This begins the first in a series of best of 2011 entries by our writers and contributors.
Andy’s Best of 2011
Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
No other record brought me back repeatedly, swearing at its core simplicity, simple pop melodies and universal message— the wanting of love in any form. The love of a woman, mother, friends. The record’s haplessly divided by an epic centerpiece, Vomit, that wanders for the first four minutes until it’s spiritual climax. Come in to my heart, the band’s principle songwriter, Christopher Owens, proclaims above the gospel choir joining him in a Pink Floyd-esque crescendo. So goes the rest of the record; beautiful, devastating, pop music unafraid to pose it’s influences, with autobiographical lyrics coated in killer choruses . There’s an unbelievable amount of conviction within the performances, production, and songwriting, that elevates these eleven songs together. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is an intense, religious-like, pop-rock listening experience that I turned to more than any other record in 2011, and will continue to.
Anna Calvi – Self Titled
An evil twin sister recording to Jeff Buckley’s Grace. If the devil has a voice and can play guitar, she’s it.
Paper Towels – Today We Eat, Tomorrow We Fight, Tonight We F*ck
A large, lo-fi, middle finger to boring, domestic life, technology, and the death of the traditional family unit. Recorded with archaic, analog devices near (what appears to be under) a bridge in a large city— according to the notes accompanying this recording. At times sounding like 1,000 homeless men singing in mono on Click, Click, Click” (track 11) segways to humorous — if not scientifically correct — warnings to mankind’s most irresponsible kine, Husbands and wives, your children are getting fatter and not for the better. Click, click, click.” The most baffling, scientific, and politically-prophetic recording I’ve heard this year. Here’s hoping the mailman is as good to you as he was to me this year when this cassette-only release arrived with a PR kit loaded in rock n roll mythology and threats to my personal existence.
Francis Goes Solo – Self-Titled E.P.
Daniel McMahon and Darren Garvey, servants of the studio and the road to many Midwestern bands, serve up 3 cover songs by artists they’ve recorded and performed with. Songs by Cameron McGill, Cory Chisel and Miles Nielsen are turned into Bob Dylan’s wild mercury sound in the hands of Francis Goes Solo. 8 minutes 38 seconds caught within one night of recording. Here’s hoping they drag these simple, bombastic, trash-can-glam-folk-rock-pop-punk tribute performances out for 35-37 minutes next. Garvey & McMahon’s Francis Goes Solo debut E.P. is what the true spirit of rock n roll should sound like- lighting in a bottle.
Smoking Popes – This is Only a Test
Josh Caterer composes a teenage rock symphony to youth and longing, and it’s not annoying! In the hands of other pop-punk bands (think anything Blink 182 or a lead singer that sounds like a crying goat- most of the emo rock genre) this would be a terrible, simple, idea- and unlistenable. The Popes prove they’re back full-force, whether anyone else is still listening to them doesn’t matter. The Midwest-pop-punk formula they introduced to the rest of the rock world in the 90s, that many bands emulated poorly, never tires in the hands of The Smoking Popes. This Is Only a Test is the most surprising rock listen of the year. Younger, wanna-be-post-emo-punk-whatever they call themselves, bands should take notes here; it starts with writing great songs, then, sing your hearts out. Something Josh Caterer & Co. still do better than most, including their own 90s, commercially successful, peers.
More 2011 Listens
- David Bazan – Strange Negotiations
- The Roots – Undun
- Cameron McGill What Army – Is A Beast
- Tom Waits – Bad As Me
- Bright Eyes – The Peoples Key
- Cass McCombs – Wit’s End / Humor Risk
- Trapper Schoepp The Shades – Run, Engine, Run
- Lydia Loveless – Indestructible Machine
- Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
- Miles Nielsen – Presents The Rusted Hearts
- Wilco – The Whole Love
- Boys Like Jason – I Hope It Never Stops Raining
- Gillian Welch – The Harrow The Harvest
- A.A. Bondy – Believers
- Noel Gallaghers High Flying Birds – Self-Titled
- The Decemberists – The King of Death
- Yuck – Self Titled
- Jay-Z Kanye West – Watch The Throne
- Stephen Malkmus The Jicks – Mirror Traffic
Records from other years I listened to a whole bunch
- The Moondoggies – Tidelands
- Chuck Prophet – ¡Let Freedom Ring!
- Bryan Adams – Reckless
- Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Sings Newman / and Knnillssonn
- Rolling Stones – Tattoo You
- Glenn Gould – The Goldberg Variations
- Kathleen Edwards – Asking For Flowers
- Margot The Nuclear So Sos – Buzzard
- Beach Boys – Smile Sessions
- Trevor Menear – Some Kind Of Sunshine
- George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
Kathleen Edwards & Bon Iver
The Long Center, Austin TX, 9-13-2011
Edwards’ haunting version of The Flaming Lips’ Feeling Yourself Disintegrate to close her opening set silenced the theater as it was still filling in. It was the most memorable single, live performance of the year in a year of many.
What’s a list without my worst rock n’ roll related items of the year?
This is the only area of the post many will unfortunately read and offer commentary on— like bread on a stick, feed the pigeons and wait.
- Eddie Vedder – That Uke Record His intentions are pure; poetic punk wanna-be goes soft finally, but multiple listens reveals a disgrace to the ukulele, and all folk music— not just Hawaiian folk music. I bought this record hoping to hear what others have found, to believe in, in Vedder over the past 2 decades. I keep trying, Pearl Jam fans, but I found more to ignore the closer I listened.
- Foo Fighters – Another Record About being Angry or Something
The angst doesn’t wear well, the lyrics are trying, and this is yet another dull listen in a string of dull listens dating back to The Color & The Shape.
- Dawes – Life is Really Tough in California
Big sophomore letdown with 1 upside, this record forced me to reinvest time listening to early (Jackson) Browne and (Warren) Zevon records— templates for Dawes on record #2. Any doubts I had about them after the first record are confirmed here. Rudy (Raul) Robles, the most brilliant janitor I’ve ever met, said to me at the age of 17, Never trust a anyone from California. Dawes proves Rudy right 3 decades later. Sophomore snooze fest, one of my biggest letdown listens of 2011. I’ll await the next.
- Pearl Jam – 20 Years of Protesting Stuff and Trying to Stay Really Cool Doc – A biased documentary that fanboy, Cameron Crowe, made of his buddies, Pearl Jam. It covers the 20th anniversary of a band that was concocted out of the ashes of an overrated, Seattle, glam-hair-metal band, Mother Love Bone. Crowe gleefully edits a nice story together about a few overrated musicians, singer, without getting to the true heart & soul of PJ, which is not Vedder- it’s Mike McCready. The documentary entertainingly avoids reality (see the quick montage on their multiple drummer dilemma- pathetic) by avoiding studio recording footage reminders of the awful music they’ve created and sold to their devoted fans since No Code. Feed the fishies, Ed, feed them. Crowe focuses on Vedder, obviously, and his desires to be respected—as some of his influences would be—by fighting the pitfalls of fame and Ticketmaster. (Yawn, man- to paraphrase Noel Gallagher on the Seattle scene, Vedder, ‘If you’re so miserable, go work in a gas station if you don’t want to be famous. I love being famous.’) I felt I knew nothing about PJ once again. Another documentary about an overrated arena rock band that happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right puppets in place to play the rock music to the depressed and lonely. There’s another title for ridiculous docs like this where time is better spent and the laughs are endless, watch Spinal Tap.
Thank you for reading,
AW | Andy Whorehall