Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Favorite Things - The 2011 Music Edition

Its the end of the year as we know it, which means this is also the time of year when websites and bloggers bombard you with "Best Of" lists.  I am not going to presume that I know what the best of anything is.  All I know is that I know when I like something, and I think you do too. So here is my list of favorite music things from 2011 (in no particular order).  Add your favorite things in the comments.

Happy New Year!

Bell X1- Bloodless Coup
Bell X1 has been around for quite awhile but have yet to reach any kind of critical mass in the US.  A huge band in Ireland, they released their 5th studio album, Bloodless Coup in April.  I was introduced to Bell X1 via RTE's 2fm streaming internet radio (check it out HERE) and have basically spent the time since my discovery trying to soak up all of their wonderful music.  Favorite tracks off of Bloodless Coup: Velcro, Nightwatchmen, 74 Swans.
Bloodless Coup - Bell X1

Also worth checking out - NPR Music's broadcast of Bell X1 from the Gravity Bar, the bar at the top of the Guinness Factory, overlooking Dublin. 

Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys
I literally cannot say enough good things about this album.  It is simply brilliant from the very first track on through to the last.  I've always been a lukewarm Death Cab fan, feeling they had some stellar songs (Cath....) and some songs that just weren't really my bag.  This album, released in May, blew the lid off of anything I thought about them, forcing me to take a second look at their previous recordings and stuffing them squarely in my 'bands I love' pile.  Favorite tracks: You Are A Tourist, Monday Morning, Stay Young Go Dancing, and the ethereal, so lovely and beautiful it might make you want to cry (its OK, I won't tell) "Unobstructed View".
Codes and Keys - Death Cab for Cutie

Yuck - Yuck
Yuck is a brand-spankin new band that sounds conspicuously like a band sent here to the future from the 90's, bringing with them Sonic Youth-esque distortions, but made current with a buffered down playfulness and Elliot Smith mellowness that gives their debut album (which was released in February) a nostalgic-yet-fresh feeling.  90's music lovers will find plenty to be happy about, as will current indie band lovers.  The most remarkable anecdote about this band is their youth- most of them are barely able to drink legally in the US, and many track portions were recorded in their bedrooms.  Those that might think such a widely acclaimed debut was a fluke take note: they rock live, too.  Favorite tracks: Get Away, The Wall, Georgia, Stutter, Operation
Yuck (Bonus Track Version) - Yuck

Airborne Toxic Event - All At Once
LA-area band Airborne Toxic Event is probably best known for their heart-wrenching song, "Sometime Around Midnight".  This year they released their sophomore album, All At Once, an emotionally volatile album full of more songs filled with love, sadness, joy, and agitation.  Lead singer Mikel Jollet has a way of making every song he sings sound like the most important song he's ever sung, making up an album so full of emotion that this second album does absolutely nothing for the term 'sophomore slump'.  Favorite tracks: All At Once, Numb, Half of Something Else, All I Ever Wanted
The Airborne Toxic Event (Bonus Track Version) - The Airborne Toxic Event

Wyldlife - City of Inbreds
One of the things about being a music blogger is a strange inherent desire to comb through the internet and the music sent to me to find something that stands out.  Sometimes it is mind-numbingly difficult, but once in a blue moon, a shining, rockin gem pops up from the pile and makes me wonder how the hell the whole world doesn't know about this awesome music that is filling my ears.  This was the case with Wyldlife, a band of guys from the New York/New Jersey area that put their own spin on a page out of The Strokes' playbook. There is a reason they are my number one most read blog post of all time.

Wyldlife - Wyldlife

The Head and The Heart - "Down In the Valley"
Don't get me wrong, I love The Head and The Heart's entire album, but it was the single, "Down in The Valley" that sent me over the edge.  This song breathes new life into the idea of a current folk revival genre, and does so in just about the most authentic way possible with a swaying, gentle rhythm.  They performed "Down in The Valley" on Seattle's public radio station KEXP, check it out below:

The Head and the Heart - The Head and the Heart

Laura Marling - "Sophia"
A British singer who released her third album in September, Laura Marling's folksy vocals and guitar strumming will put any listener at ease....and also make you want to dig up your old Joni albums.  While all of her music is of this nature, it was the standout single "Sophia" that first introduced me to her, and I find myself constantly going back to it.  For those of you looking for a few more examples of Laura Marling's music, check out this post by music blog Rawkblog.

A Creature I Don't Know (Bonus Track Version) - Laura Marling

From The Sky Down
A documentary by Waiting for Superman's Davis Guggenheim, hard core or long time U2 fans will be especially captivated - this film isn't a broad overview of U2's career- instead it focuses on a particular, contentious and pivotal point.  By focusing on the making of Achtung Baby, David Guggenheim takes the viewer into historical moments never seen before- like the momentous discovery of "One".

Pearl Jam Twenty
I will say simply that this movie was written and directed by Cameron Crowe, which should tell you everything you need to know about this documentary.  But just in case you aren't privy to the musical prowess that is a Cameron Crowe movie (Almost Famous ring a bell?), suffice it to say that this movie will basically tell you everything you ever need to know about Pearl Jam.  Its an enthralling story, full of fascinating footage and stories about the band's start, journey, and where they are now twenty years later, and will send you running to your iTunes account to re-listen to every PJ album you ever bought. Just in case you forgot how great they are.

Pearl Jam Twenty

Bon Iver covers Bonnie Raitt:
Bon Iver - I Can't Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover) by tynie626

Glen Hansard and Eddie Vedder singing "Falling Slowly":

The Q Magazine Achtung Baby covers, but particularly Damien Rice's cover of "One":
One by u2mexico

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