Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Album Roundup (yee-haw)



I'm back in one of the most familiar places in my world: Dr. Bombay's Underwater Teaparty. It's been a long journey back, after three months in Spain, three months in Colorado, and a month or two in between. But, I'm back. Back in Atlanta, where I'm settling into an understanding of what it means to belong somewhere. It's a good feeling, to think that I don't have to leave for an indefinite amount of time. Don't get me wrong, I do love the road; the adventure, the people, the stories. But, perhaps because I'm growing old or because I've begun to see the merit in applying my ever-developing understanding of home to one specific place that my heart agrees with; I'm ready to stay put. So, Atlanta it is.

But, that is not why I'm writing (I could stretch that paragraph into a three hundred page book if I sat down long enough.) No, I'm here to talk about music. It's been a year of self-discovery for me. And, the music that I've found along the way has been a huge part of the process. I must first make the statement, however: I spent much of this year away from conventional exposure to new music. So, there are a good number of albums that I just completely missed, unfortunately. That being said, I did enjoy some some terrific albums in 2011, from artists that I admire a good bit. Here are my favorite 10*:

10. Dawes: Nothing is Wrong
I saw Dawes open for Bright Eyes in May, and they remain one of the best openers I've ever seen. They evoke memories of Jackson Browne, and that is enough to make me love it. They've done well with this one.

9. The Civil Wars: Barton Hollow
I have a complicated relationship with this band and album. But, all of my being weirded out by the sexual tension aside, this is a great album.

8. Tom Waits: Bad as Me
I've just begun a relationship with Tom Waits over the last few months. I can't decide if he's a genius or a maniac. He treads the line between the two pretty well, I think.

7. Jill Andrews: The Mirror
Jill Andrews, formerly of "The Everybodyfields," put out an album that is a joy to listen to, and has the right blend of folky wisdom and vocal swagger.

6. The Decemberists: The King is Dead
The Decemberists finally put out an album that has more value to me than the standard "genius-reduced-to-novelty-due-to-its-obscurity" tag. This one is good and, more importantly, accessible.

5. Noah and the Whale: Last Night on Earth
Frontman Charlie Fink has begun a journey of discovery. He's slowly finding liberation from the broken relationship that provided inspiration for their first two albums. This album is a step in that journey, and shows a tremendous amount of maturity in its song writing.

4. Gillian Welch: The Harrow and the Harvest
"The great destroyer sleeps in every man" Gillian Welch is one of those artist. Anytime she puts something out, it's good. Plain and simple. She didn't disappoint with her first studio album in eight years.

3. The Head and the Heart: The Head and the Heart
THATH was my most-played album this summer, as I was climbing mountains in Colorado for the better part of three months. It fit perfectly into the style of things out there.

2. Blind Pilot: We Are the Tide
This album grabbed me from it's first track, Half Moon. I'm surprised that there hasn't been more attention paid to this great album. It's wonderful.

1. Bon Iver: Bon Iver
This album transcends the context in which I understand and enjoy music. It was ethereal, entirely other-worldly. I loved it. Anyone who summarizes music in 2011 and doesn't mention this album loses all credibility in my eyes.

*There are, of course, honorable mentions aplenty. Ask me sometime...

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