Aquarium Drunkard :: 2011 Year In Review

Here it is – our obligatory year-end review.   The following is an unranked list of albums that caught, and kept, our attention in 2011. As the criteria is comprised of full-lengths only, a number of worthy 7″s, singles and EPs didn’t make the cut. Also, a point was made to not include too many reissues and/or compilations (something we mostly succeeded in). Go nuts.   Cheers – AD

Atlas Sound —  Parallax: No matter the incarnation, be it recording with Deerhunter, under his Atlas Sound moniker or releasing spontaneous, off-the-cuff, material via his blog, Bradford Cox continues to intrigue. His latest Atlas Sound endeavor, Parallax, is no exception. (buy)

MP3: Atlas Sound :: Terra Incognita

Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo:  ’€¨A haunted psych-folk record, Smoke Ring is a potent sub-strain of American roots music more in the vein of Skip Spence and David Ackles than, say, Gram Parsons or Bruce Springsteen. In opener “Baby’s Arms,” Vile flicks a taut string that quivers across 10 tracks of cigarette warmth in a dark room. These are the 21st century blues as sung by a young Philadelphian.  (buy)

MP3: Kurt Vile :: In My Time

The War on Drugs — Slave Ambient: “My life is consumed with fear / I cannot believe the truth,” Adam Granduciel sings on “Brothers.” “Ohhhh,” he moans, “What am I feeling?” The whorling phase-shifting and barreling drums of Slave Ambient circle Granduciel’s twang like ambient tornadoes, the nauseous music mirroring the singer’s existential state. Harmonicas wheeze in loneliness as if pinging the void, lost in circles of guitars, but the steady thump of the snare drum moves the music along, like a train rolling through a morning fog so thick its conductor can’t see the tracks. (buy)

MP3: The War on Drugs :: Baby Missiles

Bombino – Agadez: Taureg guitar music is long-form, repetitive, trance-inducing. Young gun Bombino plays it with an unadorned, melodic style and a captivating personality–a fresh, unrefined interpretation. Agadez is studio hi-fi, but it has all Bombino’s live energy and showmanship. For a Western comparison: more slow motion duck-walker than psychedelic shredder.  (buy)

MP3: Bombino :: Tigrawahi Tikma (Bring Us Together)

Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming: On his first full-length, Charles Bradley shows just how far he’s come from his “Black Velvet” James Brown shtick to become an original, bombastic performer in his own right. This record is solid NYC soul a la Daptone, and Bradley’s act stands out with personal songwriting that avoids stock and filler. (buy)

MP3: Charles Bradley :: The World (Is Going Up In Flames)

Roadside Graves – We Can Take Care Of Ourselves: An eleven track song-cycle concerning S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, We Can Take Care Of Ourselves is Roadside Graves most ambitious work to date. In a deft and subtle move the band get inside the material without hitting you over the head with it.  Allusive and expansive, the album adheres to the conceptual, while showing the flourishes of growth in their sound.   (buy)

MP3: Roadside Graves :: Glory

Destroyer – Kaputt: A sonic redirection, Kaputt feels like easy-listening as viewed through a noirish lens — coming out the other end darkened, damp and cynical. Dan Bejar’s voice, as ever, is the linchpin, intoxicating and ever so slightly mad as far-off nowhere horns and street-wet synths pull the landscape in around his words. Brilliant. (buy)

MP3: Destroyer :: Chinatown

Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion: The first of their two releases this year, Crystal Stilts continue to prove their mettle on their sophomore album. For Doors apologists (raises hand, fuck you) the New York band scratches an imaginary itch — one in which Jim Morrison fronts the ’67 Velvet Underground at Warhol’s Factory. Taste the whip! (buy)

MP3: Crystal Stilts :: Precarious Stair

Dirty Beaches – Badlands: ’€¨At first listen, Alex Zhang-Huntai sounds hungry, distant, and in need of a center — stuck in a velvet haze of nowhere. But as you allow yourself to stop thinking about the deserted, grainy sounds he’s making, the pictures he’s painting, or the people in his stories, there’s this perfect moment of tranquility and space. (buy)

MP3: Dirty Beaches :: True Blue

White Denim – D:   ’€¨I don’t know of any contemporary band that is as effective at channeling classic rock and angular jazz while rhythmically moving in any direction at any point. This is rock music at it’s finest, and definitely White Denim’s most progressive work to date.  Psychedelic soul roots firmly intact, D’s production is clean without sacrificing an ounce of warmth. (buy)

MP3: White Denim :: Burnished

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – S/T: At nine tracks clocking in at just 30 minutes,  UMO’s self-titled debut is long enough to feel like a meal yet brief enough to leave you wanting more. No saccharine here, this is sugary sweet psychedelic pop, heavy on off-kilter hooks, melodicism, a touch of the surreal and vocals ticks reminiscent of Marc Bolan. (buy)

MP3: Unknown Mortal Orchestra :: Ffunny Friends

Sandro Perri – Impossible Spaces: Sandro Perri’s first record in four years kicks off with “Changes.”   A seven and half minute slow-build traipse through Perri’s record collection (sounding like a long lost Arthur Russell nugget) the track sets the pace for the remainder of the album reminding us why we cared in the first place. Always inventive, always worth the wait. (buy)

MP3: Sandro Perri :: Changes

Wye Oak – Civilian:  Not a lot has changed from Wye Oak’s debut until now, yet everything has. It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what makes Civilian their best album yet, but it is pretty clear even by the end of the first track that something intensely special is playing out here. The album is strong from front to back and hits swirling, dusky heights that weren’t even hinted at on their debut. (buy)

MP3: Wye Oak :: Civilian

Youth Lagoon — The Year of Hibernation: What we know about Idaho: potatoes, Built to Spill, and blue artificial turf. But thanks to Boise State student Trevor Powers, we now know what it sounds like deep in the bowels of a Gem State winter. Drenched in harmony and buried in reverb, his brassy voice spreads wide over frozen programming and lush guitar. These eight songs rise and fold in on themselves, small domes being built and collapsing and sounding both lonely and warm–almost a comfort to themselves. (buy)

MP3: Youth Lagoon :: Posters

Okkervil River — I Am Very Far: I guess once you earn a reputation as a ‘book band’ you feel the need to flex your muscles now and then. Will Sheff bulked up his band, adding a second drummer, a second pianist, a second bassist, and no less than seven guitarists to form the core of Okkervil’s most musically-ambitious record to date. The Austin group proved their malleable mettle while backing up Roky Erickson on 2009’s True Love Cast Out All Evil, but, led by Sheff’s pleading wail and caterwauling acoustic guitar, they pound themselves into new dark spaces on I Am Very Far. (buy)

MP3: Okkervil River :: Your Past Life As A Blast

  Tom Waits – Bad As Me: The most effective Tom Waits albums cause the globe’s music scribes to scrounge up synonyms for “grisly” and “snarling” that had all but been forgotten by the English language. Bad As Me best defines late-era Waits. His trademark rasp is dry, weathered and shows its age, but this performance is one of his most focused and intense. Patched together with Waits’ idea of finesse, America’s off-kilter crooner is as vigorous, creative–and ferocious–as ever. (buy)

MP3: Tom Waits :: Bad As Me

Vernon Wray – Wasted: Link’s older brother owned a deep, commanding voice–it’s a shame most people haven’t heard it. This year’s reissue of his homespun ’72 LP Wasted brought Vernon out from a shadowed obscurity. Imagine a sweaty Johnny Cash in a tool shed. The added bonus? Link holds it down on the lead guitar. (buy)

MP3: Vernon Wray :: Facing All The Same Tomorrows

Bonnie ‘Prince” Billy – Wolfroy Goes To Town: On the whole Wolfroy is work of quietude and intimacy — a sparse affair a la Master and Everyone. The converted know it is in this space that the Bonnie Prince really delivers. Oldham’s vocals and phrasings have never been stronger; and for those in on the nomenclature (accompanied by a cast of BPB regulars) the album has the feel of a sort of strange homecoming — thematic and otherwise. (buy)

MP3: Bonnie ‘Prince” Billy :: Cows

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake: ’€¨Where did this come from? Comprised of instruments that sound like they were left out in the sun, coupled with PJ’s scornful and mesmerizing wail (soaring at one moment, gritty when called upon) this is a record full of angles and mazes.   Let England Shake, indeed. (buy)

MP3: PJ Harvey :: On Battleship Hill

Belong – Common Era: ’€¨Belong follow-up 2006’s brilliant October Language with a record that is, dare I say, more traditional sounding yet still extremely haunting and dark. Textures and dream-like states in music often reflect freedom and optimism whereas Common Era manages to sound monolithic, bleak and deeply saddening. If you can find another album that had this kind of effect in 2011 then you know where to reach me. (buy)

MP3: Belong :: Perfect Life

Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts: There’s always been a kind of existential beauty to Sonic Youth’s squall. Like the glimmer of a ghost barking through static, that beauty lay more in the desperation behind the noise than in the noise itself. Demolished Thoughts pulls the power but keeps the spirit in tact. Its web of acoustic guitars, plucked harps, arching violins, and light percussion is a soft cradle for Moore’s crooned introspection. Sonic Youth’s uncertain future makes it tempting to use Demolished Thoughts as a compass, but if anything it seems to trace its finger across the sky, transcribing the final moment before the change. (buy)

MP3: Thurston Moore :: Benediction

Bill Callahan – Apocalypse: It isn’t that Apocalypse’s sparse, barren sound is befitting its name. After all, there’s too much humanity within. It’s mostly that the sound–the arrangements, the words, his voice–is disassociated from the humanity whose stories it tells. Mayhap that’s because of the teller, a peculiar weirdling of a drifter. Callahan is a tale-spinning story-poet who finds one rapt audience after another at each stop, intimate as he needs to be to keep an ear, but wise to something the listener is not. (buy)

MP3: Bill Callahan :: Baby’s Breath

Bon Iver – Bon Iver: Justin Vernon’s second full-length outing fills in the spaces created on the debut with atmospheric wonder. Plunging head-long into synthesizers and much more expansive sonics, the results are a heady and engaging listen. Creating a life cycle – from “Perth” to “Beth/Rest” – becomes fitting as the once isolated troubadour emerges from   his cabin and into the world at large. (buy)

MP3: Bon Iver :: Holocene

Wilco – The Whole Love: Ah, Wilco. Can’t make anyone happy anymore, can you? Had The Whole Love come out in 1996, songs like the punchy “I Might” and the bruised title track would have instantly become encore singalongs. The Whole Love is as mindlessly poppy as any of Being There’s best-loved tracks, as sentimental as Sky Blue Sky, and as honest as Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Tweedy’s aching attempt to come to terms with his relationship with his father in the twelve-minute “One Sunday Morning” is one of the most affecting moments of the year. (buy)

MP3: Wilco :: Art Of Almost

Cass McCombs – Wit’s End: The first of two stellar McCombs contributions this year, Wit’s End is a subdued, contemplative and self-aware thing of Cohen-esque beauty. Like a music box wheeling inside an empty apartment, the record is rich with velveteen sound, but intimately spare. It feels alone, but not necessarily wanting company–and certainly not sympathy. (buy)

MP3: Cass McCombs :: County Line

Megafaun – S/T: What does a self-titled album represent when it emerges several releases into a band’s career? Whether re-defined or re-affirmed statement of purpose, Megafaun’s second LP is a rich trip through the band’s multiple personalities. It’s a winding, beautiful listen and rewards repeat attention. (buy)

MP3: Megafaun :: Get Right

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues: With added depth and a touch less whimsy, Helplessness Blues did the near impossible: It proved itself against Fleet Foxes masterful and ubiquitously fawned over debut. Their unmatched harmonies sing a more tangible reality here, more human than mythology. Surprising growth from a band that could’ve easily peaked at one record and an EP. (buy)

MP3: Fleet Foxes :: Lorelai

Fucked Up – David Comes to Life: Concept records are tricky business, but this one deserves every last accolade. Fucked Up have created a thrillingly great rock and roll record — heaving past the restrictive chains of hardcore and into something much more expansive. There’s not a drop of energy lost in the pursuit; this is a high water mark in a career that was already full of them. (buy)

MP3: Fucked Up :: Ship Of Fools

Girls – Father, Son And Holy Ghost: There’s something disarmingly simple about Girls’ music. Whether it’s the blunt lyrics or the clear debts to 50s and 60s rock & roll, punk snarl and crooner moan, Girls is an amalgam of everything traditional and snotty, hopeful and hopeless. Father, Son and Holy Ghost is their finest moment yet. (buy)

MP3: Girls :: Die

Tune-Yards – WHOKILL: The second record from tUnE-yArDs is as diverse, infectious and vibrant as some of the best work of a similarly fractured artist. If W H O K I L L isn’t exactly the equal of Prince’s Sign o’ the Times, it has the same spirit of restless exploration and enthusiasm and the results are a record both out of and of its time. (buy)

MP3: Tune-Yards :: Bizness

Ben + Vesper — HONORS: Perhaps the most impressive thing about Ben and Vesper Stamper’s third record is its sheer unlikeliness: the New Jersey married couple sing gentle, content folk songs about lost socks, home videos, and holy communion. With help from Daniel Smith’s hushed production, HONORS not only avoids any and all of its potential pitfalls, but at times–the lurching climax of “All Is Forgiven,” for instance–draws back the curtain on a very immanent transcendence. (buy)

MP3: Ben + Vesper :: Consubstantiation

Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams: Taking a huge step up from the solo recorded debut, a full-band Dum Dum Girls makes its LP debut with great success. The fuzzy guitar pop, so rooted in girl-group influenced punk, is a stark reminder of how some of the simplest of genres can be reworked in masterful ways. (buy)

MP3: Dum Dum Girls :: Always Looking

I Break Horses – Hearts: ’€¨This is the sound of music moving into the future. Hearts bursts with keyboard and guitar glimmer, shuffling drums, and the siren call of Maria Lindén. As much as this record sounds like it’s dipped in reverb and washes of texture there’s an honesty, and sometimes anxiety, in Linden’s songwriting that cuts through any rote shoegaze comparisons. (buy)

MP3: I Break Horses :: Pulse

Pure X – Pleasure:  Strap in for a nocturnal, languid, blur. On Pleasure, the Austin outfit’s debut full-length, the band formerly known as Pure Ecstasy up both the fidelity and the songwriting. Retaining the charm of their ragged, homespun, beginnings, Pleasure is a reverbed, textured, ride through some of your favorite 4AD/Creation Records moments. (buy)

MP3: Pure X :: Twisted Mirror

Male Bonding – Endless Now: The careening black cab of English punk history probably wasn’t supposed to get mucked down in sweet sentiment and gooey melody, but Endless Now can’t help but steer it that way. The production’s a bit spiffier than it was on last year’s Nothing Hurts, but the drums are urgent and the guitars still grind like a circular saw cutting through a pipe. The group’s tri-cooed vocal harmonies, which range somewhere between Kevin Shields’ spaciness and Morrissey’s languor, melt off the uppermost layer of grit, leaving behind a cut of precise power-punk. (buy)

MP3: Male Bonding :: Tame The Sun

Ty Segall – Ty Rex/Goodbye Bread: With Goodbye Bread the high-output, high-octane garage junker succeeded in crafting a slower record with more lyrical substance than his past work — but fear not, the guitars are as loud and tinny as ever. As if to confirm his role as high priest of sloppy guitar screamers, he also managed to release an unhinged EP of T. Rex covers. (buy)

MP3: Ty Segall :: The Slider

Veronica Falls – S/T:   ’€¨Yes, technology has helped many a bedroom-pop act — but it takes real talent and chemistry to create great music. Veronica Falls’ debut is a home run filled with buoyant guitars and clever songwriting. The quartet’s tragic lyrics are, actually, quite often funny adding depth and color to the quickly strummed rhythmic parade. Veronica Falls got me excited about pop music again. (buy)

MP3: Veronica Falls :: Veronica Falls

Real Estate – Days: Don’t let anyone tell you the sound of jangly, late-80s, college rock is dead. On Days, Real Estate’s sophomore LP, the NJ group prove it’s alive…and quite well. (buy)

MP3: Real Estate :: Younger Than Yesterday

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy: Annie Clark’s  Strange Mercy contains some excellent pop songs; compositions sturdy enough to contain her capricious stylistic experimentation and still be catchy. No small feat. A clear lyricist and a killer guitar player, Clark works some of the most unusual tones and styles around. (buy)

MP3: St. Vincent :: Cruel

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Mirror Traffic: Though I now consider Mirror Traffic to be one of SM’s stronger full-lengths since his former band’s swan song (Terror Twilight), I almost missed it entirely due to the throwaway lead single, the limp “Senator.” Glad I didn’t. While the production duties are helmed by Beck, the contents are vintage Malkmus. In relation the last couple of Jicks records, Mirror Traffic’s songs are tighter without sacrificing the ‘loose.’ (buy)

MP3: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks :: Stick Figures In Love

J. Mascis – Several Shades of Why: It was a good year for middle-aged indie rockers gone solo. For his largely-acoustic record, Mascis drops his characteristic wall of furor and exposes the vulnerability that’s always lurked around his work with Dinosaur Jr. Though it’s not lacking in pathos, Several Shades of Why at times feels like a much-deserved victory lap, as if young-gun guests Ben Bridwell, Kevin Drew, and Kurt Vile got together to throw the old boss a retirement party. (buy)

MP3: J. Mascis :: Several Shades of Why

Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will: ’€¨Mogwai create some of the most affecting and heavy rock known to man. Gentle and brittle at one turn, gigantic and scorching the next. Hardcore mixes the finest moments of their early space-rock epics with brisk and anxious chord changes (see “San Pedro”). (buy)

MP3: Mogwai :: San Pedro

Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler/The Dream: ’€¨What happens when one of America’s greatest live bands translates their tireless psychedelic live attack into their strongest full-length? This happens — the best album they’ve ever crafted — the jerky, melodic and unhinged marvel known as Carrion Crawler/The Dream. (buy)

MP3: Thee Oh Sees :: Carrion Crawler

Josh T. Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen:  Last of the Country Gentlemen is pure, dusty, undressed genius, naked and pensive like a western pre-dawn horizon, backlit with rising sun it may not want. For some, it may require patience. Indeed, the unbelievably controlled Pearson is patient himself delivery. But make no mistake: this is quiet folk-country music that aches to be played loudly, if only to feel the intensity of its weight. (buy)

MP3: Josh T. Pearson :: Thou Are Loosed

Fruit Bats – Tripper:  Tripper is decidedly simpler than 2009’s decent-enough The Ruminant Band, but it’s also steadier. Sure, Fruit Bats have had better individual tracks in the past, which buoyed somewhat tepid albums to create the illusion of “completeness.” (See: 2009) Here, though, lead Eric Johnson draws a line from All Things Must Pass-era George Harrison to his former home, the Shins, arriving at something less folksy, more pop than previous efforts. The band is the better for it, less likely to get lost in the shuffle this time around. (buy)

MP3: Fruit Bats :: You’re Too Weird

Tinariwen – Tassili:  A gripping follow-up to Aman Iman: Water is Life (2007) and Imidiwan: Companions (2009),  Tassili is a continuation of Tinariwen’s rhythmic, at times incredibly psychedelic, Saharan desert blues — only this time sans amplified sound.  While several Western artists pop up throughout the length of the record (tastefully, thankfully) it is TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone’s soulful collaboration on “Tenere Taqqim Tossam” that is the standout. (buy)

MP3: Tinariwen :: Tenere Taqqim Tossam

Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know: Earlier this year Laura Marling and her band performed at a cemetery inside Los Angeles’ old Masonic Temple. As such it was no surprise that the English pastoral ghosts of Pentangle, Heron, Nick Drake and Jon & Beverly Martyn loomed large. That evening sold me on Marling; A Creature I Don’t Know was the souvenir. (buy)

MP3: Laura Marling :: The Beast

Cave Singers – No Witch: Seattle’s Cave Singers take us on a smoky roll through the old weird America and exile themselves on Haight Street. The wooly trio tint their country honk with organ flourishes and a gospel choir on “Falls,” but it’s the early-morning porch-folk of twin openers “Gifts and the Raft” and “Swim Club,” and the one-two shuffle of Marty Lund’s drums, that give No Witch its feathers. (buy)

MP3: Cave Singers :: Swim Club

Panda Bear – Tomboy: No, it’s not Person Pitch. Nor did it need to be. In its near fifty minute multi-layered–at times hypnotic–runtime, Tomboy further distances Noah Lennox from his dayjob. And it’s all the better for it.

MP3: Panda Bear :: Slow Motion

James Blake – S/T: This year, the promise of this young electronic-musician’s immaculate and detailed production unfolded in many directions. He developed his tight, well-paced, sample style, coined a bizarre way of playing the keys, and dropped dramatic bouts of silence with a casual mastery. But Blake’s consistent, self-titled LP showcased him firstly as a pop singer. He crafted his unusual voice to be emotional and soulful. Then he seamlessly incorporated it into his synthesized timbres. His delivery allows single-line lyrics tell entire stories, and his silky, pitch-shifting dub is a unique, instrumental accompaniment. James Blakes doesn’t so much have crossover appeal than a whole new set of immersive musical gestures. (buy)

MP3: James Blake :: The Wilhelm Scream

John Maus – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves: ’€¨On stage, John Maus is Andrew W.K. meets Ariel Pink, but deep within the bellowing and synthetic waves of Pitiless Censors he’s a gentle giant. Belting out foggy phrases that frame sadness and love, Maus achieves greatness on “Believer” and “Hey Moon.” (buy)

MP3: John Maus :: Believer

Motown’s MoWest Story – 1971-1973: In the early 70s Motown moved its base of operations from motor city to Los Angeles. Light In The Attic’s MoWest compilation is a sixteen track ride highlighting the best of the label’s left coast efforts from ’71-’73. (buy)

MP3: Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons :: You’re A Song (That I Can’t Sing)

This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel 1957-1982: Sourced from 45s over the span of a decade by curator and crate-digger Mike McGonigal, This May Be is a three-disc aural journey into the various corners of African-American gospel. An excellent follow-up to McGonigal’s previous collection, 2009’s Fire In My Bones.   (buy)

MP3: Prophet G. Lusk :: The Devil’s Trying To Steal My Joy

Amédé Ardoin – Mama, I’ll Be Long Gone: The Complete Recordings, 1929-1934: These thirty-four songs mark the complete recorded output of accordion player/chanteur Amédé Ardoin, whose ticklish fingerwork paved the way for both Cajun and zydeco music. Ardoin is accompanied by fiddler Dennis McGee, himself no slouch, on tracks like “Two Step de Eunice” and “Aimez Moi Ce Soir,” long-since genre standards. The mourning whelp of Ardoin’s French singing–croaked out to the limits of his range–dances right across the language barrier. (buy)

MP3: Amédé Ardoin :: Two Step De Eunice

Disappears – Guider:   ’€¨Guider represents everything that I loved, and learned, from Spacemen 3 and The Velvet Underground; find a jagged, repetitive melody and beat the hell out of it until you’re subdued, spent, and exhausted. Of course, we all come begging for more because the effects are hypnotizing. (buy)

MP3: Disappears :: Halo

Hammer No More the Fingers – Black Shark: Honing the exact playing of bands like Faraquet and the Dismemberment Plan, Hammer No More the Fingers created a classic sounding yet forward looking record. The album’s ten songs clock in at just under 35 minutes and provide engaging riff after lead after singing line. It’s a record of instant and long-term enjoyment. (buy)

MP3: Hammer No More the Fingers :: The Agency

400 Blows – Sickness and Health: ’€¨Pulverizing, magnetic, heavy punk rock…400 Blows made one of the most powerful slices of music I’ve heard in a long time. There’s something so gripping and sincere about their sound and the trio’s fascination with the brutality of modern life. Sickness and Health is even borderline Metal at times — another big charm — but amazing all the time. (buy)

MP3: 400 Blows :: We Killed Like Champions

The Beach Boys – Smile Sessions: Explanation isn’t really necessary. This year, the mythos of Smile was given full catharsis. (The 40 track double LP would work, the box set would work better.) Purists may wish this had never happened–that it had remained in the world of the bootleg. But let’s be honest, that has more to do with nostalgia than the music. And what is this about, anyway? (buy)

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65 thoughts on “Aquarium Drunkard :: 2011 Year In Review

  1. It’s amazing how almost every list has left off one of the best albums of the year, Centro-Matic’s Candidate Waltz.

  2. As a regular reader, one has a pretty good idea of what’s going to make the AD list, but man, I look forward to it like no other. Keep up the great work. How about Feist’s “Metals”?

  3. Great choices and lots on here I need to check out . Surprised that almost no one has thrown Gregg Allman’s new album a bone and included it on their best of list. Just when I/everyone had counted him out as a solo artist he delivered on Low Country Blues.

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  5. Thank you for saving me from trudging endlessly through the gazillion way-hyped-up-but-ultimately-mediocre-at-best-but-sounding-enough-like-Arcade Fire-or-Fleet Foxes-or-Florence & The Machine-to-be-commercially-viable CRAP that came out this year. Great list.

  6. Halcyon Digest was my favorite record last year and Atlas Sound’s Parallax is my favorite this year. Great list!

  7. great list. I like the inclusion of male bonding and fruit bats. Rural Alberta Advantage, Cotton Jones, Buffalo Tom, and the Sandwitches would have fit nicely in here.

  8. I smacked this Spotify list together:

    Where songs weren’t available they are substituted with the artist’s most played song in Spotify. Or something like that. As for SMILE-sessions I left that aside, I couldn’t decide off the cuff which cut to include.

  9. Oh, and the list is made in Sweden, so there might be big differences in which songs are available here and in the US? Please take it for what it’s worth.

  10. Great collection, as always. Glad to see Kaputt hasn’t been forgotten about, as most January albums tend to be come December. The AD interview with Dan Bejar earlier this year definitely enhanced my listening of that record, which has been in constant rotation for my whole 2011. Cheers.

  11. I’m sure glad you put J Mascis in there. I don’t like listening to the album in full, but individual tracks feel like classics. For example atm, “Is It Done” is almost my fave song when I hear that introductory guitar, to be confirmed by the backing vocals. I like the Cut Copy album a lot (u missed that), but then I’m a random…

  12. Really glad to see 400 blows on this list. One of my favorite live bands, the new record matches up to their debut, black rainbow…something I didn’t think they still had in them.

  13. And I have to agree with the first comment. Centro-matic needs to be on this list. I saw them live last week and they killed it.

  14. you gave me something to do today….I always make my own year end mix and give it out for christmas whether any of my friends want it or not….thanks for the schoolin’

  15. in a tepid year for music, this seems like the right way to go for sa year end list, LONG. thanks for the reminder of things i forgot to check out. surprised no ryan adams. 1/2 of that album was great, especially considering some of the records on this list didn’t have a single song as strong as the best of the adams album.

  16. Wow, probably the best list around. It’s only missing my fav of the year: Dumbo Gets Mad – Elephants At The Door

  17. Great selection this year, but the writing is just spot on (per usual). Just wish there was a way to download all the tracks in one link!


  18. Along the lines of if this was released in 1996….., R.E.M.’s Collapse Into Now was a fitting send off featuring a wide variety of sounds and a lot of heart.

  19. thanks for the spotify playlist! saved me tons of time. love AD and this whole list and digging the deviations from all the other best of 2011’s i’ve read.

  20. I just read about this site today somewhere – I forget where. Looking at this list, I’m pretty sure I’ll be a regular visitor. This list is an embarassment of riches. I don’t drive enough to make it worth my while to get Sirius, but like Carly (54) says, thanks for existing.

  21. thanks for putting me onto a lot of what i’ve missed this past year.

    ashes & fire is my favorite of the year, regardless.

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