Dec 092011
 

Kent’s Best of:

Legitimately Good Albums

  • Okkervil River – I Am Very Far – After two less-than-memorable releases, Okkervil River pulls it together.  They’ve finally got the “rock n roll” sound they were trying for on The Stage Names down, yet there is plenty of rambling woe is me Okkervil River songs as well.  Pity that the best song, Mermaid, was only released as a single.
  • Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo – Brent thought it was odd that I would like this album so much, due to its lyrics of woe, and I thought it was odd that he would like it so much, due to its guitar virtuosity.  Kurt Vile does both things really well.  I like that the guy has such a terrible voice (All my favorite singers couldn’t sing).  I like the too lazy to be punk aesthetic.  I like that just about every episode of my new favorite terrible TV show, Revenge, has a song off this album in it.
  • Tom Waits – Bad as Me – Like Okkervil River, Tom Waits has been putting out some crummy albums of late.  I suppose I shouldn’t say crummy, because Tom Waits and Okkervil River’s crap is way better than most other bands best efforts.  Anyway, this is Tom Waits’ best work since Mule Variations.  I like the way each song goes in it’s own direction, rather than the unified sound of Real Gone.

Good Albums That Aren’t As Good As The Legitimately Good Albums, But Are Still Pretty Good.

  • Generationals – Actor-Caster – Generationals make a strange kind of music.  It’s nostalgic pop, but with a synthesizer twinge.  It’s like they have taken samples of old music and stitched them together.  The guitar sounds like it is straight out of the 60s.  The production is great, and they have a great ear for adding odd instruments to the mix without overdoing it. I had 3 chances to go see them this year, and did not make a single one, and I regret that.  I think their biggest accomplishment is being a New Orleans band that doesn’t sound like a New Orleans band.
  • The Antlers – Burst Apart – Once you make a great concept album, I feel like you have to keep on making concept albums.  It just seems weird to not over-analyze an Antlers album as a whole.
  • Other Lives – Tamer Animals – Apparently they have another album that sounds just like this one.  I must have had it at some point, because Brent has it.  Apparently it didn’t survive the yearly purge of crappy music.  The three song stretch of Tamer Animals, Bust Bowl III, and Weather is just fantastic reverb-y goodness.
  • Yellow Ostrich – The Mistress – I love a lo-fi sound.  I love recorded loops.  I love harmonies.  Naturally, I really enjoy Yellow Ostrich’s weirdo album.  All the songs are pretty much the same, but the sound is fantastic.

Albums that have one or two really good songs on them, and a bunch of filler.

  • Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
  • Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
  • EMA – Past Life of Martyred Saints
  • The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

Albums with a great sound that don’t have any great songs on them

  • Wu Lyf – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
  • The Dodos – No Color

Album that would have been on this list had Kurt Vile not come around
and said “This is how you do it”

  • Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts
Brent’s best of:
10) Slow Club:Paradise– I had a bunch of albums tied for 10th, at the end, it was either this, or Those Darlin’s.  Slow Club won because the first song, Two Cousins, is so good.  It gets me excited for the whole album.  It never tops the opener.  But especially as a sophomore effort, I really think they did a bang-up job.9) Allo Darlin’: Allo Darlin’– This came out in 2010, and has the worst name I can think of for a band.  So that was two strikes right there.  But it’s sweet and clever in the way that Belle and Sebastian or Camera Obscura can be.  Horrible name.  It bears repeating.8) Adele:21– There are some lousy songs on this thing, but it also includes two songs that could be the song of the year for me.  And several others that might be in that category if they were in the shadow of the Rolling in the Deep and Someone Like You. And I love the concept of Adele being a popstar who outsold like everyone else this year.7)  The Weeknd:House of Balloons– I am the last person that should be liking this album, and I’m sure I don’t get all its references, but it won me over.  It sounds like 1990’s R&B to me, but I’m sure I have that wrong.  Much more than the sum of its parts.6) Hunx & His Punx:Too Young to Be in Love – Phil Spector girl-group songs sung by a gay!  Where do I sign up?  I loved this album.  Pure joy.  And then they whip out this raspy-voiced lady singer!  Even better.

5) The Anlers:Burst Apart – Their last album, Hospice, was great, but sounded lousy.  This album is good but it sounds great.  The Antlers make great songs.  Every Nigh My Teeth Are Falling Out.  Come on.

4) Lykki Li:Wounded Rhymes – Any of these next three could be my number one album.  Lykki Li is like 20 or something.  It’s crazy how good these songs are when you consider how young she is.  There seems to be a real trend of retreading Phil Spector.  But her Sadness is a Blessing is the only take on it that expanded on it in any way.  Love Out of Lust is going to be one of my favorite songs as long as I am in love.  Rich Kid Blues and Get Some should be on the radio.

3)  Cults:Cults – Okay, I take that back.  I think the Cults reference the Spector sound and they do some good stuff with it indirectly.  Go Outside is one of my favorite songs of the year, which is unfortunate because it was released last year.  The album is 2011 however, and songs like You Know What I Mean and Bumper grew on me all year.  Kent hit the head on the nail.  This is next what seems to be a constant line of noise guy/girl singer bands (Sleigh Bells, Crystal Castles).

2) Generationals:Actor-Castor/Trust – I’m lopping together the EP and the album because both were excellent.  I wanted like the dickens to put as my number one entry.  But the only problem with this band – it’s fundamental to them and I don’t think they should change it –  their lyrics don’t mean anything to me.  So you have these unbelievably songs and pretty good production, but the words don’t take me anywhere.  Which is a shame.  It was by far the best tunes of the year in my opinion.  Yes, I just said tunes.

1) Okkervil River:I Am Very Far/Mermaid –   I love this band, and this is their best work since Black Sheep Boy.  Also, as Kent pointed out to me last month, the Mermaid Single is a real piece of work too.  Will Scheff is kind of a jerk, as I learned this year.  But I will take his lyrics over almost anyone at this point.  And they take enough left turns musically to make it an interesting album in that regard as well.

Find this same information here, at Brent’s blog: http://iloveyou2themax.blogspot.com/2011/12/best-albums-of-2011.html

Still to come: The Best Songs of 2011 List