Sunday, January 01, 2012

The best of 2011

Every year I compile a Top 10 list for the folks at Pennyblackmusic. In no particular order, they were One Hundred Dollars' Songs of Man; Austra's Feel It Break; Daniel Romano's Sleep Beneath The Willow, Phaedra's The Sea, Sub Rosa's No Help For The Mighty Ones; The Skull Defekts' Peer Amid; Psychic Paramount's II; Purling Hiss's Lounge Lizards; A Winged Victory For The Sullen's self-titled effort (my favourite this year, by the way); and Yob's Atma.

Austra at Ritual
Austra at Ritual, December 3, 2011

As in previous years, it doesn't manage to cover everything I've lent an ear to. For one thing, I started making my list early (so as not to leave off folks who released albums early in the year), but by the time October rolled around I already had my ten in hand. For another, as is my habit I omit re-releases and albums I've already reviewed in that year. (As an example, as a drooling Marissa Nadler fan, it goes without saying that her self-titled, self-released album would appear, and possibly her second covers album as well, though it hasn't arrived in the post yet.) I'm also going to avoid naming a fave local album since I haven't heard the oft-praised Steve Adamyk Band CD yet and basically like everything local, being a shameless homer.
Onward! I listened to a lot of stellar roots-rock this year. Of course I dug The Drive-By Truckers' Go-Go Boots, and also liked what I heard from brassy, Miranda Lambert-ish singer Lydia Loveless on Indestructible Machine, but my favourites were a pair of homegrown acts: Daniel Romano's Sleep Beneath The Willows and One Hundred Dollars' Songs of Man.

One Hundred Dollars at Mavericks
One Hundred Dollars at Mavericks, February 3, 2010

Then there's the stuff that just sticks in your mind: Mitchell and Manley's Norcal Values is a prime example. Daniel Higgs solo stuff is mindbending all by itself, but his LP release with The Skull Defekts was even greater than the sum of its parts. Also most listenable: Colin Stetson's much lauded New History Warfare, Vol. 1. and Sean Smith's Huge Fluid Freedom.
Of course, my first love is fuzz, and plenty of acts delivered in spades. Kurt Vile played a killer set here at Babylon in 2010, and his Smoke Ring For My Halo was even a step up. I'm going to deduct points for releasing a deluxe edition before the end of the year, though! Ty Segall's new Goodbye Bread and his Goner singles collection were also killer.

Kurt Vile at Babylon
Kurt Vile at Babylon, July 21, 2010

I listened to a bunch of metal this year, and naturally Red Fang rocked both on their sophomore album Murder The Mountains and live. Hammers of Misfortune were great as usual with 17th Street. Mastodon's The Hunter also was pretty killer, though a shade less engaging than Crack The Skye. I suppose I should also mention the mighty Kvelertak and Electric Wizard's latest, though both are technically 2010 releases. On the other side of the metal coin, I listened to a bunch of stuff some hardcore metal fans might put in quotation marks: SubRosa, for example, whose No Help for the Mighty Ones was a fine slice of goth doom sludge. Caina was another band I just found out about and who subsequently called it a day after releasing the sensational Hands That Pluck. I also have to mention Autopsy, whose Macabre Eternal might even be their best.

Red Fang at Mavericks
Red Fang at Mavericks, Nov. 24, 2011

Last but not least, This has been a great year for reissues. I'm sure The Beach Boy's Smile reissue is at the top of a lot of people's list for the grandiose packing alone, but you hardly need me to pass the word of its existence (it's basically for diehard fanboys anyway). The Numero Group also pulled out the stops with their Syl Johnson box set and various Boddie Recording Company sets. Captured Tracks did fine service in rereleasing some shoegaze faves; their Nick Nicely comp is probably the pick of the litter. But for sheer "Damn the torpedoes, get this back in print!" glory I'm going to have to commend Jagjaguwar's decision to release the entirety of The Supreme Dick's out put in one very handy, four CD package - for the price of one, even!

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