Jacob’s Best Of 2011 Picks

January 2nd, 2012 · 6 Comments · By

[Just a reminder, don’t forget to also check out James’ list of 2011 favorites!]

Top 10 Albums of 2011
I suppose those who know my musical tastes won’t find many surprises in this year’s list. There are, indeed, some reappearing artists from years past. But that’s mostly because a lot of the same folks who were making the best music over the last couple years are still holding it down with newer and, often, better releases. That said, here goes the list!

Real Estate – Days
I’ll admit, it took me a little while (but not too long) to warm up to the fancy studio production and ever-so-slightly brisker tempos, but Real Estate’s latest effort tops their also-great debut pretty handily. Effortless, breezy, pop gems, one after another after another.

Real Estate – It’s Real by DominoRecordCo

Julian Lynch – Terra
It’s a strange concoction of sounds Julian Lynch brings to the table. While there’s an element of the reverb-laden haziness of his Jersey peers, there’s also a whole range of instrumentation and styles that presumably point to his background as a student of ethno-musicology. Also, I just don’t think us indie-rock kids are very used to hearing woodwinds of any kind, so it all sort of sounds a little otherworldly to begin with. In any event, it’s calm, grounded, thoughtful, and plenty different from what anybody else is doing right now. Really looking forward to his upcoming doom metal LP this year (no, not kidding!).

Julian Lynch: Terra by alteredzones

Lux Perpetua – Delux Perpetua EP / Heavy Shreds The Left Hand EP
C-ville native Justin Wolf has been making some great, if still fairly unknown, home recordings for several years now (at least seven proper full-length albums by my count). But this year’s two EPs take his work to a higher level. Delux Perpetua and Heavy Shreds The Left Hand are tight, polished, and a step beyond the charming but ramshackle home-recording that defined his earlier records. While the EPs do feature a couple mellower tracks, eventually he goes for broke with epic stoner rock, heavy guitar-riffs, and big harmonies. You start to get the feeling that it’s what he’s been going for all along, it just took a little while to realize it.

Stephen Steinbrink & French Quarter – Desert Wasn’t Welcome
Again this year, Stephen Steinbrink released yet another set of gorgeous bedroom-pop songs (two, in fact). The difference this time is that Desert Wasn’t Welcome was recorded at K Records’ Dub Narcotic Studio in Olympia, WA, and while this album stays true to his prior home-recorded work, the studio treatment adds a few additional colors to the palette. But all in all, it’s the same increasingly refined recipe — simple, honest, light, melodic.

Marissa Nadler – s/t
Marissa Nadler is just beginning to hit on something really exciting. It’s certainly no secret that she ‘s got an incredible, striking voice. Her songs are so delicate and somber, though, that they can require some patience to come around to. The amazing thing about her new self-titled album is how the backing instrumentation and production lend real weight to her airy, ethereal tunes. See, for instance, the long build and climax of ‘Baby, I Will Leave You In The Morning’, which should be a serious contender for 2011’s Best Track. This may not be a perfect record — Nadler could use some more variation in her songwriting, perhaps — but it’s a damn good one.

Bobby – BOBBY
So is it just me or has everybody been sleeping on this one? I certainly haven’t seen Bobby’s name popping up as much as I’d expect to. Bobby are a band (not an individual) from New England who are clearly influenced by a lot of psych-folk artists like Animal Collective, Espers, and the like, but the vocal duo (featuring Molly Sarle from Mountain Man and frontman Tom Greenberg) is killer, with a variety of rich synth sounds mixed in, adding some interesting flavors. Really looking forward to seeing what comes next from this very new band.

Jonny Corndawg – Down On The Bikini Line
Charlottesville native Jonny Corndawg, took a promising step forward with his newest album, Down On The Bikini Line. As we’ve come to expect from The Corndawg, it’s fun, tongue-in-cheek, and Jonny has some stellar backing musicians to fill in the blanks. There’s lots of humor, but it’s the more sincere moments like truckers’ anthem ‘Night Rider’ when the album really comes to life, and it’s a good reminder that he’s not just a joke band. He’s made the full transition from performance artists to a talented, nuanced, thoughtful songwriter.

Tune-Yards – Whokill
If I were asked to name somebody who’s doing ‘important’ work musically right now, Merrill Garbus (aka Tune-Yards) would be one of the first to come to mind. Her last album, Birdbrains, was plenty ambitious, but Whokill is the product of an artist operating at a wildly high level of skill and ingenuity.

La Sera – s/t

So I always kinda preferred the dreamy 60s pop aspect of Vivian Girls to the punk-rock side, and Katy Goodman’s side project, La Sera, is just that. A nice collection of short, melodic, fun songs.

Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

Bill Callahan is such a weirdo, but damn if he doesn’t have that inexplicable something that so many great actors have — an ability to command one’s attention by sheer presence alone. Not that he isn’t also a great songwriter. He’s something of an innovative lyricist, for sure, but he’s also developed an ability to sow intensity and drama into his songs that far outstrips the lyrics and melody alone. If anybody but Bill Callahan were singing Bill Callahan songs they’d kinda sound like pieces of shit, but when he does it they’re masterpieces.

Honorable Mentions:
Emperor X – Western Teleport
Jeremy Faulkner & The Final Dorm – Shadow Music Of The Country
Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place
Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
Lower Dens – Twin Hand Movement
Mark McGuire – Get Lost
Naked Gods – No Jams
Widowspeak – Widowspeak
Woodsman – EP
Wye Oak – Civilian

Favorite Live Shows of 2011

As near as I can tell, I attended 200+ shows this year. (Crazy!) Here’s a few that stood out:

1/1 – Real Estate, Julian Lynch, Titus Andronicus – 285 Kent
1/15 – Buffalo Stance, Lux Perpetua – Johnny Brenda’s
2/21 – The Beets – Tea Bazaar
2/26 – Tristen and Cinnamon Band – Tea Bazaar
3/17 – Sharon Van Etten – French Legation Museum at SXSW
3/17 – Gary Wilson – Red 7 at SXSW
3/18 – Wild Flag – Urban Outfitters at SXSW
3/30 – Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard – Magnolia
4/1 – Screaming Females, Turbo Fruits, Pujol, Heavy Cream – Clementine’s at MACRoCk
5/29 – Peach Kelli Pop – The Box
6/20 – The Coathangers – Tea Bazaar
7/10 – Dent May – Red Palace
7/23 – Dustin Wong – Shea Stadium
7/31 – CSC Funk Band, Colin L Orchestra – Alhamraa
8/13 – Dump – Tea Bazaar
9/9 – Swans – Fletcher Opera Hall at Hopscotch Festival
9/20 – David Bazan – House show
10/13 – Invisible Hand, Naked Gods, Bronzed Chorus – Blue Nile
11/15 – Austin Leonard Jones and Brass Bed – Tea Bazaar
12/5 – Prince Rama, Hume, Matt Northrup – Blind Tiger

As James said in his post, we’d love to hear from you all in the comments! What were your favorite shows, songs, albums, or anything else from this year?

Tags: endorsements · feature

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 j // Jan 2, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Did Widowspeak play the Tea Bazaar this year or did that get canceled? My memory is broken. either way I’m sad I missed it. Great list!

  • 2 Jacob // Jan 2, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Unfortunately, Widowspeak did have to cancel that one, so you didn’t miss anything. Still hoping to reschedule sometime!

  • 3 Amanda // Jan 3, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Here was my 25 best albums list. Pretty standard.

    Best shows:
    2/9-Dr. Dog (Out of allegiance to Philadelphia/even though they didn’t give out pizza) @ The Jefferson
    2/10-Wild Nothing/Hoop Dreams @ Trinity
    3/26-Cold War Kids/BATHS @ 9:30 Club
    4/9-TV on the Radio @ The Jefferson
    6/7-Thao and Mirah/BOBBY @ TT The Bear’s
    7/15-Curren$y @ Pitchfork Music Festival
    7/16-Julianna Barwick/Cold Cave @ Pitchfork Music Festival
    7/17-Kurt Vile @ Pitchfork Music Festival
    7/24-Jukebox the Ghost @ XPoNential Music Festival
    7/31-tUnE-yArDs @ 2nd Street Festival
    9/19-Mount Eerie @ The UVA Chapel
    9/23-Fleet Foxes @ Merriweather Post Pavilion
    10/6-Pat Jordache @ The Tea Bazaar
    10/8-James Blake @ The Troc
    10/30-St. Vincent @ The Jefferson
    11/29-Future Islands/Ed Schrader’s Music Beat @ The Tea Bazaar
    12/17-The War on Drugs/Sun Airway @ Union Transfer

  • 4 John // Jan 5, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    I haven’t had a chance to compile a list, but I will say that Old Calf’s Borrow A Horse would sit at the top of it. A magical album.

  • 5 will bollinger // Jan 8, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Cool list Jacob, here is mine!

    1. Hooking Up – Can’t Lose
    2. Tiger Tail – Demo 2011
    3. Diamond Black Hearted Boy – SUSTINA実感キャンペーン
    4. Cities Aviv – W E T D R E A M
    5. Pussywillow – Let Freedom Ring Demo
    6. Len Lye – Len Lye EP
    7. The Extraordinaires – The Postcard EP
    8. Lux Perpetua – Delux Perpetua
    9. Hooking Up – Groin Pains
    10. Black Pus – Primordial Pus

    1/5? – Jay Purdy solo show / Truman Sparks reunion @ 12th Street Taphouse
    1/9 – Skeletonbreath /Articulate Chubacca / Northern Diver @ the Tea Bazaar
    2/16 – Darwin Deez @ the Tea Bazaar
    3/6 – La Sera / Heavy Cream / Hooking Up @ the Tea Bazaar
    3/20 – Hooking Up / Pussywillow @ Magnolia
    8/17 – Jonny Corndawg acoustic show @ Plan 9
    8/18 – Ceremony / Screaming Females @ the Bike Lot (Best Friend’s Day)
    9/2 – Hooking Up / Tiger Tail / a bunch of bands @ My Mansion
    9/10 – Infinite Jets / Generationals @ the Tea Bazaar
    9/26 – Fucked Up / Wavves / Black Girls @ the Jefferson Theater

  • 6 corey // Jan 10, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Gotta echo your Bobby comment. I expect cutesy single from their next album to catapult their popularity.