The Top Ten Albums of 2011 (January 1st – June 24th)
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The Top Ten Albums of 2011 (January 1st – June 24th)
2011 is half-over. How has it been for you? Same old, same old? Yeah, I hear ya. My year so far has been, uh…interesting. Yeah, that’s the word. Interesting. Transitional, maybe? Transitory? Are those synonyms? Do they mean the same thing? Eh, I guess it doesn’t really matter. I anticipate the second half of 2011 is going to be way more adventurous than the first half. Hopefully better music will be released in the next six months, because as of right now I only have about 30 albums on my list of good new music from 2011. Last year at this time I had almost 50 good albums to choose from. Oh well. Six months is a long time. Hey, someone out there release a good album for me, wouldja? K thanks.
The Top Ten Albums Of 2011 (January 1st – June 24th)
10. Tyler, The Creator – Goblin (XL) – If I have one complaint about this album it’s that Tyler didn’t do a great job of editing himself down. Just because a CD can hold 74 minutes of music doesn’t mean you need to fill 73:49. That’s almost twenty minutes longer than Bastard was. After the amazing “Yonkers,” that track “Radicals” goes on for over seven minutes. And the album version of “Sandwitches” does little to capture the energy of the now legendary Jimmy Fallon performance. Still, “Tron Cat” and “She” are standouts. I think I’ve only listened to it all the way through two or three times. I generally just skip ahead to the cuts I like, and those ones are fantastic. [Listen to “Yonkers”]
09. Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. (Sub Pop) – They lost me with Mr. Beast and The Hawk Is Howling, but I’m back on board the Mogwai bandwagon (is it really a bandwagon when they’ve been putting out records for almost 15 years?) with this record. The hooks are as good as anything since Happy Songs For Happy People. The guitars are crunchy. There’s a song that sounds like Neu! (and not in a shitty, Wilco-ish way). There’s even a song that slowly builds to a huge climax, shades of Come On Die Young or Rock Action. It’s still not the same as it once was, but it’s a great effort by one of my favorite bands. Ugh…I can’t believe I’m throwing my support behind an album put out by Sub Pop.
08. Tape – Revelationes (Hapna) – I think I first heard about Tape on the Electrical Audio forum eight or nine years ago. From there I latched onto the fantastic Hapna label (see: Toshiya Tsunoda, Sheriff, Stephan Mathieu, Pita, A Taste Of Ra, 3/4HadBeenEliminated, etc.). I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a band creating more beautiful experimental/ambient music in the last decade than Tape. And somehow it feels like with each successive album they are only putting forth better albums. This is not only perfect 4am coming down music, but it’s great driving up the coast highway or sitting in the art park reading music. Truly a masterful instrumental album. [Listen to “Hotels”]
07. Danielson – Best Of Gloucester County (Sounds Familyre) – I will never understand why people think I’m being ironic when I talk about how much I adore Daniel Smith. You cannot deny the man’s songwriting talent. Even if you think his voice is quirky or silly or shrill or annoying (and it is none of those) it’s just another instrument which fits perfectly in his style of music; noisy, silly, and sometimes quirky sure, but also heartfelt and wild and rocking and GOOD. Gloucester County might even be better than Ships, which many felt was the zenith of Smith’s recording career when it was released a few years ago. Then again, I’ve always been a Fetch The Compass Kids kind of guy, so until he strips away all the fuller arrangements and re-embraces the restrained charm of his first couple albums I can’t see him recording anything better than those records — but even when he’s not at his best he’s better than so many other songwriters.
06. Grails – Deep Politics (Temporary Residence) – My favorite record yet from these guys. Music composed by Tim Harris (Master Musicians of Bukkake!), drawing inspiration from Italian film soundtracks, library records, Krautrock…they do a fantastic job of displaying their influences without simply mimicking what has already been done before. In my original review I wrote, “This is head music. I want to take a lot of drugs and lay down and listen to this on repeat for hours.” And I’m not going to lie, when I was in the midst of my liquid Vicodin binge last month I did just that on several occasions. And it was as good as I’d hoped it would be. [Listen to “Future Primitive”]
05. BONG – Beyond Ancient Space (Ritual Productions) – It seems like it’s been years since BONG has been featured on this website. In fact, I think the last BONG reference was in September or October of 2009 when my father was in the hospital and I was freaking out because my support system had disappeared. Drummer Mike Smith used the comment section to send some positive vibes my way. What a nice guy. And the band’s second full length (the first one was self-titled and fucking mind-blowing) is phenomenal. The Roadburn website (by the way, look for BONG’s Live At Roadburn release while you’re at it) describes the new one perfectly: “Slower than an opium snail making its way to get some green.” I love it.
04. White Hills – H-p1 (Thrill Jockey) – Did you really expect me to talk about my ten favorite albums of the year and not include one from White Hills? They’ve made every musical Year-End list I’ve written since 2007, sometimes with multiple albums. The anti-government slant harkens back to Glitter Glamour Atrocity with the sampled George Bush speeches, but the music continues it’s gradual shift towards the more ethereal, more drone-y than straight-ahead psych-rock route. Every time I hear a new White Hills release I enjoy the ride. Doesn’t matter if it’s live or on my stereo, their music has the ability to transport my mind to some pretty far out places. And I can’t help but want to extend eternal thanks by championing everything the band releases. Another stellar effort in a career defined by consistently excellent music. [Listen to “A Need To Know”]
03. Master Musicians Of Bukkake – Totem Three (Important) – Last year’s “Album Of The Year” (according to me) has been followed up with another amazing release along the same line as its two predecessors. I’m still hardpressed to think of anybody else doing what these guys are doing right now. It’s just so unique and captivating I have a hard time even describing it for people. It vacillates between Sunn O))), Monks Of the Dip Tse Chok Ling Monastery, Middle Eastern folk and RD Burman soundtracks. Totally unique, totally mind-blowing, totally one of the best albums of 2011.
02. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky) – I love everything Tim Hecker has released, and this is (to these ears) the best album he’s released yet. A brilliant slab of gorgeous electronic music that continues to find its way into my life no matter what kind of mood I’m in or what is going on around me. I don’t know how he consistently records such beautiful music, but he’s definitely topped himself with this album. When it first came out I was falling asleep to this almost every night, even with its sporadic harsher elements and buzzing powerful blasts of noise. There might not be a better ambient composer making music right now than Tim Hecker. Believe me. [Listen to “In The Fog I”]
01. Psychic Paramount – II (No Quarter) – I’ll always be indebted to Ilya for introducing me to Laddio Bolocko oh so many years ago. Without having heard The Life And Times Of Laddio Bolocko I would have never been keyed into the first Psychic Paramount record (the mind-blowing Gamelan Into The Mink Supernatural), the live record and the double disc collection Origins And Primitives, and especially their newest album, II. This is blown-out all VU’s in-the-red insane shit. I think I once heard them described as post-This Heat-post-punk, if that makes sense. Maybe that’d be accurate if This Heat was the loudest fucking band to ever record an album — but while the intricacy of the compositions and experimental tendencies are there, I don’t know of another band right now (or maybe ever, or maybe since High Rise) that can out-blast these guys. Truly face-melting. How about post-Kraut? Is that a genre yet? It should be. Fuck me this album is good. [Listen to “N5”]
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