This probably doesn’t qualify as a task, but I’ve begun sorting through my 2011 music purchases and I’ve managed to eliminate eleven of them from consideration for my favorite albums of the year. As a part of my endless quest to annoy even myself, I list those eleven here, in categories and with explanations. Let me know if you guys ever work out the kinks on that suicide cocktail.
I bought five EPs this year (such a strange and lovable format, right?), which range in quality as follows:
1. Dum Dum Girls – He Gets Me High – Thankfully the 2011 release of full-length Only in Dreams guarantees them a spot on the final list, because this trio of originals and solid Smiths cover add up to a pretty great fourteen minutes of music.
2. Here We Go Magic – The January EP – I’m glad that Brandon convinced me to catch these guys at The Basement several months ago — Luke Temple commands one of those bands that always seems on the edge of delirious musical collapse, and this EP would inspire anyone to work his way back through their catalog.
3. Jens Lekman – An Argument with Myself – 2007’s Night Falls on Kortedala was a high point in a brief career already full of them, so my feelings about next year’s proper follow-up would best be described as dangerously optimistic. This wordy stopgap dampens expectations only slightly, as it leans heavy on charm and light on ideas, but I’ll still pre-order with abandon.
4. Bonnie “Prince” Billy & The Phantom Family Halo – “The Mindeater” – Will Oldham released three EPs this year, but the other two are vinyl-only and I’m one of the weirdos that only buys CDs. This one hasn’t opened up for me yet, but I’ll continue to revisit it as only a psycho-fan can. Where will LP Wolfroy Goes to Town end up on my albums list? TUNE IN SOON, O YE OF LITTLE SATISFACTION IN LIFE!
5. Weekend – Red – No, not The Weeknd. And not Vampire Weekend. Plain old Weekend put out their decent-to-good debut Sports last year on personal favorite Slumberland Records. As so many do, this EP marks a transition in sound for this San Francisco three-piece from Sports‘ noisy if somewhat monochromatic pop to … well, I can’t shake the fact that some of it sounds like something Maynard James Keenan might have recorded last decade.
I also regretfully disqualify The Radio Dept.‘s stellar Passive Aggressive compilation, as it repackages A-sides and B-sides from almost ten years of singles. If you don’t know this Swedish dream pop band, buy this immediately. You might know their stuff from the excellent soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s frustrating Marie Antoinette flick.
I wish I could include Amor de Días‘ Street of the Love of Days, but I just never got an angle on this sleepy side project from Alasdair MacLean (indie pop heroes The Clientele) and Lupe Núñez-Fernández (Pipas, of whom I must claim ignorance).
I bought only one hip hop album this year, leaving me wildly unqualified to make any declarations about The State of that particular genre. Last year’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy finally won me over to Kanye West, but he can be so embarrassing that I’d hardly call myself a fan. Jay-Z is much easier to love, but saying that their collaboration Watch the Throne is better than 2009’s The Blueprint 3 is faint praise, indeed. Spike Jonze’s video for “Otis” is irresistible and “Niggas in Paris” is gonzo fun, but ultimately the album disappoints, frustrates, and exhausts me.
Finally, I just haven’t spent enough time with Tinariwen‘s Tassili, a Malian rock record I came to via a Four Tet remix of a song featuring TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe.
Kiss Each Other Clean, Sam Beam’s fourth album as Iron & Wine, sounds very expensive. As the follow-up to 2007’s technicolor The Shepherd’s Dog, however, it underwhelms. All the studio trickery in the world can’t cover up these shallow attempts to beat Sufjan Stevens at the baroque pop game.
Similarly, Justin Vernon takes the prize for the most overrated album of the year: Bon Iver, Bon Iver adds bells, whistles, auto-tune, and saxophone, but garners diminishing returns after the stripped-down and stunning For Emma, Forever Ago.
I’ve picked 28 albums that will definitely make the final list, leaving 12 slots to be filled by some of the Maybe Pile, presented here for your complaints and suggestions:
Battles, Gloss Drop; Beyoncé, 4; Big Troubles, Romantic Comedy; Björk, Biophilia; Cut Copy, Zonoscope; Dominant Legs, Invitation; Gem Club, Breakers; Handsome Furs, Sound Kapital; Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972; Hunx and his Punx, Too Young to Be in Love; Junior Boys, It’s All True; Lady Gaga, Born This Way; Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes; Cass McCombs, Humor Risk; John Maus, We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves; Jessica Lea Mayfield, Tell Me; Oh Land, s/t; Oneohtrix Point Never, Replica; Pallers, The Sea of Memories; Panda Bear – Tomboy; Radiohead, The King of Limbs; Caitlin Rose, Own Side Now; Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx, We’re New Here; Still Corners, Creatures of an Hour; TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light; Thao & Mirah, s/t; Thundercat, The Golden Age of Apocalypse; Times New Viking, Dancer Equired; Vetiver, The Errant Charm; WU LYF, Go Tell Fire to the Mountain; Wilco, The Whole Love; Youth Lagoon, The Year of Hibernation