T for Tom

Music Review 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by johnsontoms on November 30, 2011

UPDATED.  I’m not doing too bad in life if I’ve been able to afford a few records from this year.  Here’s a few thoughts on the few I’ve gotten hold of.

1. Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”

Fleet Foxes follow up the hype from their groundbreaking debut self-titled album by delivering “Helplessness Blues”, a refreshing, breath-taking romantic folk-journey replete with a covering sense of awe and reality.  Focusing more on the melodics of guitar harmonies, Helplessness is often both vast and concise, sweeping from tunes that break your heart to rhythms that shake your feet, all while written around the cause of the human condition – making altogether an unforgettable album, for its music, for its purpose, and for its ability to make us feel great about being alive.  “Helplessness Blues”, the title track, is by far one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard; written about the loss of purpose in the common world, it’s a guide for finding a place in this coincidental existence, as simple a life as “If I had an orchard/I’d work ’til I’m sore/and you’d wait the tables/ and soon run the store.”  All of the passion, imagery, and feelings that Fleet Foxes have so evoked with their pageantry and folk sensibility is fully realized here, and it is the record of the year, by and large.

2. M83 – “HurryUp,We’reDreaming.”

Pop is bleeding with overdone electronic synths and simple hip-hop beats, and style that was brought in by M83 years ago, and now it’s time for the game-changer to put it back in the his own hands to once again show us where we should be.  With “HurryUp,We’reDreaming” M83 once again channels the 80’s vibe perfectly, but where 2008’s “Saturday’s = Youth” focused on the beauty of a song, we here are treated to double-LP concept album.  As the story follows two children who meet in a dream world to find a better world we are swept along, at once caustic, at times moving, at times haunting, and always epic.  You would be wise to show your friends that you know more about good music than they.  Here is the answer.

3. A.A. Bondy – “Believers”

I don’t have much to say for this record, most will find it flat and needlessly emotional.  But I just can’t stop listening to it.  After the release of his debut “American Hearts” I once said that A.A. Bondy was the closest thing to Bob Dylan’s folk art that we had these days, but now I’m beginning to think that he might be the man himself – each record takes on a different attitude, a different sound, but maintains the same poetic imagery and storytelling as the last.  “Believers” is heartfelt and chokes me up, but it’s Bondy’s ability to find to the sobering, peaceful truth in everyday tragedy that make this record a must-own.

4. Bon Iver – “Bon Iver”

I bet you didn’t think Bon Iver could do better than “For Emma… Long Ago”, because neither did I.  In fact though, he has.  Returning with simple arrangements and low vocals, Bon Iver does what “For Emma” couldn’t – make you feel good.  A complete 180 degree from the debut album, “Bon Iver” is full of sweet melodies that make you feel good about love.  That’s an indictment that makes his wonderful, for longer than an emotion.  This time maybe for a lifetime of enjoyment.  I love this record.

5. Feist – “Metals”

Like “The Reminder” from 2007, Feist isn’t trying to break any ground – she just wants you know that she’s standing on top of it.  With “Metals” Feist reminds us why we all listened first: the songstress voice laid over the big-boy anthems, and here  “Metals” soars.  The opening track “The Bad in Each Other” is a janky, shaky tome of irreparable human conditions, discussing the inability of cooperation while dragging to the beat of a sack full of rocks; one of my favorite songs.  But Feist also reminds us of her groove; with “Anti-Pioneer” she goes into full blues, dropping the tone way down, sinking out the rhythm and crooning over a simple 6/8 blues vide.  It couldn’t be more eerie, crushing, or beautiful, all at once.

Songs of the Year:

  1. Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues”, from “Helplessness Blues” – I dare you to find a better song with more meaning, more emotion, and more creativity.
  2. Feist – “The Bad In Each Other” from “Metals” – the most original alternative jam in awhile, it’s tender, it’s rough, it’s powerful.
  3. A.A. Bondy – “Rte. 28/Believers” from “Believers” – “I didn’t know there was a killer inside, won’t get to heaven tonight.”  And with one line you won’t to listen, don’t you?
  4. Fleet Foxes – “Someone You’d Admire” – this song explains the state of the human emotions.
  5. Bon Iver – “Holocene” from “Bon Iver”– it’s like dreaming in sex-fueled coma, but with more romance than lust.
  6. M83 – “Midnight City” from “HurryUp,We’reDreaming” – Drive to this one.


Other highly recommended LPs, in sort of order:

Coldplay – “Mylo Xyloto” – I dare you not to feel good and sing along with this record on. Triumphant return to pop-rock’s throne.

Ryan Adams – “Ashes & Fire” HE’S FUCKING BACK THANK GOD, and with lots of Norah Jones. Wonderful Record.

Booker T. Jones – “The Road from Memphis” – amazing Memphis organ blues, with some cool cameos by Jim James and The Roots.

Elbow – “Build a Rocket, Boys!”

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – “Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds” – one-half of Oasis, the more important half unless you miss Liam’s voice (I do L).

Danger Mouse & Danielle Luppi – “Rome” – sung by Jack White and Norah Jones, it reads like a soundtrack to a 1960′s western, composed by Danger Mouse and Italian film composer Danielle Luppi.  It was recorded on the original analog sound equipment used by Ennio Marcione to record the soundtrack to “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”.  Wonderful.

Incubus – “If Not Now, When?” – very mature record, with a simple message: “If Not Now, When?”.  If you ever liked Incubus buy this record.

My Morning Jacket – “Circuital” – a step back by the leaders of the alternative scene, it’s a more mature record that doesn’t make too many daring steps in any direction.  Written entirely by Jim James, the record is a smooth Rock’N’Roll album, still worth your listen for any fan of good music.

Other 2011 LPs, alphabetically –

The Black Keys – “El Camino” – still the Black Keys, still good.

Blink-182 – “Neighborhoods” it touches my childhood, ok.

Cake – “Showroom of Compassion”

Gorillaz – “The Fall” – recorded and written entirely on an Ipad.  Very visceral.

Ben Harper – “Give Till It’s Gone” – Rock’n’Roll Ben Harper again.  Great record.

Iron & Wine – “Kiss Each Other Clean”

Limp Bizkit – “Gold Cobra” …go ahead, judge me.

Raphael Saadiq – “Stone Rollin” – British interpretations on 1960′s rock’n’roll meets modern soul.

The Strokes – “Angles” – if you like The Strokes, you’ll like this album too.

Wilco – “The Whole Love” – the record title is cheesy, but this is a good record that fits solidly in-between Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and Sky, Blue Sky.


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