2011's coming to a close, and it was an absolutely brilliant year for music, a year that I had a handful of records actually attach themselves to me in ways that formed new permanent favorites. Compiling ten albums that had serious meaning to me in 2011 and ranking them, though, was difficult as hell: who can say if the revelation at the gym had to one upbeat record is more or less impactful then the solving of an existential crises brought about by wandering the streets to another?
Regardless, the iPod playcount and the amount I've talked about these albums cannot and do not lie: here's my top 10 favorite records of 2011. Sorry, Jay-Z and Kanye, but having that one good song on Watch The Throne does not a top-10 record make. And +10 to Kate Bush for fucking a snowman, -20 for so much of that record being boring. Special mention goes to John Maus who has an album that's literally number 11 of my top 10, sorry bro, part and parcel to making a list is leaving things off a list. Apologies if there's some overlap between here and there...actually, no, no apologies. This is what I loved and felt and breathed in 2011's music.
#10: Jean Grae, Cookies or Comas?
Any new music from Jean would've been welcome, but this mixtape absolutely killed it. It's everything there has ever been to love about Jean as a rapper: heartfelt confessions rub shoulders with nasty take-downs and hilariously self-conscious asides. Someday she'll have a full new album...
#9: Water Borders, Harbord Mantras
I fucking love witch house, and I fucking love Dead Can Dance. Water Borders makes both ok. Also I have never, in my life, waited as anxiously for a single song to appear in mastered form after hearing it in demo as I did "Feasting on Mongeese". Absolutely next-level.
#8: Patrick Wolf, Lupercalia
I guess we're never getting the cute page-boy goth Patrick Wolf back, and that's ok. I made my peace with "The City" as a song earlier in the year, but making peace with Lupercalia as a record comes at the expense of, like, not having a Wolfie album to take with me through the winter. It's fine, I'll deal, it's still one hell of a Springsteen jones of an album.
#7: Pictureplane, Thee Physical
I could say:
Pictureplane made a record that made me wish I wasn't so angry about everything. Thee Physical is as beautiful and wide-eyed from both hope AND drugs as it is dark and punishing. I've danced to this record, I've cried to this record, I haven't fucked to this record because that would be weird, but not really...but it is an album mean for all of the above.
Or I could just say
#6: Today The Moon Tomorrow The Sun, Wildfire
Disclosure: I donated to the making of this record on Kickstarter. Disclosure 2: Knowing the outcome I'd do it again, in a heartbeat, and double my donation. Today The Moon Tomorrow The Sun became one of my favorite Atlanta bands right as I left the south, and to be perfectly frank all the Brooklyn bands I see trying to bridge rock and electronic setups need to step their game up. TTMTTS thrash, emote, build up and break the fuck down in a way I've yet to see emulated by anyone. Seeing them wow an unsuspecting Cameo Lounge in Williamsburg and then own a crowded, sweaty sing-along at Star Bar in Atlanta only served to highlight what makes Wildfire so great: the highs are high, the lows are intense, and every moment counts.
#5: Salem, I'm Still Inna Night
The album is called I'm Still In The Night. Don't care, it's INNA NIGHT as far as I'm concerned. It's wired, it's lush, and on "Krawl" Jack Donoghue raps about murdering a blogger that we at soldout have beef with. Pretty fucking great.
#4: Lady Gaga, Born This Way
Born This Way is a heartbroken, fuck-all, industrial glam-goth metal record, and that's what your problem with it is. The songs are loud, noisey and in desperate need of editing, and in a lot of ways that makes Born This Way a more immediate pop cousin of Tori Amos' Boys For Pele. Just because this album hurts going down doesn't mean it doesn't taste and feel good along the way. Frankly, I listen to these songs a lot more than anything on The Fame because she's overcome her stupid disco candy tendencies and opened the door to something bigger and darker.
#3: Handsome Furs, Sound Kapital
I have never listened to Wolf Parade or that other band from Wolf Parade, and with Handsome Furs being as euphoric and smart as they are, I find no reason to. Reaching for the fucking stars and making a political statement, about Russia and Canada and yet all at once America (surprise!), the songs on Sound Kapital are enough to fuel a thousand protest fires, with "Repatriated" as the rallying cry to CHANGE ALL OF THE THINGS. ALL OF THEM. FIX IT. ACT UP. FIGHT BACK. Etc. Excuse me I have things to go occupy.
#2: TIE: Drake, Take Care & The Weeknd, The Balloon Trilogy (House of Balloons, Thursday, Echoes of Silence)
One wouldn't exist without the other: 2011 in popular music was owned by the creative syrup infused with, and by, Drake and his friend/lover/father/mother/wife The Weeknd. OVO will have XO, they say: Weeknd made Take Care more fucked up and Drake's influence made the Balloon songs more mature, to the point where the terror on Echoes of Silence is subtle, working on near Bret Easton Ellis levels of implied grandiosity. Together, the united front of OVOXO turned 2011 into a grand spread of heartbroken, drugged-up, R&B-tinged rap that has forever changed things.
#1: Zola Jesus, Conatus
Sicker in the daytime , sicker on the inside.
And All. I know.
Is I'm gone.
was a surprise