Happy New Year! While we are excited to see what happens in 2012, there were some great musical highlights from the previous year we'd like to touch on. Over three posts we will present our individual thoughts about our favorite music of the year that was 2011. No list is the same or meant to be definitive, but these are the albums that touched us the most last year. The lists are not ranked, but in no particular order. We start out today with the list supplied by Jeff Fields. Thanks for reading. Enjoy! - Scott Allen
Best Albums of 2011
White Denim - D (Downtown)
Mathy-indie, hippie-prog shredders from Austin make a deep & wide record that could make your favorite rock critic exhaust their treasure trove of adjectives.
Wye Oak - Civilian (Merge)
Lushly dark & surprisingly heavy emotion makes this record so easy to get lost in (not unlike when I was 14 and every song still had the "new car scent"). They meld the power of Neil Young and shoegaze 90’s rock with a gentle frailty.
The Head And The Heart - The Head And The Heart (Sub Pop)
This album rides the nouveau-folk trail blazed by Fleet Foxes, but does so with a poppier feel (and a lot less reverb).
Chris Thile & Michael Daves - Sleep With One Eye Open (Nonesuch)
This bluegrass mandolin & guitar duo harken back to a Stanley Brothers style sound. They provide excellent picking and some classic covers. This was the best bluegrass record to come out in 2011, hands down.
Gillian Welch (& David Rawlings) - The Harrow And The Harvest (Acony)
Gillian and David are the two most symbiotic singer/songwriters working today. Folk songs of death, whiskey and the south so visual they paint themselves in between your ears.
Wilco - The Whole Love (dBpm)
Wilco has given us their most diverse record yet. Songs range from electro rave-ups to pure indie rock to 60's pop throwbacks. This may be a diverse record, but all tracks are consistently anchored by excellent core songs.
Foo Fighters - Wasting Light (RCA)
There are 11 tracks on this record and only 2 of these are not rock radio anthem quality. Nobody writes records this hit laden anymore, not even the Black Eyed Peas. Wasting Light was recorded 100% analog. Respect is due people!
Hayes Carll - KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) (Lost Highway)
Carll is a country chameleon with some of the best swinging country, talking blues, ballads and boozing anthems ever written for one album. Think Dylan, but country and with a Generation X angle.
The Decemberists - The King Is Dead (Capitol)
This record exemplifies everything you want in a great record. There is great recording/production, great songs/arrangement and great performances. These songs are the perfect marriage of indie rock and acoustic folk. It has superstar cameos and an excellent “making of” documentary. It is as perfect a swan song as any band can give to the world.
The Washover Fans - That Habit Suits You (CDBY)
This Seattle folk/americana/acoustic group delivers fresh songs with an earnest delivery. They never attempt to feign a southern accent or appear as anything they are not. The male/female vocal harmonies drive these very personal songs with great passion. This record is great example of a new band with great potential.
Best Reissues of 2011
Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak (Deluxe Edition) (Mercury)
There are a few reasons to love this reissue. They didn’t release a new remaster of the original album (ie. overcompress it so the kids think it’s loud enough), but reissued the 1996 remaster. They give you some beefed up remixes of the “hits” featuring new guitar overdubs. They include some great live from the BBC tracks. A classic record that never gets old, period.
The Jayhawks – Tomorrow The Green Grass (Legacy Edition) (American)
It was hard to pick which of the reissued Jayhawks records was the best of the two, the decision was made by the sheer volume of extras included here. You get a whole second disc or rarities, three versions of “Blue” and a copy of the great title track too. This is an overlooked classic that will hopefully find a bigger audience now that The Jayhawks have reunited.
Material Issue – International Pop Overthrow - 20th Anniversary Edition (Hip-O Select)
This record is an early 90’s pop-rock monster. Material Issue crafted a classic that now should rank next to the best of Big Star, Cheap Trick or The Smithereens. There are 4 songs with girls in the title and 3 of those were singles. The girl song formula was well used on this record and done very well.
Smashing Pumpkins – Gish (Deluxe Edition) (Virgin)
There have been rumblings of a proper remix or remaster of this record since 1997, so I was glad when I realized it was truly coming out. When I finally listened to remastering of this cd I realized my worst fears. This version was very compressed and lost much of the dynamics that made the original so great. The true saving grace for this (along with the Siamese Dream reissue) is the extra tracks. There are remixed versions of some songs (including Drown, Sub Pop single and demos) and some Peel session tracks. The real treat is the unreleased songs, not the remaster. The same holds true for the Siamese Dream package too.
Can – Tago Mago (40th Anniversary Edition) (Mute U.S.)
Only Can could craft this devastatingly intricate and unique record. That is all you really can say about this record. This new package includes 3 live songs, which is actually 47 minutes of music (hopefully that clues you in to how intricate the songs are).
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon (Immersion Box Set) (Capitol/EMI)
This is an epic collection of songs and a legendary recording session. Since its release it has been a true classic of rock and roll. This set includes a very compressed 2011 remaster along with every possible audiophile version of the record (including HD, quadrophonic and an early mix of the record) along with a 1972 live performance of the whole record.
The Dismemberment Plan – Emergency & I (Vinyl Edition) (Desoto)
Some records sound dated or echo a certain scene or era. Emergency and I seems just awkward enough to elude this type of stamping. This record emerged from a convergence of some pretty fantastic elements like two great producers (J. Robbins & Chad Clark), a band with extreme talent finally crafting structured songs and quirky (but catchy) introspective lyrics.
Queens Of The Stone Age – Queens Of The Stone Age (Remastered) (Domino/Rekords)
This is a very cohesive and massive début record. It says everything you need to know about Queens. Originally released on an independent label in 1998, this record has been out of print for quite a while. It displays the blueprint for Queens’ signature sound. Domino Records re-released this record and gave newcomers a second chance to own this epic début.
The Beach Boys – The Smile Sessions (2 CD) (Capitol/EMI)
It took 40+ years to release. If you bought Brian Wilson’s Smile release then you know what you’ve been missing. The Brian version is a much more high fidelity version, but any true fan of music wants to hear what everyone has been missing for half of a century.
Superchunk – Foolish (Remastered) (Merge)
Originally, it only took 3 days to record this dark and angular indie classic. Some of the darkness stems from a Fleetwood Mac style band couple breakup. The great folks at Merge wisely included demos, acoustic versions and outtakes along with an entire live set. Bob Weston’s subtle but perfect remastering should give other engineers an example of how to approach and execute flawlessly.
Best Local Beers at a Local Show in 2011
- Stag at Off Broadway at Lucero show
- Schlafly ESB at The Pageant at The Jayhawks
- Budweiser at Scotttrade at Foo Fighters