Dec 28 2011

The Top 50 Albums of 2011 – 30-21

30. The Lonely Island – Turtleneck and Chain

I would like to say it was a long process determining whether or not this was one of my favorite albums of the year, but its placement pretty much nulls that. Cred be damned, this was a no-brainer for me. It’s smart, it’s funny, the production is pristine, and the comedic, cameo-filled results reveal these guys worked a lot harder on this sophomore release than we would guess.

29. The Black Keys – El Camino

I was admittedly worried our favorite Akron duo was releasing a follow-up to the huge hit Brothers too soon after their inevitable breakthrough. Would they pull a Kings of Leon and give us limelight-influenced, second-rate dreck? In hindsight, I feel stupid for thinking such a thing. The Black Keys have their shtick down, and they’re able to tweak it ever so slightly for an interesting effect, but never a disappointing experience.

28. Big Black Delta – LP1

Jonathan Bates has been the leader of Mellowdrone for years, but in 2010 he took some time off to experiment with an electronic-based project. He collaborated with M83, released some singles, and garnered enough hype for a full-length. The result is a spell-binding, futuristic take on the subdued, reticent sounds of his primary project.

27. Middle Brother – S/T

This Partisan Records supergroup turned heads at SXSW this year, and the group’s debut gives each each songwriter their fair share of time to shine. Deer Tick’s John McCauley, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, and Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez deliver a promising debut of collaborative songs and infectious melodies.

26. Gross Magic – Teen Jamz EP

The cover may give one an urge to watch Saved By the Bell reruns, but the EP itself is more of a distorted, lo-fi take on the dirtier works of bands like L7 and other early 90’s greats. Whooshing sounds, piano clinks, and loud-ass guitars envelop the listener on this introduction to a band to watch in 2012.

25. Ringo Deathstarr – Colour Trip

Austin’s very own delivered a more approachable take on the deafening sounds of My Bloody Valentine and other formidable shoegazers. The sound is here, but the mood is all too different; cacophonies of sound give way to catchy melodies and casual lyrics. Those wishing to mope might want to look elsewhere, because you might be more inclined to dance.

24. Sebastian – Total

Some would say Total is derivative of superior work, and it’s too little too late for a producer who had been hyped since 2007, when this sound was in full swing, but has just now released his first full-length. And I wouldn’t argue with any of that. But while Daft Punk scores Disney movies and Justice errs in creating prog rock, Sebastian gave me my French house fix I so desperately needed.

23. Jeff the Brotherhood – We Are the Champions

After a well-deserved amount of praise for Heavy Days, the Nashville guitar-and-drum duo churned out a victory lap. That’s not to suggest We Are the Champions is exactly the same album, though the raucous vibe we’ve come to adore is present. There are new ventures here, including a dynamite foray into new wave mixed in with good old fashioned garage punk.

22. Cold Cave – Cherish the Light Years

If you were looking for Love Comes Close Part 2, you were likely disappointed in this challenging follow up. More Bauhaus than “Bizarre Love Triangle,” Cold Cave have reinvented themselves by channeling their dark side to another great era of 80’s rock, and the results grow on you track by track.

21. Ford & Lopatin – Channel Pressure

One look at that awesome album cover should give you a sense of what you’re walking into – Channel Pressure is probably the strongest homage to the sounds of the 80’s in recent memory. But this isn’t merely a replication of the Miami Vice – subtle structure and hidden surprises lie within repeated listens. Dark instrumentals, upbeat synth pop, and total freak-outs galore, there’s never a dull moment here.


Dec 22 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – 50-21

50. Surfer Blood – Miranda

To whet our appetite in between LPs, Surfer Blood released a rocking little EP featuring this excellent little tune.

49. Starsmith – Lesson One

Another band I know little about, but this played nonstop in my car last spring. A great ode to the unrequited and the ones that got away.

48. Cloud Nothings – Understand At All

Another catchy lo-fi power pop rocker from this group’s self-titled debut. Enjoy it while you can, because the follow-up promises to be darker and more ambitious.

47. Kreayshawn – Gucci Gucci

This Internet sensation crept onto FM radio with this undeniable, absolutely fun track. Bonus points for rhyming “over me” with “ovaries.”

46. Born Gold – Decimate Everything

My first introduction to the newly named Born Gold, and I was immediately hooked. There is a remarkable gift here in making the unorganized sound so irresistible.

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Dec 20 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – 150-101

150. Drake feat. The Weeknd – Crew Love

This is the first of many times for both these artists on the list. Here the Weeknd provides his eerie tortured-party R&B before the beat drops and Drake laments.

149. Cass McCombs – County Line

McCombs brings another signature somber note in his trademark melancholy falsetto. One of my favorites from Wit’s End.

148. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

The first verse of this track more or less describes my life right now – realizing we are not unique snowflakes but small cogs in a machine we don’t know about yet. Simple, yet poignant.

147. The Joy Formidable – Magnifying Glass

From the maniacal laughter to the thumping stomp of that chorus to those wailing guitars, Joy Formidable claim the throne as the loudest new band of 2011.

146. YACHT – Dystopia

A play on an old R-rated cheerleader chant becomes a boogie-worthy ode to the end of the world. In typical Yacht fashion, it makes you wanna dance around the flames.

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Dec 19 2011

The Top 200 Songs of 2011 – 200-151

There are quiet moments, but overall this year’s song countdown is crazy upbeat; you’ve gotta be an uptight jerk not to enjoy at least some of what’s here. For the most part, this collection of songs from 2011, while decidedly less diverse than in past years, still perfectly captures my mood and preference. I’ll be counting down until Friday – feel free to browse, listen, discover, disagree, etc. I’ll publish a Spotify playlist at the end with most of the tracks on there; the rest can be found via YouTube below and on subsequent posts.

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Jun 1 2011

Currently Digging: Middle Brother

Partisan Records has one hell of a supergroup; John McCauley of Deer Tick, Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit have formed Middle Brother and released a stellar debut self-titled album (pictured above). The crew is one on the list of bands I wished I had caught at SXSW; hopefully they’ll embark on a tour and stop in the ATX soon-ish. The boys all deliver their unique brands of folk-rock on originals and a pretty sweet Paul Westerberg cover, “Portland.” It all comes together nicely and solidly for one of the chillest and funnest albums of the year.

      1. Middle Brother - Daydreaming
      2. Middle Brother - Portland
      3. Middle Brother - Someday