the year’s records #11-#1

Part of the fun in music writing and broadcast is discussing records and releases in a ranked order and getting into, hopefully, heated discussions with friends and family members. I encourage everyone to make their own year end lists for records, top tracks, performances, videos, comebacks…whatever you like. And while you run the course, enjoy mine!

10. Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes

Helplessness Blues

A capella and choral singing has never been more in style. This record is beautiful enough to make you cry. Tears of happiness, of course. It’s a soundtrack to every rolling hill and city sidewalk daydream. You couldn’t escape Fleet Foxes this year. Everyone loves them. This record lives among few where the music speaks for itself. It makes you feel at peace with everything. You’ll just close your eyes and…

9. El Camino – The Black Keys

El Camino

It was hard to consider this album for a year end list, for all of us I hope, because of its recent release: December 6. But any rock and roll lover can’t deny their inner self that you just love The Black Keys. This record is full of hard work and volume. You can never crank it up too high. The year would be incomplete without it. I hope every year we can see a record from the Black Keys and maybe find it in all of our top ten lists.

8. Tarot Classics EP – Surfer Blood

Tarot Classics

Don’t let people tell you that album art isn’t important anymore in the digital age. It is. Surfer Blood managed to keep with their cut-up-whole image on this October EP. The second EP on my year end top 20, this one will always be four songs too short. I sing along to every verse and chorus every time. Happy with this sophomore release I am ecstatic that they kept their sound without letting it get boring. I hope the boys do us proud in 2012. Until then, savor these Classics.

7. Circuital – My Morning Jacket

Circuital

My Morning Jacket really delivered on their sixth studio album. Returning home to Louisville, KY they gave us rock, psychedelia, angelic choirs and folk at its best. This record is a massive sound. It hushes us to sleep with Wonderful (The Way I Feel) it and reminds us why we fell in love with Jim James in the first place with Holding On To Black Metal. When you play it start to finish it seems impossible. And then you’re so glad it’s real.

6. The Whole Love – Wilco

The Whole Love

For those of you who really know me, you know that I will never love anything like I love Wilco. This record plays like a greatest hits. Every song is a great song. As a follow up to the disappointing Wilco (the Album) this record delivers some of Tweedy’s most charming lyrics. They can be considered romantic gibberish, but I consider it an endless love song to life. Only Jeff Tweedy can make the lyric “i was born to die alone” sound so admirable. All over this record there are tiny sonic details. Details of keyboards, of horn sections, panning, hand claps and some winning sound effects on the great Capitol City. This record is so good it’s like candy.

5. Out In The Light – WATERS

Out In The Light

I found out about this band because of this. Like a lot of my upcoming favorites, it was an accident. Van Pierszalowski was the front man of the now defunct Port O’Brien. And thank god they’re defunct. I hope there is more of this project to come. These songs are wonderfully written with short movements of simple rock, sometimes surf rock, hooks and great choruses. When you listen to it sound gets pushed into your body through every pore, whether or not you’re ready for it. Van says the record is about starting over. Lets hope that he starts over every year.

4. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

Bon Iver

Remember when iTunes accidentally put this record up for sale for about two seconds? Not many people do. But I do. I was part of the lucky few who had this record early. So much has already been said about this record. Justin Vernon is out of his lone cabin, made friends with Kanye West and showed us that he doesn’t care about his Grammy nominations [record and song of the year, best new artist, best alternative album]. I’m not sure why anyone would dismiss any sort of honor. It’s a remarkable record that deserves all the press and recognition its received this year. I’ll never forget the day I got it. It was mid May – weeks before the June 2nd release – and the sun was shining. I sat on my bedroom floor and blasted it into the warm evening. When a record paints a picture like that, you never forget it. None of us ever will.

3. Life Fantastic – Man man

Life Fantastic

Nothing makes a room full of people more uncomfortable than putting on this record and letting it play. I found this album by accident too. Having grown up in the New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia, finding a band you genuinely love from your city and are mildly obsessed with [like Dr. Dog] makes it even more fun. [Considering Philadelphia isn’t known for their psychedelic strange bands.] The lyrics are uncomfortable [like Haute Tropique‘s tale of turning people into furniture] and the instruments and percussives get weirder and weirder as the album goes on [like everyone’s desire to immediately fast forward through Dark Arts‘ opening.] This album taught me patience. I found myself listening to it more and more because I was singing the melodies aloud to myself on the streets. I couldn’t get the songs out of my head. The experiments of Man Man are scary to many and usually un-listenable to most. [Listen up Tom Waits fans.] Not many bands include :51 long instrumental tracks. But that just makes me love them more.

2. Go Tell Fire On The Mountain – WU LYF

Go Tell Fire To The Mountain

If you thought Man Man was weird, brace yourself. The top of my list this year is a weird fest. After appearing as almost invisible on the internet all year, WU LYF [World Unite Lucifer World Foundation – pronounced Woo Life] is an English band that blew me away, once again, accidentally. I listened to almost all of it on a whim getting sucked in to each track more and more. I bought my $12 dollar ticket to their show at DC’s Rock and Roll Hotel months in advance out of sheer joy and excitement. While their lyrics seem indecipherable almost all of the time, the sound and production remain unique. No other album this year sounds like this one. I’ve read that they are working on a sophomore album. And psychotic excitement has set in.

1. w h o k i l l – tUnE-yArDs

w h o k i l l

 I know I said I found three other albums in my top ten by accident. And I promise I’m not lying when I say the same about this. Like when you find a favorite book from being drawn to the cover, I found my favorite album because I couldn’t get over how weird it looked. Now, knowing what I know, it seems perfectly weird. w h o k i l l is my number one because it’s simply the best. This record is so fresh. It is unlike anything else. Merrill Garbus is one of the most incredible singers and performers I have ever seen. [And I find it safe to say, will ever see.] Sasha Frere-Jones wrote about her in May [and those of you with online subscriptions can enjoy here and find out why she chose such crazy capitalization] and I fell in love with her further. Her World Cafe Live episode is worth your attention too. Some people have had a hard time with it, which is understandable. Listening to the tracks away from the album can sour the mood when you lose the context. But when if you give it time, a few months even, you will find love for her. I can’t imagine living life without tUnE-yArDs and that’s why she is simply the best.

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