Jul 7, 2012

2011 in Music – Part 3

Part 3 of my long ass best of 2011 in Music List. Cheers.

I still remember the first time I heard My Morning Jacket. It was live and I didn’t know who the hell they were… the next 3 weeks were spent finding albums in record stores and investing cash so that they could keep making music. Circuital follows the trend of excellent MMJ albums and doesn’t disappoint. It’s fun, relaxed, deep, funky, groovy, and everything in between. Album opener Victory Dance starts with a gong, a synth line and includes a running-into-battle ditty strewn amidst grinding guitars just to let you know that, yet again, you’re in for a ride. Then you’re led into the album title track which is classic MMJ, with staccato guitars starting up while the southern rhythm simmers in the background until they come forth at around the 2 minute mark. At the end of that song, you see as they continue to fade to another song. Taking into account the visual of the album, it’s as if they’re tuning from cosmic station to cosmic station. It’s a more concentrated effort than Evil Urges (although I also loved that album). It has delicate moments like Wonderful (The Way I feel), lush slow burners like Slow Slow Tune,  rockers like First Light, and even a funky metal song with a choir offering backup in Holding on to Black Metal. What you get in the end is possibly the tightest My Morning Jacket album you’ve ever jammed to. Choice Tracks: Victory Dance, Circuital, Wonderful (The Way I feel), Outta My System

For many people, The Screaming Trees were the great grunge band that should have been. Truth be told, I was a late bloomer in regards to the Trees, first listening to Lanegan in detail in his solo outings and later in other projects. Honestly, as a singer Lanegan is one of my favorite vocalists of all time, oozing coolness a vampire would get chills from. Mr. Mark’s awesome vocals aside though, The Screaming Trees were a really, really good band that didn’t get a fair shake and whose timing was just wrong one too many times before they called it quits. That said, you’d do yourself a disservice by not listening to Uncle Anesthesia, Dust or their most awesome Sweet Oblivion. But that was the past and this album… well this album is also from the past. These are the recordings of what was going to be the follow-up to Dust, and it rocks. I know I’m a 90’s child and I know I’m skewed towards my grungy side, but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a really good album. Actually, it’s a really, really, really good album and a testament that I’m not alone wishing these guys would have had more success. Choice Tracks: Ash Gray Sunday, Revelator, Black Rose Way, Reflections, Tomorrow Changes, Low Life, Anita Grey, Last Words.

There’s a reason why this album won Grammies and has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, it’s because it’s real good. I’ve seen some sub-par reviews and I can’t help but disagree even if I’m not a huge Adele fan. The reason is simple, I asked my wife to put it on, start to finish, and I only heard 3 songs that weren’t spectacular, which means they were just good. The other tracks? Downright amazing. With so much success it’s almost a moot point to go into detail about this album. Good vocals, great lyrics, stripped down production, direct approach, interesting vocal phrasing, powerful voice, inspired performance. The album has all this and more.

Much lighter on the Hip-hop than Plastic Beach, The Fall is a very flowy Gorillaz album. Starting off with an ultra spaced out snippet that drags a bit at over 4 minutes, the album eases into Revolving Doors and Hillbilly Man, two fun, funky tracks with airy parts and funky beats in between. This then fades into the very danceable Detroit, which is about as club ready as I think I’ve ever heard a Gorillaz track, which is actually a 2 minute segue that leads into Shy-town, a track that seems pulled out of something from the Air discography. And that’s how the album flows… mellow genre bending, sometimes danceable, sometimes airy and light in its groove and at all times very interesting, even if it is without huge hits. Choice Tracks: Shy-Town, Hill Billy Man, Revolving Doors,

Unlike other post rock bands, Mogwai has a knack for really challenging themselves to put forth different albums. I love Explosions in the Sky, then again, the last album had a couple of tracks that were reminiscent of some of their earlier work. That doesn’t happen with Mogwai, and Hardcore will never die, but you will is a great example of how good a set of musicians they are. In the first three tracks you have three different tempos and ambiances, there’s no real unifying concept and it just flows from one to the other. White noise grows starts off with delayed guitars, some background noise and a wall of sound that’s built one musical brick at a time. From there, you go to Mexican Grand Prix, starting off with a droning beat and organs before allowing some the guitar to come into the song and then, vocals… always a left curve from these guys. In this case, as usual, it’s pretty hard to make out what they say, which is besides the point. Then you flow into Rano Pano, which could best be described as post grunge since it mixes both genres interestingly. I swear I hear echoes of Sonic Youth and Velvet Underground in that song (which happens on other songs like San Pedro). The rest of the album is equally varied and top notch and helps Mogwai cement the fact that when it comes to Post Rock, few bands can push the envelope as much as them. Choice Tracks: White Noise, Mexican Grand Prix, Death Rays, San Pedro, How to be a werewolf, You're Lionel Richie.


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