Welcome to FWBA’s best-of 2011. This has been such a meaningful year in music to me that it’s tough to represent in one post. I’m going to be honest, this took me quite a long time. I wanted to do this year justice because personally, it was a total dream: living in San Diego working with some of my favorite artists, going to SXSW and Lollapalooza, seeing Dave Bazan in stranger’s living rooms, Feist play a hometown show, saw tune-yards electrified show at Soda Bar clocking in as one of my favorite performances, watching Zach Rogue and my boyfriend playing in San Francisco together, The Shivers playing in Point Loma caves, Wye Oak playing on a swingset, Frightened Rabbit playing cornhole, Peter Wolf Crier on tour, Mike Fiore of Faces on Film making his first West Coast appearance to play my friend’s attic, and learning about my relationship to music and the world in a deeper context by sitting still with it.
This year brought about a creative vitality seen in the like of St. Vincent: the housewife of our dreams, vocal orchestration from the deranged (tune-yards) to the divine (Julianna Barwick), the peak of flannel-rock (Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Dawes) the indie/rap hybrid (A$AP Rock, BIG K.R.I.T, Freddie Gibbs) the resurrection of the spooky girl (Grimes, Zola Jesus, Austra) the inexplicable popularity of Bradford Cox’s brothafromanothamutha: Youth Lagoon, the return to Springsteen (The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile) and the vital homecoming of our once dormant indie babe of the North: Feist. It’s been a good year. I’ve compiled a series of best-of lists below in an attempt to encapsulate it, dear diary-style. Enjoy!
BEST ALBUMS (in no particular order)
This was the kind of record that absorbed between my ears and occupied parts of my consciousness that are yet to reveal themselves. I’m looking forward to growing old enough to watch them emerge, but never too old to stop looking for them. This one meant a lot.
J Mascis is like a sweet boy wrapped in several shades of grey (beard) this record made me quiet.
Fruit Bats made me feel good to feel strange.
Bill Baird seems unbearably lonesome, and that makes for good company.
When I saw the Shivers perform “More” in my friend’s living room, I felt the way you do when you first meet a new friend and you’ve got the sense that you’ll really get along well. It was just a moment of- yes, this is beautiful art and I sure am glad I get to be in this room right now.
Are you noticing a trend here? Much like an English accent, Bill Callahan could tell me just about anything with that voice and I’d believe him. So I hope he tells me, “everything will be alright”.
If there is anyone who has inspired me to exercise whatever lumpy, untoned creative muscle I’ve got- it’s tune-yards. She’s incredibly untamed, yet sharp- she’s a strong woman and fantastic entertainer.
Jesus, I loved this record- regardless of how ubiquitously favorable it was received, I love it anyway. She has so elegantly built her fortress of electric guitar and soft croon and has given pop music a much-needed tease.
The cyclical nature of Slave Ambient makes it driving music- evoking Dylan and Springsteen The War On Drugs sound like they’ve got all the time in the world to be ramblin’.
Both aggressive and minimalist, this record was something special to me. The honesty is cutting, “I wanted to give you everything but I still stand in awe of superficial things”. There is a confessional sorrow in her voice.
Never have I been so intimately connected to the creation of an album. From scratchy demos- hollowed and lacking their percussive guard- to fully formed thoughts and emotions that are so ancient that they are more sounds than words. I’ve never been more proud to watch art grow.
The intricacy and experimentation of White Denim is otherworldly. They hit grooves and nerves located in our collective dance bones.
This is uncomplicated music for Wednesday afternoons when you’re looking for something that does not assault your ears, but eases you.
Braids Native Speaker evokes African women harmonizing in the way that bonds females to each other through their labour. It takes us back to our mothers, and their mothers and reminds us that they were children with higher voicees.
Widowspeak was this year’s Warpaint.
Similar to Braids- Barwick’s vocal layers are mesmerizing.
Rockabilly exists in Kitty Daisy and Lewis.
The churning, crackling sounds of vinyl have never felt more real than, oh, I guess on vinyl itself.
This year’s MIA.
Much like Bazan, Paleo’s Fruit of the Spirit is devastating- because there’s a good chance it’s all true. There’s an achiness in the long drawn out sounds his vocal chords make. It’s all suffering. It’s part-enlightened. It’s an absolute relief.
This record feels physically good. And like the best possible cold, it’s contagious.
I’m glad that Here We Go Magic ressurected in some form.
Desert Etiquette is completely genre spanning and offers something for everyone.
When Welch sang that Times A Revelator- she’s revealed even more depth and honest storytelling with this record.
This is California coast music.
1 Phantogram- Don’t Move
2 Kurt Vile – Baby’s Arms
3 M83- Midnight City
4 Youth Lagoon- July
5 Lana Del Rey- Videogames
6 Kitty Daisy & Lewis- Don’t Make A Fool Out Of Me
7 Alabama Shakes- Hold On
8 Sharon Van Etten- Mike McDermott
9 Peaking Lights- Hey Sparrow
10 Lia Ices- Lilac
11 Unknown Mortal Orchestra- How Can U Luv Me
12 Grouper- Alien Observer
13 Jessica Jalbert Paris Green
14 Oregon Bike Trails- Cayucas
15 Paleo- Holly Would
16 Fountain in Rewind- Blouse
17 No Bird Sing- Afterlife Insurance
18 The Do- Slippery Slope
19 Atlas Sound- Mona Lisa
20 Coeur de Pirate- Les Amoures Devouees
21 The Caretaker- All You Are Going To Want To Do Is Get Back There
22 Morning Thought- Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr
23 I Break Horses- Winter Beats
GIRL CRUSH (a collection of talented babes I pretend to be when I’m singing in the car)
BEST NEWBIES (they might not be new, but they were new to me this year)
1 Steffaloo– Meet Me In Montauk
2 RUN DMT– DREAMS
3 Ricky Eat Acid– Haunt U Forever
4 Bronson– Paper Tusk
5 You Won’t– Skeptic Goodbye
6 Dreampeter– Mason Jar
7 Headaches– I Wasn’t Born Yesterday
8 Monster Rally– Crystal Ball
9 Pandit– Steady Nerves and a Strong Heart
10 Two Bicycles– The Ocean
BEST CANADIAN ARTISTS (homies from the homeland)
1 Born Gold Bodysongs
2 Austra Feel It Break
3 pat Jordache– Future Songs
4 Feist – Metals
5 Timber Timbre– Creep On Creepin On
6 Bry Webb– Provider
7 Daniel Romano– Sleep Beneath the Willow
8 Jessica Jalbert– Brother Loyola
9 Frederick Squire- Friday March 12
10 Sean Nicholas Savage– Flamingo
11 Marine Dreams– Marine Dreams
1 Beyonce Countdown
2 Peaking Lights Hey Sparrow
3 NewVillager Lighthouse
4 tune-yards Bizness
5 Grass Widow Milo Minute
6 Gotye- Somebody that I Used to Know
7 Phantogram When I’m Small
8 St. Vincent- Cruel
9 Fleet Foxes- The Shrine/Argument
10 Seventeen Evergreen- The Popularity Song
11 Soko- I Thought I Was An Alien
12 Arcade Fire Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
BEST MUSIC BLOGS
1 I Guess I’m Floating
3 This Music Wins
4 Indie Music Filter
6 Dead As Digital
7 Speaker Snacks
9 Flashlight Tag
10 Get Off the Coast
11 Rollo & Grady
12 Think or Smile
Special thanks to 2011 for kicking my butt, taking me to new cities, coasts, filling my belly with nothing but beers and burritos for extended months, introducing new sounds, and intuitively pulling me back home again. You’ve been the most bizarre, eventful and uneventful year of my life. I’m grateful to all the musicians who will pull me back to this year whenever needed. Thanks to FWBA readers for your encouragement and for coming along for the ride, your company keeps this all running.