Before I realized it I saw that it was nearing the end of June 2012 and I hadn’t put my post of best music from 2011. During 2011, I did manage to put up quite a few reviews, the thing is that I know of at least one person who’s actually told me they look forwards to this post to discover new music, and to you, I apologize for the delay. 2012 has been a bit on the loopy side and there will be more on this later, for now though, here are my top cuts of albums from 2011.
If you’ve ever read this blog, odds are you’ll know Restrictions Apply is a Jedi master with more wisdom in his beard than most people in their entire body, Me is a 21st century female with big balls who wears her heart on her sleeve and I love boxing, surfing and Pearl Jam. Seriously, if Pearl Jam sold a brand of cocaine, I’d be screwed. That being said, instead of going full blast with another gush fest, here’s a link to my review.
With the exception of Robert Christgau, there is a widespread love for Radiohead which ranges from being people’s favorite band to people christening them the modern day Pink Floyd. Favoritism aside, The King of Limbs is a headphones album if Radiohead have ever put out a headphones album. From the time I wrote the first review which you can read by clicking here, a bit has changed in my perspective of the album. So short it’s almost an EP, The King of Limbs has become one of my favorite Radiohead albums for one reason… how they play it live is a completely different spin on the album meaning that what you get on your headphones is different than what you will get live. To me that’s great because it adds depth to an already deep band. That being said, King of Limbs is sparse, very electronic and shows echoes of most of their catalogue somewhere… the thing is that when you see them live or their “from the basement” versions, you can’t help but be blown away. Choice Tracks: Bloom, Lotus Flower, Separator, Give up the Ghost.
The end of a band, the end of an era? Who knows? What I do know is that Collapse Into Now is as solid an REM album as I think they’ve ever done. Seriously. It’s that ridiculously good. The amazing thing is that even in an album that has hooks to spare, more memorable tracks than you care to admit and an energy absent from many an R.E.M. album, it’s their Swan Song. It’s their goodbye… and dammit, if there’s any way to say goodbye, these guys pulled it off. For a more in depth review, click here. Choice Tracks: Discoverer, Überlin, Mine smell like honey, Blue, Oh my Heart, Walk it Back, Alligator-Aviator-Autopilot-Antimatter
Last year I saw Soundgarden live for the first time in my life and thank God I took my friend’s advice and took ear plugs. Simply put, I’ve never been a concert as loud as that one ever… it’s loud to the point of them completely NOT caring for the health of their audience, and I’m fine with that. This live album is really good and at times amazing. At times Chris Cornell really does have problems with the vocals since he’s basically tearing his chords to shreds (thankfully last year he was completely solid). The thing is that the music is always topnotch. So check out this live choice as we all brace for impact of the new Soundgarden album. Want a deeper take on this album, then click here. Choice Tracks: Helter Skelter-Bootcamp, Spoonman, Search and Destroy, Ty Cobb, Searching with my good eye closed - and of course - Jesus Christ Pose
Quite honestly one of my favorite albums from 2011 if not my favorite. I’ve been a fan of Elbow ever since I stumbled on this band in ’04, buying their albums without even pre-listening and not only do they never disappoint, they seem to be getting even better. Build a Rocket Boys takes the Elbow sound to another level and in an era where people are focusing on tracks, it’s refreshing to still see quality bands putting out quality albums. There’s a flow to the album that really shows that the order in which they put the tracks is the perfect order. All I have left is to taste the Build a Rocket Boys Ale and I pretend to tackle that bucket list sometime in the not so distant future. For more info on this fantastic album, click here. Choice Tracks: Lippy Kids, The Birds, Jesus is a Rochdale girl, Dear Friends
I’m a really, really big Explosions fan. Their guitar tsunami of sound has always evoked interesting emotions within me as a music fan and as a writer and it’s amazing that a band that rarely has vocals can connect so intimately with me. Thanks to them, I’ve checked out Mogwai (who actually came before) Godspeed you Black Emperor and the Appleseed Cast. On their latest album, they occasionally fall into past steps but only long enough to get you into a fall sense of security before obliterating your ears with walls of sound and wonderful progressions. The standout track is the last one since it’s the biggest departure and I love bands that take risks and nail it. Want to see what else I had to say about this album, click here.
It took 5 years, the second departure of John Frusciante and a reevaluation of what the hell they would do for the Chili Peppers to come out with a new album. So how is Chili-life with Josh Klinghoffer? Quite mellow to be honest. I know some RHCP purists will call foul on the new guitarist just as they did with Dave Navarro and you know what? I also liked One Hot Minute. It seems people get so focused on whining and bitching that they have a hard time enjoying a good album, which is just What I’m with you is. Is it groundbreaking? No. Is it stratospheric? Nope. Is it going to be included in the Rolling Stones 500 best albums of all time? Hardly. But that doesn’t take away from a very solid effort from a band of veterans. The main thing I can focus on is that this time around, the guitars are understated rather than overstated. They work, they’re good and Josh is a hell of a guitarist and he did the smart thing, rather than try and fill Frusciante’s big foot shoes, he played his own way. Another interesting add-on are quite a few piano parts courtesy of Flea’s stint in musical theory and I really like the flow you get from the addition of some keys. So if this is what to expect from RHCP in the future, I have only one thing to say, I’m with them. Cut choices: “Monarchy of Rose”, “Did I let you know”, “Goodbye hooray”, “Police Station”, “Brendan’s Death Song”, “Ethiopia”.
Ok, I’m a Pearl Jam mark, this is no surprise, that being said I still find it hard to give this album even an A- rating for one simple reason, I think there were too many lost opportunities to let it go unnoticed. That said, this album is still a lovely mellow addition to my collection and I really enjoy it greatly. The detail is that listening to “Longing to belong” spoiled me and I thought the entire album was going to be that way. When you listen to that song, which has string arrangements, you get lulled into a false sense of security that the entire album will be this way… not the case and there lies the lost opportunity. With the exception of that song, all other tracks are straightup ukulele, and though nice and mellow, it may grow old for a couple of people, even with Eddie singing some of his happiest tracks ever. Standout track is definitely the ultra happy “Tonight you belong to me.” That song makes you even want to hug someone. Actually, that’s the coolest part of this album. Lots of love songs, lots of mellow happy songs and lots of songs that get you smiling. Is it good? Definitely. Could it have been epic? Somehow I think so and I’m still waiting for that Eddie solo album that completely blows my mind away. The funny thing is that it can still happen with a ukulele. Put a band with it or some other instruments and give us a few curve balls and you got an A+ from a lifelong fan. For now though, I’ll settle to put a B+ for assuaging my need for more Eddie music. Choice tracks: Longing to belong, Without you, Broken Heart, Tonight you belong to me.