28 December 2011

Year End Round Up - My 3 Top Albums Of The Year

It's been a strange year for releases. Lots of my favorite artists released albums that didn't even show up on my radar (British Sea Power, Tech N9ne, They Might Be Giants). Even more bands that I thought didn't make music any more released albums (Jane's Addiction, Soundgarden, The Human League). There were releases that I should have paid more attention to (Tyler The Creator, Eddie Vedder's ukulele album, Hugh Laurie). A bunch of very good singles were released ('Blue Tip' by The Cars, 'Pumped Up Kicks' by Foster The People, 'Shake It Out' by Florence And The Machine). Also, I spent a good portion of the year playing a lot of musical catch up on certain artists (Mumford And Sons, Vampire Weekend, Jónsi) and missing out on releases from some of my favorites (Duran Duran, Blink 182, Blondie). And don't even talk to me about what a disappointing rehash Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' was.

All that being said, I have not been able to find 10 albums for a top list this year, so I will present to you my Top 3 Albums For 2011. It speaks volumes that all my top albums this year were from female singer/songwriters, and from 3 different countries at that. Take note, Gaga.

While it's probably true that Bic Runga could release album of the sounds of gastic surgery and I would still buy it, this is a fantastic follow up after a fairly lengthy absence. In that time she collaborated the experimental Kody & Bic, did some soundtrack work, released a retrospective album, did a tour of New Zealand winery shows with Tim Finn and Dave Dobbyn, and has been moving from Paris to New York to London and back to New Zealand with her little family. After all that, she released the sublime Belle. What can I say about a Bic Runga album? Just listen--it's nearly perfect.

Sweden's Lykke Li released her sophomore album, Wounded Rhymes this year, and the album was considerably more haunting than her prior work. Not that this is a bad thing. She shed her acoustically bent songs for a more pronounced rhythm, yet kept the music just as intimate and delicate. She out Florenced Florence by a year, and was everything that Björk could have been this year. Thank you to Anglo for drawing my attention to Lykke Li.

I was introduced to Zee Avi by my friend Britzel (and eternally grateful for that) about 2 days before Ghostbird came out. There was already some familiarity with her music from a commercial for Wal-Mart or Target or some place, but I didn't know anything about this brilliant Malaysian artist. Once this album was released I didn't stop listening to it (or her prior eponymous release) for weeks. It's the entire gamut of emotions and soundscapes, and no one plays the ukulele quite like Zee (sorry, Eddie). Where as Bic was nearly perfect this year, Zee was truly the perfect album this year. Ghostbird is the perfect way to finish off this year--hopeful, warm, alluring, fun, and always dreaming. As she says on 'Swell Window', 'We're all riding the same waves...' Indeed.

28 December 2011

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