Thursday, January 5, 2012

Top 11 Albums & Things and Such of 2011

Maybe I should change to a top 12 now that 2011 is over.

Top 11 Albums of 2011

I almost didn't put this album on the list, not because it's not good enough, but because it's such a personal album. It feels odd to share such personal songs with other people, but obviously this album has been shared more than just about any other this year. 21 is one of the most popular and best selling albums of the year, but I am going to pretend like it's my own and listen to it alone.
Best Track: Someone Like You Ubber Personal

10. Paul Simon
So Beautiful or So What
At 70, Paul Simon is still making some seriously solid shit (probably from years of bran cereal). It might even be his best work since Graceland. He's one of the best singer/songwriters of all time, and he reminds us why with this album. Like usual, he combines meaningful lyrics with attractive music. It's funky and groovy, it's fun, it'll make you think, it's classic Paul Simon.
Best Track: The Afterlife Ponytail Guy=Way Cool

9. Tedeschi Trucks Band
Tedeschi Trucks Band can best be described as "Dad" rock, and consequently my Dad loves them. TTB is an eleven piece band with the married couple Susan Tedeschi (singer/guitarist) and Derek Trucks (guitarist) in the forefront. Derek Trucks may be better known as the co-lead guitarist for the (new) Allman Brothers (And ummmm he's like totally awesome) while Tedeschi is more famous for her solo projects. However, together they put together a rockin', bluesy debut album.
Best Track: Midnight in Harlem (wait for the guitar solo!)

8. Real Estate
Leaves, weather, beer, turning, swings, people doing things...This album reminds me of autumn. Not so much the beginning of football season, but more of the sitting in a hammock on a sunny, clear day with a cool breeze. That's kind of what Real Estate is, a breezy indie rock group that's still warm and relaxing. The album sounds effortless and each song fits and transitions perfectly well together.
Best Track: It's Real Bonus. They're Dog Lovers.

7. Cults
It's a short album, but it's a dandy. Cults made a name for themselves with their breakout single "Go Outside", which also appears on this debut album; and it certainly doesn't hurt that they have relatives of celebrities as a fan base: Dave Franco and Emma Roberts (she's kind of a celebrity herself). At times it seems like this album is a little too cutesy, but through and through its well put together, fun, and we realize the cutesyness is actually charm.
Best Track: You Know What I Mean Zbylski Doing Things!

6. We Were Promised Jetpacks
In the Pit of the Stomach
If this was a list of best band names/album covers, they would win hands down. Ultimately this is not that list, however, this is still a great album. A solid follow up to WWPJ debut album These Four Walls that came out in 2009. In the Pit of the Stomach, doesn't have the breakout singles like "Quiet Little Voices" and " It's Thunder And It's Lightning"; but overall it's probably a stronger album. They're sound is kind of like Explosions in the Sky but with lyrics and a singer... so they're better. A good example can be heard in "Sore Thumb" and "Boy in the Backseat".
Best Track: Medicine Maybe not the best track but the best video.

5. The Antlers
Burst Apart
As far as I can tell they don't do music videos, which I respect... I think. Burst Apart, is a hauntingly beautiful album. Peter Silberman (singer, songwriter, guitarist, band creator) has one of those unforgettable "stick with you all week" kind of voices, and each song is unique and well thought out. However above all, the lyrics (although often times simple) make this album memorable and special.
Best Track: Putting the Dog to Sleep Live together Die alone.

4. Yuck
Yuck rhymes with suck, which this album does not. (It also rhymes with duck and ducks fly together). This band kind of sounds and looks like they're in the wrong decade, but man they're cool. Their median age is a youthful 21, yet their debut self titled album is quite diverse and sophisticated. Each song is hook after hook, and Yuck is composed of talented musicians, not a bad combo. Really they're a pretty mature band. I'd bet my first child (if it's a ginger) that Yuck is going to be around for a long while.
Best Track: Get Away Where did they come from and how did they meet, best looking band of the year.

3. Bon Iver
Bon Iver
Bon Iver's done it again. After the success of For Emma Forever Ago, they've gained a unique quiet confidence. It's not in your face but you feel it's presence. Justin Vernon has that beautifully comforting falsetto to combine with gorgeous and heart felt lyrics. Every song puts the listener in a different state or brings up a special memory. It's impossible not to get lost in this album: Lost in thought, lost in remembrance, lost in wonder, lost in space?. Bon Iver is another one of those albums that's so popular yet hard to share because it stimulates or stirs a different memory for each individual.
Best Track: Holocene close second Towers The whole album is great picking two was tough.

2. Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues
The harmonies and the wholesomeness of their sound remind me of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young... definitely not a bad thing. They are completely accessible and relatable. They write about common situations and stories most have experienced in a similar fashion, but they add a certain kind of passion behind their lyrics that suggest the stories mean something more. As many know the fox is one of the most successful predators, it quickly adapts to an environment while also influencing that environment to benefit its own needs. Similarly, Fleet Foxes are invading, influencing, and changing the construction of popular music.
Best Track: Tie Helplessness Blues and Montezuma Oh Man Oh My Oh Me.

1. The Decemberists
The King is Dead
Colin Meloy and gang are some of the best story tellers out there, and they continue this prowess with The King is Dead. It's a rockin' album with a little bluegrass and folk influence, and of course, like most great rock albums, a little politically motivated. They have very catchy beats and one can get distracted by them, but it is so important to listen to the lyrics. For instance, "Calamity Song" has a very upbeat happy tone, but if the title doesn't give it away the song is actually about the end of the world. It's really quite delightful and unique. The least anyone can say about the Decemberists is that they're different and interesting, and that's volumes more than anyone can say about most bands.
Best track: June Hymn It doesn't make sense that a band called The Decemberists could make such a great song about June... unless they were from the Southern Hemisphere where December's really June. Kind of.

Top 11 Things and Such of 2011

11. A team that isn't loaded with superstars wins the NBA Finals. Well done Mavericks.

10. A legitimate competitor to dethrone the Snuggie from its dominance over other blanket-like apparel, Forever Lazy, becomes available. It's got a poop chute!!!

9. The End of the World didn't come...again. Harold Camping, a Christian Radio broadcaster, predicted the end of the world would happen on May 21, 2011. Guess what it didn't. He had previously predicted Judgement Day to be May 21, 1988 and September 6, 1994. Poor poor Harold, he lives another day in disgrace.

8. Game of Thrones HBO Television Series. The fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin was destined to be turned into an HBO series with all the sex, violence, and dire wolves.

7. The Rearrangement of College Football. All the teams that switched conferences didn't do particularly well (except Boise State), but a little change is nice... even if you moved away from Texas, Nebraska*, and Oklahoma to play Oregon, USC, and Stanford.
*Maybe they were trying to move away from Colorado. Maybe?

6. Earth #2 aka Kepler-22b. Scientists discover a planet only 600 light years away that might have a climate suitable for life (carbon based life at least). But can we give it a different name like Jabroni (Jah-Bro-Knee) or Farfromearth (Far-From-Earth) or something.

5. Fall/Winter Family Films that didn't totally blow. In fact, they were really very good. Hugo (the best), The Adventures of Tintin, and of course The Muppets! A new Muppet movie released to theaters, and its great. who woulda thunk? Man or Muppet so so good.

4. I'm a little mad at Chipotle right now for taking away the student drink, but this commercial is terrific. Coldplay's "The Scientist"+Willie Nelson+Chipotle+Sustainable land use & Environmental awareness=Something really special.

3. A solid year for the summer blockbuster starting off with Bridesmaids and ending with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It was a hot summer and what better way to cool off then to go to the theaters and catch X Men: First Class, or Super 8, or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.

2. New Girl on Fox. A great new TV series about Zooey Deschanel being super adorable and living with three righteous (especially Schmidt) dudes.

1. Tebowing! Tebow is awesome, but Tebowing is awesomer! Plus, just about anyone can do it... as long as they aren't hugely overweight, have knee problems, or bedridden (for the bedridden I suggest planking).

Honorable Mention for both lists:

Various Artists
The Green Album
Written by Muppets performed by humans. A great album with a couple of exceptions. Check it...Green Album My Morning Jacket Our World.

Childish Gambino
I like Donald Glover's singles better than this album. Check out Freaks and Geeks...Minority report

Mylo Xyloto
It's not the Coldplay I love, but it's certainly not bad. Cool video.

Spotify. It's great, I'm just not all that keen on paying for things, and therefore I will never get the full Spotify experience.

The cast for the upcoming movie Hunger Games. It's a great book, and so obviously I was worried they'd ruin it with a bad movie. But I'm optimistic with this solid cast.