Top Ten Albums of 2011

I’m still on holiday, so to test out this list and make sure I’m good with it, I made a playlist of one song from each album and am playing it in my mom’s den with her listening in, offering her opinions, it’s an interesting way to get final feedback on a list.

Looking at the list, the genres represented are interesting, and suprisingly well grouped: 1-2 lyrically and sonicly rich delicate albums, 3-5 punkish albums, 6-8 post rock & other atmospheric albums, 9 country with a punk-ish flare, 10 indie-folk/indie-pop. I saw 8 out of the 10 bands play this year. There is only one I’ve never seen live.

Mount Moriah, Cat's Cradle, Carrboro NC, 11/12/10

1. Mount Moriah – Mount Moriah – After I bought this album at the CD release, I put it on for the car ride home and listened with the windows down. I arrived at my house on a cool night with owls hooting in the background and listened to the last tracks there in the drive, unable to turn off the car before the album’s end. It was the perfect first listen for the album. And since then it has, easily, been the album that I’ve listened to and loved the most this year. Every time I listen I find a new turn of phrase or string of notes to lose myself in. Just gorgeous. Best local album of the year; my favorite album of the year. Stand out song: Everyone else will say “Lament” or “The Reckoning”, I’ll go with “Plane.”

The Low Anthem, Local 506, Chapel Hill NC, 09/18/11

2. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh – The thing I keep coming back to about this album is how it creates space. You can hear the deep breath at the end of a phrase, the echo of sound. The album cover and posters were beautifully letter pressed and have a beautifully tactile deminisions. Complete fitting for this album where you really feel like you can almost run your hand over the sounds. Just stunning. Stand out track: “Ghost Woman Blues”

Restorations, Cave, Chapel Hill NC, 10/25/11

3. Restorations – Restorations – I haven’t seen this album on many end of year list, mores the pity, because it is freaking stellar. Can You See The Sunset, one of the few blogs to list the album simply said “Resto-fucking-rations! Is it post-hardcore? Is it Americana? Is it indie-pop? Yes.” That’s pretty much it. Punk rock for people who don’t listen to much punk anymore. Literate, smart, driving, wonderful. Stand out track: “When Your Older”

Dave Hause, Local 506, Chapel Hill NC, 09/14/11

4. Dave Hause – Resolutions – Dave Hause’s voice reminds me of all my favorite parts of living in the Mid-Atlantic, not nearly enough to want to move back there, but it’s a good reminder. There are so many punk rock folks making folk-ish americana-ish albums that it seems almost too worn, that you forget the real beauty of the genre. This is an album that will make you remember why it works. Great backing band, beautiful songs, just great. Stand out track: “Time Will Tell” or “C’mon Kid”

Des Ark, Nightlight, Chapel Hill NC, 03/10/11

5. Des Ark – Don’t Rock The Boat, Sink The Fucker – The first time I listened to this album, I couldn’t really hear it as an album, great songs but I couldn’t find the thread. The more I listened, though, the more I fell for the tracking, the way the songs play off each other and play with tempo and dissonance from one song to another and within each song. The whole albums works like a single song, rewarding many listens. Stand out track: “Bonne Chance Asshole”

6. The Besnard Lakes – You Live In The City – It’s only a 4 song EP. And it’s perfect. If you’ve been looking at my favorite albums lists for a while, you know I love this band. Thier album The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse was my favorite album of 2007: dark and rich and apocolyptic. In this 2011 album they take a turn for the peaceful. This is the best soundtrack for getting lost in headlights and a cool sky on a narrow road. This is the only album on the list where I’ve never seen the band playlive. I’d drive at least 100 miles todo so, with this EP playing all the way there. Stand out track: “Some Colour in the Sky”

7. Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care – The one thing that I still think Exposions in the Sky does better than any other post-rock band is the slow build. There is a moment and a tension in each track of building until that last piece comes in, and every time that last piece slides into place it feels like peace. Always so beautiful. Stand out track: “Be Comfortable, Creature”

All Tiny Creatures, Pour House, Hopscotch, 09/09/10

8. All Tiny Creatures- Harbors – All Tiny Creatures is all my favorite things about post-roock and all my favorite things about indie-pop in one beautiful atmospheric swirl. It’s music I get lost in. What really makes it work for me are the close repetitions, the short loops, that create a drone, a static, almost, in the back of the tracks. Stand out track: “Cargo Maps”

Austin Lucas, Motorco, Durham NC, 08/27/11

9. Austin Lucas – At Home In This World – I don’t understand why Austin Lucas isn’t a multimillionaire, winning armfuls of CMA awards every year, and playing to giant stadiums of country music fans. If country music is going to improve then this is the way to do it. I could play this whole album for my grandfather and it’d slide right into his collection between the Sunday Morning Singing and the banjo based secular country. Stand out track: “Darkness Out Of Me”

Bombadil Soundcheck, Cat's Cradle, Carrboro NC, 11/12/11

10. Bombadil – All The Rain Promises – Look, I’m 130% biased about this band. I love them. That they managed to make a followup to Tarpits and Canyonlands at all is amazing, that it is delightful and sparse and lovely is an added bonus. Listening to their albums straight through, it is obvious how much they’ve grown as people and as musicians and it is a joy to listen to. Stand out track: “I Will Wait”

Links to all year end coverage:
Year End Concert Stats
Twenty Favorite Photos of 2011
Ten Favorite Shows of 2011
Great Moments of 2011

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One response to “Top Ten Albums of 2011

  1. Pingback: 20 Favorite Photos of 2011 | Ash Crowe Photography

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