My favorites of 2011 – Albums/Songs/Gigs!

Another year is almost in the books and its time again for best of lists and xmas lists and all types of lists imaginable. For the last few months, I’ve been writing with other blogs and have neglected my own. I hope to change that (again) in 2012. For now though, here’s my favorites of 2011. Last year’s list is here.

Albums….

1. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire To The Mountain [L Y F Recordings] – Once in a while a band comes around and releases a debut LP that truly stands above anything and everything that year. It’s rare, but when it does it is typically memorable. This year, a debut album did that. Manchester band WU LYF (World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation) do not read on paper like they would be able to pull this off (i.e. growling & sometimes undecipherable vocals), but they do in spades. Go Tell Fire To The Mountain is an album full of exuberance and musical maturity that you do not normally find in a debut. With tracks like “Cave Song” and the epic “We Bros”, WU LYF exceed in presenting their brand of “heavy pop” to the masses.

 2. Wye Oak – Civilian [Merge Records] – Blending genres such as folk and shoegaze is something that has been done numerous times before. Bands like Mazzy Star made a career out of this. Baltimore’s Wye Oak, on their third full length, have added another record that can stand aside classics in either of those genres or completely on its own. With deft melodies, great vocal work, and a commitment to strong songwriting, Wye Oak have created an album that all future recordings they create will be judged against.

3. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See [Domino] – On their fourth full length effort, Arctic Monkeys again create a record full of timeless alternative rock hooks and excellent lyricism from “The Songwriter of His Generation”, Alex Turner. Tracks like “The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala” evoke classics like The Smiths and The Beatles, parading alongside crunchy numbers like “Library Pictures” that evoke some of punk’s better moments. Consistency seems to be the name of the game when discussing Arctic Monkeys. Their debut is a classic in its own right, but they (and Turner) are still seeking their masterpiece.

4. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues [Sub-Pop] – Robin Pecknold is quickly becoming one of popular music’s most interesting characters. He’s regularly engaged on discussion boards, Twitter, and other avenues on the net and comes across as a very accessible artist. Such is the rarity not only when discussing him as a person in his position, but also when discussing his band’s exquisite sophomore effort, Helplessness Blues. This album is a perfect compliment to the band’s full length self-titled 2009 debut with pastoral imagery, the best harmonies in music today, and an album that only has to be played once to realize its scope and beauty. This is a band that is coming into its own very quickly with a frontman who possesses arguably the best lead vocal today. It’s all on display here. On an aside, this is also the year’s best album artwork!

5. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds [Sour Mash Records] – Noel Gallagher. The Chief. Wonderwall. Knebworth. There are very few artists putting out their debut records these days that match the caliber of pedigree that Noel Gallagher does. While  it’s arguable that the first two Oasis albums could be considered Noel solo albums for writing alone, this is not the case as brother Liam’s starpower on those essential classics (1994’s Definitely Maybe & 1995’s What’s The Story, Morning Glory?) makes it easy to forget who was the scribe behind them and the band would not have achieved 1/4 of what they did without the younger Gallagher.  For the first time, Noel steps into the spotlight as a frontman, on vocals for an entire record. This album is a great success which retains Noel’s ability to turn a simple melody into something special along with bringing different flavors into his dish. While the two best songs in this period of Noel’s career have been relegated to “bonus track” status (“Alone On The Rope” & “A Simple Game of Genius”), the LP is rock solid from start to finish and Noel should be proud to place this alongside his best work with the legendary Oasis.

6. The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low [Merge Records] – Being in a band as a couple seems like it’s hard to handle. With the soap opera-like personal lives of 1970s megaband, Fleetwood Mac springing to mind,  North Carolina’s The Rosebuds, while not coming close to that level of personal strife, managed to create a cohesive and introspective fifth record. Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp both shine on this very personal record with the common themes of love and loss on display. Reminiscent of last year’s #1 album on this blog, this record hits home and allows you to feel like you’re in the room with them. With tracks like “Woods”, and Crisp’s fantastic vocal on “Come Visit Me”, this is another top-to-bottom nugget that will be getting spins for years to come.

7. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi [Domino] – Being a protege of Brian Eno cannot be a bad thing.  Anna Calvi has been getting noticed for the last two years as an up and comer and only this year released her fantastic self-titled debut album. An excellent guitarist and amazing vocalist to boot, Anna’s debut is a romantic and swirling rock record that has the ability to captivate upon first pressing play. Showing off her chops on the opening “Rider to the Sea” to the  lyrical nuances of “The Devil”, Calvi’s talent is in your face and greatly admirable. Immediately conjuring up comparisons to other chanteuses such as P.J. Harvey and St. Vincent is easy and immediate, but Anna’s ax-work sets her apart. This is merely the beginning for her, and the excitement is palpable.

8. North Highlands – Wild One [Self released] – Another indie pop band with a girl up front! However, this is no mere girl. This is Brenda Malvini, the highlight of listening to the music of North Highlands. Combining old school pop stylings along with the new, North Highlands unique musical diversity sets up a scene with one of the best new voices to emerge in Maldini, and you have a recipe for future success. With an assured sense of arrangement and melody fully displayed on tracks like opener, “Bruce”, North Highlands follow up their debut EP with a strong first effort out of the gates.

9. Wooden Shijps – West [Thrill Jockey Records] – Taking their name from a classic ’60s anthem (although spelled differently) may lead you to think that San Francisco’s Wooden Shijps may play a certain “style”.  They certainly do make no mistake, but they wield the weapons of rock very well. A modern day psychedelic band with a shoegaze slant, Wooden Shijps play music that parents wouldn’t let you listen to, straightforward, distorted, dirty rock and roll. These guys have been around the block for a little while and have created their best record to date with this effort that echoes the best of Spacemen 3 and classic rock acts like The 13th Floor Elevators. From the opening snarl of “Black Smoke Rise” to the all out distorted noise of “Rising” to close, this is a record that does it exactly what it sets out to do and leaves you wanting it all over again…and again.

10. Marissa Nadler – Marissa Nadler [Box of Cedar Records] – Marissa Nadler is an artist you cannot help but to admire. She has an immense talent and works very hard to get her music out there for people to hear. Most striking about Marissa is her vocal, which is reminiscent of Joanna Newsom in respects, but there’s something more to it. A lilt that seems to hover and stay with you long after she’s stopped singing to you her stories of love and despair. On her latest, she delivers on a set of songs that conjure the best of folk, Americana, and dream pop in one swoop. “In Your Lair, Bear” sets the stage for a darkly enlightening ride in the moonlight.

The rest of my list…

11. P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake

12. Other Lives – Tamer Animals

13. Charlene Soraia – Moonchild

14. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

15. Asobi Seksu – Flourescence

16. Cults – Cults

17. Explosions In The Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

18. Alex Turner – Submarine EP

19. Night Beats – Night Beats

20. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know

21. Tennis – Cape Dory

22. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

23. Snowmine – Laminate Pet Animal

24. Real Estate – Days

25. Yuck – Yuck

26. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

27. The Sand Band – All Through the Night

28. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

29. Fruit Bats – Tripper

30. Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’

31. Megafaun – Megafaun

32. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire

33. The Raveonettes – Raven In The Grave

34. The Edgar Jones Free Peace Project – Stormy Weather

35. Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee #2

36. Alexander – Alexander

37. Shapes Have Fangs – Dinner In The Dark

38. The Pierces – You & I

39. Dirty Beaches – Badlands

40. Miles Kane – Colour Of The Trap

Songs…

1. Radiohead – Lotus Flower

2. Wye Oak – We Were Wealth

3. Noel Gallagher – Alone On The Rope

4. WU LYF – We Bros

5. Other Lives – Tamer Animals

6. Asobi Seksu – Little House of Savages (Cover of The Walkmen)

7. Dirty Beaches – Lord Knows Best

8. Alex Turner – Hiding Tonight

9. She Keeps Bees  – Vulture

10. Miles Kane – Rearrange

Gigs…

NYC unless noted otherwise. Top 12 because I wanted to.

1. L.C.D. Soundsystem – Madison Square Garden 4/2

2. The Black Angels – Bowery Ballroom 4/8

3. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Beacon Theater 11/15

4. Arctic Monkeys – House of Blues, Atlantic City NJ 10/14

5. Karkwa & The Blue Angel Lounge (separate sets) – Pianos 4/22

6. British Sea Power – Maxwells, Hoboken NJ 3/21

7. Asobi Seksu – Mercury Lounge 2/17

8. Richard Ashcroft – Bowery Ballroom 3/23

9. The Black Angels – Music Hall of Williamsburg 4/9

10. Fleet Foxes – United Palace Theater 5/18

11. Anna Calvi – Bowery Ballroom 5/25

12. Arctic Monkeys – Central Park 5/24

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Hear! Listen! Know! Rose Elinor Dougall @rosedougall

I’ve decided to start a new feature highlighting artists that you may or may not know. If you do know, I applaud thee and you’re probably a friend of mine. If you don’t know, try, and then be my friend anyway.

For the first entry, I’m picking an artist that I’ve ran my mouth constantly about, but whose music is still moving me after hundreds of hours.

Describing Rose Elinor Dougall‘s music is easy, describing what it makes you feel is another thing entirely. I discovered Rose before I had heard any of her previous work with her old band, The Pipettes. I had heard of this band, but I had never given them a proper go until I heard this lady’s solo work which came upon the UK music scene wide in early-mid 2010. I found her by chance, when her debut record was mentioned on an internet forum and the description (pretty English girl pop) sounded tantalizing. Immediately, I was hooked on her voice and the only way I have come to describe it is a “female Morrissey”.  Her southern English lilt and knack for coming up with the words to paint a picture in the listener’s mind is engrossing. Combined with her vocal prowess, it’s a recipe for musical sustenance that should last a very long time.

When I discover an act that I enjoy, I immediately start digging for more. I want to know how that artist came to where they are now, when they’re coming to my town, and what’s next. All three of these questions can be answered in respect to Rose Elinor Dougall, at least in regards to me.

Where: Rose is 24 years old and a quintessentially modern English girl. Born in London, raised in Brighton, Rose comes from a musical background. Her father and brother are both accomplished in their own rights, and this backbone is evident the moment you come into contact with her work. Unlike a lot of pop stars that are pushed down your throat, this is a young lady with taste and chops.

Whilst doing my digging on initial discovery, the first thing that jumped out was that she was a member of The Pipettes. Back around 2006, they were hyped up the wazoo, by both friends and UK music press. For some reason which boggles my mind, I didn’t give them a pass despite them wholly embracing big sounding 60’s era pop with 3 very talented and beautiful females at the forefront. Mental? Yea, I am a bit, thanks.

This is the first Pipettes song that jumped out at me which is soaring ballad with all 3 of the girls putting their best foot forward and Rose carrying the opening verse. According to my Last.FM, I have definitely been enjoying this song over the last 12 months. The Pipettes (who are still together with a different lineup), released one album, a couple of EPs, and a variety of one-offs, which are all excellent listening. Notably, The Pipettes appear on a track on Brakes‘ debut album. I mentioned this while speaking with Eamon Hamilton (lead singer/guitarist of Brakes)  prior to his opening slot for British Sea Power a few months ago and how fond I was of the track. In 2008, Rose (as Rosay Pipette) left the group to pursue her own interests.

Finally, Rose begun to work on her own material. Her debut 7″, Another Version of Pop Song was released in December 2008, with more singles released in 2009. The debut record, Without Why, was released in August 2010 following appearances at SXSW and has received acclaim from various outlets.  Since the release of her album, Rose has done some touring solo, as well as joining up with Mark Ronson with his band, Mark Ronson & The Business Int’l and has toured extensively. She is prominently featured on the LP Record Collection.

The male singer in this track is Alex Greenwald of Phantom Planet.

According to various outlets including herself, she is currently working on her follow-up LP with her band The Distractions, which will hopefully see light this year. I personally am very hopeful for a visit to New York City, as she is easily one of the top 3 on my list right now that I’d love to see headlining.

Some of her non-released yet material has been played live, if these tracks are any indication, we’re in for a blinder.

Feature – April Mix

My friend Grace has been visiting from Seattle for the past few days and it saddens me that she’s going home tomorrow. She asked me to put together a mix for her iPod for the trip home. I did so tonight and enjoyed doing so, so I decided to make it available for anyone else who may be interested. Some of these tracks have been posted here already, but some haven’t. Enjoy. I’ll probably start doing this monthly, or at least when I have the desire to do so.

Thanks for the exceptional birthday, Gracie. 🙂

Click the cover to get at some tuneage.

  1. Holy Fuck – SHT MTN – From the forthcoming release, “Latin”.
  2. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Anenome – “From Their Satanic Majesties Second Request”.
  3. The Dolly Rocker Movement – In My Mind, In My Words, and In My Heart – From “Electric Sunshine”.
  4. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Never Understand – From “The Complete John Peel Sessions”.
  5. The Walkmen – Brandy Alexander – From “A Hundred Miles Off”.
  6. The National – Conversation 16 – From the forthcoming release, “High Violet”.
  7. Au Revoir Simone – Knight of Wands – From “Still Night, Still Light”
  8. Erik Satie – Gymnopedie #1 – From “Man On Wire” soundtrack.
  9. Lay Low – I Forget It’s There – From “Farewell Good Night’s Sleep”.
  10. Asobi Seksu – Celeste – From “PEACE” for Amnesty International.
  11. Camera Obscura – Country Mile – From “Lets Get Out of This Country”.
  12. Fleet Foxes – Silver Dagger – From “Your Protector 12 inch single”
  13. Slow Club – Trick Question – From “Let’s Fall Back In Love EP”.

Feature: Hall of Fame Induction #1 – The Beatles

The Beatles

The first entry into my Hall of Fame is none other than the greatest musical group to ever walk the face of the Earth. They need no introduction, but I’m giving one anyway. It’s none other than the four mop-topped lads from Liverpool…John, Paul, George, and Ringo, The Beatles.

The purpose of the hall is to highlight things that have molded me and have guided my taste in all things pop-culture related. There is no entity that has singularly impacted my life as much as The Beatles have.

When I was 12 years old, I was listening to shit music admittedly. My first concert was a double-bill of MC fucking Hammer and Vanilla fucking Ice. I shit you not. However, one day I was browsing SPEC’s (an old music chain in the south) and I came across The Beatles’ section of the rack. The album that I ended up buying that day was “Please Please Me”. I had no idea this was their first album, but I knew that I always liked the Beatles when they came on the radio when riding around with my mom. I picked it up because it had “Twist and Shout” on it which was awesomely used in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off“.

From that day forward, I was transformed musically. The next weekend, I took my allowance and picked up “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help”. My mom offered to buy me a CD a few weeks later and I wanted “With The Beatles”, but my mom couldn’t find it and brought me home “Revolver” instead. At first, I was disappointed with this. I was heavily into the pop side of the band at the time and I didn’t like the cover, but I put into the CD player and was whisked away never to be the same again. I purchased the rest of their catalogue in subsequent weeks and branched into my dad’s vinyl collection, soaking in stuff like The Doors, Creedence, Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.

My taste in modern music also changed. Out the window was the shit that most of the kids my age at that time were listening to. Boyz II Men, and basically any of that poppy R&B that dominated airwaves at the beginning of the 90s. I do love “Poison” by Bell Biv Devoe though.

The Beatles’ impact on me stretched to other facets of my life, including style, the books I chose to read, and friendships. I bonded with fellow classic rock lovers at school which eventually opened to other acts like Black Sabbath, T-Rex, and David Bowie.

I like to think that my taste today is eclectic. I can respect a good pop song, I have an appreciation for classical music,

Rubber Soul - 1965

and there’s a bit of rap that I enjoy. However, the staple of my musical diet since the age of 12 has been the Beatles. I remember skipping school the day Anthology III was released as I had just gotten my first car a few weeks before. I chose my first, but not my last, experience skipping class to buy a Beatles CD. The first record I listened to after I smoked my first joint was “Rubber Soul”.

To this day, I am still enamored with the band. I soak up all information I can on them and have read 1000s of pages of books, articles, and watched every documentary out there on the band. While my appreciation for the members’ solo works does not equal that of the band, I still try to keep up with what Paul and Ringo are doing today at their ripe old ages.

I do not think there will ever be a band that has had the impact this band has, either on me, or the entire world. Music has changed so dramatically, from the way its distributed to how segmented genres are. I don’t look upon this as a bad thing. In 200 years, people will be talking about The Beatles the way Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven are talked about today.

That’s fine by me.

It’s now been exactly 20 years that this band has been a big part of my life. I still get excited when new material emerges and I have a very large Beatles bootleg collection that I still add to. No group has captivated me as much and I expect none ever will again.

The Beatles are my first hall of fame induction and there was no second guessing on the decision whatsoever. I would not be who I am today without them.

New Feature: The Hall of Fame

I’ve decided to start a new feature that I’ll be debuting on the 23rd of this month and inductions will be on the 23rd of every month. This blog’s HALL OF FAME! My Hall Of Fame has no set parameters other than what suits my fancy, and will be open to anyone or anything. I will write an article on why this person or thing is being inducted. I already have my first few inductees planned and I’m looking forward to writing the articles, if only to improve my own writing ability.

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