Liked Best in 2011

I was fortunate enough to be a participant in voting for One Thirty BPM's Top 50 Albums of 2011. Having an inside look at a big site making their big year-end list really made me realize how divergent the opinions of the blogosphere illuminati can be. It seems like I should know that by now — that everyone has wildly different opinions and tastes — but when you're following the currents of the indie rock blogosphere, you sometimes wonder how all these people know what narrative to build. Is it a musical elite thing? Do they have skill sand knowledge and expertise that hone in on the same objectively good album?As it turns out, everyone's just true to their personal tastes, everyone will be apathetic to someone else's #1, and the best album of the year is just whatever landed as everyone's #7. Below is my top 10 albums for 2011 — or at least it is for right now. Arranging the music of an entire year into 10 spots is difficult and sometimes feels arbitrary, so it's hard to stick to one list for very long. This isn't even the exact order I voted on, and if I could go back and change it, this still might not be the order I want. There's a reason I submitted my votes under the wire.

But that's just the run of the mill trouble that comes with thinking about art. It's all just feelings and thoughts, chiseled into defined ideas until it feels right by us. These are the things I liked best in 2011, at this very moment. Card subject to change


10. The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient
When I listen to this album, I think of Bob Dylan. That's not the first touchstone people tend to name, but when I hear opener "Best Night" kick into high gear, it sounds like the modern iteration of the perfect wall of sound in "Like A Rolling Stone." Adam Granduciel doesn't write like Dylan, but there are constant moments where he hits a familiar inflection. He works so well in those strange, weary Dylan melodies, where the vocals don't play as you expect them to, they just sort of swerve and evaporate into the air. It's like if Prime Dylan was backed by Broken Social Scene singing someone else's songs.

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Review | The Only End I Foresee

Los Campesinos! is a reliable band. The way they're going, I don't know if i'll get tired of them, on record or in concert. It's not that they've been keeping pace with a radical evolutionary arc, but their formula is a direct hit on my music sensibilities. Bone-deep guitar hooks, intricately anecdotal lyrics, a twee sheen with a punk snarl -- if this is your wheelhouse, Los Campesinos! never disappoints. They say you should be the bands you want to hear, but more and more LC is my ideal.

HELLO SADNESS is their 4th record, and, yeah, it's good. There are some noticeable differences if you're that deep into Los Campesinos! analysis. If not, you'll probably like it as much as you liked 2010's ROMANCE IS BORING. Some of these changes can't be helped. LC! is very much an ensemble band and since their last album, they've lost 3 members (two on good terms and one under mysterious circumstances.) The holes have been filled, but the calibration is different. As good as it gets, I wonder if it's missing something that was in their last 3 LPs.

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Review | All's Well That Ends

I didn't get Los Campesinos! at first. When they were making a mark around 2008, all I heard were catchy pop punk riffs, pretty violin tunes to contrast the brashness of it all, and a lot of excited incoherent shouting that would probably have made a fun concert. "Hold on Now, Youngster," their first full album, was in and out of my brainosphere within a month.

One thing did bother me, though. I don't know if this is a convention of the twee genre or what, but they wrote with such an honest, pedestrian perspective that eschewed any higher meaning or higher culture, and I wasn't sure I liked that. What I mean is, their lyrics would make reference to scenesters, drunk dialing, LiveJournal as an emotional outlet, and all these very normal things that bands usually aim above. It's a weird thing to articulate now that I try to. I just know that it felt like they embraced hipsterish irony and snarling youth culture wholeheartedly, and that turned me off.

I was so used to my songwriters being like Will Sheff of Okkervil River, who crafts literary allusions and writes anthems about obscure pop figures, or Sufjan Stevens, who hates television and has to research civic history before making an album. They were above even thinking about LiveJournal, let alone mentioning it into a song's emotional climax. I could probably never sit down and have a normal conversation with Sheff and Stevens because they worked at a higher frequency, but that was okay, the music was heavy and important. Los Campesinos! wrote about being afraid to dance at concerts. How could they be a credible band if they sing about shit I know, from perspectives so pedestrian they're actually rare?

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Decade in Decibels

Here we are! Look upon this new decade! The Tens are upon us, and all else is old! With that, here are the 10 albums from 2000 to 2009 that rocked my rocker, which in truth isn't all that notable, since I only started seriously listening to music in 2000 anyway. I mean, I was 12 years old. It's hard to develop any specific affinity for types of music before then.

Included is a handy, inaccurate metaphor that I haphazardly wrote up without a second thought. So if you're looking for an experience to correlate with listening to this hour of emotionally engaging music, maybe this add to your experience! Or maybe it will make no sense, and you will be weirded out, but then you look it up anyway because you have to know, that's just the type of person you are, always seeking, always curious.

I count a decade as '00 to '09, and save '10 through '19 for the next decade. I know years didn't start with zero, thus the first decade was 1 through 10. But 1970 was part of the 70's, not the 60's.

Whatever. List:

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