2011 Half-year best albums by MM
Every year, around this time we provide a partial list of what we consider to be worthwhile in music. More than that, we attempt to describe what has happened to us, we attempt to tell our story and the sounds behind those moments that made it interesting, sad, happy, intense etc., for the first half of the year. Some of us share deep moments often, laugh together, dance, and why not cry from time to time. In all cases though, music remains the main avenue that connects us, defining time, age and many times distance. Thousands of miles are easily beaten with new sounds, new or old friends and the occasional tear that refuses to stay in after a powerful song.
We started this blog some time ago now, with exactly that idea. So far we have kept our word and we share our music almost in a religious manner. The half-year post is for me a special one. Although I enjoy the similarities, I seek for the differences, the bands I’ve missed, the albums I have not heard, plus the opportunities I had already let go. This year, only a few albums on the top in my list represent new artists, and for the most part, I have focused more on new releases from some of my previous favorites. Not sure if this says anything, I am sure it does… Am I getting old? Too picky? Am I drifting away from where music is evolving to?
On the top, I have 3 albums that I refuse to rank, at least for now. Early in the year, Radiohead came up with their unexpected, early released “The King of Limbs”, full of ideas and conceptual approaches that only Radiohead is capable of and willing to attempt. The album is strong from start to finish, making it clear who is the biggest band of all. A few months after, Fleet Foxes released their “Helplessness Blues”, a delightful album, crafted in a simple manner, making use of traditional elements and relying on magnificent vocals, a jewel. And just to complicate our rankings even more Justin Vernon has shared with us another gorgeous Bon Iver album, a self-titled masterpiece that although invoking elements of his “For Emma, Forever Ago” is filled with distinct and innovative concepts, making it unique and reinforcing our admiration for Vernon’s music genius.
Two extremely good albums complete my top 5 selection. “Burst Apart”, a magnificent album from Brooklyn’s band The Antlers. As powerful and aching as their previous album from a band that without a doubt has become one of my true favorites. Finally, “Smother” from Wild Beasts is a very mature, well-balanced, beautifully engineered album. Wild Beasts, certainly not a new band, but “Smother” represents my first approach to their music, certainly an exciting beginning.
The second part of my list includes the new “Circuital” from My Morning Jacket; “Celebration Florida”, the newest fun though interesting release from the Catskill NY Americana band The Felice Brothers; “The Big Roar”, which just as its name suggest is a rough classical rock album from The Joy Formidable. The latter, a London-based band led by a strong character, powerful though petite front woman (who would not like this??). The list continues with the magnificent debut self-titled album from James Blake, a favorite of many, which above all is a promise of wonderful music to come in the future. Spot 10 is filled by “The King id Dead” a certainly different album released by The Decemberists early in the year.
Finally, just for fun I add some suggestions that should certainly need to be considered if you are looking for new music. My choices here include local Philadelphia music hero Kurt Vile with his extremely good “Smoke Ring For My Halo” released early in the year, plus new releases from the Rural Alberta Advantage, tUnE-yArDs, Fucked up, Smith Westerns, Noah and the Whale and Cults. Most of which have received significant critic attention.
Below, the complete list, let’s see how it changes for the end of the year.
1. The King of Limbs – Radiohead
1. Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
4. Burst Apart – The Antlers
5. Smother – Wild Beasts
6. Circuital – My Morning Jacket
7. Celebration Florida – The Felice Brothers
8. The Big Roar – The Joy Formidable
9. James Blake – James Blake
10. The King is Dead – The Decemberists
11. Smoke Ring For My Halo – Kurt Vile and The Violators
12. Departing – The Rural Alberta Advantage
13. w h o k i l l– tUnE-yArDs
14. Dye it Blonde– Smith Westerns
15. Last Night on Earth–Noah and The Whale
16. David Comes to Life – Fucked up
17. Cults- Cults