Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Flipside top 25 Albums of 2011

Tough year because there was no stand out, this is the grand list. Debate and enjoy.

#25 (tie) The Black Keys "El Camino"- A late comer to the list. The Akron duo provide the perfect antidote to the years abundance of electronic offerings with straight ahead blues oriented rock. Dangermouse couldn't even over produce this one. Selected: "Gold On the Ceiling"

#25 (tie)Dum Dum Girls "Only In Dreams" -The most complete offering to date by the girls. Would have played "Coming Down" the best song on the album but its six minutes long. A perfect compliment to their EP release earlier this year. Selected:"Just A Creep"

#24 Sloan "The Double Cross" - By far, Sloan's best work in Twenty years and one of their best in their career. The best Power Pop album of the year, the songs are so well crafted its sick, almost automatic. Selected:"Beverly Terrace"

#23 The Decemberists "The King is Dead" -the first big indie album of 2011, the band shakes off the last two lack luster efforts and produces a gem. Colin Meloy's vocals have never been stronger. Features Gillian Welch with additional vocals and Peter Buck. Selected:"Down By the Water"

#22 A A Bondy "Believers" -Excellent follow up to 2009's "When the Devils Loose", for the former Verbena frontman. A great mix of folk and indie with some musical twists. Not your typical indie rock album. Selected:"The Heart is Willing"

#21 The Rosebuds "Loud Planes Fly Low" -What do you do when as a married duo undergoing a divorce? Make a record, of course. The tension in music is subtle in spots, in your face obvious in others. Its a great train wreck worth watching. Selected:"Go Ahead"

#20 Wye Oak "Civilian" -The Baltimore duo's follow up to 2009's the Knot. Jenn Wasner's vocals are excellent and the band is tight but the production goes too lo-fi at times. Still worth the price of admission. Selected:"Holy Holy"

#19 Wild Flag "Wild Flag" -Debut album by music veterans from Slater Kinney and Helium. The band sounds like it's been together for years and the sound is a progression from the other two bands mentioned above and it rocks. Selected :"Future Crimes"

#18 The Rural Alberta Advantage-"Departing" - One of my favorite albums of the first half of 2011, there is no filler in this album. A true blend of pop, indie with a twist of americana. The track "Good Night" has show stopping vocals. Selected: "The Breakup"

#17 Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks "Mirror Traffic" - It may not be Stephen Malkmus' best work but still an excellent album. Beck's production brings out the best in terms of musical range working with the Jicks. Selected "No One Is(As I Are Be)"

#16 Bass Drum of Death "GB City"-The duo from Mississippi produce an album that channels everything rock from the Ramones to the White Stripes. The band kicks in appropriately placed breaks and hooks on tracks like "Young Pros" and "Get Found" . Selected "Heart Attack Kid"

#15 Big Troubles "Romantic Comedy"-The boys from Jersey via Brooklyn produce a remarkable indie nugget. Check out songs like "Sad Girls" and "Minor Keys" The album is texture laden, appropriate given its production by music vet Mitch Easter. Selected "Misery"

#14 Mikal Cronin (Self Titled)- Debut solo album by the veteran of the San Francisco DIY movement. Plenty of help from other SF sceners including Ty Segall. The albums shows the 60's garage rock influence while 70's pop sensibilities. Cronin excels as a songwriter on tracks such as "Gone" and "Apathy". Selected "Apathy"

#13 Obits "Moody Standard and Poor"- Ironic album title, deep volume of great rock on the band's sophomore offering. Tracks are timely including "You Gotta Lose" which digs up the ghosts of Archers of Loaf. Selected "Everything Looks Better in the Sun"

#12 Wilco "The Whole Love"- Possibly Wilco's best album in ten years, far superior to the self titled album from 2009. This time around the band rocks with tracks like "Art of Almost" and abruptly changes direction with slow burners like "Black Moon". Selected "Dawned On Me"

#11 Apex Manor "The Year Of Magical Drinking"-Former Broken West member Ross Flournoy's band produces on the best songs of 2011 in response to writer's block, "Under the Gun". Unblocked, the band kicks out greats tracks such as "Teenage Blood" and "The Party Line". Only ironic that Flournoy was admitted to the hospital in August for a drinking problem, magical indeed. Selected "Under the Gun"

#10 Times New Viking "Dancer Required" -the band from Columbus OH drips into the Guided by Voices formula and produces a true Lo-fi classic. They were able to expand on 2009's Born Again Revisited with deeper songwriting and more complex arrangements. The production sounds DIY with the analog hiss but it's part of the show. Selected "No Room To Live"

#9 The Vaccines "What Did You Expect From the Vaccines" -The one truly British album and hard to believe it's their first album. Definitely some Stooges and Ramone influences here along with some more current British band like the Arctic Monkeys. "Post Break up Sex" is a candidate for song of the year. Selected "Wetsuit"

#8 Fleet Foxes "Helplessness Blues"-An album that is not much indie rock but a folk based trip across a musical landscape. In the album, you can hear influences of the Beach Boys and Bitches Brew era Miles Davis to Radiohead and Animal Collective with a production value of Phil Spector. I tried not to like this album but it sucked me in. Selected "Battery Kinzie"

#7 Iceage "New Brigade" -Danish punk band's debut. It's great to see a punk band actually have a musical vision and carry it off. The band uses sixties style harmonies ("Broken Bones") along with unconventional beat signatures ("IIIIIIIII") to create a remarkable record that does not let down in its angst but can still be easy on the ears. Selected "Broken Bones"

#6 Richmond Fontaine "The High Country" -An album about a lady who works in an auto parts store and a speed freak, homicidal lumberjack. I kid you not. An Americana opera written in narrative. It may not be a first of its kind, but nothing matches story behind the album. Like much of the Who's "Tommy", the album needs to be taken as a whole to understand the parts and in the end you'll hate Angus King. Selected "The Chainsaw Sea"

#5 EMA "Past Life Martyred Saints"- Former singer of the pyscho/folk group the Gowns, Ericka M Anderson (AKA EMA) gives one of the most stirring and most emotionally charged albums of 2011 and yes, its her debut solo release. The track "California" is one of the best of the year with rap/sermon delivery or the Phil Collin beats of "Milkman". The vocals are reminiscent of a younger Kirstin Hersh with similar dark imagery. Selected "Milkman" and "Anteroom"

#4 Five Eight "Your God is Dead to Me Now" -Veteran rockers out of Athens GA known more for their live shows drop what is arguably their best album in their 23 year career, their first since 2004. The album is an introspective about faith and false profits. It floats from straight on rocker to americana, from the title track's take on deities ("you're not real, that's just how I feel") to the optimism of "Ode to Massachusetts" . Selected "Sad Eyes" and "Ode to Massachusetts"

#3 Veronica Falls "Veronica Falls" - British quartet that seemingly came out of nowhere. Praised for their performance at this year's SXSW, the band released their self titled debut album. Surf guitars , boy/girl vocal harmonies straight from the Mamas and the Papas and the darkness of Jesus and the Mary Chain. Nothing new but given its simplicity in the sound with reverb and a lot of tambourines , there is only a tip of the ice berg showing here. Selected "Bad Feeling" and "Right Side of My Brain"

#2 Kurt Vile "Smoke Ring for My Halo"-Singer/Songwriter from Philadelphia came into 2011 after leaking one of the tracks, "In My Time" in November 2010 and making Smoke Ring one of the most anticipated albums coming into the year. It did not disappoint. You can see all of Vile's influenced evident in the album up to and including Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Sebadoh. Word imaging close to that of a mid 60's Dylan is all over tracks like "Jesus Fever", "Baby's Arms" and the title track. Vile's guitar work on Peeping Tomboy some of the best I've heard all year. Selected "Puppet to the Man" and "In My Time"

#1 Ty Segall "Goodbye Bread" -Talk about a busy year. Ty Segall released a live album ("Live In Aisle Five"), an EP of T. Rex covers ("Ty Rex"), a compilation of his early works ("Singles") along with "Goodbye Bread" not to mention he drums on 5 tracks of Mikal Cronin's solo album (see #14). The album veers away ever so slightly from the lo-fi sound that was Segall's trademark. More focused, you can hear his influences from the Who power chords and Moonesque drumming on "The Flood" to more T Rex on "You Make the Sun Fry" to the indie jangle of "Fine", DIY indie has found its flag bearer. Selected "The Flood" and "You Make the Sun Fry"

Honorable Mention:
The War On Drugs "Slave Ambient"
TV on the Radio "Nine Types of Light"
We Were Promised Jetpacks "In the Pit of the Stomach"
The Cults "The Cults"
The Builders and the Butchers "Dead Reckoning"
Male Bonding "Endless Now"

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