To anyone who espouses the notion that my musical persuasions are solely relegated to the past (specifically the '80s and '90s) you're right...and wrong. The emphasis on Wilfully Obscure is and will likely remain retro, but I'm still enthused about new music from both emerging and classic artists. I thought I'd run down twenty-five of my favorite releases of 2011, not only as a way to catalog them for my own remembrance (in the event senility sets in later in life) but for your amusement and recommendation as well. 2011 was not a banner year for music, but in fact slightly superior to 2010 which I conveniently summarized. On the proverbial one-to-ten scale, there were in fact no tens, or nines, or even eight and a halves (save for maybe my top pick). Nonetheless there was plenty to pique my interest and maintain my curiosity, thanks to a clutch of inspired newbies. A little synopsis follows each title on my hallowed and coveted album list. Bear firmly in mind that your results may very.
In addition there are short lists (in no particular order) for honorable album mentions, and some of my favorite reissues of 2011. Towards the end of this lengthy diatribe, I've also included a link where you can download a "Best of the Blog" compilation featuring songs from twenty of my most cherished blog entries and retro discoveries for the year, including a handful of songs from albums not previously featured. A huge thanks goes out to anyone who has contributed in any small way to Wilfully Obscure over the past year. You have sincerely made this a more robust and substantive site.
Top 25 albums of 2011:
01. Farewell Continental – ¡Hey Hey Pioneers! (Paper and Plastick) - Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack goes the co-ed route with Kari Gray turning in the most neurotic and endearing rock album of the year. Bravo.
02. Maritime – Human Hearts (Dangerbird)- Ex-Promise Ring frontman Davey von Bohlen follows up 2007’s Heresy and the Hotel Choir with a record that’s nearly as visceral and inspired.
03. Doleful Lions - Let's Break Bobby Beausoleil Out Of Prison! - Space age hooks paired with an often surreal indie rock stride. Many happy returns.
04. Parachute Musical – Kill It Cut It Down - Probably my favorite singer/songwriter album of year. Piano rock bliss.
05. Yuck – s/t (Fat Possum) - Everything you've heard about them is 200% true and then some.
06. Ringo Deathstarr – Colour Trip (Sonic Unyon)- Delirious, engulfing dream-pop revisionism that virtually none of their ‘90s forebears had the smarts to come up with on their own.
07. Tim and Jean – Like What - Passion Pit-inspired techo pop from this prodigious and infectious Australia duo. Too bad it didn't see the light of day in North America.
08. Street Chant – Means (Arch Hill) - This sucker picks up where Dinosaur Jr.’s Bug left off, and furthermore, is indicative of the trajectory Sonic Youth should have charted in following up Goo. Nearly as revelatory as Yuck, and that’s saying quite a bit.
09. Pocket Genius – Nordic - Wasn't expecting something this potent after a decade hiatus. Pocket Genius bear the charismatic nonchalance and zesty reverb of The Replacements, Doughboys and Soul Asylum, in an oddly unique context. 10. Neon Indian - Era Extraña - True blue innovators. In the electronica venue, they are currently without peer.
11. Saves the Day – Daybreak (Razor & Tie) - This was my most anticipated album of 2011, and even though it didn’t quite live up to my lofty expectations, Chris Conley is still the consummate melody weaver.
12. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light - A milestone for Dave Grohl and Co. The Foo Fighters are the only arena band whose concerts I’m not embarrassed about attending.
13. Shy Mirrors – Sailed Blanks (Big School) - The Superchunk and Weezer (blue album-era) aesthetic is alive and kicking up a storm.14. The Strokes – Angles (RCA) - Returning a few years late, and IMO a song or two short, Justin Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr’s inspired recent solo endeavors spilled over into their fourth platter, giving the Strokes the shot in the arm they were overdue for.15. Under Electric Light - Waiting for the Rain to Fall - A sublime fusion of shoegazer headiness, suave keyboard-enhancements and breezy melodies. Thoroughly transporting songs. 16. Male Bonding – Endless Now (Sub Pop)- Not as wall-to-wall bonkers as they were on 2010’s static laden Endless Now, but still plenty nervy and voracious. 17. Patrick Stump - Soul Punk - Soul? A few notches shy. Punk? Not a trace. Savvy? Like you wouldn’t believe.18. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong (Slumblerland) - The not-so-difficult second album. Irresistible.19. Foster the People – Torches - 2011's soundtrack to summer20. Joey Cape – Doesn’t Play Well With Others - Another devastating helping of acoustic missives from the brainchild of Lagwagon and Bad Astronaut21. Office of Future Plans – s/t (Dischord) - Burning Airlines with a little cello thrown in? Works for me. Welcome back Jay.22. The Drums - Portamento (French Kiss) - Doesn't match last years debut, but strives to anyway.23. Sea Lions – Everything You Always Wanted to Know... (Slumberland) - A stirring update of classic C86-era Brit Pop with a bevy of old school hipster influences to die for.24. Wire – Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag) - Still on the cutting edge after all these years, delivering a record that distills many of the key sonic attributes of their five-decade long run.25. Lunch - s/t ep - fuzzy indie rock newbies drawing on a cornucopia of '90s influences. Check out their song "Turn Around" streaming on a number of websites. Runners up:
Rival Schools – Pedals
Graham Repulski – Into an Animal Together
Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
Sway – This Was Tomorrow
Samiam – Trips
Stuyvesant – Fret Sounds
The Forms – Derealization ep
Sloan – The Double Cross
The Cars – Move Like This
The Active Set – 11
Real Estate – Days
Dot Dash - Spark>Flame>Embers>Ash
Janes Addiction – The Great Escape Artist
High Tension Wires – Welcome New Machine
The Feelies - Here Before
Fountains of Wayne - Sky Full of Holes
Muler - Hope You Found a Home
The Raveonettes - Raven in the Grave
Recommended reissues and compilations:
Nirvana - Nevermind super deluxe edition
Jesus and Marcy Chain - discography reissue series (Edsel)
Bitch Magnet - three CD discography (Temporary Residence)
Radio Dept - Passive Aggressive, Singles 2002-2010
Lagwagon - Putting Music in It's Place box set (Fat)
Ben Folds - The Best Imitation of Myself - 3 cd deluxe edition
Jayhawks - Tomorrow the Green Grass deluxe
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Tape Club (Polyvinyl)
Sebadoh - Bakesale deluxe (Sub Pop)
The Modulators - Tomorrow's Coming (Kool Kat)
03. Dissonant Blue - Practical Harmony
Although it's well out of my price range (and I've only heard the main album portion), it's a safe bet to say that the Beach Boys Smile Sessions box takes the cake in terms of deluxe reissues for 2011.
Finally, here's the tracklist and link to our 2011 best of the blog mix:
01. Humidifier - Nicotine
02. Slumber - Valliat
04. Beauty Constant - It's One Life (demo)
05. Beat Clinic - Brenda on the Big Bed
06. Rhythm Corps (Method) - Solidarity (1984 vers)
07. Alter Boys - Piles
08. Ups and Downs - Painted Sad
09. Pedaljets - Sensual Cardboard Event
10. Reaction Formation - Galesburg Bound
11. The Spliffs - Merry-Go-Round
12. Not Shakespeare - Turnaround
13. Blanket of Secrecy - Love Me Too
14. Five Cool What - Rescue Me15. Brave Tears - Flippin' Through
16. Delusions of Grandeur - Carousel
17. 100 Flowers - Roof Tops
18. Naomi's Hair - Tilt-a-Whirl
19. Trusty - Bus Stop
20. I-Rails - Sticks and Stones