2011 Year End Music Wrap Up

Here it is the 2nd of January 2012 and I’m just now posting my year-end music list. It’s because I’m super persnickety about not posting a year-end list until the year is over. How do I know I’m not going to find something in the last few weeks that’s going to captivate me? So don’t expect these until December 31st at the earliest.

And now – my favorite parts of the musical year 2011:

Favorite album cover: Sound Kapital by Handsome Furs. Sound Kapital (Bonus Track Version) - Handsome Furs And not from some dopey “heh, check it out, naked chick” leer, either. It’s the best album cover because it’s challenging, but, when you look at the photo and think about it, it’s actually not all that challenging. It’s an attractive nude woman juxtaposed with the angular industrial background of what looks like street overpasses.

The photo is by Scott Coffey. He and one half of Handsome Furs, Alexi Perry, discuss the photo & the video for “What About Us”in an article on LPWTF? I first learned about the photo from a Handsome Furs retweet about an article in The L Magazine taking indie music publications to taks for their prudish reactions to the photo.

Matthew Neiderhauser is the photographer behind the images of Chinese men in the insert booklet.

The whole CD package is beautifully thought out and assembled. I highly encourage owning this art.

The music? Well, I’ve loved Handsome Furs for years, and this album forgoes the guitar aspect of their music that I love for a pure synth record. In anyone else’s hands I’d be unsure, but from the opening track, you can tell this isn’t some retro record. It feels more like a more experimental record than most, but it does sound kind of like some old Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Well, it actually reminds me of the new OMD record History of Modern (Deluxe Edition) - Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark as well. Just check it out.

Favorite record: Maritime’s – Human Hearts Human Hearts - Maritime I didn’t even find out about this record until I downloaded it from eMusic on the last day of July. Not sure what I was paying attention to between April and then, but what it amounts to is four months I needlessly lived without this album. Does it have heart-wrenching ballads like “Here Comes a Regular“? No. Does it have life-changing skronk-jazz set to rock beats like “The National Anthem“? No. So what makes it special? Just about nothing except for solid songcraft, deft wordplay, catchy tunes, and, best of all, Davey Von Bohlen’s sweet, sweet voice. They wrote the poppiest Cure song of the past 10 years (“Paraphernalia“), the theme song for the A.V. Club’s 2011 Undercover (“It’s Casual“), and the hookiest song with the corniest pun for a title (“Apple of My Irony“), and that’s just three of the ten songs on this amazing record. Now, I’ve got one of the sweetest sugary pop sweet tooths around, and so when I hear an album like this, I know I’m getting cavities from dipping into the candy bowl again and again and again. And I love it.

Best show attended: tie – Girl TalkOgden Theater & Death Cab for Cutie/Frightened Rabbit at Red Rocks. Ok, fine, so I only went to 3 shows this year, but these were amazing shows. Girl Talk was a present to myself for finishing my master’s degree and I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. The show was sold out, but a good friend got me a ticket and I got there early enough to see the openers Junk Culture and Max Tundra who were odd but fun. Once Girl Talk started, it was packed, hot, sweaty – exactly the show I wanted it to be. I considered leaving at the encore break because I was so dehydrated and tired from standing & dancing. Amazing. I’m looking forward to my next Girl Talk show, whenever that will be.

I usually try to see one show a year at Red Rocks and, in my estimation, the best show happening this past summer was DCFC & Frightened Rabbit. It was great weather, no rain – just a great night in one of the most picturesque venues in the world. I left before the DCFC encore (tired, work, etc) and on my way out, a girl smacked my ass. Not sure what that was about. But while in the parking lot, I heard the start to “Title and Registration” and realized I shouldn’t have left. The next day I saw that the last song was “Transatlanticism” and *knew* I shouldn’t have left. Oh well. The 20 songs I did see & hear were amazing. I highly recommend seeing them.

Best blog: Mine! Oh, and Super Deluxe Edition. They way they care about the music really comes across in the pictures and text. I’ve found a few Super Deluxe Edition releases on their website that I didn’t know about and am currently saving my pennies to buy, such as Madness & The Art of Noise.

Biggest kerfuffle: Lulu by Lou Reed & Metallica. Lulu - Lou Reed & Metallica It seems to me that people are getting down on them for being who they are. Lou Reed writing oddball poetry and delivering in a slack junkie’s tone. Metallica delivering plodding, thunderous metal, which is who they are now more than the speed metal Metallica of the 80’s. I’ve heard worse, much worse. The album might not be what *you* wanted to hear from either of them, but that doesn’t make it bad. For some perspective from where they sit, check out the interview with Lou & Lars on the GQ website.

Favorite Podcast: WTF with Marc Maron. Ok, it’s not music, but it’s still a great listen. Turned on to this by my friend Tom, I spent more time listening to this in the 2nd half of the year than most anything else. I’ve been a humor nerd for a while, but like the mid-late 90’s with music, I kind of fell out of it for a while. Now that my kids are old enough to appreciate great humor, I’m getting back into it. Maron’s podcasts with comedians & actors talking about the craft is inspiring.

Favorite Videos: LMFAO‘s “Party Rock Anthem” – The twist on the zombie theme is great, and the dancing is insanely good. It’s a fun song that ended up being my feel-good song of the summer. I really liked The Pains of Being Pure At Heart‘s “Heart In Your Heartbreak” a lot as well. “Lotus Flower” by Radiohead gets a mention, for sure. Thom just looks so free. Destroyer – “Kaputt” is fantastically bizarre. And “Aberdeen” by Cage the Elephant breaks my heart.

Favorite Post-Rock: Sky Flying ByWhat’s The Farthest You Can See? What's The Farthest You Can See? - Sky Flying By I’ve been listening to a lot of post rock – slow, atmospheric rock typically without singing – while working on all the writing I’ve been doing lately. I do like the genre, and this is an excellent representation. I’ve met the guy who makes this music (that’s right, just one guy), and he’s quiet & unassuming but makes wonderful sounds.
Favorite Band Name with the chops to back it up: Ringo Deathstarr. Their record Colour Trip Colour Trip - Ringo Deathstarr starts with something that sounds like distorted Atari 2600 sound effects and then whooshes into a song that could have been My Bloody Valentine, had they kept making music. The rest sounds like a wonderful combination of Lush, Darling Buds, with a bit of Jesus and Mary Chain thrown in. What Sleigh Bells would sound like if they had a thing for Shoegaze instead of a fetish for beats.
Band I was going to write about but they appeared on every other year end list: Cut Copy. Zonoscope Zonoscope - Cut Copy was released this year and I really like the record. It’s not as straight-up dancey as In Ghost Colours, but it’s still some of the best dance pop with vocals of the past 10 years. Take everyone’s word for it.
Favorite Big Rawk Riff Record: Foo Fighters – Wasting Light. Wasting Light (Deluxe Version) - Foo Fighters  You know, I was all set to wrtite about how I wasn’t real big on this album. I remembered downloading it when it came out and knowing it had big riffs. And then I listened to it again before writing this and realized that it’s a big, musclebound record. Probably the best straight-up rock record of the year.
Favorite Morrissey-esque Singer whose record came out in 2010: Philip Benson from Magic Bullets. Magic Bullets - Magic Bullets I come at some stuff late, and I hadn’t heard of these guys until I saw them in Surfing Magazine. The description sounded interesting, and I finally got around to listening to them this year. I got into a lot of guitar pop recently – These guys, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Surfer Blood. All different, but so fun to listen to. The standout track on this record for me is “They Wrote a Song About You
Favorite Rap: Theophilus London. Ok, I don’t listen to a lot of rap. I’m sure the Kanye/Hova album was great. I haven’t heard it. But it’s my blog, and it’s my best of, and this is the kind of rap that I like. It might be telling to explain that I first heard of Theophilus London from a mini-interview in GQ magazine, showing his style and talking about being a Morrissey fan. Well, that hooked me right there. I listened to his new songs on the Lovers Holiday EP Lovers Holiday - EP - Theophilus London this past summer and really liked the tunefulness of the songs. Listening to “Why Even Try,” I was reminded of older songs like Malcom McLaren’s “Madam Butterfly,” P.M. Dawn’s “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss,” and, by extension, Spandau Ballet’s “True.” I made a playlist of those 4 songs, and they all fit great together, and made for great, chilled-out summer listening.
Favorite Band You’ve Never Heard Of: Boy + Kite – Go Fly. Go Fly - Boy + Kite The music really reminds me of good 90’s boy/girl indie, like Pixies or Sonic Youth, but also stuff like Seam and early Breeders, with engaging guitar interplay. Try “Neighbors” or “Isometrics“, but the whole album is really good.
Just Another Good Record: The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient. Slave Ambient - The War On Drugs Reminds me of Mazzy Star in its heroin haziness. Definitely descended from the The Velvet Underground, some of the songs have that unchanging beat with no fills, but they mix it up with higher tempo tunes (“Your Love Is Calling My Name” and “Baby Missiles” have a little bit of that fast train-shuffle). There are the “ambient” pieces as well, wordless jams and drifting sonic meanderings that are dotted amongst the “proper” songs. But none of the “proper” songs have choruses as such, they’re more like poems or stories set to guitar and drums. His voice at times reminds me of Ian McCulloch, at times a intelligible Dylan. Check “I Was There” to see where I got that comparison.

Favorite “We’re gettin’ the band back together”: The Stone Roses – Runner up: The Promise Ring. Are you kidding me? The Stone Roses? This was like the holy grail, the ark of the covenant, the…other stuff that’s considered a lost artifact. Is Ian Brown‘s voice great? Not really – well, not live, anyway (but it’s better than John’s). But to have John Squire playing guitar again…a dream come true for me. And the vocals on a song like “Fools Gold” aren’t really the point, although the lyrics are a great part of that song. I really liked both albums of the Roses, but obviously their first album is their calling card. I don’t know if their new music will be as good, but I’m excited to hear it. As for The Promise Ring, I’m just hopeful that they’ll play more than just the two shows they have right now.

Best Band Breakup: R.E.M. Classy. Who knows if they stayed around too long – I actually liked their most recent record – but this seems to be a case where they had said what they had to say, and stopped. I wonder if other, older bands will follow suit.

Favorite Last-Minute Addition: The Head and the Heart. I literally just heard their album The Head and the Heart - The Head and the Heart on December 29th or 30th and really liked it. Rock with a somewhat folk feel, akin to The Avett Brothers or Okkervil River (damn, that’s another band that I meant to write about for this year). Definitely looking forward to hearing more from TH&TH.

So, I think that’s probably about it. Happy New (Gregorian calendar) Year, everyone. I’m looking forward to our year in music.


Be the first to comment on this article.

January 4, 2012 at 3:35 am

Nice Sam. Although I must say the Metallica-Reed conglomeration was like a ride in the Reed's Suzuki Samari, a waste of time and a vehicle made to please many, and failing at pleasing anyone. Love the Foo-Fighters album, best rock album, agreed. Man, that Aberdeen video was wicked awesome and totally depressing…Awesome blog!

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
January 6, 2012 at 1:35 am

See, and I don't think the Lou Reed-Metallica record was made to please anyone but them. I should re-read the interview, but, and you should know this – you don't really make music for other people. Unless you're in a cover band, I guess. I don't write songs hoping other people will like them, I write them to do something fun for me. Sure, if people like the songs, that's great, but I'm not calcluating "Ok, loud-soft-loud, chorus here" etc, and I don't think that's what they're doing either.

That said, glad you like the blog & the Cage the Elephant vid. 🙂

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