Friday, November 25, 2011

Dr. Spin's Best Albums of 2011, Part 1: #'s 11-20

Photo Credit: Kate Wurtzel
Last month, I promised that I would publish the "lower" half of my "Best of 2011" results in lieu of my usual month in review post, mainly so that I can stop thinking about it.  You will find it below.  First, though, you should familiarize yourself with a few of the loose criteria that I have used to choose and judge these entries.  
  • An entry must have an association with the events, experiences, and memories of 2011.
  • An entry must be of a justifiable musical quality.
  • Entries are not limited to albums with a 2011 release date, or albums acquired during 2011.
  • Only one entry per band/artist can make the final list.
  • Albums from previous "Best of" lists are not eligible.
  • Seeking variety plays a vague role in the process.  
There is, of course, no award for winning, unless you count coming up on a  "Best of 2011" Google search to be a desirable goal.  In classic style, of course, I'll start with number 20 and work my way backward.  Imagine a drum roll, please...

Fly From Here (single) by Yes on Grooveshark
  20.  Yes Fly From HereWhile half of the Yes fanbase insists that the band has become its own tribute group, the other welcomes anything better than the incestuous rambling that the band has engaged in since the mid-90s.  I fall in the latter category – with a couple of minor exceptions, Fly from Here is an excellent album deserving of the Yes name.
Rope by Foo Fighters on Grooveshark
19. The Foo FightersWasting LightThe Foo Fighters are hardly in need of my support, so at the beginning of summer, I was quite ready to drop this one from the list.  At year's end, though, I can’t deny that Wasting Light is chocked full of infectious tunes that are delivered with energetic glee. 
True Loves by Hooray For Earth on Grooveshark
18. Hooray for EarthTrue Loves:   Hooray for Earth's shoegazey synth-pop sensibilities made True Loves a real grower.   It kept finding its way back into rotation over and over until, finally, I had to concede that it is quite brilliant.
Machine Makes Fresh Ground by Ben Butler & Mousepad on Grooveshark
17. Ben Butler & Mousepad Formed for Fantasy: Ben Butler & Mousepad won me over the old-fashioned way - by playing an incredible live set opening for Deerhoof.  Their album is quite incredible in its own right, but its a pale reflection of their full performing capacity.
I Feel the Dark by Opeth on Grooveshark
16. OpethHeritageIt remains to be seen whether Opeth's tribute to their progressive roots is an entirely new direction for the band or merely an excursion.  Taken on its own, however, Heritage is very good and quite memorable.
Super Duper Rescue Heads! by Deerhoof vs. evil on Grooveshark
15. DeerhoofDeerhoof vs.EvilThis album's jagged, multilingual, stream-of-consciousness construction has given me the runaround all year.  Ultimately, though, every single time I put it in rotation, it stays in for weeks, which says a lot.
Parachute by Sean Lennon on Grooveshark
14. Sean LennonFriendly FireLennon shows an unbelievable leap of maturity in comparison to his earlier release Into the SunFriendly Fire is a welcome dose of melancholic craftmanship that continues to ripen with familiarity.
むこう岸が視る夢 by toe on Grooveshark
13. ToeThe Book About My Idle Plot on a Vague AnxietyToe's approach on this album is far more impassioned, dynamic, and emotive than the usual math rock stereotype.  The band's virtuosity drives their collective concept in a way that would appeal to fans of tastefully complex music (like me).
Effortlessly by Field Music on Grooveshark
12. Field MusicMeasureAlthough Field Music is, ostensibly, a power pop group, they have an experimental aspect that ripples just below the surface, but can be heard in the form of odd-metered bridges and orchestral texture.  Measure plays out more like a song cycle than a pop album - it flows inexplicably from one track to the next without disrupting each song's discrete identity.
Steve McQueen by M83 on Grooveshark

11. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re DreamingM83's stunning double album is a late entry.  The most important conclusion that I have come to in the short time since its release is that I need to keep listening to it, but it has certainly earned a place in the year-end favorites.
Mind you. all of these albums are excellent, and I had to pass on a lot of others that I liked to even get here.  I feel pretty satisfied with this part of the list as well as my first drafts of the top ten.  Stay tuned at the end of next month for the conclusion!

For my regular readers, don't worry - despite the advent of Christmas band programs, I'll be eeking out the usual posts about whatever I'm doing and listening to in December.  Keep your ears open and please, if you have music that you want to share, don't hesitate to sound off.  All of the best music I came across this year has been through personal suggestions, and I'm starting to build my wish list for next year.

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