Friday, December 23, 2011

BOTG Music Superlatives for 2011

In 2011, I acquired over 1,100 more songs. Most new. Some I burned off CDs to “complete” my collection of songs from certain beloved bands. Some were added as I filled in missing gaps from decades past.

In years past, I’ve attempted, with feeble skills at music criticism, to offer up a BEST OF list. Usually albums. Sometimes songs. Never with much confidence. Instead, this year I’m going to pay homage to what I know, which is how to pretend I’m in high school. And yearbooks never did BEST OF lists. They made SUPERLATIVES. So I’m going with it.


Most Likely To Continue Heavy Rotation In 2012: Belle Brigade - The Belle Brigade
Foo Fighters - Wasted Light
Florence & the Machine - Ceremonials

The Belle Brigade were the best thing to serendipitiously land in my eardrums since the Stereophonics fell into my lap at a Tower Records listening station back in 2001. They not only earned more earplay in my iPod than any other album this year, but they had me going back and reacquainting myself with Fleetwood Mac's Tusk.

Dead On Arrival:
TIE: Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What Navy - The Last Place
Eisley - The Valley

Metacritic gave Paul Simon's latest an 85. As in, 85 out of 100. As in, one of the best 20 albums of the year. So I was excited. I'm quite the Simon & Garfunkel fan, and I played both Graceland and The Rhythm of the Saints so heavily that the tapes broke. I listened to it the first time with my eyebrows raised and ears perked up, like a dog eager to hear his master. All I heard was... well, it wasn't shit, but it certainly wasn't terribly impressive. To me, Paul sounds tired. And depressed. And unsure of himself, musically. The guy is an amazing talent, and what he compiles is musically sound, but there's no punch to it. It's an entire album of resignation. Maybe that's what critics love about it.

Most Likely To Go To Eleven: Agent - Celebrasion
Foo Fighters - Wasted Light
Dropkick Murphys - Going Out in Style

I don't know if Sleeper Agent is punk, or post-punk, or just irreverent garage rock. I only know their music deserves to be played loudly. In a car is preferable, but alone at home is fine as well. This is the kind of album that resurrects Beavis and Butt-Head just so they can headbang a little more.

Proof The ‘80s Are Neither Dead Nor Evil:
TIE: Lady Gaga - Born This Way
M83 - Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
Florence & the Machine - Ceremonials
The Book of Mormon Soundtrack

Proof That Some Artists Have Reached or Passed Their Expiration Dates:
Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What
Stereophonics - Keep Calm and Carry On
The Go! Team - Rolling Blackouts
Fountains of Wayne - Sky Full of Holes

Still Water Albums (Artists Whose Work Neither Hurt Nor Helped My Opinion Of Them):
Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
The Mountain Goats - All Eternals Deck
Mates of State - Mountaintops Welch - The Harrow & the Harvest
Matt Nathanson - Modern Love

My "Expiration Dates" list is my official announcement that, barring some minor miracle, I have cut those artists off from ever receiving another penny of my song-purchasing dollar. They're nice people, and they have plenty of talent, but as albums go, they're spoiled, and they need to be removed from my musical fridge.

My "Still Water" group isn't dead... I'm just not sure I need to buy anymore of their stuff. I suspect they have branched out as far and wide as their talent will allow them, and what I own of their stuff to this point will likely suffice. Fans of these groups, fret not. I'm not dissing you or them. The three Mates of State and Matt Nathanson albums I own continue to get a lot of playtime, and I love them both. But I'm not sure I see them doing anything on their next albums that change anything for me... unless they put out shit, at which point I guess they'd sink.

Yeah yeah, Coldplay is massively uncool. I get it. But I happen to enjoy them a good bit. However, with this latest album, I felt like I've acquired sufficient amounts of Apple's Daddy to get me through the rest of my years.

Best Album I've Never Listened To Start to Finish:
Hurry Up We’re Dreaming - M83
Runners-Up: At Once - The Airborne Toxic Event
Mission Bell - Amos Lee

Hurry Up We're Dreaming is a really really really amazing and bold concept double-album. It's over 73 minutes long. Anthony Gonzalez has stolen some of the '80s most over-reaching syntho-orgasms -- including not just a few highlights from Queen's soundtrack for the movie Flash -- and creates a Dreamscape meets Legend world. The sound and the feel are cool, and I wish to hell I was still a teenager who could go into my room, cover my ears with some badass big headphones and disappear into the whole thing from start to finish sans interruption. But that ain't how my life works in 2011. So instead I just have to settle for knowing it's an amazing and daring album that I'll never be able to enjoy as much as I oughtta.

Best Overdue Classic to Be Added to My Collection:
Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
Prince - Sign O' the Times
Yes - 90125

The Best Album of 2011: - 21
Foo Fighters - Wasted Light
The Belle Brigade

Now listen. I'm not saying Adele is my favorite musician ever, and I'm not even claiming that she's who I want to sit atop my Best Of list. What I'm saying is this: Adele is the rare modern artist who transcends both genre and demographic. My 70-year-old mother enjoys Adele. My two tween daughters love Adele (at least they did... but they listen to radio, which is guaranteed to numb passion for any pop artist eventually).  I love Adele, because she's very much got what Roger Daltry acknowledged as the ability to front a band. She's more than an American Idol finalist. She's a distinct voice with tidal wave power.

It's possible, if she can hold onto her voice and her passion, that she could be a modern Frank Sinatra. So, while I might personally like and listen to the two runners-up more frequently, Adele was bigger than me and my personal musical leanings.


Most Likely To Get Me Weepy While Driving Alone In My Car:
The Most - Lori McKenna
Poison & Wine - The Civil Wars
I Will - Dar Frampton & Blake Shelton

Few things are as precious in my heart as songs that give me the excuse to cry. The odd exhilaration of music that makes me short of breath, that makes the road get blurry in my over-moistened eyes, that makes my voice crack and split when I try to sing along. These three aren't the only weepers from 2011, but they're my favorites.

Song Most Begging to Be Played By a Talented High School Student or Students:
The Graveyard Near The House - The Airborne Toxic Event
Gracefully - Antigone Rising
I Will - Dar Framption & Blake Shelton

Song Demanding the Volume Go To Eleven: - Foo Fighters
Shirt - The Belle Brigade
Fire & Dynamite - Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
Peg O’ My Heart - Dropkick Murphys (w/Bruce)
No Light, No Light - Florence & the Machine

Most Criminally Overrated SONG of the Year:
Pumped-Up Kicks - Foster the People
Party Rock Anthem - LMFAO
Moves Like Jagger - Maroon 5

So "Pumped-Up Kicks" is about a kid who's gonna shoot up his school. Or kill some popular kids. Or whatever. I don't really care about the amoralistic vacuous or disgusting nature of the lyrics. I just know it's the most venomously and annoyingly repetitive song of the year. This song is the very essence of Earworm. I'm pretty sure people don't even LIKE the song... they just can't get the fucking thing out of their head, so they finally give in and claim to like it.


Bob said...

I don't get gaga; her post-Madonna schmuck seems more derivative than creative. I liked the Paul Simon a little more than you did, but maybe because I sampled it and bought only 5-6 songs. Finally, I must sadly agree with you about Gillian Welch--much ado about not much. If you're going to take that long, you'd better have something like latest installment of A Song Of Fire And Ice to deliver.

Provocative list that will send me emusic shopping. Thanks.

Fwiw, my favorite band this year was the war on drugs.

BeckEye said...

Best proof that the '80s are neither dead nor evil: Summer Camp's "Welcome to Condale." They will be represented on both my albums and singles lists. (Coming soon to a blog near you!)

cinderkeys said...

I should agree with you about "Pumped Up Kicks," but it forced me to like it after a long period of apathy.

Bob said...

I also liked pumped up kicks. Last year! I first discovered it and posted it last January after I found it on another blog's best of 2010.

BeckEye said... Top Singles list is now up. I'm not a big-time blog pimper, but I thought this was worth telling you because FOO FIGHTERS IS ON IT.