I don’t have a lot to say about 2011, for a couple of reasons. The first is that it’s Ash Wednesday, and I am a) cutting down on my computer time for Lent and b) writing this post between four different Ash Wednesday services I’m either attending or helping out with here in Vermillion. The second is that I don’t own very many albums from 2011, as it turns out. Maybe it’s because I spent most of my extra music money that year on seeing Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, in its 15-hour entirety, while I was studying abroad in Germany. AND IT WAS GLORIOUS. In any event, the following records are still more than worth a listen.
5. TORCHES (Foster the People)
With their psych-rock-meets-dance-pop sound,Foster the People are working in more or less the same idiom as MGMT, but they remind me of nothing so much as an electro-fied Portugal. the Man, or even Gregg Alexander’s New Radicals. “Pumped Up Kicks” was the hit, but “Helena Beat” and “Houdini” better show off the band’s personality.
4. EL CAMINO (The Black Keys)
It’s become something of a journalistic cliche to characterize the Black Keys as a counterpart to the White Stripes. But their thoroughly modern classicism, bending the raunchy blues-rock of early Zeppelin and their late 60s contemporaries through an indie prism (with a little help from Danger Mouse, whose eye for detail–if not his love of compression–serve these songs well), certainly recalls, and frequently rivals, Jack White.
3. SODBUSTERS (Jami Lynn)
I became aware of Jami Lynn because we sang together in the University of South Dakota Chamber Singers a few years back. Her inclusion on this list isn’t mere parochialism though. Her voice, at once powerful and sensitive, makes the old cowboy song “The Colorado Trail” sound like it was written yesterday and the original title track sound like it was written 100 years ago.
2. THE FAMILY TREE: THE ROOTS (Radical Face)
The stories Ben Cooper tells are occasionally laced with hard-won optimism, but primarily they are tales of tragedy and heartbreak. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth listening to; Cooper’s plaintive, old-time-folk character sketches are things of piercing beauty. But if you’re looking for an album to raise your spirits, The Roots is going to take some serious listening before the silver linings begin to reveal themselves.
1. SWEETHEART OF THE SUN (The Bangles)
Seeing as how Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet had been recording delightful albums of classic rock and pop covers for a couple years by 2011, it was only a matter of time before they showed up on one another’s other projects. Unsurprisingly, Sweet’s clean-yet-crunchy production is the perfect compliment to the Bangles’ sweetly ([/pun]) melodic guitar rock – you’d hardly guess it had been a quarter-century since Different Light.
- Review: Radical Face, The Family Tree: The Roots (timberandsteel.wordpress.com)
- Music Review– Sweetheart of the Sun by The Bangles (wordsfrommyinkwell.wordpress.com)
- Jami Lynn Music (www.jamilynnmusic.com)
- Popa’s Tunes: Jami Lynn & Dylan James – Cluck & Croon (popatunes.blogspot.com)
- El Camino, The Black Keys (whatilikeissounds.wordpress.com)
- Foster the People – Coming of Age [New Track] (rosiedtrax.wordpress.com)