Ten Best Albums of 2011
So, the thing with my list this year is that I’ve been fortunate enough to have either shared a stage, been on a movie soundtrack together, recorded an album with, spent many quality years as close friends, or at the very least, created some memories over some good times with all but two of the bands represented here. However, none of these disclosures swayed my opinion in naming their recordings as the best to come out this year, they’re just all that damn good, and I just happen to know them.
Big Black Delta – LP1
Jonathan Bates, you might know him by his work under the name Mellowdrone, if you don’t then you should check that out too. This project is more electronic, slightly more experimental, and just as solid as anything else he’s ever put out. His voice slays me, but that goes for everyone on this list.
The Dears – Degeneration Street
Becoming part of the Dangerbird family seems to have been good for The Dears, I’d have to say this is my favorite release of theirs yet, and that’s saying a lot. If you’ve never seen them live, you should (and that, as well, goes for everyone on this list).
Fran Capitanelli – Kave Talk
If you missed The Tom Collins, then well, you’re shit out of luck. But hey, because of that breakup we have the songwriter/vocalist/guitarist left to record an album on his own, and personally, I think it all turned out for the best. Because of that, what we have here now is pure Fran at his best. This album will blow your mind even if you didn’t know that Fran played everything on it, through a Shure beta 57 direct to a Yamaha MT8X (that’s an 8-track cassette recorder, FYI). This just goes to show that so long as you’ve got great songs, great talent, and actually care enough about what your are doing to make the best of what you have to work with, then you don’t need to kill your vibe in some fancy pants studio with some tool that thinks he knows more than you do, sucking Benjamins out of your wallet.
Tristen – Charlatans at the Gate
Damn I love this girl. The first time I met her, we were going to the opening night of the Newport Beach Film Festival to see 5 Star Day. We were both on the soundtrack, there was a crazy after party with an open bar, Cirque du Soleil performers, strange conversations with Yeardley Smith and the Real Housewives of Orange County (I had no idea who they were, they had orange skin though and I found that very amusing, if not fairly disgusting), and for desert, Danny gave us a huge brownie to split that kept us both awake all night until I had to drive back to LAX to catch a flight the next morning.
Oh, I remember what I was saying, LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM, IT’S F#@*ING GREAT!
The Other Also – Fires
Boy did we have to wait a while for this collection of gems, and boy was it worth it. George Lewis III really shines bright with his songwriting, heart-breaking poetics and a voice as warm and cozy as your favorite winter blanket. Masterfully recorded, mixed and produced by Jake Gideon (The Breakups, The Californian), who also played many of the accompanying instruments on the album along with the help from other members of The Breakups, The Californian, and The Henry Clay People.
The Californian – The Californian
The voice, the reverb, the songwriting, the wonderful musically-incestuous west coast friends that I love (a Henry Clay person and a Breakup play in this band as well). Seriously, if John Graney’s voice doesn’t make your heart explode with love for what he’s singing and how he’s singing it, then you are dead inside.
John Vanderslice – White Wilderness
This album maybe should be illegal, because it is a beautiful trip with every listen, and you just want to listen to it again when it’s over. John’s approach to recording isn’t exactly the same every time, but it’s exactly perfect for the project. Every time. Just wait until you find out how he’s recording his new album!
HoneyHoney – Billy Jack
Suzanne’s voice is one that simultaneously makes you feel strong, and makes you weep. We both sing backup on the Breakups song Run From Rock & Roll, which is on their new album that’s not out quite yet, but you know, fuck it, I’m putting it on my list this year anyway…
The Breakups – Running/Jumping/Falling/Shouting
That’s right, it’s not out yet, but it’s one of the best albums from this year, and it will still be one of the best albums of the year, next year, when it has its official release.
Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
This album totally makes up for their previous lackluster release. Unlike a bunch of folks that did like DCFC, but don’t now (citing the change in their sound as the reason) I truly appreciate the growth that’s taken place due to studio experimentation. This album is a collection of really good songs stretched over a tight and intricate sonic canvas; it’s one that you definitely hear some nuance (that you’ve missed before), every time you listen to it.