Sunday, December 25, 2011


The entire world went through changes in 2011. From the Arab Spring to Occupy there is unrest and a sense of big changes to come. Where all this will lead to, aside from a hopeful change in the collective consciousness, one will have to wait and see. Will 2012 seem like 1968 all over again? Lets hope so. The conventions will surely feel the brunt of OCCUPY and this can only be a good thing as working America raises its voice in unison to counter all the money of the banksters. Change is gonna come because if anything Occupy has pushed into the forefront the inequalities between the .05% and the other 99.5%.

As a perfect segueway into the wonderful music made in 2011 it was once again new sounds dominating my ear time although much of the great music made this year was made by those who made great music in 1968 also. Seven of the artists in the Top 20 are over the age of fine wine we age well. There is so much great music that was made this year that it seems almost criminal that my peers are almost clueless when I mention what I am listening to. I am going to make it my mission this year to spend more time blogging and posting on Facebook (not a virgin anymore) so that all of this great music is more accessible.

Music is like mountain water; pure. It keeps you positive and straight forward and when there are times of loss and woe it is there to comfort you. Music is your best friend without any arguments or discussions. It continues to delight and amaze year after year. It is the sound of our hearts and minds. Music becomes the soundtrack of our lives as we listen back to our favorites and discover new faves. Music never disappoints.

With new ambition I will comment on all 50 of the best this year and list a great cut from each album. In addition I have listed one of my favorite cuts from each album. Go ahead and listen to a preview on iTunes or even better go to Spotify. For free you have access to millions of songs and for 9.95 a month you can listen without advertisements to complete albums.

50: Kaputt-Destroyer: Dan Bejar, best known for his work with The New Pornographers, channels the best of 80s pop, making Steely Dan, Mike McDonald and Boz Scaggs all envious. Chinatown

49: Elsie-The Horrible Crowes Brian Fallon, of the New Jersey band, The Gaslight Anthem, did this as a side project with his guitar tech, Ian Perkins. A more mellow version of Gaslight, it reminds one of a stripped down Springsteen. I Witnessed a Crime

48: Celebration Florida-The Felice Brothers The Catskills Mountains answer to The Band diverge from their last three albums and rock a little harder. Honda Civic

47: Back To Love-Anthony Hamilton One of the best soul singers in America today, who pays props to the late Teddy Pendergrass and Al Green, while singing of love oh so sweetly. WOO

46: Build A Rocket Boys-Elbow On their fifth album, Mercury Prize winners Elbow, continue in the fine tradition of indie rock. The Birds

45: Metals-Feist The Canadian queen of Indie Pop delights with her usual mix of rockers and ballads of her fourth solo effort. Leslie Feist sings of lost love as the centerpiece of this introspective gem Comfort Me

44: The King is Dead-The Decembrists This Portland Oregon Indie outfit, led by Colin Meloy, made for me their most listenable and pleasant album. As a teller of tales, Meloy is surely unparalleled. Dont Carry It All

43: Ukelele Songs- Eddie Vedder The Pearl Jam frontman has been a longtime proponent of the uke and he committed himself to making a truly splendid listen. Vedders voice and his ability to play this tiny instrument made this one of the joys of the year. Cant Keep

42: Field Songs-William Elliot Whitmore With the sounds of the farm, along with the birds and the bees, Mr Whitmore, a former metal singer, has crafted one of the truly enjoyable folk albums of his short career. From the cover to his voice, this son of Iowa is a songsmith to be enjoyed. Everything Gets Gone

41: Parallax- Atlas Sound Bradford Cox records as a solo project under the name Atlas Sound, which is a far cry from Deerhunter. Muzak for the young hipsters. Te Amo

40: Circuital- My Morning Jacket For my money Jim James and his Jacket mates are the purveyors of Southern rock n roll from the Capricorn Record era. From big rock to soulful ballads this is a journey back for the Lexington rockers. Wonderful (The Way I Feel)

39: Mirror Traffic-Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks: Former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus, he of the sixties guitar swagger has made a pure power pop album which is a welcome joy filled with a searing take on the US Senate. Senator

38: El Camino-The Black Keys There is something about Midwestern musicians that is just so honest and unpretentious you have to smile. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are the Pride of Akron Ohio (sorry Lebron) and their music is a testament to Midwestern grit. Lonely Boy

37: Barton Hollow-The Civil Wars Joy Williams and John Paul White are the Nashville duo that are The Civil Wars. For those progressive country music fans you will be delighted. They count myself and Bob Seger as fans. Barton Hollow

36. Salt Year-Chris Bathgate From the first note of Eliza I was hooked. Ann Arbor Michigan musician and singer songwriter I first hears of Chris after reading a Metro Times cover story. Thank goodness. A wonderful and pleasant experience. Eliza (Hue)

35. Burst Apart-The Antlers Peter Silberman and his Brooklyn mates have once again made a brilliant album. Combining big operatic rock with heartfelt love songs, The Antlers dazzle. I Dont Want Love

34: Nine Types of Light-TV On The Radio The best way to describe the Brooklyn art funksters is just like that. Dave Sitek, Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe, lost their bassist Gerald Smith to lung cancer, but put out a beautiful testament to what a band influenced by the 80s is all about. Second Song

33: Blessed-Lucinda Williams Happy and in love, Lucinda, who possesses one of the great voices in contemporary music, basks in the glory of happiness. Her marriage has taken her writing to another level and the Lake Charles native kills it this one. Buttercup

32: Wits End-Cass McCombs Sad and introspective may well best describe this musical genius. Ala Ryan Adams of old he released two albums this year. This Baltimore based singer songwriter keeps dazzling with his voice and lyrical moments of brilliance. County Line

31: 21-Adele Amy Winehouse light is not only an apt description, but a true compliment to this young chanteuse. This is a woman who may be selling records for many years to come if she avoids the pitfalls of stardom. An angelic voice with a bit of Brit grit, Adele recalls the 60s era singers. Set Fire To The Rain

30: How Do You Do-Mayer Hawthorne Andrew Mayer Cohen, the pride of Ann Arbor Michigan, followed up his 2009 Strange Arrangement with another soulful offering. Recalling the Dells and the Stylistics more than Motown, Hawthorne has made another gem. Get To Know You

29: Reverie-Joe Henry A master storyteller and brilliant producer and brother in law to Madonna, Joe Henry makes American music and tells stories, all the while strumming away on his guitar, while the band plays on around him. Recorded in his basement with the windows open, Joe Henry the minstrel keeps knocking it out of the park. Heavens Escape

28: Apocalypse-Bill Callahan One of the most intellectual singer songwriters, Bill Callahan crafts epic songs filled with images of love, death and war. His deep baritone at times harks back to sitting around a campfire and listening to the guy singing the songs. Thats Bill. America

27: Rome-Danger Mouse and Danielle Lupi Take one Italian composer and one very eccentric American musician/producer and add Jake White and Norah Jones to the musicians who played Ennio Morricone compositions for the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone/Clint Eastwood...hopefully you get the picture. This was one of those great collabortations that was overlooked by too many people. Seasons Trees

26: Belong-The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart On their sophomore effort the Pains are anything but. This is such a lush and wonderful joyride in pop music, it is sometimes hard to understand that such a group of twenty somethings is so capable of recreating the best of pop. Heart in Your Heartbreak

25: Within and Without-Washed Out Ernest Greene is Washed Out. So sit back or dance, depending on your age and proclivity, to this brilliant debut album of what can only be described as Chillwave. With one of the most sensual record covers of all time, Washed Out is sure to keep you mellow. Eyes Be Closed

24: Kiss Each Other Clean-Iron and Wine Sam Beam has made another pristine album, but this time with a backing band in lieu of his acoustic guitar and a microphone. The results are energetic and thrilling. On the most beautiful voices and one of the most under appreciated, Iron and Wine blends folk music with a soulful band and background singers. Me And Lazarus

23: The Party Aint Over-Wanda Jackson Thank goodness my wifes favorite refrain became an album title. Former paramour to Elvis Presley 74 year old Wanda Jackson was lured into recording by Jack White and the results recall her former days as the Queen of Rockabilly. From Shakin All Over to Bob Dylans Thunder On The Mountain, Wanda does not disappoint and for those who never heard of her this may help to get you excited. Shakin All Over

22: Mayhem-Imelda May/Anna Calvi Imelda May is Irish and Anna Calvi is British. They both play the guitar and sing with such distinctive stylings that recall days of old. May brings to mind the golden age of rock n roll and greasers. Brian Setzer could be her brother. Anna Calvi on the other hand hand channels Duane Eddy, Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde. Two amazing young singers from across the pond who should both enjoy success sooner than later. Mayhem/Desire

21: Cape Dory-Tennis Husband and wife Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley have made a dreamy debut album. Combining the best of the sixties Beach Boys and Phil Spector influences this was a delight when it came out in the winter, as it makes one think of being on a boat in the Caribbean. Long Boat Pass

20: Ceremonials-Florence and The Machine Florence Welch as made two proper albums and this one soars into the stratosphere. With a voice as big as the music behind it, Florence and her Machine have made a white girl soul record that is perfectly suited for the 21st century. Recalling Annie Lennox on more than one song, Florence rocks and love be damned. A Brit with soul and an authentic sound, take notice Adele. Shake It Out

19: Middle Brother Not since Crosby Stills and Nash has such a wonderful trio of alt country musicians made such an amazing debut album. Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, John McCauley of Deer Tick and Matthew Vasquez of Delta Spirit front great bands who combine wonderful folk rock with punk rock. The only way to describe this a bunch of young guys writing about drinking alot and the results of love gone bad. Portland

18: The Old Magic- Nick Lowe Nick Lowe is a rock star. Having made 13 albums, Lowe channels Nat King Cole and Johnny Cash on this extraordinary walk down memory lane. Waxing elegic about life and love, Lowe is in his best form since Whats So FunnyIn Peace, Love and Understanding. Checkout Time

17: Revelator-Tedeschi Trucks Band Susan Tedeschi is an accomplished blues singer/guitarist on her own. Having married and merged with Butch Trucks and his band is as close to a soul/blues Valhalla as one could ever imagine. The playing is dynamic and Tedeschi's voice which recalls Bonnie Raitt and Bonnie Bramlett, makes this Southern drenched recording a soulful gem. Until You Remember

16: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.-Its A Corporate World The best record made by a Detroit based band in 2011. Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott are the duo who make up the goofy named band, who performed in NASCAR racing suits. Im guessing since Its A Corporate World more spiffy duds will help the pop stars find their place in the music world. Recalling the Beach Boys, the Beatles and Granddaddy, the Juniors mix up the music through in a killer version of Gil Scott Herons "We Almost Lost Detroit." A gorgeous sun-filled treasure. Simple Girl

15: Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down-Ry Cooder Ry Cooder recorded his first album in 1970. This is his best yet in a career that has seen him produce The Buena Vista Social Club and score the film Paris Texas. Cooder takes on the role of a modern day Woody Guthrie and has made a biting protest record railing against the banksters, the military and governMental policy. Its a wonderful listen from Baby Joined The Army to John Lee Hooker For President. Take a swig of Troy and Sons Moonshine and enjoy. No Banker Left Behind

14: The Whole Love-Wilco Jeff Tweedy and the band keep churning out brilliant musical masterpieces. One of the alt country pioneers with Uncle Tupelo, Tweedy sounds healthy and happy on this disc, with a group of players that are topnotch. Not many bands have been able to keep up this pace and continually shine record after record. From pop sounds to alt country Wilco has made their almost perfect album. I Might

13. Helplessness Blues-Fleet Foxes Its hard to believe this is only their second record. Beautiful choral harmonies and songs reminiscent of early CSN and the Beach Boys, Robin Pecknold and Co make a purely enjoyable record that one can listen to time and time again and marvel at the beauty of the singing and writing. Montezuma

12. We Bought A Zoo-Jonsi/Inni-Sigur Ross Jonsi Birgisson is a force of Icelandic nature. As a solo musician he has scored the soundtrack to the new Cameron Crowe film We Bought A Zoo. As a member of the band Sigur Ross, he released a live recording of their final concert of their last tour in November 2008. Inni is a 75 minute film and 105 minute double live album. Sigur Ross is mesmerizing. Jonsi, as a solo artist, will win an Academy Award if the Academy listens (which I doubt they will, but I can always hope). The album is joyful and filled with smiles.
Festival/Boy Lilikoi

11. Ashes and Fire-Ryan Adams One of the most prolific singer/songwriters of his generation, Ryan Adams has kicked his nasty heroin habit and continues to make wonderful country tinged masterpieces. Since leaving the band Whiskeytown, Adams has release 13 albums in the last 11 years. This is the clearest most accomplished work in his career, with the help of Norah Jones, Benmont Tench and producer Glyn Johns. Come Home

10. James Blake/Enough ThunderEP-James Blake The eponymous debut album in its deluxe version in the UK included the EP Enough Thunder. Not so in the States. But...this dubstep/chill DJ who is only 24 years old caught my attention (thanks of course to my son Jake) and was my soundtrack for my Central Park runs in February. Hard to not enjoy this beautiful collection of music from a star on the horizon. His collaboration with Justin Vernon on Fall Creeks Boy Choir is also brill, not to mention his cover version of A Case of You by Joni Mitchell. Get out of the way for Mr Blake. Limit To Your Love/A Case of You

9. How To Become Clairvoyant-Robbie Robertson
Nothing Is Wrong/Dawes For the uninitiated Robbie Robertson was part of the legendary musicians known as The Band. The were the backing band for Bob Dylan. Its seems there is some sort of synchronicity in this choice since Mr Robertson has chosen Dawes to be his backing band when he tours. Robbie Robertson made a blues infused work with the help of Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph, Steve Winwoood, Tom Morello and Trent Reznor. One of the elder statesmen of the business Robbie Robertson nailed it with this masterpiece. Dawes, on the other hand are one of the great young bands with lots of promise. This being their sophomore effort they stretch out their sound to remind one of the Eagles and Jackson Browne, if you listen closely. Sun drenched California hipster music of the 60s is the perfect foil for the grizzled Robbie. Fear Of Falling/Time Spent In Los Angeles

8. No Time For Dreaming-Charles Bradley Backed by the brilliant Menahem Street Band and on DapTones Records, 63 year old Charles Bradley is the real deal. While the term soul revival is something left for the youngsters, Bradley is the living embodiment and he oozes soul. With a voice that recalls Otis, Wilson and James, from the opening chords of The World (Is Going Up in Flames) to Heartaches and Pain, Charles Bradley could have recorded this album in 1969 somewhere in Philly or in Memphis. Stax or Motown....or just plain Charles Bradley. Lovin You Baby

7. Alabama ShakesEP-Alabama Shakes/Bright LightsEP-Gary Clark Jr. If one was to put these to EPs together it would make a brilliant album, so they earned this spot on my list. The Alabama Shakes, fronted by Brittany Murphy, may be categorized as neo-soul, but lose the label. Damn this young woman can sing. Think Janis Joplin and Otis Redding. This voice and sound is sensational and with the release of their album in 2012; well just remember you heard it here first. Gary Clark Jr is a 27 year old blues kid whose EP is equally phenomenal. Hendrix and Clapton all mixed up into this equally talented youngster. If I could see into the future I would say both of these albums will be fighting for my TopTen 2012. Hold On/Bright Lights

6. So Beautiful or So What-Paul Simon One of the best solo albums Paul Simon has ever made and it may be just a little bit better than Graceland. Still retaining his humor and his ability to mix musical styles, from doo wop to African rhythms to Gospel samplings, Simon takes one on a musical journey that ends up back in New York City. With his voice still in fine form Simon makes happy music keeping in tune with his wink at mortality. Getting Ready For Christmas

5. Megafaun From their beginnings as just another Midwestern band from Eau Claire Wisconsin, the Cook Brothers and Joe Westerlund had a fourth member whose name was Justin Vernon. Justin left to record an album under the name Bon Iver. Following in the tradition of psychedelic-folk rock of Vetiver, Devandra Banhart and Grizzly Bear, Megafaun was such a welcome addition, as music today draws upon those fabulous sounds of yesteryear. Beautiful harmonies recalling California pop music and the earthiness of Fairport Convention make this one of the best sounds of the year. Real Slow

4. Bad As Me-Tom Waits With one of the most distinctive voices in the music world, Tom Waits never ceases to amaze. Channeling Satchmo Armstrong at times and just a guy sitting in the bar drinking lots of whiskey, Tom Waits is one of the most distinctive forces in music, along with his wife Catherine Brennan. With a little bit of help from Keith Richards, Marc Ribot and Charlie Musselwhite this is surely one of his greatest musical achievements. There is not a clunker on this gem. Satisfied, which mimics Mr Jagger and Mr Richards, Chicago which is the ribald opener and New Years Eve all sparkle. This is a diamond and it is upfront and not in the rough. Watch the video on You Tube for Satisfied...Brilliant. Raised Right Men

3. Days-Real Estate Once again the boys from New Jersey made a twangy, vocal laden album that just says very plainly A Day At The Beach. Could be Jones Beach, Bridgehampton, Anguila or the Seven Mile Beach in Jamaica. This screams sun and sound and whats more it sounds like the ocean. Beautiful melodies and wonderful sounds bring to mind Yo La Tengo, another great New Jersey band. So the Ventures of 2011 keep getting better and better. I can hardly wait for album #3. Its Real

2. Bon Iver Justin Vernon was under a lot of pressure. His first album, For Emma Forever Ago was recorded in a cabin in Wisconsin in the winter and talked of his lost love. It was sad and it was one of the most beautiful and highly acclaimed albums of 2007. After helping Kanye West last year and finding love with Canadian songwriter Kathleen Edwards, Bon Iver went into the studio and with the help of a band and Auto Tune, once again made a great album. While some have compared him to Nick Drake and Elliot Smith, Vernon follows his own path, with lyrics that are both obscure at times and sentimental at others. Sweet music from another Midwestern gentleman. Holocene

1. The King of In Between-Garland Jeffreys From the opening chords of Coney Island Winter to the David Essex closer Rock On, Garland ruled my year. His music is an amalgamation of blues, folk, rock, soul and reggae; so what is there not to love about this. Not only was every release after Garlands measured against him, but every time I listened to it, I heard some new chord or some new vocal intonation that made me smile even more. Commercial success be damned, Garland is a true musical treasure. The Beautiful Truth, Roller Coaster Town, In Gods Waiting Room, Streetwise, The Contortionist, Im Alive, All Around The World, til John Lee Hooker Calls Me, Love Is Not A Cliche, Rock and Roll Music and In Gods Waiting Room; every single song is spot on. From mortality to love, Garland blends his street smarts into the best and most under appreciated recoding of 2011. "Politician kiss my ass, your promises they break like glass." Hail Hail Rock and Roll....OCCUPY GARLAND!