The Year in Music 2011

Rather than attempt yet another top 50 list of the best albums of the year, I thought I would walk through a year in music from my perspective. The albums I have bought and the concerts I have seen. I suppose albums is a bit of a misnomer. 2010 was the year that I kind of got into downloading albums; 2011 was the year I almost exclusively downloaded everything.

The year started off with an album that the Sports Juicette and I were really looking forward to. Somewhere along the line we found ‘Hang me out to dry’ by the Cold War Kids and fell in love with the band. Mid-January saw the release of their third studio album, ‘Mine is Yours’ . Some of the songs are among the best they have ever done, but overall the album lacked the quirkiness of their other work. Ms. Juicette had the opportunity to go to Vancouver and see them live in March. Really good show.

We moved on to February and along came the surprise release of Radiohead’s ‘King of Limbs’. Kinda like Cold War Kids; pretty darn good but not as good as some of their other stuff.

The next addition to our musical family was the first of two albums from the band that was Oasis. Liam Gallagher and his band Beady Eye were first out of the gate. Noel and his High Flying Birds followed in November. I think Beady Eye really captured the feeling and the energy of early Oasis stuff, while Noel simply wrote the better tunes. In was kind of a win-win for fans who also got the chance to see the bands perform in much smaller venues than back in the Oasis days.

Something the Juicette and I have always liked to do is buy new music by artists that we don’t know much about. The trend continued in 2011 kind of willy nilly until late August when we instituted New Music Fridays. Every second Friday we take turns buying something new. It probably sounds like more fun than it is. There is a lot of pressure that builds as Friday closes in from over the hills.

Before we started the NMF’s, we had added Eliza Doolittle, Peter Bjorn and John’s ‘Gimme Some’ and Lykke Li’s ‘Wounded Rhymes’. PB&J was by far my favourite of the group.

Here is the list of NMF additions from best to worst:
Chilly Gonzales- The Unspeakable Chilly Gonzales
Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block
The Shins- Wincing the Night Away
Foster the People – Torches
Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
Tom Williams and the Boat – Too Slow
The Crookes – Dreams of Another Day
Tennis – Cape Dory
Battles – Gloss Drop

I kind of choked and cheated with my first NMF selection of PB&J’s ‘Writer Block’. In theory, the music needed to be new to us, but I panicked and picked a second album by PB&J.

The album I wanted to get was Chilly Gonzales, which was a subsequent NMF and best of the bunch in 2011. We first head ‘Party in my Mind’ on MuchMusic’s show The Wedge, hosted by F’d Up’s Damian Abraham. It is such a unique and great and weird song that I was a bit chicken to pick it up for awhile. If I had done a traditional top 50 list, it would have easily made the top 10. Maybe I will wrap this post up with a top 10 list.

Chilly is perhaps best known as a long time collaborator with Feist, who also put out an album in 2011. Metals surprised me by getting better with every listen and also going down as one of my favourite albums of 2011. In November we saw her in concert. That damn Chilly had just wrapped up about 6 shows as the opening act on her tour before she came to do her hometown show in Calgary. Seeing Chilly and Feist would been the cream on an awesome concert pie.

In addition to those outstanding Canadians, there were many others who put out albums and made it into our record collection. Best to worst were as follows:
Sam Roberts Band – Collider
Feist- Metals
Chilly Gonzales
Matthew Good – Light of Endangered Species
Big Sugar – Revolution per Minute
Wide Mouth Mason – No Bad Days
Timbre Timbre – Creep on Creepin’ on

There really were no bad albums coming out of Canada in 2011. Outside of Timbre Timbre and Chilly, we saw all the bands in concert in Calgary during the year. Actually I saw Big Sugar and Wide Mouth twice. Big Sugar is all you need for an amazing rock n roll show. Wide Mouth brings the funk to really make it a night.

You may have noticed a lot of UK music in the list of new music Friday’s. Ms. Juicette often listens to BBC 6 which is chalked full of great music. My favourites from across the pond:
The Kills – Blood Pressure
Arctic Monkeys – Suck it and See
Radiohead – King of Limbs
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Beady Eye – Different Gear Still Speeding
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Kaiser Chiefs – The Future is Medieval
Jon Fratelli – Psycho Jukebox
Last Shadow Puppets – The Age of Understatement
Alex Turner – Submarine EP
Matt Chandler – It Goes Like This
Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
Tom Williams and the Boat – Too Slow
The Crookes – Dreams of Another Day

Fun trivia time. Matt Chandler is the cousin of the Sports Juicette. He is an amazing guitar player who played in jazz funk hip-hop band Pest, his own jazz trio and on this album, a quartet with renowned sax player, Tony Kofi. Here is a link to a cool video of him playing some blues.

The Kills was a birthday gift to me, expanding on our love of all things Jack White. The lead singer of The Kills is Alison Mosshart who also sings in The Dead Weather. I loved this album much more than I should have. I am still not the biggest fan of their using a drum machine, but overall it is pretty fun.

There is also a lot of Alex Turner and his bands on my list. We are big Arctic Monkeys fans, owning all the albums and all of the b-sides the band has put out. I thought I would round out the collection with the Last Shadow Puppets and Turner’s EP. ITunes makes it way too easy.

We also got the chance to see the Arctic Monkeys play a show in Calgary. Second time we’ve seen them and a high recommend if you are a big fan of the band. They aren’t the most animated bunch of lads on the stage, but the music is fab.

Wrapping things up in the good ole US of A:
The Black Keys – El Camino
Richard Swift – Walt Wolfman EP
The Beach Boys – The Smile Sessions
Cold War Kids – Mine is Yours
Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne
The Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
The Strokes – Angles
Metallica – Beyond Magnetic EP
Danger Mouse and Danielle Luppi – Rome Soundtrack
The Shins – Wincing the Night Away
Foster the People – Torches
The Drums – Portomento
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Battles – Gloss Drop
Eddie Vedder – Ukelele Songs
Rave on Buddy Holly tribute album

America ran the gambit from great albums to useless coasters. Actually, the Buddy Holly album isn’t even a coaster given it was a digital download. Whoever managed the project could have worked a lot harder to make something great.

Battles had one of the best songs of the year in ‘Ice Cream’, but they affirmatively answered the question, “Can there be too much steel drums?” And I really, really feel bad about putting Eddie Vedder so low on the list. Pearl Jam is my favourite band and Eddie gets my business no matter what he puts out. The truth is the album never hooked me and has barely gotten more than a couple of spins.

Topping the list from America and my list overall is the Black Keys ‘El Camino’. The song ‘Lonely Boy’ on its own was enough to make it album of the year. Probably once a year I hear a song that makes all the time and money we spend on music worth it.

If for some reason you read my music list from last year, you might remember Richard Swift’s name. His 2011 EP is a short 20 minutes that I can listen to every day. I can’t wait for a full length release in 2012.

Speaking of music I can listen to everyday, The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ is probably the one album I would need on a deserted island. That is a shock even to me, as I never really got into them until 3-4 years ago. This year’s release of ‘The Smile Sessions’ had me really excited and it didn’t disappoint.

My understanding of music history is The Beatles put out ‘Rubber Soul’ which caused Brian Wilson to record the album of his life with ‘Pet Sounds’. The Beatles said game on and released ‘Sergeant Peppers Lonely Club Heart Band’. Brian Wilson was duly impressed and went about creating ‘Smile’. The effort resulted in him losing his marbles, spending years in bed and eventually leaving the Beach Boys.

A few years back Wilson released Smile under his own name, but this year marked the release of all of his efforts from back in the day. There is a lot of stuff to wade through, but there are loads of great tunes. Adding to the excitement was the recent announcement that the Beach Boys are getting back together for a 50th anniversary tour.

I will wrap things up with a little top 10 list of my favourite albums of 2011. Thanks for reading and I would love to hear about the music you are into. New Music Friday’s comes along every second week and I am always looking for new ideas.

1. The Black Keys- El Camino
2. Sam Roberts Band – Collider
3. Peter Bjorn and John – Gimme Some
4. The Kills – Blood Pressure
5. Arctic Monkeys- Suck it and See
6. Richard Swift – Walt Wolfman EP
7. Feist – Metals
8. Chilly Gonzales – The Unspeakable Chilly Gonzales
9. The Beach Boys – The Smile Sessions
10. Cold War Kids – Mine is Yours

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