The end of the year means digging into the best releases from the last 365.
The way a band or artist makes this list is simple; it’s a calculation of the most time spent on my turntable, in my CD player or on my iPod. I do favor music with guts and emotion made by humans playing instruments and not computers. My favorites of 2011:
10. William Elliot Whitmore, “Field Songs”: A short collection of sad folk and historic stories. He sounds like a seasoned veteran of the land; “Field Songs” proves that folk music doesn’t have to be a collection of love observations made by a white guy with a guitar, or in his case, a banjo.
9. Tommy Guerrero, “Lifeboats and Follies”: His releases are best compared to the instrumental cuts put out by the Beastie Boys. Lo-fi lounge music hinting at funk and hip-hop, yet guitar-driven. This is a Latin-surf rock record, but at its core it’s theme music for any extreme sports video or activity or the soundtrack for road trips or Sunday morning coffee.
8. Jeff The Brotherhood, “We Are The Champions”: This Nashville duo’s release is a collection of punk, up-tempo psychedelic stoner rock numbers and twisted, lyrically humorous pop songs. “We Are the Champions” remained in my music player most of the summer.
7. Boston Spaceships, “Let it Beard”: Song-churning factory Bob Pollard continues to release music in the key of overdrive; “Let it Beard” is a collection of pop gems, punk and garage rock via addictive hooks.
6. Those Darlins, “Screws Get Loose”: This three gal, one guy quartet’s sophomore release continues their growth as an Americana and throwback band; psychedelic garage music led by a harmonizing female trio.
5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, (self-titled): This Portland band’s debut channels Zappa solos via 13th Floor Elevators songwriting for simple psychedelic pop with electro-funk leanings. Fuzzy guitars and reverbed vocals make great avant-garde records.
4. Black Lips, “Arabia Mountain”: Snotty southerners blasting through agro-pop, irreverent garage rock and even some bubble-gum. Hand-claps, whistles and theremins complement the humor and the hooks.
3. Jack Oblivion, “Rat City”: “Rat City” is a rock record by a punk artist with enough Memphis soul thrown in to make the sound of the record identifiable with one of music’s most important cities.
2. Deer Tick, “Divine Providence”: This Rhode Island quartet’s fourth release reflects the guts of their unpredictable live shows. Deer Tick is slowly growing into a 21st-century version of the Replacements; explosive and heartbreaking rock songs with lyrics speaking for the drunken and down and out eager for dive bar sing-alongs.
1. Lydia Loveless, “Indestructible Machine”: The debut from this Ohio gal virtually raised in a country bar blasts the listener with ballads and upbeat honky tonk full of lyrical irreverence and rock hooks. The 21-year-old Loveless belts out the sordid, drunken tales like a seasoned vet.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.