Each year, my friend Herman suggests I compile my Top Ten Albums list for the year so a bunch of us can compare notes. For some reason, I was thinking it was going to be a tough challenge this year and I was actually putting it off for as long as I could. But then I went for a 10-mile run to celebrate the purchase of new running shoes, and it’s like the whole world opened before me. DUH, I realized. There was so much great music that happened in 2011, it sort of just seemed to slip my mind until I really put some thought into it. So, in just the nick of time, I present you with Melody’s Best Of for 2011.
10. Bon Iver – Bon Iver. With the exception of “Beth/Rest”, which has a random Bruce Hornsby & The Range type of vibe, I loved the new Bon Iver. This was absolutely not a sophomore slump, and I’m personally of the opinion that Justin Vernon should become a hermit for all eternity if it results in the incredible music he produces. Great stuff, kids. Though seriously, Justin… Did you spend all day watching this video before you wrote that song?
9. M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming. Any time I hear electronic music that comes out of Europe, I’m typically smitten with whatever band it happens to be. So when I heard M83, true to form, I was completely in love. Hurry Up We’re Dreaming has quickly become one of my favorite soundtracks for a long run. I dare you to listen to “Raconte-Moi Une Histroire” without cracking a smile. I look forward to more from this band.
8. Radiohead – The King of Limbs. This came out so early in the year that I almost forgot about the fact it was released in 2011. Yet I listen to it non-stop — it is literally on regular rotation in my world. I’m beginning to think Thom Yorke is like a fine wine; he gets better with age. Or something. Yeah, that was lame.
7. Over the Rhine – The Long Surrender. Over the Rhine is one of those bands that I obsess over, and which I am endlessly trying to get my friends addicted to. And it’s for good reason. Lyrically and musically, they are bursting with talent, which is why The Long Surrender is also so incredible. To this day, Over the Rhine is still one of my favorite live bands to see, too. Do yourself a favor and check them out. And if you pick up The Long Surrender, please pick up Good Dog Bad Dog, too. You can thank me later — I prefer chocolate and compliments about how great my butt looks.
6. James Blake – James Blake. My afore-mentioned friend sent me this ages ago, but sadly, it took me forever to get into it. And it was watching the video for his cover of Feist’s “Limit To Your Love” that finally forced me to see how talented James Blake just happens to be. Seriously. Press play, close your eyes, and good luck trying not to imagine Herman seducing The Owl:
The rest of the album is every bit as breathtaking. At the ripe age of 23, I expect great things to come from this youngin’.
5. Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials. I am in complete awe of Florence. Not just because she’s, like, 8′ tall with fiery red hair, and dresses like somebody who just stepped out of Victorian literature. It’s because of that voice. Oh my, that voice! I have a feeling that when Florence opens her mouth, the result is something from a Disney movie: birds and deer dressing her as she sings and swings on the moon. Anyway… Ceremonials was a delight. And I hope to see her live some day soon.
4. P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake. These days, there are very few albums that, when released, I will hunt down in order to purchase the actual CD for the packaging. P.J. Harvey is one of those people. Despite the fact that I do own every one of her albums, I’m not afraid to say when I’m not crazy about an album of P.J.’s. For instance, I wasn’t particularly in love with White Chalk or A Woman A Man Walked By. But Let England Shake was phenomenal. It’s beautifully melodic while lyrically painting a picture of man’s obsession with war. This is the P.J. Harvey I love. Each one of her albums is a new surprise, and I adore that she continuously mixes it up. Beautiful.
3. My Brightest Diamond – All Things Unwind. I can’t say enough good things about My Brightest Diamond. She’s part rock and roll, part cabaret, part operatic goddess. Everything she does is breathtaking, and All Things Unwind is every bit as solid as everything else she’s ever touched. Do yourself a favor and pick up all of her albums, or at least go listen to “Be Brave” RIGHT NOW.
2. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light. Normally, I’m not a big fan of TV on the Radio. I literally could count on one hand how many of their songs I enjoy across all of their albums. But Nine Types of Light is purely addictive. I could listen to “Will Do” on repeat for hours on end, and I’ve already done that with the entire album. Very nice work, boys.
1. The Black Keys – El Camino. The Black Keys is one of those bands that I’ve always enjoyed. Then Dan Auerbach’s solo album came out a couple of years ago, and HOLY MOLY talk about some dirty, sexy rock and roll. When El Camino came along, I was swept away by the video of the man dancing, and I picked this album up the moment it was available. I sing loudly to this album every time it’s on. Which is regularly.
The great thing is 2012 looks like it might be even better than 2011 ended up being. Stereogum’s list of the 50+ Most Anticipated Albums of 2012 has me excited for a few things.
For example, there are a few albums on this list that leave me terrified that the Mayan Apocalypse is being ushered in by a soundtrack from the 1990s. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t curious about new stuff from Garbage, Mazzy Star, No Doubt, Rancid, and even Soundgarden. Particularly Mazzy Star. Gwen Stephani’s venture into her solo world has me curious about how much No Doubt will have changed, but I’ll always have a place in my heart for them. And since Shirley Manson was my original girl-crush, I can’t wait to see what they come up with. Rancid and Soundgarden I can’t see steering away from their original sound, so I’m pretty sure I know what to expect there.
Meanwhile, I’m THRILLED about new releases from some of my favorite artists from the past few years, which include Andrew Bird (who whistled his way into my heart long ago), Animal Collective, Cat Power (mega girl crush!), Matthew Dear (also because of a recommendation from Herman), The Dirty Projectors, The Big Pink, Grizzly Bear, Chairlift, Janelle Monae, Santigold, The Shins, The xx, and Yeasayer. Plus, new music from Air, Morrissey, Spiritualized, and the Heartless Bastards has me intrigued. Oh, I also learned we can expect a new album from the Scissor Sisters, which, obviously, I can’t wait for. Something tells me 2012’s list is going to be a tough one for me to decide. I can’t wait.