Best of 2011 (So Far): Part 2


Welcome back to PART TWO of our countdown! The place where shit gets REAL, or something. Agree with our picks? Hated them? Why don't you wait until you've heard us out before you get to trashing/praising us in the comments. It's only fair. So we've only got 5 more to go, but before that why don't we have a look at what ChunkyGlasses contributors Paul and Andre were feeling this year. While I will admit, we all share some similar tastes in music, what makes this whole thing work is that eventually we all see music from very different perspectives, and I think that's reflected in their picks. Of course, being the authority here, they are WRONG. But hey, it's entertaining to think your opinion matters, right? (Just kidding guys..just kidding)

First up have a gander at Paul's order from best to not so much with the best thing:

  1. Tuneyards - WhoKill
  2. James Blake - James Blake
  3. TVOTR - Nine types of Light
  4. Decemberists - The King is Dead
  5. Buke and Gass - Riposte
  6. Yuck - Yuck
  7. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
  8. Explosions in the Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
  9. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints
  10. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong


And now on to Andre's List,which is, like Andre, in no particular order:

  • Papercuts - Fading Parade
  • Other Lives - Tamer Animals
  • Peter Bjorn and John - Gimme Some
  • Tuneyards - Whokill
  • Generationals - Actor Caster
  • Wilderness of Manitoba - When You Left the Fire
  • Chris Thile and Michael Daves - Sleep with One Eye Open
  • Decemberists - King is Dead
  • Yuck - Yuck
  • Bon Iver - Bon Iver


Like those lists better? I can honestly say that there isn't a bad record among the lot, and some I even picked myself. It has been a fairly great year for music so far and I can't wait to see how these lists change by the end of the year. I can tell you already I know of two upcoming albums that are going right to the top. But that's jumping ahead, so lets finish off the business at hand shall we?


5. Wilderness of Manitoba – When You Left The Fire

Sometimes simple is better. Sometimes simple is deceiving. In the case of When You Left The Fire it’s both. This group from up North shocked us with their talent when we unexpectedly caught them at The Black Cat earlier this year, and this record is a perfect reflection as to why. While the harmonies are big, the arrangements remain simple, but never quaint. What you end up with 5 people singing their hearts out over a glacial, but warm folk sound that succeeds because it’s just done right. There are 4 other records that I’ve put before this one (so far), but there are none that have found a more consistent home on my turntable this year. Great music will find its way into every corner of your lives, and that’s just what this record has managed to do. Big things are in store for The Wilderness of Manitoba, and I can't wait to see what comes next. 


4. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead

No shit. The Decemberists made the REM album we’ve all been waiting for. This record is a gift, and regardless of what you thought of the band before (I have admittedly been lukewarm to them) there is no denying that they have created a minor masterpiece with this record. It took balls to honor your influences this closely, but apparently the band is in possession of huge ones, because not only do they sound like REM should, they got Peter Buck to play on the damn record. More than anything that has come before, this record has me actually excited to see this band, and from all reports the band is just as excited to be out on the road playing this new set of tunes.


3. The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low

Straight up comfort food. I grew up in the 80’s. It’s in my DNA. Echo and the Bunnymen, the Blondie, the Smith’s…it’s all in there. And it’s all in here too, as filtered through the ears of Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp. Set against the backdrop of the real life divorce of the couple, Loud Planes Fly Low manages to capture the earnestness of late 80’s alternative artists, and infuse it with the all of the pain that their situations like theirs most assuredly brings. Somehow it never brings you down…in fact quite the opposite. The soundscapes created on this record hint at a hidden optimism in the face of personal collapse and turn what might, upon first listen, be dismissed as simple retro-pop, into a weighty, rewarding, and cathartic beast of an album. Be warned though, once you start listening, you’re not going to be able to stop for a very VERY long time.


2. Wye Oak – Civilian

Full disclosure, I didn’t like this album the first time I heard it. In preparation for its release I sat around listening to all of Wye Oak’s previous albums, and found myself at odds with the fact that this wasn’t The Knot or If Children. Where had the Wye Oak gone that blew up Ottobar the first time I saw them? Where had all the sheer force of nature rawness gone? Looking back now, it’s safe to say I’m a complete idiot, because all of that is there and more. As good as their previous work is, Civilian stands head and shoulders above anything the band has ever done, but still doesn't feel as if the band has reached some peak. As Jen Wasner and Andy Stack continue to grow as musicians and songwriters they are going to keep pushing their sound into territories that until now, seemed impossible for just two people to go. This is the first truly great album from a band that already has some fantastic work behind it. And that break in “Holy Holy”? Seriously guys? Way to write one of the best songs of the well as way to be just fucking awesome.


And finally, at number one where it belongs...

1. tUnE YarDs – whokill

A giant brain buster/brain tickler of an album that I’ve been struggling to review since it came out, Merrill Garbus knocked this one out of the park, into some weird alternate universe, and back down to earth into the backroom of some psychedelic fueled club…and that’s just in the first song. To say that this is challenging music would be the worst understatement of the year, but to deny that it is the most rewarding set of songs produced by anyone this year would be just insane. Sure, the first two or three listens might hurt your brain, but stick with it people, because each successive listen reveals yet another layer of Garbus’s genius not only as a musician but as a lyricist. Months after the fact, I have yet to peel that entire onion, and I don’t expect to get there anytime soon. Rarely have I experienced an album this rewarding, and flat out goddam entertaining. No other album this year stands a chance against whokill, but now that everyone knows how high the bar has been set, it’s sure gonna be fun to watch em try.

So that's our list (so far). I said it at the beginning of the piece but I'll repeat it now; it really is turning out to be a remarkable year for music. Looking forward, we've got releases in the pipe from Wilco, Blitzen Trapper, WILD FLAG (!!!), Luke Temple...the list just goes on and on. My hunch is that it's going to be a very different looking list come the end of December, but we'll just have to all wait and see. Until then go out support these bands...hell, support ANY bands that you think are great. And be sure to keep your earholes full and your speakers cranked. It's good for you.