Here are my obtuse meanderings vis-a-vis the best records of the year. Please forgive my inanity.
12. Donora – “Boyfriends, Girlfriends”
Sure, Donora might wear their influences like a pair of scuffed up Diabolo de Cartier cufflinks on last season’s Kenneth Cole brown plaid oxford — but that’s half the charm of their latest record.
11. Let’s Wrestle – “Nursing Home”
Nouveau ’90s rock was to 2011 what dance punk revivalism was to 2001. And of all the bands channeling classic slackercore this year, Let’s Wrestle did it the best.
10. Russian Circles – “Empros”
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of instrumental rock — particularly metal. After all, it usually involves more noodling than a Pauls Valley fishing tournament. Be that as it may, Russian Circles created a moody, punishing, intricate and altogether entrancing slab of wax.
9. Kurt Vile – “Smoke Ring for My Halo”
If Kurt Vile is good enough for J Mascis and Bank of America, he’s good enough for me.
8. My Brightest Diamond – “All Things Will Unwind”
To say My Brightest Diamond mastermind Shara Worden has a flair for the theatrical is like saying Richard Simmons has a slight proclivity for daisy dukes. Her latest album ties together the pomp of Zaju opera and the fragile beauty of Faberge eggs with the panache of Sergio Bustamante.
7. Bonnie “Prince” Billy – “Wolfroy Goes to Town”
In “Wolfroy Goes to Town,” you’ll find the same haunting mix of dread and oddly disquieted hope that is present in Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s unique account of Jesus: “He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side … [He] lays hold of the wheel of the world to set it moving on that last revolution which is to bring all ordinary history to a close. It refuses to turn, and He throws Himself upon it. Then it does turn; and crushes Him. Instead of bringing in the eschatological conditions, He has destroyed them. The wheel rolls onward …”
6. Handsome Furs – “Sound Kapital”
This is the audio equivalent of a mid-’80s high school rager of John Hughesian proportions. You know, the kind of party that involves slow-motion chase montages and low-key celebrity cameos. Except the party is in Estonia, and it’s not 1987. It’s 2011. You know, that old chestnut.
5. All the albums Robert Pollard released in 2011
If prolific musicians were actually Constructicons, then Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams, Prince, Jack White and Johnny Cash would join together to form the rock and roll Devastator known as Bob Pollard. No one writes and records more than Pollard, who released six albums this year while touring heavily with a reunited Guided by Voices. Oh yeah, and he found time to record two GBV albums that aren’t even out yet. Here’s a list of the Fading Captain’s 2011 output:
Robert Pollard – “Lord of the Birdcage”
Robert Pollard – “Space City Kicks”
Mars Classroom – “The New Theory of Everything”
Boston Spaceships – “Let It Beard”
Circus Devils – “Capsized!”
Lifeguards – “Waving at the Astronauts”
4. M83 – “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”
Sometimes M83 constructs such rich, vivid soundscapes that I wonder if the band is from France or from Remulak. “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” is no exception, although it could be a little shorter. That said, when a solid but bloated record contains a contender for song of the year, you can overlook the need for brevity.
3. Young Widows – “In and Out of Youth and Lightness”
You may know Young Widows as a groove-heavy noise band that worships at the altar of David Yow (not that there’s nothing wrong with that), but the Louisville trio’s latest offering shines a hazy spotlight on frontman Evan Patterson’s guitar work and vocals. I imagine this record is what it feels like to be hit with a tranquilizer dart during a barroom brawl at 3:47 a.m. on a Tuesday night.
2. Wild Flag – “Wild Flag”
Wild Flag’s debut record has all the feminine power and sexual undertones of the early-’90s riot grrl scene while resisting the urge to wax nostalgic. That’s doubly impressive, because Carrie Brownstein and the gang repurpose so many musical elements of the past that you’d half expect things to sound like the work of a deranged Mark Tansey devotee. But it doesn’t.
1. F—ed Up – “David Comes to Life”
“David Comes to Life” is where the musical ferocity of Dag Nasty meets the conceptual grandeur of Devo meets the intertexuality and reflexivity of Derrida. Oh yeah, and the songs sound real good, too.