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18 Dec

The Top 11 Albums 2011

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If I had to use one word to describe the music of 2011, I think it would have to be “meh.” There wasn’t much that excited my ears and I found myself going through phases of obtaining old stuff instead of latching onto the new. My favorite reissue was “Instant Replay” by the Monkees and that set me off on a Monkee spree that isn’t over yet. I think the one thing that I’m realizing in this new digital age is that I don’t invest myself into music as much as I did previously. I think that is because there is so much you can get or listen to for free (via a services like Spotify or sites where anyone can upload their latest stuff) that I don’t take the time to sit and listen much anymore. With LPs or CDs, I’ve spent my money and time actually buying something. I have invested in someone’s product. Therefore, I take the time to listen, follow lyrics, and pay attention to what the artist has created. These days, I can tell you I’ve listed to a top album and probably liked it, but I can’t remember anything from it – basically, one quick listen and out. I’m really sad about this and I still have yet to find a way to fully adapt to the digital world. But 2011 wasn’t a total loss. I did find music I enjoyed and purchased. Here are the albums that I did invest my time, money, and ears:

Albums

1. “Ghost on the Canvas” by Glen Campbell – I’m probably just as shocked to find this at the top of my list, but I really loved this final release. What a way to go out. And considering the reason he has to leave the business, the songs take on a new meaning. I think this was very under-appreciated upon release and I hope it can develop the admiration and respect it deserves in the coming years.

2. “21” by Adele – Okay, I’m a bit pissed about this one. I latched onto this album right from the start. “Rolling in the Deep” was floundering on the charts and I was jamming to it in disbelief that it wasn’t a #1 song. Then the Adele frenzy started and I kept thinking – where were you people months ago? On the good side, it is nice that an album can indeed grown these days and not be a quick flash in the pan.

3. “Long Player, Late Bloomer” by Ron Sexsmith – His last couple of discs were a bit low-key and I didn’t connect with them. But this was a stunner. Upbeat and peppy, it was the opposite of his semi-maudlin collections. And he even sounds happy! Well, as happy as his sad-dog voice can get. One of his best.

4. “Lucid” by Gregory Douglass – I will say that here is an artist that came to me via the digital world. Found him on a website after his previous album “Battler” came out. I enjoyed it and began to follow him. When this came out, I was so pleased that I had discovered him. Check him out and his website – he does really interesting covers and shoots videos for them.

5. “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes – Oh, my hippie-dippie folkies, how I do love thee. Not quite as brilliant as their self-titled disc, but this has moments of pure pleasure that bowl me over.

6. “Smash” – Martin Solveig – I believe he is working with Madonna currently, which should be interesting. He is huge in Europe but hasn’t made a splash here.  Too bad as this disc is far better than anything David Guetta has done recently. I’m not much into the DJ scene, but this disc totally clicked with me.

7. “Sweetheart of the Sun” by the Bangles – Again, who could have predicted this would be on my list? Not me! What a nice return for them. Terrific songs and it feels both fresh and comfortable. For me, this is their best overall album.

8. “Bad As Me” by Tom Waits – We may have to wait lengthy times between fresh material, but when the music hits, he doesn’t disappoint. An acquired taste for some, he is required listening for me.

9. “El Camino” by the Black Keys – I liked the last disc, “Brothers,” but still wasn’t jumping on the bandwagon. I am now. Delicious burning rock. This is also one of those rare discs where you can look at the cover/title and just know it will be great. I just stared at that mini-van cover and title and knew it was a winner.

10. “The King is Dead” by Decemberists – After they got more grand and operatic, the group scales back to basics and comes up with a nice set of songs that you easily sail through. I thought this was the right album at the right time for them.

11. “Beauty Queen Sister” by Indigo Girls – They have managed to be one of the most consistent groups out there. The writing is always good, they rarely falter, and they don’t try to reinvent themselves or do things that don’t reflect who they are. Some collections are better than others, but it is rare to not find something to like on their discs. This one is no exception.

Other notables:  “The Rip Tide” by Beirut, “Talk That Talk” by Rihanna, “Ashore” by June Tabor, “Live: The Storyteller” by Todd Snider, “Blessed” by Lucinda Williams, “Stone Rollin'” by Raphael Saadiq, “Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns” by John Hiatt, “All You Need Is Now” by Duran Duran, “Katla” by Ida Maria, “Ceremonials” by Florence + the Machine, “Ragged Kingdom” by June Tabor and Oysterband

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