Sunday, January 1, 2012

There is hope for the hopeless now. 2011: The year in rear view, Top 25 albums, plus: Best of the Blog mix for the year past

To anyone who espouses the notion that my musical persuasions are solely relegated to the past (specifically the '80s and '90s) you're right...and wrong.  The emphasis on Wilfully Obscure is and will likely remain retro, but I'm still enthused about new music from both emerging and classic artists.   I thought I'd run down twenty-five of my favorite releases of 2011, not only as a way to catalog them for my own remembrance (in the event senility sets in later in life) but for your amusement and recommendation as well.  2011 was not a banner year for music, but in fact slightly superior to 2010 which I conveniently summarized.  On the proverbial one-to-ten scale, there were in fact no tens, or nines, or even eight and a halves (save for maybe my top pick).  Nonetheless there was plenty to pique my interest and maintain my curiosity, thanks to a clutch of inspired newbies.  A little synopsis follows each title on my hallowed and coveted album list.  Bear firmly in mind that your results may very. 

In addition there are short lists (in no particular order) for honorable album mentions, and some of my favorite reissues of 2011.  Towards the end of this lengthy diatribe, I've also included a link where you can download a  "Best of the Blog" compilation featuring songs from twenty of my most cherished blog entries and retro discoveries for the year, including a handful of songs from albums not previously featured.  A huge thanks goes out to anyone who has contributed in any small way to Wilfully Obscure over the past year.  You have sincerely made this a more robust and substantive site.

Top 25 albums of 2011:

01. Farewell Continental – ¡Hey Hey Pioneers! (Paper and Plastick) - Justin Pierre of Motion City Soundtrack goes the co-ed route with Kari Gray turning in the most neurotic and endearing rock album of the year.  Bravo.
02. MaritimeHuman Hearts (Dangerbird)- Ex-Promise Ring frontman Davey von Bohlen follows up 2007’s Heresy and the Hotel Choir with a record that’s nearly as visceral and inspired.
03. Doleful Lions - Let's Break Bobby Beausoleil Out Of Prison! - Space age hooks paired with an often surreal indie rock stride.  Many happy returns.
04. Parachute MusicalKill It Cut It Down - Probably my favorite singer/songwriter album of year.  Piano rock bliss.

05. Yuck – s/t (Fat Possum) - Everything you've heard about them is 200% true and then some.
06. Ringo DeathstarrColour Trip (Sonic Unyon)- Delirious, engulfing dream-pop revisionism that virtually none of their ‘90s forebears had the smarts to come up with on their own.
07. Tim and JeanLike What - Passion Pit-inspired techo pop from this prodigious and infectious Australia duo.  Too bad it didn't see the light of day in North America.

08. Street ChantMeans (Arch Hill) - This sucker picks up where Dinosaur Jr.’s Bug left off, and furthermore, is indicative of the trajectory Sonic Youth should have charted in following up Goo.  Nearly as revelatory as Yuck, and that’s saying quite a bit.
09. Pocket GeniusNordic - Wasn't expecting something this potent after a decade hiatus.  Pocket Genius bear the charismatic nonchalance and zesty reverb of The Replacements, Doughboys and Soul Asylum, in an oddly unique context.  
10. Neon Indian - Era Extraña - True blue innovators.  In the electronica venue, they are currently without peer. 
11. Saves the DayDaybreak (Razor & Tie) - This was my most anticipated album of 2011, and even though it didn’t quite live up to my lofty expectations, Chris Conley is still the consummate melody weaver.
12. Foo FightersWasting Light - A milestone for Dave Grohl and Co.  The Foo Fighters are the only arena band whose concerts I’m not embarrassed about attending. 
13. Shy MirrorsSailed Blanks (Big School) - The Superchunk and Weezer (blue album-era) aesthetic is alive and kicking up a storm.
14. The StrokesAngles (RCA) - Returning a few years late, and IMO a song or two short, Justin Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr’s inspired recent solo endeavors spilled over into their fourth platter, giving the Strokes the shot in the arm they were overdue for.
15. Under Electric Light - Waiting for the Rain to Fall - A sublime fusion of shoegazer headiness, suave keyboard-enhancements and breezy melodies. Thoroughly transporting songs.
16. Male BondingEndless Now (Sub Pop)- Not as wall-to-wall bonkers as they were on 2010’s static laden Endless Now, but still plenty nervy and voracious.
17. Patrick Stump - Soul Punk - Soul? A few notches shy. Punk? Not a trace. Savvy? Like you wouldn’t believe.
18. The Pains of Being Pure at HeartBelong (Slumblerland) - The not-so-difficult second album. Irresistible.
19. Foster the PeopleTorches - 2011's soundtrack to summer
20. Joey CapeDoesn’t Play Well With Others - Another devastating helping of acoustic missives from the brainchild of Lagwagon and Bad Astronaut
21. Office of Future Plans – s/t (Dischord) - Burning Airlines with a little cello thrown in? Works for me. Welcome back Jay.
22. The Drums - Portamento (French Kiss) - Doesn't match last years debut, but strives to anyway.
23. Sea LionsEverything You Always Wanted to Know... (Slumberland) - A stirring update of classic C86-era Brit Pop with a bevy of old school hipster influences to die for.
24. WireRed Barked Tree (Pink Flag) - Still on the cutting edge after all these years, delivering a record that distills many of the key sonic attributes of their five-decade long run.
25. Lunch - s/t ep - fuzzy indie rock newbies drawing on a cornucopia of '90s influences.  Check out their song "Turn Around" streaming on a number of websites. 

Runners up:

Rival SchoolsPedals
Graham RepulskiInto an Animal Together
Iron & WineKiss Each Other Clean
SwayThis Was Tomorrow
StuyvesantFret Sounds
The FormsDerealization ep
SloanThe Double Cross
The CarsMove Like This
The Active Set11
Real EstateDays
Dot Dash - Spark>Flame>Embers>Ash
Janes AddictionThe Great Escape Artist
High Tension WiresWelcome New Machine
The Feelies - Here Before
Fountains of Wayne - Sky Full of Holes
Muler - Hope You Found a Home
The Raveonettes - Raven in the Grave
Recommended reissues and compilations:

Nirvana - Nevermind super deluxe edition
Jesus and Marcy Chain - discography reissue series (Edsel) 
Bitch Magnet - three CD discography (Temporary Residence) 
Radio Dept - Passive Aggressive, Singles 2002-2010
Lagwagon - Putting Music in It's Place box set (Fat)
Ben Folds - The Best Imitation of Myself - 3 cd deluxe edition
Jayhawks - Tomorrow the Green Grass deluxe
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Tape Club (Polyvinyl)
Sebadoh - Bakesale deluxe (Sub Pop)
The Modulators - Tomorrow's Coming (Kool Kat) 

Although it's well out of my price range (and I've only heard the main album portion), it's a safe bet to say that the Beach Boys Smile Sessions box takes the cake in terms of deluxe reissues for 2011. 

Finally, here's the tracklist and link to our 2011 best of the blog mix:

01. Humidifier - Nicotine
02. Slumber - Valliat
03. Dissonant Blue - Practical Harmony
04. Beauty Constant - It's One Life (demo)
05. Beat Clinic - Brenda on the Big Bed
06. Rhythm Corps (Method) - Solidarity (1984 vers)
07. Alter Boys - Piles
08. Ups and Downs - Painted Sad
09. Pedaljets - Sensual Cardboard Event
10. Reaction Formation - Galesburg Bound
11. The Spliffs - Merry-Go-Round
12. Not Shakespeare - Turnaround
13. Blanket of Secrecy - Love Me Too
14. Five Cool What - Rescue Me
15. Brave Tears - Flippin' Through
16. Delusions of Grandeur - Carousel
17. 100 Flowers - Roof Tops
18. Naomi's Hair - Tilt-a-Whirl
19. Trusty - Bus Stop
20. I-Rails - Sticks and Stones


Worth said...

Here's to hoping 2012 is a great year for everyone. Love the blog. Keep up the good work.

Brushback said...

Don't know about ballroom dance shoes, but I checked out that Lunch song and it's pretty neat.

Brushback said...

Ha ha, I just realized it's because they totally swiped the guitar line to "Can't Hardly Wait".

spavid said...

Actually I never made the Replacements connection to that Lunch song. Maybe that's why they cloaked it in all that jangle.

Marcel Feldmar said...

thanks for the listy. definitely some names i need to check out there, and a few i guesss i will have to listen to again... looking forward to the best of the blog mix...

jgmoney said...

Any chance for an reup on the best of the blog mix at the bottom of this post? I have all the best of the blogs from 2012 to 2022 I think.