be it. My compliments to the excellent label Tiny Engines for recognizing something that’s pretty much objectively great. And despite whatever I wrote above, I’m pretty sure this is my favorite song of 2011.

And here, unfortunately, is the only decent quality video of the band that I can find. Another great song.

WYMA Review

2. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life

This CD slid into my car stereo’s number 6 slot the day it was released, and it’s still there. I’ve heard complaints about it being too long, and of course the non-believers whine about the vocals, but mark my words, in 28 years we’ll think of this album the way we think of Zen Arcade today. And Zen Arcade is my favorite record.

1. Yob – Atma

I get lost in this record. I can’t explain it.

WYMA Review

1 comment:

RandalGraves said...

Nice touch with the reverse order. Solid lists guys, great blog