10) Girls– Father, Son, Holy Ghost (True Panther Sounds): This is undeniably the most ambitious album on this list, probably one of the most ambitious pop records of the year, and I would say definitely the most ambitious sophomore effort I have heard in a long time. Album (2009) was/is one of my favorite records and this LP definitely shares a similar sense of outstanding pop features. With that being said, I do not love this album and in fact I think it is a bit too epic, too diverse, too much. At least for my taste, I am sure there are plenty of people out there that will love every second of it. I really enjoyed this record, but more imporantly I have a lot of respect for the band for making it. Girls really pushed themselves, exploring all sorts of areas of the music world; it really feels like a gigantic, classic rock record, especially with tracks like “Vomit.” If you have heard this, you know what I mean, when it explodes into the “looking for loveee” part(s) of the song. Good stuff. I would have prefered shorter songs, but that’s alright, this list is supposed to be devoted to praise anyway, so nevermind me. “Honey Bunny” is an essential, fucking amazing pop ballad.
9) Fat History Month– Fucking Despair (Sophomore Lounge): Fat History Month is representing Boston (KLYAM’s hometown) and the Boston underground on this list, and if you don’t know anything about any bands from this area, then Fat History Month is an excellent place to start. I myself only know some bands, but FHM is the cream of the crop and Fucking Despair showcases everything that is awesome about this duo. It is often hard to describe their music and it seems like everyone comes up with their own little, weird interpretations, so I’ll leave it up to you, because I have faith in you. “Old Lady Smokers” and “Things I Enjoy” are constantly racing around my psyche, seriously these suckers are having fun being stuck in my head. They are short, but sweet, you just want them to never end, kind of like an orgasm. So, yeah it’s a musical orgasm.
8) Atlas Sound– Parallax (4AD): Bradford Cox is the best songwriter of our generation, at least in my book. Parallax is a great pop record, not the best from Bradford, but that is like asking Scorcese why one of his films is not as good as Taxi Driver; they cannot all be amongst the greatest records of all time, but that does not take away from the fact that this an above average album. “The Shakes,” is my favorite song. I know it sounds extremely cheesy, but I literally am shaking when I hear this song. It is so damn powerful as with nearly all of Bradford’s material. His songs just have that emotional effect that a lot of other artists lack. He can make things sentinmental witout making them come off as lame. Rock and Roll is alive and well.
7) Natural Child– 1971 (Infinity Cat): I just mentioned about rock and roll being alive and well, Natural Child is a further testament to this. Another artist, I cannot promote more. Seriously, if you dig this “garage” revival kind of stuff like the Black Lips, Ty Segall, Nobunny, etc, then Natural Child is up your alley. But, even if you do not dig those artists and you are one of those bastards that only listens to rock and roll that was created at least twenty-thirty years before you were born and you scoff at others that drink PBR, while you yourself are only drinking Bud Light, well then Natti Child can and will serve a dish you cannot refuse. The name of the record is 1971, just think of it that way. If you really love the Stones, I do not see why these Nashville boys deserve any less of your attention. It’s only rock and roll.
6) Ty Segall– Goodbye Bread (Drag City): Need I say more? Okay fine. Ty Segall expands upon the reputation he has built up thus far as a fun, frat rockin’, psychedelic artist. Per usual, the record is sonically amazing, and just engulfs the listener. Strong pop hooks ensue.
5) Smith Westerns– Dye It Blonde (Fat Possum): Here is a band I really started getting into this year and rightfully so; Dye It Blonde is fantastic pop record, an ode to pop music. Each song is a carefully constructed, melodramatic ballad. Listening to this album is like shooting up pop music, you get that instantaneous pop sensation rumbling through your body from the first few moments of “Weekend.” I can picture Smith Westerns lyrics being plastered all over the facebook walls of bratty, depressed teenagers all across America. “I should’ve realized life is such a joke, it makes me wanna choke,(“Smile”). Mmmm gotta love them at that age!
4) Mark Sultan– Whatever I Want (In The Red):
I am big fan of Mark Sultan’s past two LPs, The Sultantic Verses (2007) and $ (2010), but I think this LP is even greater, exemplifying Mark’s strengths as a songwriter. The hooks are stronger than ever especially on tracks like “Axis Abraxas,” “Just For a Moment,” and “Song In Grey.” “Axis Abraxas” is an incredible opener and just gets the listener pumped for the whole record. I wish more opening tracks were like this. Definitely one of the year’s finest and one of the most underated.
3) Shannon and the Clams– Sleep Talk (1-2-3-4 Go!): One of my new favorites from twenty eleven. Another truly kick ass rock and roll band that is totally underated. I remember hearing this about six months back and thinking this would probably end up on my list and I was right, not much can top it. First and foremost, Shannon Shaw is a fabulous singer, one of the best living today. Secondly, the band are masters at creating (or recreating) early 60s esque rock and roll both in songwriting and in sound quality with really nice, clean, analog. They also add an extra umpph to several of their songs, giving them an old school punk sound as well. All in all, there is not much you can hate about this band/album, they just represent what is great about the music I enjoy. Alas, you will not see this record on any of the major magazines’s or web sites’s end of the year lists like several other underappreciated records on this list.
2) Hunx and His Punx– Too Young to Be In Love (Hardly Art): If Sleep Talk has a companion twenty eleven LP then it is Too Young to Be In Love. Shannon Shaw provides vocals in both bands and just like on Sleep Talk, she sings with incredible force and control. In general, all of the girls shine more on this album than the band’s debut, Gay Singles. That is probably the best part of this record, the fact that the band sounds fuller and more complete. Admittedly, I am a bigger fan of the first record, but I adored and still cotinue to greatly adore this record. In many ways, it is completely different: slower, more serious, and more 60s based. If you dig 60s girl groups, I highly recommend this album as it is quite reminiscent of that era. “Lovers Lane,” the opening track is a great example of this and my favorite from the whole record. Hunx’s lead vocals are better than ever and the girls’ backng vocals nicely complement his. Hunx and His Punx are doing something truly unique and unlike anyone else today.
1) Black Lips– Arabia Mountain (Vice):
What do you expect? Of course, Arabia is number one. Of course, Black Lips are number one, they always are! I have to say though I am not a robotic fan or anything like that, they are not an automatic number one for me by any means. This year they simply released their greatest studio album in my eyes. Like Glen and other punk slimers, I greatly anticipated this release, probably more than any other album in my life. When I heard Mark Ronson was on board, I was not sure what to make of it, but knowing the Lips, I felt we were in good hands. They stayed true to themselves and simply used Ronson’s skill to enhance what already made them great. I see this record as a salute to what makes the Black lips a kickass band: Cole’s weird, raspy vocals (sounding better and clearer and more effective than ever) on “Family Tree,” the band’s simple committment to fun in “Go Out and Get It,” indeed an incredibly simple, but catchy tune, and overall a striking personality that no other band can match. Personality is what makes bands memorable and the Lips have mythologized themselves into the greatest rock and roll band currently in existance.
Best EP of 2011?
Still never going stop him… and his band from appearing on my lists!
Wavves– Life Sux EP (Ghost Ramp)
Yep, there should be no surprises here. We spend the whole year yapping about our favorite artists, so when it comes to these year end lists, it should all look familar.