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.

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