Top 50 albums of 2011
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.
1. Southeast Engine – Canary
Southeast 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
2. Middle Brother – Middle Brother
Middle 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
3. Robert Ellis – Photographs
Robert 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
4. Other Lives – Tamer Animals
Other 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
5. Generationals – Actor-Castor
Generationals – 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
6. Dawes – Nothing is Wrong
Dawes – If I Wanted Someone
Its no secret I’m a huge Dawes fan, and that I had a lot of love for this album, but I truly think it is well deserved. For me, music is all about the writing, and truly that is where this album stands out. Taylor Goldsmith will probably be remembered long after he’s gone as one of the preeminent songwriters of his time, his ability to paint the perfect picture with words is frankly a great gift to us listeners. The album is truly is a gem, its a fantastic listen that displays both superb writing skills and some of the best musicianship out there these days. Sure the content & style is made for a more mature audience and lovers of a retro folk rock paradigm (I find myself saying “My dad would love this”) its a testament to musicians not trying to reinvent the wheel, but perfecting a sound that is timeless. Favorites include: Time Spent In Los Angeles, So Well, and A Little Bit of Everything.
Buy > Nothing Is Wrong
7. The Barr Brothers – The Barr Brothers
The Barr Brothers – Beggar in the Morning
This album snuck up on me, it sort of jumped out of nowhere. I had heard the name a bunch, and had heard single Beggar in the Morning, which by itself is fantastic… but it wasn’t until I got a hold of the full album about a month after its release that it jumped out at me. Whats so striking is the extreme beauty and care is taken in each song to delicately create something so unique in sound. Its generally speaking, a folk album, but elements of blues & bluegrass support songs with beautiful instrumentation and tender melodies, but still has range enough to hit the heavy notes on “Lord, I Just Can’t…” It’s a total listeners album, and sounds even more fantastic live. Favorites include: Beggar in the Morning, Give the Devil Back His Heart, and Lord, I Just Can’t Keep From Crying.
Buy > The Barr Brothers
8. Deer Tick – Divine Providence
Deer Tick – Miss K.
John McCauley and his troop of boozy rockers Deer Tick released one of the best album I heard this year. Top to bottom a litany of songs that you can get up to dance to, drive your car too fast too, or just play far too loud. The rag on this album was that it was an album full of drunken college party songs, but I’ve found it to be more of a definition of Deer Tick’s live acumen. These guys live and play on the road, and maybe they party pretty hard but it never stops them from wearing it on their sleeves. Its endearing, fun to see, and the new material really amps their live shows. What they have here is 10 solid jams that run a gamut of irreverent party jams to bluesy ballads. Good luck turning the volume down. Favorites include: The Bump, Main Street, Miss K., and Walking Out The Door.
Buy > Divine Providence
9. Dan Mangan – Oh Fortune
Dan Mangan – Oh Fortune
This album floored me from the moment I heard Oh Fortune, the title track. Mangan’s strong voice, the dropdead gorgeous orchestration layered beneath his acoustic / singer songwriter style, and some song writing that will constantly be an earworm. I find myself consistently turning up these songs, louder and louder. And as a side note, the percussion track on Oh Fortune swell to ungodly amounts, its really amazing sounding. Favorites include: About as helpful as you can be without being any help at all, Oh Fortune, and Leaves, Trees, Forest.
Buy > Oh Fortune
10. Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing
The Rural Alberta Advantage – North Star
An album that its nearly impossible to choose a favorite track like Departing is such a thrill. The RAA really killed it on this album, although not entirely much different from Hometowns style, Departing is a bit darker, a bit more moody. Its heavy on piano and guitar melodies, and surprisingly catchy songs about the landscapes of a Canadian winter, love lorn & love lost. The only painfully weak spot on the album is its length, but it begs to be on repeat, so don’t feel bad about listening to it again and again. Favorites include: Tornado 87, Muscle Relaxants, and North Star.
Buy > Departing
11. Cary Ann Hearst – Lions & Lambs
Cary Ann Hearst – Hell’s Bells
If nouveau country were like this, I’d prefer it to most anything. Cary Ann Hearst, the boisterous and lovely lady from favorites Shovels & Rope released her solo album Lions & Lambs, an album that fuses old classic country, honky tonk and a bit of outlaw in this modern album produced by Butch Walker. Hearst’s voice shines, and displays quite a vast range as she seems to run the gamut of influences, from Patsy Cline to Loretta Lynne. Her spirit and personality comes through on this wonderful record that should be a part of everyone’s collection. Favorites include: Are You Ready To Die, Hell’s Bells, Can’t Say Goodbye, The Thread, and American Made Machine… Aww hell, the whole album is great!.
Buy > Lions And Lambs
12. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Girls – Vomit
From the second that you press play, Girls’ Father, Son, Holy Ghost grabs a hold of you through the use of a large portion of the canon of rock & roll. From The Beach Boys to the Byrds to Pink Floyd, there is a little bit here for all enthusiasts. This album is one that may turn them into cult heroes that will endure time, it is classicism with modernity, truly a fantastic album that you’ll listen to again and again. Favorites include: Honey Bunny, Jamie Marie, and Love, Like a River.
Buy > Father, Son, Holy Ghost
13. Apex Manor – The Year of Magical Drinking
Apex Manor – Under the Gun
Ross Flournoy’s album about the gap year between bands is one of my favorites. Infectious tracks, fuzzy guitars, and a dialed down twangy infused power pop sprinkled all over this album give it a warm glow. The album is immediately accessible and not in a bad way, its got this timeless quality to it, every song feels honest and straight forward. If this driving record is the debut, the sky seems to be the limit for these guys. Favorites include: Southern Decline, Teenage Blood, and Under the Gun.
Buy > The Year Of Magical Drinking
14. Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire
Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire
Ryan Adams wrote a seventies Country tinged guitar driven album that is unsurprisingly wonderful due to his song-craft. An album predicated on lyrics and melody, and a newfound maturity that is touching, rockin, and a great listen. Favorites include: Ashes & Fire, Dirty Rain,, and Invisible Riverside.
Buy > Ashes & Fire
15. The Middle East – I Want That You Are Always Happy
The Middle East – Jesus Came To My Birthday Party
Darkly toned piano riffs and simple folk structures run deep across this gorgeous album. This being the last album the Middle East will perhaps ever record is one hell of a way to go out. Despite its name, its a somber gloomy rainy day listen that feels as though its searching through souls. Its beautiful in its simplicity, its personal and feels extremely genuine and although its an extremely long track “Deep Water” could be one of the best songs of the year. Favorites include: Jesus Came to My Birthday Party, and Deep Water.
Buy > I Want That You Are Always Happy
16. Brown Bird – Salt for Salt
Brown Bird – Fingers to the Bone
Another local favorite, Providence’s Brown Bird totally took me over this year with Salt for Salt. Brown Bird sits on the dark side of the folk genre pulling from their influences Brown Bird uses haunting lyrics, varied rhythms and an assortment of instruments to create a sound that is quite unique. This album is truly a top to bottom full on listening session. There is no weak spot, every song has something that keeps you listening. This is truly a special album and well worth having in your colleciton Favorites include: Blood of Angels, Fingers to the Bone, and Thunder & Lightning.
Salt For Salt
17. David Wax Museum – Everything is Saved
David Wax Museum – Born With A Broken Heart
Boston’s Mexo American folk revivalists David Wax Museum came out of nowhere and really exploded this year on the strength of the fantastic Everything is Saved. Top to bottom one gorgeous album. It’s got thematic ups and downs, raucous songs that buzz, bounce and clap along, and solemn gyspy folk circus songs that you can listen to for days. Favorites include: Born With A Broken Heart, Chuchumbe, and Yes Maria Yes.
Everything Is Saved
18. Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math
Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math
I’m completely sold that this is THE rock album of the year. Although my tastes generally go to the folk / americana styles, there was no denying the scale of Simple Math. Its a fantastic rock album that soars with remarkably strong lyrics and powerful songs that seem to amp up at the right spots, take it down in the right spots and fit all together to make one of my favorite albums of the year. Favorites include: Deer, Mighty, and Pensacola.
Buy > Simple Math
19. Timber Timbre – Creep on Creepin On
Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin On
I enjoyed this album almost to no end. It was like Halloween at all times when listening to it. The album borders a folk music line with a definite point in the more macabre side of things, in a genre I like to call ‘spaghetti western horror cabaret.’ Dark, twisted, rich and evocative reverb drenched songs that light up the dark side. Favorites include: Creep on Creepin On, Woman, and Lonesome Hunter.
Buy > Creep On Creepin’ On
20. The Dodos – No Color
The Dodos – Don’t Stop
There isn’t an album out this year that relies so heavily on the rhythm of pounding drums like the Dodos’ No Color. Totally stripped down No Color to is base, frenetic guitar and pounding drums and simple vocals really shine on this fantastic record. Its an invigorating sound that pounds you to your core. Favorites include: Black Night, Sleep, and Don’t Stop.
Buy > No Color
21. Apache Relay – American Nomad
Apache Relay – Home Is Not Places
American Nomad blends acoustic sounds and rock elements so well, it gives the emotionalism of acoustic music with the rousing pounding rock anthem elements. It’s high spirit music that can also be very sensible and full of feeling. This album shows off the bands ability to write soaring, pounding, fantastic songs that are show off lush instrumentation, impressive musical range and the ability to take a genre like Folk/Rock and contemporize it into a shiny beautiful package that is purely fun to listen to. Favorites include: Home is Not Places, Sets Me Free, and American Nomad.
Buy > American Nomad
22. 1,2,3 – New Heaven
1,2,3 – ‘Work’
Nearly impossible to google, Pittsburgh’s 1,2,3 created an album with crunchy guitars and electro-pop samples to drive rock songs about blue collar problems in Pittsburgh. Its definitely one I think you’ve GOT to have. Favorites include: Work, Scared But Not that Scared, and Confetti.
Buy > New Heaven
23. The Decemberists – The King is Dead
Normally synonymous with songs about sailors and the oceans; gypsies and tempestuous characters the Decemberists released a full on Americana album. There really isn’t a weak song on this album. From the high on ‘Don’t Carry it All,’ to the rustic ‘January Hymn’ to the near country hit ‘All Arise!’ and the balladry of ‘Dear Avery,’ this album is one carefully crafted album. Favorites include: January Hymn, Don’t Carry It All, and All Arise!.
Buy > The King Is Dead
24. The Black Keys – El Camino
The Black Keys – Run Right Back
Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney dropped a bomb on all of us. A late year (only a few weeks ago) album titled El Camino. What they did was craft a really fantastic, fun blues rock album. Some will complain of the over-production on the Black Keys’ latest efforts, but as far as I’m concerned the songs are great, hell you can even dance to them. This album totally floored me, and I keep listening to it again and again. Favorites include: Stop Stop, Little Black Submarines, and Lonely Boy.
Buy > El Camino
25. City & Colour – Little Hell
City and Colour – Fragile Bird
Dallas Green’s highly praised solo project City & Colour put out their 3rd album, a lyrically moody & morose album about pulling through all of our personal tribulations. Green’s voice shines on this album as he sings some extremely touching and tender songs over a simple acoustic guitar backing him up. Its a fantastic album that like a fine wine, gets better with age… or just multiple listens. Favorites include: We Found Each Other In the Dark, Fragile Bird, and Northern Wind.
Buy > Little Hell
26. Hey Rosetta – Seeds
Hey Rosetta – Yer Spring
Sticking to a formula that created Into Your Lungs a favorite, Canada’s Hey Rosetta! really lit things up this year with Seeds. Orchestral folk, sweeping instrumentation, high energy climactic, epic songs, that are highly entertaining on a one off or on a full album basis. Songs that can be awesome listening at high volumes, quiet listening sessions, or full on live band, every song on this album is worth listening to. Favorites include: Bandages, Welcome, and Yer Spring.
Buy > Seeds
27. Jonny Corndawg – Down on the Bikini Line
Jonny Corndawg – Chevy Beretta
The self proclaimed savior of country music dropped a bomb on us this year, a quick witted honkytonk country affair with gut busting lyrics, tender moments and tons of twangy goodness. I’m a huge huge fan of Jonny, and I loved this album quite a bit. Elements of bluegrass, country, rock & roll, songs about ladies hygiene and one of the most tender songs about reading a diary I’ve ever heard. Favorites include: Silver Panty Liners, Red on the Head, and Undercover Dad.
Buy > Down On The Bikini Line
28. The Bynars – The Bynars
The Bynars – How Does it Feel to Be In Love
Synth pop rockers The Bynars write some of the catchiest songs you’ll ever hear, the hook laden songs that fall on their self titled debut album will make your ears dance. This album churns out fantastic song after fantastic song, the songs are extremely quirky and fun, and a total jamfest. Favorites include: Ba ba ba, Can You Hear It?, and Haunted House.
Buy > The Bynars
29. Wye Oak – Civilian
Wye Oak – Civilian
What a year for Wye Oak, the Baltimore duo released Civilian, a moody, shoegazy, rock album on the strength of Wasner’s quiet vocals and Stack’s powerful guitars. The hard edges of percussion and guitars smoothed by Wasner’s voice this album both plods along, and revs into 5th gear. Favorites include: Civilian, We Were Wealth, and Dog Eyes.
Buy > Civilian
30. White Denim – D
White Denim – Anvil Everything
The bluesy, garage-rock trio White Denim created a psych-rock abstract album that was a bit avant-garde and a bit influence driven. To be redundant, they create a sound that is unique and retrospective. Favorites include: Anvil Everything, Street Joy, and Keys.
Buy > D
31. Nicole Atkins – Mondo Amore
Nicole Atkins – Vultures
Nicole Atkins’ voice is stunning. Period. Bold statements aside, Atkins’ album is just as fun and wide ranging as her voice. From the dark, brooding ‘Vultures,’ to the twang of ‘My Baby Don’t Lie,’ to the poppy, and super catchy ‘Cry Cry Cry.’ It’s a must listen, a haunting, emotionally hooking, melodramatic album that feels really intimate. The music reaches a huge climactic theme and finally matches Atkins’ amazing vocals on “The Tower”; a great exaltation that really wraps the album up perfectly. All Favorites include: Vultures, Cry Cry Cry, and The Tower.
Buy > Mondo Amore
32. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
Kurt Vile – Jesus Fever
The once promising, now matured Kurt Vile released Smoke Ring for My Halo, a moody, textured, rhythmic album that fuses many influences in a total album. It doesn’t contain “the” song but should be treated as a full album, with space enough to hear something new on each listen. All Favorites include: Jesus Fever, Smoke Ring for My Halo, and Ghost Town.
Buy > Smoke Ring For My Halo
33. Chris Bathgate – Salt Year
Chris Bathgate – Eliza (hue)
Beautiful folk songs about love, time, and every day life in Michigan, Chris Bathgate released one fantastic album this year. Its chock full of beautiful instrumentation layered beneath Bathgate’s distinctive voice that create the essential singer-songwriter style. All Favorites include: Eliza (Hue), No Silver, and Salt Year.
Buy > Salt Year
34. The Donkeys – Born With Stripes
The Donkeys – I Like The Way You Walk
This album marries surf mysticism with slacker idealism, it begs to be played on sunny days. The Donkeys were completely new to me upon listening to this album, its filled with slow tempo head bobbers, a bit of folk-soul and a bit of experimental psychedelia. Its a fantastic album that didn’t get enough credit for chilling you out, while basking in the sun. Favorites include: I Like the Way You Walk, Don’t Know Who We Are, and Oxblood.
Buy > Born With Stripes
35. The Elected – Bury Me in My Rings
The Elected – Go For The Throat
Blake Sennett (Rilo Kiley), made his way back into music with his band The Elected. Its a wonderful indie pop album that shimmers with jangly guitars & subtle organs and grabs you with bob-your-head hooks. For fans of Rilo Kiley, I wouldn’t doubt you’ll enjoy this album; its a very similar sound and gives a good idea of how much of a creative force Sennett was / is. The album is well worth listening, and I’ve been loving it since I pressed play. Favorites include: Babyface, Look At Me Now, and Go For the Throat.
Buy > Bury Me In My Rings
36. Alexander – Alexander
Alexander – Truth
This album is based in folk music, but what makes it special and Alex Ebert for that matter is its pop sensibility. This album is a collection of catchy, hooky folk songs. Songs that you want to listen to multiple times. Songs you’ll find more and more to like each time. Its just one of those albums, you will like more and more every time. Favorites include: Truth, A Million Years, and Lets Win!.
Buy > Alexander
37. Mayer Hawthorne – How Do You Do?
Mayer Hawthorne – No Strings
Timeless music that transcends trends, Mayer Hawthorne does it again with his version of 21st century motown and soul. An album full of grooves, sunshine, and catchy songs. This album is a total win, and a great follow up to A Strange Arrangement. Favorites include: No Strings,, and Dreaming.
Buy > Buy > How Do You Do?
38. Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines
Telekinesis – Car Crash
Michael Benjamin Lerner has about 500 ways to write breakup, heartbreak, & lovelorn songs. What Lerner does so well, is he takes this similarity in theme and puts them into relatively fun, poppy, hooky songs that are a complete façade for these more unpleasant themes. It’s that façade, and Lerner’s whispy, crooning yet poppy voice that make these songs so endearing. I think it’s something that everyone can relate to, sort of covering over loneliness, despair, and heartbreak. The theme is common, but like I said, the songs are so damn catchy. Favorites include: Car Crash, Dirty Thing , and You Turn Clear in the Sun.
Buy > 12 Desperate Straight Lines
39. Akron/Family – S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT
Akron Family – Silly Bears
Recorded in an abandoned train station, Akron / Family sourced influences from Japanese Noise Cassettes to Cagean Field Recordings (yea I looked it up too) S/T II is actually a lot of fun to listen to. What’s great is every song has it’s own identity, completely separate from each of its album-mates. Each song can be listened to in a vacuum and listened to on it’s own. Favorites include: Silly Bears, , and So It Goes.
Buy > S/T II: The Cosmic Birth And Journey Of Shinju TNT
40. Floating Action – Desert Etiquette
Floating Action – Rincon
The dusty, jangly Desert Etiquette is Floating Action’s second release. The album has a great old feeling, its style is rather distinguishably indistinguishable, with elements of many styles, its a little bit surf, a little bit folk, but entirely lo-fi; an almost timeless sound that is lush and full of idiosyncrasies. It pops and hisses, its full of wonderful layers of sound, guitars, guiro, claves, keys, sitar, that all fill in the sound and give this recording a real sense of originality. Favorites include: Eye of a Needle, Modern Gunslinger, and Rincon.
Buy > Desert Etiquette
41. Kurt von Stetten – Cyclops
Kurt von Stetten – Codify
Only arriving last week, this album had a small amount of time to carve a place in my heart for 2011. But it definitely caught my ear with its experimentation. The songs are experimental but pop motivated, Kurt never seems to lose sight of making a song accessible; regardless of the quirky things going on in the music. There’s a cello ballad about indie rock kids, theres erratic rock on He’s No Writer and a 90’s sounding slowburner in LARP. The album deepens with each listen, and I’ve very much enjoyed hearing it again and again. Favorites include: Pussy, L.A.R.P.,, and Indie Rock Kids.
Buy > Cyclops
42. Hands & Knees – Wholesome
Hands & Knees – Sitting at the Piano Disappearing
Massachusetts own, Hands & Knees released this album that more people need to know about. The album churns and kicks out jangly pop music throughout, with a few curveballs in the form of bluesy ballads that are a nice change of pace from the summery piano jams, and sing alongs that populate most of the album; each track carves out a special place in your memory. If this list was just based on number of listens, the album would be a top 10 for me. Favorites include: Sitting at the Piano Disappearing, The Moonlight is Wicked,, and Dancing on Your Tears.
Buy > Wholesome
43. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
Okkervil River – Wake and Be Fine
I’m a big fan of Okkervil River’s Will Sheff, he might be one of the best songwriters in music, at least he’s one of my favorites. Admittedly, and frankly I found it at first much different from previous opus(es) and found a bit harder to digest these songs. As the year wore on, I found myself ticking on this album from time to time and it clicked and found itself. It is sonically larger than previous efforts, the songwriting a bit more vague, and as I read this, that sounds like a bad thing. Its not. This is quite a special album that fans will / have grown to love for its fantastic soundscapes, and quizzical paranoia abounds the less dark songwriting. Favorites include: Wake and Be Fine, We Need a Myth, and Your Past Life As a Blast.
Buy > I Am Very Far
44. J Mascis – Several Shades of Why
Is It Done
Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis put out his solo album this year to much acclaim and for good reason. Its singer-songwriter nature fits in with the aging crowd of Dino Jr. fans yet the voice and some of the (albeit toned down) guitar solo sounds are still ringing true. The songs are honest, forthright and approachable to listeners and fans of the genre, and of Dino Jr. Favorites include: Is it Done, and Where You Are.
Buy > Several Shades of Why
45. Beirut – Riptide
Beirut – Santa Fe
A much more accessible, hookladen, and easy to enjoy album was released by Beirut this year. This album will make a lot of lists, and is low on mine only because I wasn’t exposed until a month ago. But the songs are the matter here, they are extremely wonderful to listen to. Their gypsy folk style here is really wonderful. Its a bit sweet, more straightforward and less discovery of archaic sounds. Favorites include: Santa Fe, East Harlem, and Goshen.
Buy > The Rip Tide
46. Nikki Lane – Walk of Shame
Nikki Lane – Sleep For You
This 32 minute album snuck up on me, but it comes with such a great package in its ability to mix elements of country-pop with 60?s girl group styles. Thematically, Walk of Shame, focuses on bittersweet songs about emotional struggles, the opener, “Lies,” she uncovers her lovers sordid secret affair, she explores denial & regret, and longing. The songs are surprisingly fun despite their heavier content, and the music themes on the Noir Americana, Spaghetti Westerns, 60?s Girl Group pop, classic country, & pedal steel and compliments her surprising voice. Favorites include: Lies, Gone Gone Gone, and Walk of Shame.
Buy > Walk of Shame
47. Cults – Cults
Cults – Abducted
Indie darlings Cults rode a huge wave of success from their ’10 EP Go Outside which fueled this full album. The 60’s pop influenced boy-girl duo made a perfect summer album. Melodies full of sunshine, back-and-forth vocals that are slow and catchy, and songs that can erupt into full dance beats. Favorites include: Abducted and Go Outside.
Buy > Cults
48. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
One of the prettiest sounding albums of the year, the Civil Wars’ Joy Williams & John Paul White both bring a gorgeous singing voices, some twangy and classical folk. The instrumentation is sparse but can be heavy and pounding (see title track). The album sweetly and softly and politely presents relationships and life through songs that are largely tranquil. Their sound can become quite dark and pounding, and the album and specifically Joy Williams’ voice is impactful, beautiful and lovely. Favorites include: Barton Hollow and Forget Me Not.
Buy > Barton Hollow
49. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – It’s a Corporate World
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Morning Thought
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s catchy beats, and fun pop melodies burst on this fun album full of bassy buzzed anthems, and sometimes a darkly sweet pop fizz. Favorites include: Simple Girl, Morning Thought, and Skeletons.
Buy > It’s a Corporate World
50. Country Mice – Twister
Country Mice – Festival
Brooklyn’s Country Mice don’t sound anything like a Brooklyn band, their sound is roughly a twangy indie rock band with dirt rubbed all over it. Its not glossy, but it is rootsy, a little bluesy, and all kinds of rockin. This album was chock full of this sound top to bottom, favorites include: Festival, Morning Son, and Worn Hearts.
Buy > Twister