Mike Taylor’s Top 10 Picks for 2011
Tuesday, Wednesday 11 p.m.-3 a.m.
1. Anna Calvi – Anna Calvi
Calvi’s debut is a rich, slightly gothic soundtrack with songs of love, lust, and Lucifer. Influenced by film, classical music and flamenco guitar, her music has a dark, sensual quality that’s drawn comparison to PJ Harvey. Blessed with a huge, soaring voice, the Londoner earned an endorsement from Brian Eno, who lent backing vocals on track and called her “the best thing since Patti Smith.” A hand injury caused to cancel her SXSW appearance that would have assuredly catapulted her to greater notoriety. It was my favorite record upon release early in the year and stayed so throughout.
2.Yuck – Yuck
If originality über alles were your standard, it’d be easy to dismiss the debut from this London-based quartet. The songwriting of vocalist Daniel Blumberg and guitarist Max Bloom ultimately win the day, crafting an album that sounds like a pastiche of early 90’s alt-rock (Dinosaur Jr., Teenage Fanclub, Lemonheads). Boasting lots of melody in both fuzzed out, amped up rockers and slower, more poignant songs, the record plays like a collection of chart-worthy singles. A record that failed to live up to its name.
3. Wild Flag – Wild Flag
As unlikely as it may be, one of the best rock records of the year was released by an all-female quartet whose average age is 40. Two years ago, former Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein penned an article lamenting the rise in popularity of mostly bearded men making very sensitive music. Enter Wild Flag: her ex-S-K bandmate Janet Weiss, Helium’s Mary Timony and Rebecca Gates (The Minders). Together, they’ve made a melodic, post-riot grrrl kick in the pants full of meaty, muscular riffs that revels in its exuberance. No acoustic guitars were harmed during the making of this record.
4. The Black Keys – El Camino
On the cusp of superstar status since last year’s Brothers, the Ohio duo hit it out of the park with a big sounding, end of year party record. Taut and lean with only one song over 4 minutes, the Keys’ embellish their brand of Rust Belt blues ‘n’ boogie by adding a few more 70’s style riffs – Dan Auerbach must have a “Flying V” in his collection – aided by a chorus of backing vocals best exhibited on “Lonely Boy”, definitely one of the tracks of the year.
5. Washed Out – Within and Without
Perhaps no record is more representative of the chill wave movement than the debut from Ernest Greene, reared in small town Perry, Georgia. Placing looped electronic beats atop synthesized ambient sounds, it’s a direct descendent of the lush dream pop and reverb-laden shoegazing of the 80’s and early 90s. Within and Without is warm and soothing with enough bounce to give it a little pop (or, pop enough to give it a little bounce).
6. TV On The Radio – Nine Types of Light
One of the best American bands of the last decade, Nine Types Of Light arrived after a short hiatus that allowed members to work on other projects. Their 4th disc is largely a mellower affair, stripped of the angst that dotted earlier releases. Still, their mix of post-punk, late night grooves and soulful introspection make an intoxicating potion. An interesting kick off to the band’s second act.
7. Lindi Ortega – Little Red Boots
Ortega’s an alt-country singer born in Toronto to a Mexican musician father and a mother of Irish heritage. Her music contains the requisite amount of twang but with enough of a pop edge that she’s earned the name “Indie Lindi” back home. A bit sassy and sounding juuust a little like Dolly, you won’t hear Ms. Parton purr quite like Ortega does on the title cut. There’s a little bit of rockabilly and some poignant slow songs that make for a good, varied range on the disc, her debut.
8. Not In The Face – Bikini
Austin’s Jonathan Terrell & Wes Cargal concoct a barroom-ready brew of self-described ‘punkabilly blues’ that mixes Paul Westerberg, Jon Spencer, Jack White and the Black Keys that’ll have you knockin’ back round after round.
9. Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams
The clad-in-black L.A. quartet debuted last year with I Will Be, filled with short, fuzzy, lo-fi songs that were equal parts Ramones, Ronettes, and Jesus & Mary Chain. The cleaner production on Only In Dreams firms up some rough edges while losing none of the urgency, and serves to let some sunlight into their sound. Still clad in black, only now sporting shades.
10. The Feelies – Here Before
After reforming in 2008, their first album in 20 years picks up right where they left off. Their signature sound remains intact: jangly, nervy guitar pop that owes more than a bit to The Velvet Underground at their most melodic. The aptly named Here Again finds them energized, with the impression there’s more to come.