Monday, January 2, 2012

25 Best Albums of 2011

I admit it.  I'm heavy on the retro-rock, alternative country and punk/power pop.  Here are my favorite albums of 2011:

25.  Drive by Truckers – Go-Go Boots

Another year - another solid Drive by Truckers album.

24.  Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

Literary rockers from Austin deliver a big sound.

23.  Middle Brother – Middle Brother

It might be a bit much to call an outfit consisting of members of Deer Tick, Delta Spirit and Dawes a "supergroup” but in the tradition of Monsters of Folk, these guys deliver like one.

22.  Sloan - The Double Cross

One of the truly underrated bands out there, Sloan has been making great  pop-rock records for 20 years.  This year's Double Cross is among their best.

21.  The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient

Nice album with an atmospheric, spacey classic rock feel.

20.  Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator

As one would expect, soulful singing and kick-ass slide guitar define this rootsy offering.

19.  Smith Westerns – Dye it Blonde

The kids in this Chicago band average age 20 – but their version of glam rock and power pop would have made T-Rex proud.

18.  Dave Alvin – Eleven, Eleven

The rocker from the Blasters and X is still going strong. Judging from this fine album, very strong.

17.  Beirut – The Rip Tide

Lush and full of diverse world influence, Beirut’s best and most accessible album to date.

16.  Gillian Welch – The Harrow & the Harvest

Welch’s spare and hauntingly beautiful album is aptly titled. It’s No Depression’s album of the year.

15.  The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

John Darnielle’s quirkiness and nasal delivery aren’t for everyone but there’s something beautiful and captivating about this album.

14. Dawes – Nothing is Wrong

In capturing their laid-back Los Angeles sound, Dawes has left nothing to chance – bringing in the likes of Jackson Browne and Benmont Tench.  It works. 

13.  Deer Tick – Divine Providence

Raw and surprisingly fun - Deer Tick’s John McCauley does his best to channel Paul Westerberg.

12.  Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Dave Grohl’s best album in years.

11.  Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones

English folk singer with a punk heart, Turner wears everything on his sleeve as he delivers one convincing anthem after another.

10. Over the Rhine – The Long Surrender

The husband and wife team Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist have made a beautiful timeless-sounding album.

9. Decemberists – The King is Dead

Their loyal fanbase might prefer their earlier, more eclectic albums. I prefer this one – a solid, accesible roots rock sound with a touch of early REM.

8. Ryan Adams- Ashes & Fire

Writing great songs is like breathing for Ryan Adams. He makes it seem so easy.

7. Wild Flag - Wild Flag

An indie supergroup consisting of members of Sleater-Kinney and Helium, the garage rock energy of this album packs a punch.

6.  The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong

A great guitar sound reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Smashing Pumpkins.

5.  My Morning Jacket – Circuital

The musical range of this band is so impressive – their style and influences range from Otis Redding to Radiohead. It's all really good.

4.  Portugal. the Man – In the Mountain in the Cloud

Terrible name, terrific band. A wonderfully listenable blend of glam rock and pyscyhedelia.

3.  Girls – Father, Son Holy Ghost

Impressive follow-up by the SF band. Lots of lush and infectiously catchy songs here.

2.  Ry Cooder – Pull up Some Dust and Sit Down

The political and social commentary is wittier and far more eloquent than anything you’ll hear from "Occupy Wall Street". But what really makes Cooder’s latest album work isn't the politics - it's the music.

1.  Wilco – The Whole Love

The best American band of the last 10 years - their latest album is among their very best.

Happy 2012!


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