The Black Keys, M83, PJ Harvey And More On TAS Staff's Best Of 2011
The Alternate Side staff both loves — and dreads — the annual rush of ubiquitous end-of-year lists, sifting through the best albums and singles of the twelve months gone by. There are usually far too many records or songs we'd like to mention, so consider the following just a start of what we really enjoyed in 2011, leaping from The Black Keys to tUnE-yArDs to Elbow to Little Dragon. And feel free to add your comments on what you liked too — we'd love to hear from you.
Russ Borris (Host of The Alternate Side and WFUV's Assistant Music Director):
Albums: Bon Iver, Bon Iver, Bon Iver - Ambitiously beautifully, nothing came close to this one. Nothing. The Weeknd, House of Balloons - The first mixtape from this Toronto guy is a modern spin on R&B filled with songs about girls and drugs and clubs. Oh, and girls doing drugs in clubs. James Blake, James Blake - I promised myself I wouldn't use the word dubstep when describing this record. Damnit. Girls, Father, Son, Holy Ghost - A big leap forward with album #2 filled with sadness and hope. "Vomit" is the best song with the worst title of 2011. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake - Just so solid. It's amazing how she makes a different and compelling record every time. The Mountain Goats, All Eternals Deck - John Darnielle is one of the most intelligent writers going and this one only adds to his extensive resume here. Plus the in-studio session was a blast. M83, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming - A giant double album that is always moving, keeping you hooked in. The Shivers, More - Their most cohesive record yet, a cool twist on the classic "guy loses girl" story. The Roots, undun - Brilliant and possibly their best album yet. Maybe The Black Keys are actually the second best band in the world. The Black Keys, El Camino - Somewhere along the line, The Black Keys became the best band in the world.
Songs: (alphabetical) Alexander, "Truth" - I can never hear this song the same way after the "Box Cutter" episode of "Breaking Bad." Blitzen Trapper, "Love the Way You Walk Away" - This song stuck with me from listen one. Bon Iver, "Beth/Rest" - Memories of junior high school dances filled with cheesy keys and filthy guitar solos. Uh, the song, not the dances. Elbow, "Lippy Kids" - A flawless recording. Just perfect. Fool's Gold, "Wild Window" - One of my favorite lines of the year: "No, you have not ruined me ... yet, despite your best efforts." M83, "Midnight City" - The hookiest synth-line of the year. Man Man, "Haute Tropique" - Hands down, the best video performance in Studio A in 2011. Nerves Junior, "As Bright as Your Night Light" - This band from Louisville flew under the radar a bit this year, but I expect to hear more from them in the future. tUnE-yArDs, "Bizness" - Merrill Garbus approaches recording like no other. This song is crazy. Tyler, The Creator, "Yonkers" - When I first saw the video for this, I was sold. Interesting, controversial, ambitious.
Alisa Ali (Host of The Alternate Side, Producer and On-Air Interviewer for WFUV)
Albums: Beirut, The Rip Tide Wye Oak, Civilians M83, Hurry Up We're Dreaming Milagres, Glowing Mouth Shabazz Palaces, Black Up tUnE-yArDs, whokill The Antlers, Burst Apart Washed Out, Within and Without Wild Flag, Wild Flag Real Estate, Days
Songs: tUnE-yArDs, "Bizness" Beastie Boys, "Make Some Noise" The Head and the Heart, "Lost In My Mind" Beirut, "Santa Fe" M83, "Midnight City" The Antlers, "Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out" Amor Fati, "Washed Out" The Naked and Famous, "Young Blood" Metronomy, "The Bay" Friends, "I'm His Girl"
Eric Holland (TAS Weekend Host, WFUV Presenter)
Albums: Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What - Paul contemplates life, love, and death with his inimitable wit. Tom Waits, Bad as Me - Tom in touch with all parts of his persona and stages in his career. Danger Mouse & Danielle Luppi, Rome - A little album in some ways but enormously successful. Wilco, The Whole Love - Favorite Wilco album ever. Wild Flag, Wild Flag - Women who often evoke CBGBs talent like Patti Smith and Television. Feist, Metals - Unlike Björk this year, she managed to successfully balance her weird experimentation with song structure. Real Estate, Days - It was a good year for power pop but this was even better than Greenhornes, FOW, The Kooks and Matthew Sweet. Girls, Father, Son, Holy Ghost - Charming, infectious, clever, funny, ambitious, epic. John Hiatt, Dirty Jeans & Mudslide Hymns - An especially great batch of songs from one of America's great songwriters. Radiohead, The King of Limbs - I miss guitars and enough with the deconstruction; still ... they're genius.
Songs: Lykke Li, "Get Some" Amy Correia, "Powder Blue Trans Am" Garland Jeffreys, "Roller Coaster Town" Mr. Heavenly, "Bronx Sniper" The Drums, "Money" Foster The People, "Pumped Up Kicks" Paul Simon, "Rewrite" Jimmy Cliff, "Guns of Brixton" (favorite cover) Norah Jones, "Jesus Etc" (favorite cover) James Blake, "Limit to Your Love" (favorite cover)
Kara Manning (TAS Web Editor/Writer and On-Air Interviewer for TAS and WFUV)
Albums: Elbow, build a rocket boys! - Four stunning singles also came tumbling off of this near-perfect album, including the masterful "Lippy Kids." Metronomy, The English Riviera - Joseph Mount's sly, sexy and self-deprecating ode to his native Devon established Metronomy as one of Britain's most thoroughly delectable bands. Laura Marling, A Creature I Don't Know - Marling's masterpiece at the mere age of 21. Ferocious, tempestuous and heartbreaking. Holy Ghost!, Holy Ghost! - Brooklyn's Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel's terrific debut which includes "Wait & See" (best video of the year) and the bittersweet "Jam for Jerry," a tribute to late drummer Jerry Fuchs. Gruff Rhys, Hotel Shampoo - The enigmatic Welshman (and Super Furry Animals frontman) releases his most tender, intimate and candid solo album to date. Megafaun, Megafaun - Proving that they are far, far more than merely Justin Vernon's former bandmates, Megafaun pushed the reset button on their approach to songwriting and released one of the most beautiful albums of 2011 Yuck, Yuck - A wildly eclectic, assured and mesmerizing debut. Made me sentimental for the 90s too. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake - This might be Polly Jean Harvey's most brilliant and resonant album. Life during wartime: unflinching, brutal and unforgettable. Butcher The Bar, For Each A Future Tethered - Manchester singer and songwriter Joel Nicholson often gets compared to Elliot Smith and for good reason; handsome tracks like "Silk Tilts" and "Cradle Song" blur both shadows and sunshine. Cornershop with Bubbley Kaur, Cornershop & The Double 'O' Groove Of - It took six years for this album to see the light and it is, appropriately, positively luminous. Cornershop's collaboration with Punjabi singer Bubbley Kaur, a Lancashire housewife.
Singles: Everything Everything, "Photoshop Handsome" - Everything, everything about this song makes me happy. Even the jabberwocky nonsense of the lyrics. Little Dragon , "Ritual Union" - Really, is there anything that Little Dragon's Yukimo Nagano sings that doesn't sound sexy? DJ Shadow w/Little Dragon, "Scale It Back" - See above. Plus, is it wrong to admit that the song reminds me of vintage TLC? Friends, "I'm His Girl" - Brooklyn upstarts mine a super-sultry bass line with tasty insolence (plus the B-side is their fabulous cover of the Ghost Town DJ's' "My Boo"). SBTRKT, "Pharaohs" - London producer SBTRKT recruited Roses Gabor for this sleek little number. Boys Noize & Erol Alkan with Jarvis Cocker, "Avalanche (Terminal Velocity)" - True, Jarvis Cocker could read the ingredients off a cereal box and make it sound brilliant, but this explosive deconstruction of Leonard Cohen's song is particularly compelling Michael Kiwanuka, "Tell Me A Tale" - Like a long-lost vinyl single from the early 70s. Gorgeous. The Naked and Famous, "Young Blood" - Soaring, summertime perfection and one of several excellent singles off of this New Zealand band's debut. Bombay Bicycle Club, "Shuffle" - Bombay Bicycle Club's A Different Kind of Fix just missed my top ten album list, but that excellent release was led off by this brisk, breezy canter of a single. Wonderful. The Horrors, "Still Life" - The Horrors' Skying is another album I wish I could have squeezed into my top ten. "Still Life," like the balance of the album, is a wondrous wash of synth-pop grandeur.
Rita Houston (WFUV Music Director, Host of Whole Wide World)
Albums: Adele,21 Amos Lee, Mission Bell Diego Garcia,Laura Elbow, build a rocket boys! Gillian Welch, The Harrow and The Harvest Iron and Wine,Kiss Each Other Clean kd lang, Sing it Loud Nikki Jean, Pennies from a Jar The Head and the Heart, The Head and the Heart Wilco, The Whole Love
Songs (alphabetical): Childish Gambino, "Bonfire" Cults, "Go Outside" Dawes, "A Little Bit of Everything" Givers, "Up Up Up" James Blake, "Limit to Your Love" James Maddock, "Beautiful Then" Kids These Days, "Darling" Lady Gaga, "Born This Way" M83, "Raconte Moi Une Histoire" My Morning Jacket, "Holdin' On to Black Metal"
Laura Fedele (New Media Director for WFUV and TAS)
Albums: The Decemberists, The King is Dead Wilco,The Whole Love Iron and Wine, Kiss Each Other Clean Gillian Welch, The Harrow & The Harvest The Head and the Heart,The Head and the Heart Amos Lee, Mission Bell kd lang and The Siss Boom Bang, Sing It Loud Diego Garcia, Laura Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, Rome Radiohead, The King of Limbs
Songs: Elbow, "Lippy Kids" Adele, "Rolling in the Deep" The Civil Wars, "Barton Hollow" Nicole Atkins, "The Tower" Dawes, "A Little Bit Of Everything" Givers, "Up Up Up" David Wax Museum, "Born With a Broken Heart" Lucinda Williams, "Blessed" My Morning Jacket, "Wonderful (The Way I Feel) " Rachael Yamagata, "You Won't Let Me"
Sarah Wardop (TAS Substitute Host, WFUV Assistant Program Director, FUV Music Weekend Host)
Albums (alphabetical): The Black Keys, El Camino Bon Iver, Bon Iver, Bon Iver City and Colour, Little Hell David Wax Museum, Everything Is Saved The Decemberists, The King Is Dead Feist, Metals The Head and the Heart, The Head and the Heart Colin Stetson, New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges Gillian Welch, The Harrow & The Harvest Wild Flag, Wild Flag
Songs (alphabetical): Adele, "Rolling In The Deep" Nicole Atkins, "Cry Cry Cry" James Blake, "Limit To Your Love" Bon Iver, "Holocene" David Wax Museum, "Born With A Broken Heart" The Decemberists, "January Hymn" The Head and the Heart, "Down In The Valley" M83, "Midnight City" The Rapture, "It Takes Time To Be A Man" Wild Flag, "Romance"
Joe Grimaldi (TAS/WFUV Assistant Director of Technical Operations, TAS Video Team/ Photographer)
Albums: The Black Keys,El Camino David Guetta,Nothing but the Beat Blue Scholars,Cinemetropolis Lil Wayne, Tha Carter IV Wick-it the Instigator, The Brothers of Chico Dusty (Big Boi vs. The Black Keys) Wiz Khalifa, Rolling Papers Socks & Chimes, I Love You Overall Bon Iver, Bon Iver, Bon Iver M83, Hurry Up We're Dreaming Gillian Welch,The Harrow & The Harvest Childish Gambino, Camp
Songs: Ryan Adams, "Lucky Now" Wale, "Ambition" The Streets, "Outside Inside" Atmosphere, "The Last to Say" Foster the People, "Houdini" James Blake, "A Case of You" The Lisps, "Try" Beyoncé, "Best Thing I Never Had" Socks & Chime, "New Mexico" Car on the Moon, "Sea of Indians" Gillian Welch, "Hard Times"
Videos: LMFAO feat. Lauren Bennett and GoonRock, "Party Rock Anthem," (dir. Mickey Finnegan) Kanye West feat. Rihanna and Kid Cudi, "All Of The Lights," (dir. Hype Williams) Tyler the Creator, "Yonkers," (dir. Wold Haley) Taylor Swift, "Ours," (dir. Declan Whitebloom) The New Pornographers, "Moves," (dir. Tom Scharpling) Jay-Z and Kanye West, "Otis," (dir. Spike Jonze) Lonely Island feat. Michael Boulton, "Jack Sparrow," (Broadway Video) Lana Del Ray, "Video Games," (dir. Lana Del Ray) Wild Flag, "Romance," (dir. Tom Scharpling) M83, "Midnight City" (dir. Fleur & Manu) Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, "Wings," (dir. Zia Mohajerjasbi)