Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dan Meddaugh decides to post his Top 10 List

Well, so much for 2011, another year down, another large amounts of new albums listened to - and a bunch of new artists (new for me at least) crack my top 10... a Top ten that I would like to describe as "who needs a title for the album anyways".  Without further ado (and no matter what I say won't make up for the fact that today is January 8th) - but to my argument, last night my family celebrated our Christmas - so it still feels 2011.

10.  Portugal. The Man - In the Mountain In the Cloud

     This band starts my top ten as the band that received the best response from a student of mine in class.  Everyday, my Spotify is playing tunes in my classroom during passing periods / my prep time (and usually tunes that my students have no clue on the band) - and some time in December I was playing this album, and a student who was entering my class frankly asked "Mr. Meddaugh, what in the world are you listening to?" ... sorry to report that student more than likely didn't acquire the album.

9.  Cut Copy - Zonoscope

     I still have a hard time forgiving this band for being severely late to Pitchfork in '08 - since me and my friends decided that the last show we would see that night was Cut Copy... only to get a mashed up trio of musicians that played earlier in the day.  Zonoscope brings me back to why I like this band so much - poppy, psychedelic music that forces my head to bob up and down when I listen to it.

8.  Kanye West & Jay-Z - Watch the Throne

     The album to prove to my students that I am hip - this collaboration between the two give me I like in hip-hop.  Kanye West's popped up hip-hop, along with Jay-Z's flow, and although some of the songs on the CD I need to skip, altogether it is an album I listened to a lot in 2011.

 7.  The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow

     A new band for me in 2011, the two together have perfect voices for each other.  It makes me appreciate an album full of slow love songs, with the title track thrown in the mix, which was a song I use to hate, but this album stayed on play in my car for a full two weeks straight.

6.  James Blake - James Blake & Enough Thunder

     I think I am cheating when I mash his two albums together, but I don't think Top Ten Albums have too many rules, and so if this is a rule, I'm breaking it.  James Blake's style and made-in-the-home sound is exactly what others (example: Owl City) sucked at.  To me, his cover of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" shows his ability as an artist, and is so depressingly good, it was placed in my Top 10.

5.  Cults - Cults

    Although I was late to the Cults party (not fully giving this album a chance until Thanksgiving Break) - it has been on regular rotation since then, and I am beginning to understand the hype behind the album.  Although I don't know how much staying power the band has... as of right now, and in 2011, this album worked very well.

4.  Beirut - The Rip Tide

     Zach Condon rarely disappoints, and the Rip Tide was a great album.  Apparently I enjoy Balkan Folk Music, if only I could go back in time and see the reaction of my 14 year old self when I told him this... would be priceless.

3.  M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

     As my brother said to my grandma when I received this vinyl for Christmas "It's what the kids are listening to these days".  And yes, it is.  Another band that I would love to inform my 14 year old self I would be listening to an electronic French Band when I am older, reaction would be priceless.  A band that I took a liking too in 2009, and Hurry Up, We're Dreaming does a fine job replacing Saturdays=Youth in my playlist.  With that being said, M83's hit song "Midnight City" is being just tossed around the marketing world these days.

2.  The Head and the Heart - The Head and the Heart

     When I first heard them at Turner Hall opening for Iron & Wine, I knew this band's album was going to make my list.  This is one album that Pitchfork got wrong with their 2.1 rating, Head and the Heart's album is hit after hit.  Seeing them again in the Fall at Turner Hall, it was weird seeing them 3 months later, and everyone now knew their songs.  Listening to them on Austin City Limits last night, this band has character.  This album is what I like in music, and with songs "Rivers and Roads" and "Down in the Valley"... along with "Lost in My Mind" this album is about as addicting as it gets.

1.  Bon Iver - Bon Iver

     Justin Vernon did it again, and re-created himself in the process.  Their concert in July was my show of the year (followed closely by Arcade Fire in Chicago) - this album is a work of art.  Each song has its moment, and no matter where the sound goes, I am intrigued.  Call me a Wisconsin Homer... but this band topped the charts for me in 2011.

Well there it is - onto 2012! (...we are 8 days in already).. and Go Packers.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Eric D's Top 10 of 2011

10. Brent Hinds Presents - "Fiend Without a Face/ West End Motel"

I happened to catch a review of this two disc set on Pitchfork and decided to give it a try, since I'm a huge fan of Hinds' day job Mastodon. I have to say I didn't know what to expect, but this turned out to be a very enjoyable listen. The first disc - "Fiend Without a Face" - is full of awesome surf guitar freakouts, with vocals, but not a lot of intelligible words. The second disc can be described as somewhat demented pop. It veers seamlessly between country, acoustic folk, and piano ballads, but all the songs feel just somewhat off. If nothing else, this album is an extremely entertaining listen and nice respite from the sometimes heavy-handedness of Mastodon.

9. Portugal The Man - "In the Mountain, In the Cloud"

Every year, almost I can count on Portugal, the Man to provide a quality album of dreamy, psychedelic pop songs, and this album is no different. Portugal, the Man is probably the closest thing we have to early Oasis now. Their Lolla set was a highlight of the weekend.

8. TV on the Radio - "Nine Types of Light"

Earlier in the year, I would have said this album would have made my top three. After repeated listens, however, only about three-fourths of the album really sticks with me. The band dials back the funk just a little too much on this one. While some of the slower songs like "Second Song" and "Killer Crane" are still stunning, the pace is disrupted too much. Thankfully, songs like "Repetition" and "No Future Shock" provide that patented TV on the Radio future funk.

7. Washed Out - "Within and Without"

I have to admit that I'm not as with the electronic music explosion of the last couple years as everyone else is, but the few albums that I like, I like a lot. Washed Out is different from the rest in that they're not afraid to let the songs breathe and have a little space in the music. This is a great, chill album for the morning ride into work, but it shouldn't be dismissed as pure background music.

6. The War on Drugs - "Slave Ambient"

If Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and Pink Floyd all collaborated on an album, this would probably be the result. The songs on this album manage to sound both epic and subdued all at once. Great driving album.

5. M83 - "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming"

I had a weird relationship with this album this year. When I first heard it, I didn't think I liked it that much - but I also found myself wanting to listen to it all the time. Much like Washed Out, M83 isn't afraid to let songs breathe instead of packing as many hyper-compressed sounds as possible onto a track, diminishing their effects and boring the listener. Even at two discs long, "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming" sounds fresh and vital the whole way through

4. Mastodon - "The Hunter"

I always feel I have to qualify my love of Mastodon with saying that I don't really like metal, per se. Somehow, Mastodon avoid most of the self-indulgence that make most metal unlistenable. This is a band that clearly has chops to burn, but the ridiculously technical nature of a lot of the songs doesn't feel forced. Everything part serves a purpose, it just happens to be played by someone insanely talented. "The Hunter" sheds a lot of the seriousness of their last few albums and makes for a really enjoyable listen.

3. Handsome Furs - "Sound Kapital"

Full disclosure, I'm a huge dan Boeckner fan, including the Handsome Furs and Wold Parade. Handsome Furs' latest does not disappoint. Full of paranoid, urgent vocals, spare production, stark beats and slashing guitars, this is how I wish most electronic rock was done

2. Girls - "Father, Son, Holy Ghost"

Originally, I wrote off Girls as the latest indie flavor of the month. Once I gave them a chance, however, I ended up being glad I did. Their latest is a great album that veers effortlessly from jangly pop, to Sabbath-esque riffs, to soulful ballads. This band should have a bright future.

1. Arctic Monkeys - "Suck it and See"

I was really late on the Arctic Monkeys' bandwagon, but they've grown into one of my favorite bands. Suck it and See combines the youthful punk exuberance of their earlier albums with the prog-lite of their last album, "Humbug" and throws in some perfect brit pop for good measure. Great, effortless collection of solid rock and roll songs.