Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fritz's Top 30 Albums of 2011 (#30-16)

Dude, this year was really good, like, seriously. Kayo Dot has a new record coming out on the 24th. That's probably gonna be really good too. But, whatever. Here's my top 30 albums of 2k11

30. Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi - ROME

I've always been a fan of Danger Mouse's stuff, and ROME is par for the course. A very western sounding album, ROME conjures up images of a weird, nostalgic, burlesque type of thing. Jack White and Norah Jones supply very fitting, and in the case of Jones, very sexy vocals to a couple of songs. This album definitely dropped off my radar after a few months, but it's still a solid record with a bunch of catchy tunes that are worth checking out.

29. Giraffes? Giraffes! - Pink Magick

Giraffes? Giraffes! make some of the catchiest math rock I've come across. The drums and the guitar are always on point here, blending the wicked quick riffs of bands like Hella with hints of post rock thrown around - this group knows how to use silence to their advantage. Really cool album.

28. Earth - Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light I

Pretty much the exact opposite of #29, Earth made yet another slow, creaking monster of an album with Angels Of Darkness. With five tracks lasting for about an hour, Earth does what they do best; make lengthy, slow, repetitive tracks that somehow never get boring. This is an album to sway to. It's pretty incredible to experience live, too. You can't help but get lost in the sound.

27. The Middle East - I Want That You Are Always Happy

This group makes a very dark, somber kind of indie/folk/whatever we're calling it this year. Drenched in reverb, this album maintains a nice mix of woods-dance-party type stuff, with tracks like Jesus Came To My Birthday Party, and heart wrenching soul like Deep Water. Unfortunately, this band broke up this year, which is really too bad. They've got a lot of good ideas to play with.

26. The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble - From The Stairwell

When this album came out, there was some press release going on about how the music encompasses the idea of "mood," which I'd say is a pretty accurate description. The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble makes beautiful, emotional, and (of course) dark jazzy music. This album is very much a soundtrack for a non-existent film noir. Unfortunately, the two longest tracks, Cocaine and Past Midnight, are ultimately, in my opinion, aimless ambient noise tracks. But I have to give them credit; they definitely maintain that idea of mood.

25. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead

Taking a number of steps back from their experimental Hazards of Love, The Decemberists decided to make a simple record of very nice folk tunes. Colin Meloy's lyrics are on point here, with songs about mining, the end of the world, and his young son. The band doesn't stray far away from the simple verse-chorus-verse formula here, but they don't really need to when the writing is this spot on. Maybe I'm just a sucker for Meloy's vocals/lyrics, but this is as good as any other album in their discography, and all in all, a good group of songs.

24. Low - C'mon

To be honest, I never really looked into Low other than Things We Lost In The Fire, no matter how much I love that album. But, I checked into this new one, and it was well worth it. Really beautiful songs here, substantially 'quicker' than stuff I've heard on earlier works, but all still leave plenty of room to get lost in. I really like the emphasis on female vocals on this one, somehow they complement the general beauty of Low's music. The track Majesty/Magic pushes this album even harder for me though, with it's slow, almost crushing build up of stomps and claps. Amazing stuff.

23. Masturbation Goes Cloud - S/T

Speaking of music to get lost in, Masturbation Goes Cloud makes a wonderful mixture of math and kraut rock that really grooves. There's not a whole lot going on in these songs, but there doesn't need to be. Mathy bass riffs slink along with somewhat simplistic drum beats, and create a rather unique, often times beautiful sound. This is some cool music to get lost in.

22. Seryn - This Is Where We Are

Seryn is another one of those "group of mountain-type folky folks getting together in a circle and pounding on their instruments" kind of bands that have been popping up lately, but these guys shine through for me. The male/female vocals absolutely soar on these tracks. The rapid finger picking match the simplistic, almost tribal drumming perfectly. A summer album for late nights on the beach, check it out.

21. Deer Leap/The World Is A Beautiful Place - ...Are Here To Help You

I'm not gonna lie. Deer Leap is a cool band, and I really like the tracks they put on this split. But when I first listened to this split, I went straight for TWIABP's songs. After seeing them (at probably one of the most interesting gigs I've been to...some of you guys know what I'm talking about) this summer, I was sure that these guys were gonna be huge someday soon, and this split cemented that opinion. These are probably the best tracks the band has put out yet. A perfect blend of twinkly shit, weird-but-understandable lyrics, and beautiful post-ey breaks. These guys can only get better from here.

20. Owen - Ghost Town

Owen, the post-American Football project of Mike Kinsella, returns with another wonderful acoustic album for winter listening. It's pretty clear that becoming a family man has affected Mike - lyrics about home, hoping to know his daughter when she's older, and (in one of my favorite tracks of the year, I Believe) God make this album very personal, and very relatable. Mike is a pretty soft singer, to the point where him saying 'fuck' in a song is actually shocking, and matched with the gorgeous strings and guitar, he makes beautiful music.

19. Beirut - The Rip Tide

Beirut has made their most accessible album this year, at least as accessible as a rustic horns band can get. This is a very summery album, transporting you to some foreign beach whenever you listen to it. Um...yep! Good album! Can't think of much else to say. Listen if you like good, summery pop type stuff.

18. Portugal. The Man - In The Mountain In The Cloud

While Portugal. The Man may have strayed away from the conceptual epics of Censored Colors and It's Complicated Being A Wizard, they still make some damn good pop music, and this may be one of their best albums yet. These guys have the formula down; falsetto vocals, bright guitars, and violins thrown in the mix here and there. Probably the most 'epic' song (or at least, the video) is Sleep Forever, a six minute track masterpiece about family, and death. With the rate this band cranks out good albums, I'm sure next year will bring something equally as awesome.

17. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

This is probably the weirdest, sexiest album of 2011. Annie Clark's seductive vocals, and somewhat creepy and almost disturbing lyrics, float along as the musicians behind her freak the fuck out. These guys groove like crazy, especially at the end of Surgeon, where they do a funky, silky smooth bass/synth breakdown that simply requires the volume to be cranked. The album ends on a more sober note, where Clark almost begs America to "owe her one". This album is equal parts unique and accessible - check it out.

16. The Antlers - Burst Apart

When The Antlers announced their new album for this year, I was worried. I can't count the number of times I burst into tears (no pun intended) while listening to Hospice. It was, is, and always will be a really important, sentimental album for me that has tons of memories attached to it. How the hell could the follow that up? Well, of course, they didn't, really, but they still made a damn good record. Taking more of an electro-pop route here, The Antlers make songs on tried and true topics, love, loneliness, regret, and makes them sound fresh. Peter Silberman's vocals are astounding on this album. If there was ever a 21st century Jeff Buckley, Silberman would be it. The band doesn't completely forget its heart-wrenching past, though, as evidenced by the last track, Putting The Dog To Sleep. In some senses, it's almost like Silberman saying goodbye to Hospice and all the feelings that created it. "Prove to me that I'm not gonna die alone," he sings. I think we all have to ask that now and again.