Unfortunately, I’ve been down with the flu and my year-end wrap-up is gonna be less word-y than I’d hoped and planned. What you’re missing: the same hyperbolic fawning you could find on my 2010, or 2009, or 2008, etc list, all the way back to 1992, only with (slightly) different band names.
2011 was a pretty great year for music. I had a nice email correspondence with an old friend about some of this earlier in the year, and a lot of this is excerpted from that. So, my thanks to AB for the conversation. I loved it.
1. Lindsey Buckingham, Seeds We Sow
Who knew the best indie rock album of the year would come from a guy that was in Fleetwood Mac, instead of a guy that was in Pavement? I bought Lindsey’s 1992 solo album (Out of the Cradle) the week before moving to Bloomington as a freshman. I had no idea who he was, but liked the four-and-a-half star review in Rolling Stone. I believed (and still believe) it to be, like, the most perfect pop album since Thriller. It honestly has seven #1 singles on it. There’s a lot to not like about LB, of course, but if you can get around the Mac baggage, you’ll find an eccentric genius hiding behind the control panel and fingerpicking nonsense. A real mad bastard. This new album is incredible, the one I’ve been waiting 19(!?) years for him to release. Self-produced and recorded in his basement. Surely, in Hollywood’s hills. If he was 1/2 his age and made the record in a cabin, more people might pay attention. I find it difficult not to kinda lose my own mind listening to this stuff.
Lindsey Buckingham strikes me as someone who has difficulty sleeping. And I love that kind of person.
2. Clive Tanaka Y Su Orquesta, Jet Set Siempre 1°
I suppose this is where maybe I admit that the best band of the last ten years was LCD Soundsystem. Yeah, I know I make my love for sneering rock and singer-songwriters rather obnoxiously apparent (and see below), but, it’s true: they were.
Well, this album is what you listen to at the Soundsystem afterparty.
If you go online and try to find out about Tanaka, the only thing you’ll find is a lot of information about going online and trying to find out about Tanaka. You know I love the mystery.
3. Middle Brother, Middle Brother
I was kind of resisting these guys, one from Deer Tick (they played the Rail last year and I am overflowing with regret about not paying more attention to their set), one from Dawes (I resisted for awhile, but their album that came out this year is pretty good, in an early-Jackson-Browne Late for the Sky kind of way, which is a kind of way that is just fine with me), and one from Delta Spirit (saw ’em at SXSW and wasn’t blown away). Friends were RAVING to me about this album, though, but I was thinking, ah, I’ve heard all this stuff before, right? Well, crap. Maybe I have, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want hear more of it. A lot more of it.
4. Yuck, Yuck
Horrible band name, terrible album cover, nearly perfect album. Honestly. WOW. And then later you realize the band name is awesome, and…so is the album cover. Recommended if you ever fell in love to an album called Bandwagonesque or Where You Been.
5. Deer Tick, Divine Providence
Still can’t believe I didn’t pay attention at that Rail show. A sloppy, hoarse, surly, bit-beyond-buzzed, beautifully-flawed-beauty of a record.
Oh, I really did like that Wilco album, too. Especially “Capitol City.” And yeah, Danny George Wilson‘s incredible Hearts & Arrows would be on this list, but I’m waiting for the US release. Soon enough.
I actually read a lot of great books this year, fiction and non-, as well as some killer stories and fascinating journalism. But the best thing I read all year was Joe Henry‘s essay on the third-to-last page of the booklet for his wonderful album, Reverie. A short story of the soul that will bring you to your knees, if you’ve ever fallen in love to 60 Watt Silver Lining or The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. (The iTunes version didn’t have a digital booklet, peeps, and hence this album’s packaging single-handedly justified physical product for the new half-dozen years or so.)
Last thought. While I was in the midst of stomach pain, wild chills, and serious “singing my heart out” the last couple of days, I read the latest issue of Esquire. (Yeah, I read Esquire, what you can’t tell?) Anyway, I loved this line from an interview with George Clooney.
“I have a real interest in pushing some of the limits of things that studios don’t want to make. Because I can. I won’t be able to at some point in the near future. But right now I can, and while I can, I want to do it. So when you’re eighty years old and they ask you what you did, you can go, ‘When I had the keys to the car, I drove it as fast as I could and as hard as I could. I took it to places that the owner didn’t really want me to take it.’
That’s a fun thing to do. Understanding that at some point they’re going to come back and repossess the car. I don’t mind that. I just want to be able to say we gave it a shot when we had the time.”
Now, let’s go take on 2012.