Best Albums of 2011 (National only)
1. "Past Life Martyred Saints" by EMA
There wasn't a single album this year that moved me the way EMA's (short for Erika M. Anderson) "Past Life Martyred Saints" did. Created in response to the dissolution of Anderson's former group Gowns, EMA's debut pulls you into the darkest corners of her own personal hell. It's an emotional tour de force; an album so devastating and uncompromising in its execution that it's hard to not listen to it all the way through each time. "Past Life Martyred Saints" wasn't the easiest thing to stomach in 2011, but it's a bold debut that shows promise. Courtney Love, Kim Deal, eat your heart out, EMA is this century’s new noise.
2. "Undun" by The Roots
After 2008’s “Rising Down” it was hard to believe The Roots – the world’s greatest living hip-hop group – could get any bleaker. While the crew’s tenth proper studio release treads some familiar sonic territory, the band has never sounded as focused and calculated. It’s a concept album told in reverse. A no-holds-barred character study that follows its protagonists existential plight and the all-too-familiar circumstances that pushed him and so many others into becoming another statistic of the American ghetto. As Dice Raw spits “To make it to the bottom, such a long climb.” It’s a long climb to the top too and The Roots don’t seem ready to step down anytime soon.
3. "David Comes to Life"by Fucked Up
There’s not a lot to say that hasn’t already been said about this record. Hardcore has never been the genre that’s welcomed this kind of conceptual grandiosity, but “David Comes to Life” unravels like some great Shakesperian tragedy. 2011 saw plenty of frontman with prettier voices than David Abraham, but only a few of them can be as compelling.
4. "The Whole Love" by Wilco
Forget everything you thought you knew about Wilco. After the release of their last record — the self-referential, roots-rock romp “Wilco (The Album)” — it almost seemed too obvious to even acknowledge that one of America’s most inventive and daring rock ‘n’ roll bands had hit a creative dry spell. But “The Whole Love” finds the grey beards of indie producing their best work in years. From the tempered acoustic numbers (“Black Moon” and “Open Mind”) to the Coney Island whimper of “Capitol City“ to the outrageously ambitious 12-minute closer, “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend),” the band seems more interested in just enjoying themselves than shifting the dynamics of music. Wilco’s a band that never stops growing and if “The Whole Love” is about anything, it’s about coming to terms with the fact that we’ve changed and that acceptance is our only option. And sometimes that’s not such a bad thing — sometimes it actually sounds pretty great. Change is inevitable, so let’s learn to embrace it.
5. "Bad As Me" by Tom Waits
Few rock 'n' roll giants know how to die out gracefully in their latter years (emcees have even more trouble), but at 61, Waits almost sounds as if he's only getting younger by the day. He’s the mad hatter of rock ‘n’ roll. The last of a dying breed and a bonafide genius who balances old with the new while pushing great American traditions deeper into a world far too strange and chaotic for the masses. Waits couldn’t phone it in if he tried. “Bad As Me” isn’t his most innovative release by any measure, but it’s no dud either. In fact, it’s some of the strongest and most immediate work of his career. What he does is as important as what he refuses to do, and that's letting time take its toll on him. He excels where the Dylans and Youngs fell short and like a true artist, continues to create music that is daring yet indelible. So perhaps the man behind the wheel said it best himself: "Whatever they told you about me/Well all of it's true/You're never gonna be without me baby/I'm never gonna be without you." Well gosh Tom, I certainly hope not.
6. "Strange Mercy" by St. Vincent
7. "Too Young To Be In Love" by Hunx and His Punx
8. "Mirror Traffic" by Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
9. "Dr. Lecter" by Action Bronson
10. "Smoke Ring for my Halo" by Kurt Vile
"Goblin" Tyler, the Creator
"King of Limbs" Radiohead
"Belong" Pains of Being Pure at Heart
"The Harrow and the Harvest" Gillian Welch
Best Local Albums of 2011
1. "You and Me, Ghost" by Sleeping in the Aviary
2. "Coloured Emotions" by Night Moves
3. Pink Mink self-titled by Pink Mink
4. "No Kings" by Doomtree
5. "C'mon" by Low
6. "Selva Surreal" by Buffalo Moon
7. "Let it Bleed" by The Fuck Knights
8. Dial-Up EP by Dial-Up
9. "26 Mean and Heavy" by Rifflord
10. "85" by Wize Guyz
Top 5 Favorite Local Tracks
1. "Karen, You're An Angel" by Sleeping in the Aviary
2. "Told You Once" by Howler
3. "Headlights" by Night Moves
4. "Olde Fashion Black Magik" by Rifflord
5. "Became" by Atmosphere
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