Fa La La La Laaa: The Best Albums of 2011
By: Sam Houghton, December 19, 2011
It is nearing the end of the year, which means everyone involved in the music industry's wide scope is getting revved-up for the "best of" lists… the opportunity to bash Rolling Stone for its cluelessness, or Pitchfork.com for their pretentiousness.
And maybe it’s the time for concerned mothers to get Christmas present ideas for their angsty, misunderstood teens.
We here at InsideOUT have our own ideas, gathered by some of the best local musicians, DJs, and other music business-related freaks and geeks. We tried for some variation in our participants—and because most folks around town shy away from the vast and confusing black hole that is new age music—we settled for the classic genres.
As one of the last independent record stores left on the Cape--never mind the rest of the world--it was essential to get the low down from Camden Wieden at Spinnaker’s in Hyannis. Record store clerks are up there with the best music critics: with infinite wisdom and unparalleled sophistication in music, they are fast becoming a relic of the past.
Still, those who hang on are that much more stoic. Spinnaker’s picks were: 1) The big, soul piping pride of Britain's Florence + the Machine’s Ceremonials 2) the ever-popular, garage/blues rock duo: The Black Keys’ El Comino and 3) hip-hop legends: The Roots’ Undun.
The sound of the Daniel Byrnes Band, that quintessential Cape Cod soul-folk quartet, conjures up images of kicking your feet up after too much sunburn and just the right amount of Dark and Stormies on a back porch looking over the water, the music wafting out into the distance. It is a mix of folk and bluegrass infused with Jimmy Buffet – a deep, nostalgic happiness.
That is the music of Dan Byrnes' band and his album choices, in no particular order, reflect that lifestyle: the haunting folk of Gillian Welch’s The Harrow & The Harvest, mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile and Michael Daves’ Sleep With One Eye Open, jam circuit and new-age classic rock gods My Morning Jacket’s Circuital, and the wonderful songwriting of Ryan Adam’s Ashes & Fire.
John McNamara, front man of Woods Hole's indie rock band The Commonwealth, came from a different vein. His top three are 1) The Stroke’s Angles, 2) Kings of Leon’s Come Around Sundown, and 3) Foster the People’s Torches. His picks are no surprise considering The Commonwealth is a band with a young energy and a solidified foothold in current rock music. All three albums will be garage/modern rock classics in no time.
Perhaps the hippest judge here is a disc jockey from the Providence alt rock station 95.5 WBRU. DJ Blair is a New Zealander with an accent so hot one avid fan called up once and said he would turn gay for Blair. That being said, combined with his zesty passion on air, Blair's taste is exquisite. His picks are 1) the garage-pop anthems from Naked and Famous’ Passive Me, Aggressive You, 2) Florence + The Machine, again, and 3) old grunge-funk legends, the new Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album I’m With You.
No list is adequate without the guys over at PIXY 103. DJ Peter Maxx hosts a heavy metal show that introduces new hard rock on a weekly basis. His picks are 1) the 7th studio album from the Foo Fighters, Wasting Light , 2) heavy metal legends Motorhead and their 20th studio album The World Is Yours, and 3) a new self-titled, slower paced album from the usually heavy Staind.
Indie Hipster Bands
As for myself, a seasoned music critic who lived in the capitol of hipsterdom that is Brooklyn during the height of indie music, I would like to point out a couple bands that are flying well below the radar but still deliver the goods, fresh:
JEFF the Brotherhood’s We Are the Champions will reign as punk album of the year, full of mellow spunk. Hipster queen Merrill Garbus and her band Tune Yards came out with an eccentric but very powerful album Who Kill that should hit some top spots in independent media outlets. The War on Drugs, a band similar to Tom Petty but with loads of ambiance and nostalgia and relaxants, had one of the hottest hipster albums this year: Slave Ambiant. And of course, any list without the new Fleet Foxes’ album, Helplessness Blues, is a joke. They might even be better than Paul Simon.
My last word is that while it’s fun to wallow in your earphones at work, music is really best enjoyed live. The Cape has some incredible bands out there so get out there and support your locals… plus, they usually give out their CDs free or dirt cheap.