I don’t do Best of Year lists when it comes to music, partially because I don’t think I listen to enough new stuff to make an informed argument (especially compared to all the audio obsessive-compulsives I know), but mostly because I really don’t purchase a lot of new music. I have never been in a hurry to pick up anything, and usually buy things years after they come out.
2011, however, was different: not only did I only get new music, I went out of my way to get four of those records the day they were released. Granted, I only bought 6 albums this year, but I was so laser focused on the picks, nothing disappointed. These titles have been my constant companions, and I feel completely confident in recommending them.
#5 Gorillaz — The Fall
The first of several Records That Shouldn’t Exist, The Fall is possibly the final release from Gorillaz, the fictional/virtual band that is a front for a small army of musicians and producers. They weren’t even planning on doing another album when someone decided to do this on a whim. Recorded on an iPad in the back of the bus during Gorillaz 2010 North American Tour, The Fall is — as one might expect — experimental, dreamy and playful. If you ever heard Yaz’s “I Before E Except After C,” well, that should give you a good idea what you’re in for — and if you like Yaz’s odd little opus, you’ll love The Fall.
#4 Lynn Blakey — Meadowview
It is difficult to convey how stunningly beautiful Lynn Blakey’s voice is in person, though her 5 song EP Meadowview gets close. One third of the alt-country trio Tres Chicas, Blakey’s new solo album was recorded with — and is pretty much about — her husband, fiddler Ecki Heins.
#3 Megafaun — Megafaun
Equal parts Americana and freak folk, with a healthy influence of ’70s strumming, this self-titled statement from Durham’s best band is like eating ice cream on a hot summer’s day while floating down a creek on an innertube. Here they channel Stealers Wheel in “Second Friend.”
Update: If you listen to NPR you’ve probably heard these guys lately. All Things Considered has put various cuts from Megafaun into heavy rotation for their bumpers (the snippets they play inbetween songs), and I just heard them again a short time ago…
#2 Phil Cook & His Feat — Hungry Mother Blues
One third of Megafaun, Phil Cook is having his best year ever — certainly his busiest — as he released a solo album on top of all his other projects. This haunting, heartfelt collection of original blues has been in my CD player since it came out, and is what you want playing as the sun sets and the sky melts from orange to blue to black. Here’s Phil playing at an emergency fundraiser for the Scrap Exchange.
…to be continued