CK’s Crew of Not Quites and Near-Misses 2011
It’s the end of 2011 already? Where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday I was listing the best of 2010, when in reality, it was closer to 366 days ago.
Even though it’s only been a year since year-end list time, it has still been a year. So, just to refresh your memories, here are today’s categories…
HONORABLE MENTION: Number 11 through 15 on my top ten list, in alphabetical order. These albums are given the same full review as the top ten (coming soon!). As usual, click on any song title to open it in YouTube or on Spotify and listen!
WORTH NOTICING: A list of albums worth checking out, reviewed in tweets. I posted them on our Twitter in rapid succession, and now they’re here!
REAL DISAPPOINTMENTS: There was a lot of great music this year. There was also a lot that should have been greater.
THE JURY IS STILL OUT: For whatever reason, I didn’t listen to these albums enough to rate them. I think they’re probably worth listening to, but I’m not sure how they’d it into the rest of my list.
SONG OF THE YEAR
Um, yeah. While TK is known to announce one, I never have. That’s because I’ve never had a track that I felt stood out above the crowd and made its presence known as a Song of the Year candidate. This year, though, that all changed.
In 2011, Beyonce put out 4, a record that TK called “the least pretentious album of all time.” Stuffed inside that remarkably unpretentious record is “Countdown,” a banger that mixes as many genres as you can think of. If you want a high-energy song that has it all musically, here it is: Beyonce’s big voice, staccato horns, marching band drumbeats, Roberta Flack allusions, overarching R&B and hip-hop sensibilities, and a Boyz II Men sample. Oh, and having a kickin’ video doesn’t hurt.
Stuffed inside all of those musical canisters, Beyonce has written a song that lyrically extols the virtues of married life and passions of monogamous love. There are so many reasons you can point to Beyonce being different from the other diva-esque pop and R&B singers out there, but this must be the biggest.
Beirut – The Rip Tide
A very good record, but not a great one. TK says this is Beirut’s first album that isn’t boring; I tend to believe a very different narrative. This is the first Beirut album that hasn’t been compelling to me. I definitely enjoy it, but when you talk about great albums in 2011, this album doesn’t quite enter the conversation for me. Maybe it’s too similar to the previous records, maybe the instrumentation is too simple, but The Rip Tide seems like a step back to me.
MUST HEAR: “Santa Fe,” “East Harlem”
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
Oh, Foo Fighters. How badly you wanted this to be a return to form. Recording the album on analog tape in the practice garage, letting Pat Smear and Krist Novoselic back into the fold, and promising more ROCK. While you did deliver on those counts, the heart of your best records (The Colour and the Shape and There is Nothing Left to Lose) didn’t seem to be present. Still a solid record, but much like The Rip Tide, it’s lacking that something special to push it over the top. Better luck next time.
MUST HEAR: “Rope,” “Bridge Burning,” “White Limo”
Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song
I can’t think of a band that had more fun in 2011 than Grouplove. This debut shows great promise from a band that is very aptly named. This is a group of people who seem to love their music, love each other, and love what they’re doing. Their Tiny Desk Concert on NPR Music showed us as much. But alongside the golden tracks on this record, they did drop some clunkers. Just a little more polish, and they’ll have a great future.
MUST HEAR: “Colours,” “Tongue Tied,” “Itchin’ On A Photograph”
Patrick Wolf – Lupercalia
Mr. Wolf’s career has been like that of an elevator button salesman: It has its ups and downs. After the very good “The Magic Position” in 2007, he put out the not very good “The Bachelor” in 2009. When a band/artist has a trajectory like Wolf’s, it is time to worry. Will the next record be more like the good one or the lousy one? Fortunately, the first three tracks on “Lupercalia” are better than anything on “The Bachelor.” Phew. The record trails off in the second half, but it still brings all of the bombast and crooner sensibilities of Wolf at his finest.
MUST HEAR: “The City,” “Bermondsey Street,” “Armistice”
You Won’t – Skeptic Goodbye
Sometimes, I listen to a record and feel transported away from my everyday life to some other existence. When listening to “You Won’t,” I feel like I’m no longer sitting in from of my iMac in a suburban apartment. Instead, I’m sitting on the porch at the old farmhouse, surrounded by friends and making up original campfire songs. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.
MUST HEAR: “Television,” “Who Knew”
Chris Thile and Michael Daves – Sleep with One Eye Open: Possibly my favorite bluegrass album of all time. I just don’t like bluegrass much.
Danger Mouse & Danielle Luppi – Rome: Fun concept, a few good tracks, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves: Decent, weird, interesting. Worth a listen, but not repeated spins.
The Green Album (tribute to the Muppets): What a great year for the Muppets. This is a lot of fun, so is the official movie soundtrack.
Rave On Buddy Holly (tribute album): Hot tribute album, including Modest Mouse, Cee-Lo, Florence and the Machine, She & Him, Jenny O, and… Kid Rock?
She & Him – A Very She & Him Christmas: This would be a top-10 record, but I feel weird putting Christmas albums on the list. So good.
Simple Plan – Get Your Heart On!: The best pop-punk album of the year. Yes, some people still make and listen to pop-punk.
Weird Al Yankovic – Alpocalypse: The parodies are better than the originals this time, but it’s still one of the most fun 2011 records.
Bright Eyes – The People’s Key
Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto
Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
The Get Up Kids – There Are Rules
Hercules and Love Affair – Blue Songs
Mother Mother – Eureka
Panda Bear – Tomboy
THE JURY IS STILL OUT
Apparat – The Devil’s Walk
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical
Cut Copy – Zonoscope
Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math
Rihanna – Talk That Talk
Teddybears – Devil’s Music
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