My top-10 albums of 2011

Even if it has been a great year for music, it hasn’t been a particularly great one for new albums. I’ve discovered a lot of new bands and been to alot of awesome shows, but I was struggling a bit to find ten records that had impressed me.

But, I got there in the end…so here goes…in reverse order…my top-10 albums of 2011

Apologies for the random mixture of videos, sound cloud players and youtube ‘audio streams’…these are actually just boring “videos” of the album artwork that someone has uploaded, but I’ve turned the height way down so you only see the player bit. I’m sure this will mess up in some browsers. Sorry.

10. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
There were some major warning bells when I heard that Mark Ronson was producing the new Black Lips album, but it turned out alright…great even. Arabia Mountain is just a really awesome record! Their last album didn’t do much for me, but this one really brought back memories of their incredible Good Bad Not Evilfrom 2007. Although this is a much bigger sound and much more polished than we’re used to, it’s never “too much” and in the end the record just feels well-produced rather than over-produced. Great stuff! It’s difficult picking a favourite track. There are so many awesome songs to pick from, but in the end I just love the chorus to Mr. Driver too much. It has to be that one. It was stuck in my head for so long over the summer.

Favorite track: Mr. Driver
https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F20647191&show_comments=true&auto_play=false&color=ff7700 The Black Lips – Mr. Driver by pillowjungle

9. Cloud Nothings – s/t
This one was released in the early days of the year and I was still listening to it regularly in the summer. That doesn’t happen very often, so hats off to Dylan Baldi & Co. This is fun and bouncy garage pop of the best kind. Not overly serious, but never too juvenile either. I also managed to catch them live twice and they’re sooo much fun. And then there’s the videos! Eeek…some maximum weirdness going on there. It’s a great song, but I’m still not sure how I feel about the gagging-on-hair video for Should Have. It’s on youtube if you like that sort of thing. So, high expectations for this gang in the next year, since they already seem to have everything sorted…great on record, great live show and great (but weird) videos.

Favorite track: Not Important
https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F8672068 Cloud Nothings – Not Important by polaroidblog

8. Standard Fare – Out Of Sight, Out Of Town
After their amazing debut album last year, this was surely one of the most eagerly awaited indiepop releases of 2011. Did it live up to expectations? Of course it did! Emma is one of the best songwriters in indiepopland and this is another great record. And it’s not just Emma…some of my favourite tracks on the record are Danny’s this time. The songs on here are all great, but I must say that for me Standard Fare are really a live band…that’s when the songs really shine.

Favorite track: Call Me Up

7. Let’s Wrestle – Nursing Home
Let’s Wrestle went all the way across the Atlantic to record this one. And who was doing the knob turning if not indie legend Steve Albini! Was it worth it…did they really need to? I’m not sure. The songs are all great, but I do find some of the production a bit strange…especially the drum sound on some of the songs (mainly on If I Keep On Loving You). Was this on purpose? Maybe. I don’t know. The classic punk records are not really famous for their amazingly recorded drums. Anyway, who cares? It’s all about the songs and as I said they are all amazing! Another brilliant record from London’s finest punk kids.

Favorite track: In Dreams Part II

6. Veronica Falls – s/t
It was a long wait, but Veronica Falls finally released their album. Yes, there are quite a few songs on there that had already been released on various seven-inches, but those songs are all fucking ace and it would be a shame for people discovering the band to miss out, so that’s fine in my book. This is dreamy garage pop at it’s very best. It’s not often I notice these things, but I really love their drums. They take you by surprise over and over again and just when you think it’s not working…it just becomes part of it all and works just perfectly. Did that make any sense? Probably not. Same thing with the lyrics. I have no idea what most of the songs are about, but every time I try to listen and make sense of them I get carried away by the music and the subject matter becomes irrelevant.

Favorite track: Bad Feeling

5. John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
I don’t really know much about John Maus, apart from that he occasionally plays with Ariel Pink and is on Upset The Rhythm’s label. Oh, and that this album is fucking incredible. That’s all I need to be sure of for this kind of list, I suppose. It’s full of echoey and reverbey goodness, with repetitive melodies that wrap around your brain like some sort of warm crazy blanket. Erm…yes…and then you find yourself humming ‘let’s kill the cops tonight’ out loud on the tube and people stare. But, it’s great! He’s also a complete loon bag (in the best possible way) live…an absolutely mesmerising performer.

Favorite track: Cop Killer

4. The Death Set – Michael Poiccard
I’ve listened an insane amount to the Death Set’s 2008 record, Worldwide, so this one had a lot to live up to. After the sad death of bandmate Beau Valesco in 2009, the band understandably took a bit of time to figure out what to do. Nobody would have blamed them for calling it a day, since Beau was very much part of what made them such a great band, both on record and live. But they decided that he wouldn’t have wanted them to give up…and what better way to keep ones memory alive than to keep doing the thing they loved. From the first line “I wanna take this tape and blow up your fucking stereo!”to the last note, Michael Poiccard is just bursting with energy, some happy, some sad, some angry and some just very sweet. It’s certainly better produced than Worldwide and although I kinda miss the rubbish drum machines at times, Michael Poiccard is still definitely a record that I’ll keep on playing for a long time.

Favorite track: Can You Seen Straight?

3. Times New Viking – Dancer Equired
If there was one band I hoped would never “clean up their sound” it was Times New Viking. I adore all of their previous releases and as news of a change in direction for this record started popping up on the interwebs, I was getting worried. Part of their charm (to me anyway) was that you had to work hard to appreciate the songs. Somewhere under the cloud of hissy, distorted noise were these beautiful and incredibly catchy melodies. I shouldn’t have worried…even though this is a massively smooth record in Times New Viking terms, it is still far from clean and dull. And those melodies…they’re are as strong as ever! Awesome!

Favorite track: Fuck Her Tears
https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F13158358 Fuck Her Tears by Times New Viking

2. Humousexual – Grenzenlos
It’s only seven tracks, but I’m gonna call it an album. Sue me. This record just blew me away in a way I never expected. Sure, I like Tahini Beach Party, but it never made me feel like this. From the first song to the last, this is an incredible little album and sadly one that far too few people will ever hear. Or is it sad? Maybe we don’t want “them” to find out about Humousexual? Maybe they’re one of those bands that should be treasured by a few. I’m pretty sure Victor and Boitel are reasonably happy with that…if not, I guess I’ll help spread the word some more.

Favorite track: No Borders (but a very close second is the quieter last song, Come On In..and that one is on youtube)

1. Japanther – Beets, Lime and Rice
Readers of this blog will know how I feel about Japanther. They keep impressing me more and more, record after record, show after show and this is no different. It’s just awesome. It’s a bit less upbeat than last year’s Rock n’roll Ice Cream, but you can’t just spend your entire life just bouncing up and down, right? Sometimes bad or sad things happen. Heroes die, girlfriends leave…it’s all just part of life…and that is one thing this record is full of. It is almost impossible to pick a favourite track here, but I’ve settled for the opening track. The first time I listened I thought there was something wrong with the recording in the beginning…and then drums kicked in properly…and I was totally blown away. Awesomeness indeed.

Favorite track: First Of All

I think that’s it. Can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store for us…I hear rumours of a Japanther European tour in February! Eeeek!

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