I wasn’t sure what to make of 2011 in terms of music. Not initially, anyway. At first I had my doubts, as I once again found myself feeling like there were no monumental records to emerge at the beginning of the annual campaign. Fortunately, as 2011 continued, a bevvy of solid records found their way onto my iPod. And while I’m here, now, still pretty certain that there was no single “great” record of 2011, I contend that it was a damn good year overall.
There were two stand-out “sounds” that really rose to the forefront of some of the music I loved this year: female vocalists (Bird of Youth, Little Scream, Widowspeak) and low-fi, fuzzed-out power pop (Cloud Nothings, Total Babes). Of course, my pick for Album of the Year doesn’t fall into either of those categories, so there’s that. As has become my custom in recent years, I’ve given up on the whole Top 20 Albums of the Year thing, and instead I’ve given over to a few random awards here and there. So, without further adieu, here’s a look back at the music that meant something to me in 2011…
The Album Cover of the Year:
Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
The Best Vocal Moments of the Year:
Bill Callahan – “Drover” (Just go to right around the 1:10 mark, as heard below, and then, at 1:18, you’ll hear my moment of the year, which isn’t really even a lyric, but a noise made by by Callahan.)
The Mountain Goats – “High Hawk Season” (Listen from 2:21 to 2:36, as heard below. Check out the a cappella call-and-response between John Darnielle and his “chorus.”)
The Song I Heard Once and Knew Immediately It Would Be On My Year-End List:
Wild Flag – “Future Crimes” (heard below)
The Five Most Overrated Records (In Alphabetical Order) Based On the Critics’ Picks:
The Three Videos of the Year:
The Five Best Records That Weren’t In My Top Five and All Tied For Sixth Place:
6. Cloud Nothings – Cloud Nothings
6. Tapes ‘n Tapes – Outside
6. Wu Lyf – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
6. Wye Oak – Civillian
6. Yuck – Yuck
The Top Five Records of 2011:
5. Dan Mangan – Oh Fortune
4. Hospital Ships – Lonely Twin
3. An Horse – Walls
2. Gold-Bears – Are You Falling In Love?
1. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
I forced myself to make two (and only two) CDs worth of music this year, which was unbelievably tough. As I do every year, I began putting 2011 music aside on January 1, 2011. And while I’m unsure as to how many records I actually downloaded and listened to this past year, I had a list of, oh, 157 songs for my Best of 2011 consideration. To put it another way, that’s more than six CDs’ worth of music — six CDs’ worth of the year’s best music. So, yeah, paring it down to only 47 tracks was, to say the least, difficult. Granted, it always is, and the fact that I still bitch about this aspect of mix-making on a yearly basis is astounding.
I just wanted to include a couple notes on the selections below. First, I wanted to thank my pal Waking Up With Robots (@Waking_Robots) in California for introducing me to the Ohio-based band Herzog (and for sending me various CDs throghout the year). (Sadly, I couldn’t find a link to the Herzog track on my mix. Figures.) Second, as far as the tracks below go, I linked to some live/alternate versions of the song that actually appears on the mix, either because I couldn’t find the studio version or simply really enjoyed the live performance. This, as you’ll see, is the case for songs like Dan Mangan’s “Oh Fortune” and Wild Flag’s “Future Crimes,” to name a couple. Finally, as mentioned above, I still can’t believe how many unbelievable songs I had to omit based solely on space. What a gyp!
By the way, as I started doing last year, you can access the mixes in their entirey over at Mediafire. I’ve included the links below.
With that, I give you the 47 songs that comprise my 2011 mixes…
Sturm front cover.
Sturm interior artwork.
Drang front cover.
Drang interior artwork.
Sturm (The Best “Slow” Tracks of 2011):
1. Bill Callahan – “Drover” (Apocalypse)
2. Dan Mangan – “Oh Fortune” (Oh Fortune)
3. Hello Echo – “Intently” (Hello)
4. Beirut – “Goshen” (The Rip Tide)
5. The Antlers – “Putting the Dog to Sleep” (Burst Apart)
6. The Mountain Goats – “High Hawk Season” (All Eternals Deck)
7. An Horse – “Know This, We’ve Noticed” (Walls)
8. Bird of Youth – “The Great Defender” (Defender)
9. La Sera – “You’re Going to Cry” (La Sera)
10. Tennis – “Take Me Somewhere” (Cape Dory)
11. The Sandwitches – “Lightfoot” (Mrs. Jones’ Cookies)
12. Times New Viking – “No Room to Live” (Dancer Equired)
13. Crystal Stilts – “Silver Sun” (In Love With Oblivion)
14. Pete and the Pirates – “Can’t Fish” (One Thousand Pictures)
15. Hospital Ships – “Old Skin” (Lonely Twin)
16. Male Bonding – “The Saddle” (Endless Now)
17. Nat Baldwin – “The Same Thing” (People Changes)
18. Tapes ‘n Tapes – “People You Know” (Outside)
19. Wu Lyf – “Such a Sad Puppy Dog” (Go Tell Fire to the Mountain)
20. Gold-Bears – “Yeah, Tonight” (Are You Falling In Love?)
21. Explosions In the Sky – “Postcard from 1952” (Take Care, Take Care, Take Care)
Drang (The Best “Fast” Tracks of 2011):
1. Collections of Colonies of Bees – “Lawn” (GIVING)
2. tUnE-YarDs – “Bizness” (w h o k i l l)
3. Gold-Bears – “Totally Called It” (Are You Falling In Love?)
4. Surfer Blood – “Miranda” (Tarot Classics EP)
5. Let’s Wrestle – “Dear John” (Nursing Home)
6. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – “Forever 28” (Mirror Traffic)
7. Real Estate – “It’s Real” (Days)
8. Herzog – “Rich People Ballad” (Cartoon Violence)
9. Fucked Up – “Life In Paper” (David Comes to Life)
10. The Beets – “Now I Live” (Let the Poison Out)
11. Cloud Nothings – “Not Important” (Cloud Nothings)
12. Peter Bjorn and John – “Breaker Breaker” (Gimme Some)
13. Total Babes – “Like They Always Do” (Swimming Through Sunlight)
14. Robert Pollard – “You Sold Me Quickly” (Lord of the Birdcage)
15. Wild Flag – “Future Crimes” (Wild Flag)
16. Vivian Girls – “Lake House” (Share the Joy)
17. An Horse – “Trains and Tracks” (Walls)
18. Widowspeak – “Fir Coat” (Widowspeak)
19. Yuck – “Georgia” (Yuck)
20. Eleanor Friedberger – “I Won’t Fall Apart On You Tonight” (Last Summer)
21. The Rurarl Alberta Advantage – “Stamp” – (Departing)
22. Hello Echo – “Animals” (Hello)
23. Wye Oak – “Civillian” (Civillian)
24. Fleet Foxes – “Battery Kinzie” (Helplessness Blues)
25. Tapes ‘n Tapes – “SWM” (Outside)
26. Hospital Ships – “Reprise” (Lonely Twin)
Well, folks, that’ll do it for 2011. A shit-ton of work, as always, went into this year’s edition. Now, then, I encourage – nay, demand – you to do four things:
- In the comments section, let me know your picks for the best songs, records, and anything else music of 2011. What did I miss? What do you violently disagree with? What are you wholeheartedly in agreement with?
- Should you choose to (or if you have already) put together a Best of 2011 disc of your own, by all means send me a copy of the disc, or at the very least a track listing. I’ll do my best to post them on my blog.
- Go here to access Sturm and Drang via Mediafire. [UPDATE: Sorry, folks, but the original links I provided were screwed up. These are in good working order now!]
- You’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand other social media outlets at your disposal. Share this with the world, even if you only have two Twitter followers (and one of them is me).
Until the Best of 2012, have at it, you vultures!