2011 Music Review


2011 was a redefinition for me. I spent most of the year disconnecting from my old choices to seek out a new field of possibilities. The changes have been largely positive, though they've required huge sacrifice, putting so much distance between me and my west coast family.


This has consequently resulted in a drought of new music in my world, lacking input from so many musical alliances. The result was that my 2011 Music Review felt a bit unsupported because the list consisted of what were probably the only new records I heard all year!


I've since revisited the releases of 2011 and it turned out to be an incredible year for music, with gems from the original list remaining. If you haven't heard them, you've got something to look forward to.

 Albums of the Year

Other Lives - Tamer Animals

 Unkle - Where Did the Night Fall

Tycho - Dive

Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Bibio - Mind Bokeh

Wye Oak - Civilian

Washed Out – Within and Without

White Denim - D

Luke Temple – Don’t Act Like You Don’t Care

Son Lux – We Are Rising

Cant – Dreams Come True

Waters – Out in the Light

Helvetia – On the Lam

Black keys - El Camino

Kurt vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo


Other Lives - Tamer Animals

Gorgeous. Other Lives has put out compellingly lush music before, but you could always sort of hear the distance between what they were trying to achieve and what was actually produced.


With Tamer Animals, they flipped the equation and created a slow burner that rewards the listener with repeated listens. Like the ghosts Other Lives suggests haunt our every movement, their music creeps under your skin undetected at first, then gradually filters your view of the world. Once it does, its as addicting as caffeine.  


Unkle - Where Did the Night Fall

I can't believe this is the same project that started in the late nineties as a one-off collaboration between DJ Shadow and James Levelle. It's now more of an ex(perimental) pop outfit, pulling in regular contributions from some of my favorites like Autolux and Black Mountain.


This record surprised me with relentlessly compelling textures in harmonically bold yet catchy songs. Track 5, "the Answer", could be a Wesafari song. In fact, I think I actually did write this song.


Tycho - Dive

If you like Boards of Canada at all, check this out. With such frustratingly slow and sparse productivity from my favorite electronic ensemble ever, it's a sigh of relief to have an album like "Dive". They took all the beautiful textures of BoC and added a modern, reverb drenched sensibility to it.


This one is getting enough spins currently that it shouldn't matter much if it's not entirely timeless.


Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Two songs alone nearly put this at the top of my list this year. The album opens with one of the strangest, zoniest songs I've ever heard. Something akin to Coltrane's "India", "Bloom" sounds like the kind of other-wordly song Radiohead has been trying to create their whole career, and is so enormously alluring to me, it's now on my Top 100 Songs of All Time.


The other song, "Codex", is a gorgeous piano ballad like no ballad I've heard before, but the reason it stands out to me so strongly is contextual.


One early morning in Seattle's undefinable winter, Wesafari’s Trina Mills and I were blearily absorbing the sunrise through Fiore's large windows. The light filtered in as if coming upwards from out of the street, illuminating a single thread of spider web strung from one fixture to another. The thread was swaying in deeply slow motion, floating through this amber sap sunbeam, pendulating to the music in perfect, negative tempo. Neither Trina nor I could look away. Sleep deprivation, strange music and nature will outshine any drug anytime.


Shared with such great company, this memory and album will stay with me for the duration.


Bibio - Mind Bokeh

Stephen Wilkinson is probably my favorite musician right now. Enough said.


Wilco - The Whole Love

This record should be called "the Half Love/Half Hate". Despite solidly humbling songwriting, there's generally something about it that's just a little off, in the wrong way. This album could have been so great because they were clearly pushing their boundaries in a lot of ways, but then they'd turn around and retread old, worn out tricks.


Wilco's songs can be so essential (see track 5 - "Black Moon"), mostly because Jeff Tweedy writes very interesting, relatable lyrics and croons them with effortless charm that's always fun to sing along with.


They also boast some of the best musicians in the business at this point (see track 1 - "Art of Almost"). Why can't these guys push the envelope far enough to reach their potential?!?


This record is a step up from the last couple, but if you need a Wilco fix, "A Ghost Is Born" is one of my favorite all time albums.


Songs of the Year

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