The Top 5 Albums of 2011

Andrew Lowden, Staff Writer

5. Obits – Moody, Standard and Poor
Critically, this album was never given a chance. In my opinion, music journalism works just like how Woody Allen describes how relationships are like sharks. If it doesn’t find the next new thing every ten minutes, they die. So when a band of veteran punk rockers make their second record, it’s ignored for the new here today, gone tomorrow band. This said, Obits released a great thumping rock record, that features really sweet guitar lines, and an energy that oozes nasty garage rock. If you want your garage rock to groove, you can’t do better then Obits.

4. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes had a lot riding on this record. The expectations for this nearly destroyed the mental heath of Robin Pecknold, so much that he just put out the album even though he was unsatisfied. But it is more then a satisfying album to listen to! It’s a great addition to the overall body of work that Fleet Foxes has culminated so far, and it solidifies their position at the front of the new crop of folk-sters (is that a word?). It’s a beautiful record, with my favorite being the weird bass clarinet freakout tune, “The Shrine/An Argument”.

3. J Mascis – Several Shades of Why
One of the first times I listed to this album, it was a snow day up at school. This became my late winter/early spring record quickly. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a J Mascis acoustic record, but I was not disappointed. He sounded naked without a wall of amps behind him, and that vulnerability of J without having anything to back him up is what really sold me on this album. Also, he shreds with an acoustic guitar in his hands too! In a way, you can take away all the big amps, and loud guitars, but J is still J, and that means he’s going to blow your face off with whatever instrument he’s got.

2. Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread
This is an artist that I sort of started listening to this year. Let me explain. During CMJ 2010, I caught one of his shows, and really enjoyed it, but didn’t go looking for his music afterwards. This summer, I heard a song from this record on The Best Show, and immediately loved its fuzzy garage sound. I would listen to this album at work while I edited videos. In September, I got to see him slay a packed house in New York, where he played an incredibly energetic show, culminating in everyone storming the stage, playing their instruments, while Mr. Segall crowd-surfed away. The new heir of the garage punk scene has arrived ladies and gentlemen, Ty Segall has taken the crown.

1. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse
Here it is, my favorite album of the year! Walking into this album, I knew next to nothing about Bill Callahan, or Smog, or his large body of work. I just knew that it was waiting to be listened to in my big pile of records I had to review over spring break. So on the way back from a concert road trip, my friend Marc put this on, and I loved it immediately. It was a late night, no cars on the highway, no lights except for mine. That is the scene that plays out in my head when I listen to this album. It’s a moody, dusty record, with touches of electric guitar that make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere on a highway with nothing for miles. Maybe that’s how Bill felt when he wrote this album. It’s apparently about the dissolving of his relationship with musician Joanna Newsom. Last year she wrote a triple album about him, and her side of the story about their relationship and breakup. He wrote 7 songs; an interesting statement back. Maybe his apocalypse involves him driving on a dusty highway in the middle of the night, pondering how it all went sour.
What I love about this album the most is how layered it is. On the surface, you could just call it a folk record. But it’s a folk record that kicks you in the gut with its touches of really killer electric guitar. It’s used sparingly, and a lot of time for noisy effect. Each additional time I’ve listened to it, I notice more parts, more lyrics that stand out, and more meaning. I feel that’s what makes a record memorable; it keeps you coming back for more. 2011 was a richer musical year because of this.

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