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Top Albums of 2011 5-1 FINALLY!

We all love lists, and we all love sarcasm. Though, I think its important to reflect upon the last year of music, I’m going to do so through the use of a list. It was a fantastic year full of awesome albums, and I’m going to count down a bunch of my favorites, and give you something to listen to while reading.

Welcome to the top 10, albums that to be quite honest, could all be number ones, but hey it wouldn’t be a list without some order. These are the thoroughbreds. I’m sure I missed some, but hey, there is always next year.

5. Generationals – Actor-Castor

Generationals - Actor-CastorGenerationals – Ten-Twenty-Ten
This album is such a joy to listen to. I find it quite remarkable how extremely catchy every single song is on the record. It’s a bright and sunny record with driving rhythm’s that keep your head bobbing, and nearly force you to repeat the record again and again. Energetic pop tracks that swirl, swoop with nearly no effort. The piano rhythms with the gang vocals and reverb create jangly tracks that are entirely memorable and pull from vast influences of soul, pop, and rock. I can’t stress how much fun this album is. Its a must have. Favorites include: Ten-Twenty-Ten, You Say It Too, and Greenleaf.
Buy > Actor-Caster

4. Other Lives – Tamer Animals

Other Lives - Tamer AnimalsOther Lives – Tamer Animals
Other Lives latest album Tamer Animals is lush and haunting and epic. Other Lives have created an album, where layer after layer of sound beautifully transports you elsewhere. Whether a dense forest or a far away space scape this entire album is simply otherworldly. Its a beautiful, artful, experimental folk album that places as much emphasis on atmospherics as it does lyrics and rhythm. Overall, the album is something that sounds wholly original, it’s easy to jump into this album and just get lost, and I mean that in the best possible way. It feels like a total experience, cinematic, and so damn pretty. Favorites include: Dark Horse, For 12, Dustbowl III, and Tamer Animals.
Buy > Tamer Animals

3. Robert Ellis – Photographs

Robert Ellis - PhotographsRobert Ellis – What’s In It For Me
The young songwriter’s second release is an impressive split album that is divided by five folk tracks and five country songs. Ellis is quite the talented songwriter and he displays his command of poetry and prose throughout this album. His opener ‘Friends Like Those’ weeps through the loss and the cherishing of a good friend, this is a song that’s warm, tender, and a little bit heartbreaking. His writing is contemplative, emotive, and paints some beautiful imagery, he’s the quintessential troubadour. The subtle nature his music portrays only helps to define his songwriting. Quietly plucking guitar strings, and singing; it feels like he’s singing directly to you. As the band flourishes flow in, you realize just how nice of a listen this album is. Ellis’ voice can be quite powerful even though at times he seems quite diminutive. When it comes down to it, this is a singer songwriter album that does some amazing things, it bridges gaps between folk and country, and it shows that the ability to paint a portrait in a song is not a lost art, but when done well it parlays into something great. Favorites include: Friends Like Those, Bamboo, Two Cans of Paint, No Fun, and What’s In It For Me?.
Buy > Tamer Animals

2. Middle Brother – Middle Brother

Middle Brother - Middle BrotherMiddle Brother – Middle Brother
How much more love can I give these guys before I start looking like a weirdo? If this list were based solely on total plays, this album would be number 1, 2 and 3… I played the hell out of this album. I’m pretty sure the mp3’s are worn out. Very few albums this year grabbed me like this one. It’s probably not even worth mentioning that Goldsmith, Vasquez and McCauley are some of my favorite songwriters, and put together the sum is more than the total of its parts. This album had everything I could have wanted in an album, contemplative folk songs (Daydreaming, Thanks for Nothing) wild rock romps (Middle Brother, Me Me Me) and even a retro 60?s pop styled track (Someday). Sure some songs sound all more Dawes, all more Delta Spirit or all more Deer Tick but the album still flows quite well, with each frontman taking center stage equally. It doesn’t detract, or feel like 3 separate EP’s it feels whole, singular and totally awesome. There was a boatload of hype going into this album, and admittedly I had maybe too lofty of expectations for the album. But without hyperbole, this album is fantastic. Its damn well written, wonderfully catchy, and totally represents the best supergroup out there these days. Favorites include: Blue Eyes, Thanks For Nothing, Blood & Guts and Middle Brother.
Buy > Middle Brother

1. Southeast Engine – Canary

Southeast Engine - CanarySoutheast Engine – New Growth Adeline Of The Applachian Mountains
The album plays as a narrative about an Appalachian family at the turn of the 20th century. It’s epic, wonderful sounding, and a great story to hear. I’m not sure of the validity of the story, whether its fiction or nonfiction; regardless this is one great sounding album. The album plays like a troupe of backwoods nomads looking for a place to rest but frequently end up in town playing rousing renditions of their travelogue stories. Sometimes the stories can break out into full out barn burners about subjects you’d not think would be so wild. See the explosive ’1933 The Great Depression’ and answer ‘Whats so goddamn great about the great depression!?’ What’s so great about this album you say? It’s a concept album? Really? Adam Remnant’s voice is raspy & dirty and seems to play perfectly to this sprawling narrative of Appalachian folk. Its remarkable how Southeast Engine has really switched folk styles seemingly overnight, and completely seamless. The record has times of pure energy, and withdraw, pastoral balladry, ramshackle rock songs and just genuine, authentic passionate music based in a time and place that we can only read about. It’s something I have found to be quite endearing, and something I’ve found myself on more occasion than I can think of going back to, listening to, and finding something new to hear each listen. It’s sparkling example of how you can gently modernize something that is historical to even just a small area, and create something extremely wonderful. I’m probably pontificating too much, just go out and spend five bucks and listen to a great album, but be sure to have a bottle of whisky to go along with it. Favorites include: Cold Front Blues, Adeline of the Appalachian Mountains, New Growth and 1933 (Great Depression).
Buy > Canary

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