Saturday, May 25, 2013

My Favorite Albums of 2011

Here is a repost of my Best Albums of 2011 list that originally appeared a couple of years ago on CHIRP Radio’s Web site...

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2011. The next list is from Assistant Online Media Director Clarence Ewing.

1. tUnE-yArDs – W H O K I L L (4AD) I’m not the kind of person who stands on street corners loudly exclaiming “Holy S#%!” with my headphones on, yet that's just what I did when I first gave this album a listen while waiting for a bus. Merrill Garbus' melodic gymnastics and fiercely inventive technique (backed by Nate Brenner's sweet bass lines) are just brilliant.


2. Battles – Gloss Drop (Warp) They combine the blunt force of a punk band with the dexterity and precision of a chamber orchestra, genre-hopping all over the place to suit their needs. It's the most focused and confident experimental music or the most advanced pop music I've ever heard. Either way, it's fantastic.




3. White Hills – H-p1 (Thrill Jockey) A hot vortex of noise-rock that brings to mind jet engines, the drone of a billion computer servers, sports stadium entrance music, the static-y aftermath of bomb explosions, and political rallies, all mashed together and powered by anger and fear. No other album I've heard in the last decade so completely nails what the 21st century sounds like.


4. Panda Bear – Tomboy (Paw Tracks) I was prepared to be underwhelmed by this album when it was first released. The knock on Noah Lennox's follow up to his landmark album Person Pitch was that it’s “more of the same.” But sometimes that's a good thing, especially when it comes from a gifted musician who continues to sharpen his electro-ambient-avant-pop craft.








5. Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place (Asthmatic Kitty) If forests could sing, I suspect this is what we would hear.


6. Daedelus – Bespoke (Ninja Tune) A remarkable sampler of the bleeding edge of dance and electronic music from a group of today's brightest talents (including Milosh, Inara George, Baths, and Young Dad) whose common denominator is Alfred Darlington, an accomplished musician in his own right and one of those guys who knows everyone in the scene.








7. Blueprint – Adventures in Counter-Culture (Rhymesayers) A terrific offering from a gifted rapper who draws from many musical sources to express himself (everything from gangsta beats to club-ready dance tracks to New Wave retro to Coldplay-ish anthemic mainstream pop), tied together by an undercurrent of melancholy and world-weariness. It's not just a great musical journey but a vivid picture of an individual.


8. The Cool Kids – When Fish Ride Bicycles (Green Label Sound) When it comes to rap, artists need to either move forward into new territory, or go back to what made it so great to begin with. This album from Antoine "Sir Michael Rocks" Reed (Matteson, Illinois) and Evan "Chuck Inglish" Ingersoll (Mount Clemens, Michigan) takes the latter path, using stripped-down beats and vocal dexterity to breathe new life into an increasingly stale pop genre.


9. The Fleshtones – Brooklyn Sound Solution (Yep Roc) Remember a time when you could not play Rock unless you knew how to play Blues? The Fleshtones remember, and this legendary New York outfit serves up meat-and-potatoes glam-garage jams that pack more punch than most of today’s distortion-and-effects-laden alt-rock. And they make it sound effortless (after all, they've been doing it since 1976).






10. The Eternals – Approaching the Energy Field (Addenda / Submarine) The Eternals sound like what would happen if a funk band and an avant-garde jazz ensemble had a jam session one sunny afternoon in the ‘70s. Channeling the spirit of Sun Ra and Sly and the Family Stone, with political comment and poetry added for good measure, this is the modern example of how to do Fusion.







And Some Outstanding Singles from 2011...
"Beat and the Pulse" by Austra
"Fast Challenges" by Chad Valley
"Mop It Up" by Gauntlet Hair
"As young As Yesterday" by Korallreven
"Natural Causes" by Nite Jewel
"Amor Fati" by Washed Out

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