Thursday, December 29, 2011

Here we go, in no particular order.

Tom Waits: Bad As Me. Initially I was disappointed this wasn't stronger, this being his first new material in seven years. But I found myself enjoying it anyway. What more matters?

The Pack A.D.: Unpersons. Two-girl garage-punk band kickass album of the year.

Limes: Tarantula! Sort of a slacker Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, which makes for a fun listen.

Silos: Florizona. Walter S. and friends back with a mighty fine collection that doesn't break much new ground but jumps out of the speakers.

Lydia Loveless: Indestructible Machine. Kickass drunk-young-female-alt country album of the year. Great voice.

Art Brut: Brilliant! Tragic! Critics didn't like this much but I truly enjoyed the Black Francis production (Pixies sound) mixed with the witty/ wacky lyrics and singing

Felice Brothers: Celebration, Florida These guys totally surprised by advancing their material beyond alt country roots, into some mighty fine, deep tunes.

TV On the Radio: Nine Types of Light I played this one the loudest and longest on my car stereo. One of the best concerts I ever experienced when they came to the Pabst.

The Kills: Blood Pressures Like the Tom Waits CD, it took me a while to warm up to this, but it's a solid album with the exception of one track where the guy sings.

PJ Harvey: Let England Shake Every PJ album is an event and in this case it's haunting, heartfelt and, as always, in a class of its own.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Brandor's Late Ten

Put me in the anti-sax camp. Here are my picks for the albums that have been sticking in my brain this year.

Agesandages, Alright You Restless
Agesandages sticks out as one of the better family bands to come out of late. Sing-a-longs and hand-claps are a plenty. 

The Black Keys, El Camino
Black Keys frustrate me. I almost wish they would just get it over with and let me down. Instead I will suck it up and dance around my living room to this album.

Blessed Feathers, Songs from the Mouths of the Middle Class
Not just a pick for local release. I waited much of the year in anticipation of this first official release on Milwaukee’s own Listening Party label. They delivered a great album and left me excited to see what develops for this young band. Their music is Wisconsin youth and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a total sucker for it.

Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Perhaps you’ve heard. It’s good. 

Megafaun, Megafaun
A new addition to my rotation but it’s grown on me fast. It looks like it is going to be my wintertime jam. The kind of album you wake up, brush your teeth to.

Peaking Lights, 936
Pleasantly surprised by the chill dub induced songs produced by this couple; but even more surprised that they hailed (up till recently) from Madison, WI. Once again leading me to wonder what other beautiful sounds floating around our backyard am I missing?

Tyler The Creator, Goblin
While I can’t say this album as a whole was great, I felt compelled to put it on my list. The online phenomenon that is Odd Future managed to grasp the attention of many people. Even more interesting to me than the guerrilla online war to get people’s attention was how quickly they lost that attention. To say that Tyler the Creator’s flash rise to infamy caused him to implode would seem to credit more bang than I feel existed. It was more of a subtle deflation. Curious to see what’s next… or maybe not.  

The War On Drugs, Slave Ambient
This album was a creeper for me. While there are a couple songs on it that were big stand outs, the album as a whole grew on me with every play. tWoD was also one of the best live shows I had a chance to see/hear this year which helped solidify the album as a top ten for me.

The Weeknd, House of Balloons & Thursday
Silky vocals and tight production. New and exciting r&b that easily wanders out of the genre. Oh, and the lyrics are kind of dirty. Play on your first date only with the purest of confidence and the most indecent of intentions.

Yuck, Yuck
By far the album to get the most play from me. While all the albums I’ve listed I like as a whole, this may be the only one I love song for song; beginning to end.   

Alex B's Top Ten 2k11

Alex B's Top Ten 2k11

10.) Wilco, The Whole Love
Wilco returns to form with a record that brings back the exhilarating tension between experimental pop and alt-country that made records like Being There and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot such enduring pieces.

9.) Mayer Hawthorne, How Do You Do
Hawthorne’s infuses pseudo-sexist humor into his revival of the guiltiest pleasures of 70s soul. In doing so, he’s made a record that keeps listeners off balance in the best possible way.

8.) Tune-yards, WHOKILL
Quirky, experimental pop that thrives on the pings of toy pianos and trashcans set against Merril Garbus’ dynamo-through-a-tin-horn vocals.

7.) The Decemberists, The King is Dead
I’ve heard it said that this is the best R.e.m. album since Automatic for the People. I’m inclined to agree.

6.) The Antlers, Burst Apart
Tightly crafted and elaborately textured indie-rock.

5.) Jens Lekman, An Argument With Myself (E.P.)
The Swedish crooner’s witty and eclectic mix of Cole Porter, calypso, dance beats, and tragicomedy makes for an inviting , e.p. I can’t wait for the full album to come out.

4.) Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues
The Fleet Foxes take a step forward trading some of the elaborate CSNY-style vocal harmonies for a sparer, occasionally rock-driven sound.

3.) St. Vincent, Strange Mercy
I was ready to jump on the “I’m so over St. Vincent” bandwagon until I heard the new album. Annie Clark weaves some very catchy hooks into her usual avant-industrial-opera.

2.) The Head and the Heart, The Head and the Heart
A buoyant and melodic record of nearly flawless, folk-pop love songs.

1.) Wye Oak, Civilian
Like a lot of people, I found Jenn Wasner’s haunting vocals and Andy Stack’s minimalist burn on the drum kit compelling stuff. I think that what strikes me most about the Wye Oak record is the way it’s able to capture a sense of drama and even sublime terror without feeling overbearing or dour. This is a highly listenable and yet striking album.

Tom T's Top 10 of '11

1. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde

2. Neon Indian - Era Extra├▒a

3. Real Estate - Days

4. Wild Flag - Wild Flag

5. Cults - Cults

6. Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See

7. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

8. Yuck - Yuck

9. The Kills - Blood Pressures

10. Holy Ghost! - Holy Ghost!

Honorable Mentions:

Starfucker - Reptilians
Cloud Nothings - Cloud Nothings
The Chain Gang of 1974 - Wayward Fire
M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

Maureen's Top Ten in ten words or less

1.) Holy Ghost! - Holy Ghost!

Perfect jams. Perfect beats. Perfect Upper West Side boys.

2.) The Smith Westerns - Dye it Blonde

Glam ala Bowie. How are they so good, so young?

3.) Jay-Z & Kayne West - Watch the Throne

One of the illest motherf**cking albums of 2011.

4.) Frank Ocean - nostalgia/ultra

Novacane makes me want to do and be on drugs.

5.) Shabazz Palaces - Black Up

Beats so sick they make my hair raise up.

Shabazz Palaces - "Black Up" from WHAT MATTERS MOST on Vimeo.

6.) Neon Indian - Era Extrana

Stupid band name yet great album.

7.) Cut Copy - Zonoscope

Should have been higher but nothing tops their last release.

8.) M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

A little long winded yet even angels agree it soars.

M83 - Raconte-Moi Une Histoire from Jw on Vimeo.

9.) Junior Boys - It's All True

I'll forgive them for being Canadian. Chill as shit.

10.) Cold Cave - Cherish the Light Years

Live show convert. Has a hardcore edge others lack.

Marshall B's Top 10 of 2011

I've opted to just include my 10 most enjoyed albums without regard for any 1-10 rankings.  What can I say, I've grown lazy in my old age.  The albums are in alphabetical order to ensure I don't show any favoritism.

Army Navy - The Last Place
A pop album for the US Weekly crowd about a supposed affair with a supposedly married and famous Hollywood actress (supposedly).  This is the first time I have seen the music video but now I can no longer unsee it.


Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part 2
Their best album since my all-time favorite Hello Nasty (yes it is even better than Hot Sauce Committee Part One, there I said it) keeps it fun and even rips off Splinaz with the "Cellular Destruction"-esque "Ok".  Imitation is the highest form of flattery, they say. 

The Black Keys - El Camino
This selection might be suffering from recency bias but all their love seems to have disappeared.  I think this album is pretty front-loaded but when the front half is as strong as this one is well then who cares? "Little Black Submarines" makes me miss the White Stripes :(

The Decemberists - The King is Dead
Finally Colin Meloy figured out a way to stop writing masturbatory concept albums and write some good old fashioned generic country-pop songs.  Now if only he could figure out a way to stop working the words "dirigible" and "sinew" into every fourth song.

Fountains of Wayne - Sky Full of Holes
What?  I'm the only person who still listens to Fountains of Wayne you say?  Well screw you, this album is their best since the self-titled debut.  Yes I know that isn't saying that much. Who invited you anyways? "A Dip in the Ocean" deserves to be twice the infectious Top 40 hit that "Stacy's Mom" was.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong
This album is suffering from the opposite of recency bias (I can't come up with a good made-up term).  Their second album might not have the pure hits of the first album but is more consistently good throughout.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Mirror Traffic
It sounds like Stephen Malkmus hated touring with Pavement so much that he is starting to enjoy life with the Jicks a bit more.  Gone are the painful noodling sessions of the past two albums to be replaced with some great songwriting.  Beck produced this album and did a great job making it sound just like every other Stephen Malkmus album.

Surfer Blood - Tarot Classics EP
The Decemberists - Long Live the King EP
I'm gonna cheat here and smash these two EPs together into one "album" even though they sound nothing alike and have nothing in common.  But they are both worthy of making this list aside from being about 50% too short.  Surfer Blood continue to be my favorite new band.

The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient
If you've always wanted to hear a Bob Dylan impersonator sing over some vaguely drone-y music than I can't recommend Slave Ambient strongly enough.  For everybody else, it's still a damn good album!

Yuck - Yuck
This is another great album.  I don't know, I'm running out of stuff to say.

BONUS!!! My favorite songs not on the above albums
Peter Bjorn and John - "May Seem Macabre"
This is a straight-up 80s jam about two corpses (I think).  Or maybe one of them is actually a necrophiliac.  Either way it's fuckin cool and weird.

Megafaun - "Real Slow"
Real slow indeed.

Jorna Taylor's Top 10 of '11

I'm lucky enough that I can turn my computer on most days - let alone link video or pictures in this list - so here's my "just the facts" Top 10 of 2011. Judge away - I'm doing the same to you!

Jorna’s Top 10 of '11

10. Real Estate – Days – I think given more time with this album, it would find itself higher on the list. But I really like their happy, upbeat sound, they are like my Jaill of 2011. “Out of Tune” is on heavy rotation these days, but the whole production is a hidden gem of this year.

9. Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto – I’m pretty sure they take away your hipster-cool kid card if you admit to liking Coldplay. That’s okay, I don’t own skinny jeans anyway. But then again, I’m also the girl who brought an entire Top 10 list of country albums a few years back.  I digress. I thoroughly enjoy listening to this album. My pick is “Paradise.” The beauty of the interwebs is that you can download the album from iTunes or order it from Amazon so no one will catch you actually purchasing the CD. 

8. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire – After the debacle of Orion in 2010, a split from the Cardinals, and well, the marriage to Mandy Moore still standing, I was starting to believe Ryan might no longer be capable of producing something that could restore my faith. Ashes & Fire is a great reunion of his old sound. “Lucky Now” is a solid first single off the album, lyrically a cross between “Two” and Come Pick Me Up” and musically one part “La Cienega Just Smiled.”

7. Adele – 21 – It must suck to be so depressed at 23. But it makes for a terrific release. “Set Fire to the Rain” and of course, “Someone Like You” top the list. If you are going through a break up do not listen to this album.

6. Danger Mouse & Daniel Luppi – Rome – A brilliant collaboration! Although I feel like there are two camps on this performance – you either love it or think it is ridiculous. Maybe it is my love of classical. Or perhaps an extension of my ongoing love affair with Broken Bells. Whatever the reason, I dig the concept and flow of this album while applauding the effort of producing a cinematic feature without the accompanying pictures.

5. Feist – Metals  - This Canadian stole my heart (the 2nd to do so in a year). Her smoky-bluesy voice makes me want to sit in a dark club sipping dirty martinis and smoking cloves.  But since I like neither of those things, I’ll stick to the album on repeat.  I suggest checking out “Graveyard”.

4. jamie xx & Gil Scott-Heron – We’re New Here – Dear jamie xx, I love you. You are amazing. Please create/record/remix more tracks as soon as you can.  And an enthusiastic thumbs up for the genius of combining your ethereal electronic sound with the funky vibe of Gil Scott-Heron. Sincerely, Me. PS – a new record from the xx would be terrific as well, but I’ll take what I can get. Check out – “I’ll Take Care of U”

3. The Weeknd – House of Balloons – Love. This. Album. Reminiscent for me of a Mark Farina Mushroom Jazz joint only with a fuller, darker, more lush sound mixed with some sort of neo-soul stylings. Moves along impassively without being boring or caring about building up to a self-imposed apex. This would have been the perfect soundtrack to my younger years, just out of college while I was living in Madison working for the student movement – chillin’ on my friends’ couch any given night, a pack of busted up Swisher Sweets on the coffee table and Famous Dave’s on speed dial… J

2. Wilco – The Whole Love – We were lucky enough to fall in to last minute tickets to the Vic show in Chicago and I’ll forever be a fan because of it! I remember the first time I saw I Am Trying to Break Your Heart in the summer of 2003 when my taste in music was much more La Cage and less Turner Hall. Over the years I’ve grown to appreciate Wilco and in particular, Jeff Tweedy. His guidance last year on Mavis Staples’ album was beyond reproach.  For me it was always about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and I was hopeful the new album would live up to that fame. “I Might” is catchy and most fans will tell you that the 7+ minutes of “Art of Almost” is the best part but I’m going with “Born Again” for the win. Or “Capitol City.” Maybe “Whole Love”… it’s all pretty great.

1.  James Vincent McMorrow – Early in the Morning – Melancholy and moody and romantic and heartbreaking all that the same time. He is a phenomenal storyteller taking the listener on a very personal self reflective journey. McMorrow’s like a more effusive folksy version of The National – dark and brooding lyrically with sweet guitar and piano chords to accompany his soft almost-whispery tenor voice. This album gets my top pick of the year because it drew me in from the first listen and hasn’t let go yet. Highly recommend “We Don’t Eat” and “If I Had a Boat”.

Honorable Mentions –

Scars on 45 – Give Me Something EP (only bc it’s an EP it didn’t make the Top 10)
The Weeknd - Thursday
They Might Be Giants – Join Us
Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts
Cold War Kids – Mine Is Yours

Shows of the Year –

1. Ray LaMontagne/Brandi Carlile -  Theatre St. Denis, Montreal
(not only amazing, but also my birthday present)

2.  The National – Aragon Ballroom, Chicago  & Riverside Theater, Milwaukee
(They can do no wrong in my book. Ever.)

3.  Wilco – The Vic, Chicago

4.  They Might Be Giants – Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee

5.  Dropkick Murphys - Summerfest

Brian Moshe's Top 10 Albums of 2011

Brian Moshe's Top 10 Albums of 2011

1. The Weeknd - House of Balloons / Thursday / Echoes of Silence 

 Most of the time, there is a choice that is made between quality and quantity. So many artists have fallen in the trap of oversaturating the market with substandard songs. Other artists release albums deemed too brief for their fans or take years between releases, leaving fans begging for more. What The Weeknd accomplished over the past 9 months by releasing a trilogy of self-released albums of this high of quality is nothing short of impressive. No record label. No pre-announced release dates. Fans would cling to rumors and each album was unassumingly introduced via a download link on The Weeknd's twitter account. But The Weeknd's mysterious release method is just about the only thing 'unassuming' when it comes to this music project. House of Balloons' opening song, "High For This" sets the tone for the 26 songs that follow it - intoxicating, predatory R&B that details a hedonistic nightlife of sex, drugs and more sex and drugs. Abel Tesfaye sings over fantastically nocturnal production that adds an uneasy atmosphere to these seedy tales of passion and indulgence.


 2. Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde 

 I didn't take much notice of The Smith Westerns' debut album, but after hearing the lead-off single for Dye It Blonde ("Weekend") and seeing them perform at Club Garibaldi in late 2010, I knew this album was going to be something on my radar for 2011. What I didn't know is how the band would systematically pull at each of my heart strings by recording an album flush with influences from some of my favorite musicians. Early 1970s Glam? Check. Double Fantasy-era John Lennon? Check. 1990s Brit Rock? Check. The Smith Westerns wear these familiar influences on their sleeve, but do not let the influences wear them - a very fine line to walk for a ban, with failure to do so leading to a dated or cliche sound. I think the highest compliment I can pay this album is to say that despite being released in January, Dye It Blonde still is in regular rotation for me, as opposed to other early 2011 albums that I listened to heavily when initially released and have not picked back up (See: Blake, James).


 3. Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See 

I've been a big fan of Arctic Monkeys since they hit the scene with "I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor" and they consistently fail to disappoint me. A superb Brit rock album with a good combination of ballads and rockers, Suck It and See carries on from where their previous album, Humbug, left off. The psychedelic rock influences may be a bit toned down on this collection of songs, but you can see the increasing influence of The Smiths and David Bowie on the groups songwriting, especially on tracks like "Piledriver Waltz". There's not a band in England doing it better than Arctic Monkeys and hopefully an upcoming tour with The Black Keys will provide them with the stateside success that is long overdue.


 4. Frank Ocean - nostalgia/Ultra 

I cannot remember the last time I was truly excited and impressed by a contemporary R&B artist. The music sounded the same and the singers were interchangeable. Frank Ocean's nostalgia/Ultra changed that for me. Seemingly lost in the antics and controversy surrounding Odd Future, Frank Ocean released this free collection of songs that combines great story telling with some interesting musical choices for an R&B artist, such as re-making songs by MGMT, Coldplay, and The Eagles. The standout track is the "Novacane", which very well be the best song released in 2011 that is not titled "Midnight City". The strength of nostalgia/Ultra has paved the way for Ocean's opportunity to be the only artist featured on Jay Z and Kanye West's Watch The Throne album and has everyone looking to 2012 for his debut album.


 5. Jay-Z and Kanye West - Watch The Throne 

 Watch the Throne is everything you would expect  from two hip hop titans collaborating on an album called "Watch the Throne" would sound like - epic production so lush and rich that it sounds like something only artists the stature of these two could get away with rapping over. While there is expected bravado and ultra high-end fashion name checking, these songs see Jay Z and Kanye West rapping with much more substance than critics who label this the "Album For The 1%" would care to admit. Sometimes overshadowed by the huge production are songs about black-on-black crime, fatherhood, depression, and their humble beginnings. Its not to say there aren't any over-the-top, bravado-heavy songs, in fact, highlights like "Otis" and "Ni**as In Paris" have the duo sounding like they're having fun and the excitement is infectious. Collaborations (whether it be a single song or an entire album) can often leave fans disappointed, but Watch The Throne delivers exactly what fans would expect from a Kanye West and Jay Z collaboration, love it or leave it. I, for one, love it.


 ...and the rest...

 6. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

 7. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

 8. Holy Ghost! - Holy Ghost!

 9. James Blake - James Blake

 10. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Matt Brusky's Top 10 Albums

1. The Year of Hibernation - Youth Lagoon    

2. Goodbye Bread - Ty Segall 
Goodbye Bread  

3. Carrion Crawler / The Dream - Thee Oh Sees 

4. Ritual Union – Little Dragon 

5. Napa Asylum - Sic Alps 

6. Strange Mercy - St. Vincent 

7. Black Up - Shabazz Palaces 

8. Parallax - Atlas Sound 
Te Amo

9. Yuck – Yuck 
Dark Magnet 

10. DIYDUI (EP) - Fidlar 

Top 20 Songs 11’
1.       Dead Energy – Thee Oh Sees 
2.       Little Man – Little Dragon 
3.      TheWorld (Is Going Up In Flames) - Charles Bradley
4.       Crystal Ball - Grimes 
5.       Forever In Armitron – BOAT 
6.       Street Joy – White Denim 
7.       Cannons – Youth Lagoon,
8.       Benny and the Jets – TV Girl
9.       Balance – Future Island
10.   Max Can’t Surf – FIDLAR
11.   OhWoman - John Wesley Coleman III
12.   Oblivion – Grimes
13.   Contraption/Soul Desert – Thee Oh Sees 
14.   Lose it - Austra
15.   Hazel – Weekend 
16.   SweetestTouch – Gross Magic 
17.   Ritual Union – Little Dragon
18.   Afternoon – Youth Lagoon
19.   Through the Floor – Crystal Stilts 
20.   The Other Shoe – Fucked Up

Videos I liked
1.       Montana – Youth Lagoon
2.       Casino El Camino (Parte 2) - Guadalupe Plata
3.       Original Don - Major Lazer
4.       Yonkers – Tyler, the Creator
5.       Bug – Wavves