2011 in music: Favorite albums and live shows

It’s now (beyond) time for my annual listing of favorite music from the previous year. Though countless others have taken on the task of somewhat arbitrarily ranking their favorite songs from the previous year, I still deeply enjoy the challenge of acknowledging full albums worth of work that were truly excellent (in my mind). Sure, it’s a probably dying art, but to me, it’s more difficult to achieve. Especially now.

And I also enjoy the diary-like aspect of the annual challenge, cataloging each year some of my favorite jams. This will mark the fourth year I’ve ranked my top albums in some fashion or another and it’s a tradition I plan to stick to.

These are the 26 albums that made me stop for a moment. To listen to more than simply one catchy track amidst a mix on shuffle. That either made me picture a different reality or conjure my own in a way that probably wouldn’t have otherwise been possible. I’ve chosen a track from each to comprise two 8tracks mixes: Part one (#26-14) here, part two (#13-1) here. And without further ado:

  1. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
  2. Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams
  3. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
  4. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
  5. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
  6. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
  7. Destroyer – Kaputt
  8. Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow
  9. The Weeknd – Echoes of Silence
  10. Iceage – New Brigade
  11. The Roots – Undun
  12. Beyonce – 4
  13. Pictureplane – Thee Physical
  14. Yuck – Yuck
  15. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
  16. Zola Jesus – Conatus
  17. The Kills – Blood Pressures
  18. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Belong
  19. Shannon and the Clams – Sleep Talk
  20. Rihanna – Talk That Talk
  21. Cold Cave – Cherish The Light Years
  22. Neon Indian – Era Extrana
  23. Le Butcherettes – Sin Sin Sin
  24. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
  25. Battles – Gloss Drop
  26. Planningtorock – W
In terms of live music, several experiences in 2011 will stand out in my memory for some time to come — below are very scattered notes on the stand-out concerts I was able to see this year:
  • Portishead at the Aragon — heavenly, divine, there are no words — I honestly never thought I’d have the opportunity to see Beth Gibbons live and the experience lived up to my wildly high expectations
  • Twin Shadow at Lincoln Hall — George Lewis = the next coming of Prince? almost
  • Lollapalooza — so, so, so much: Bright Eyes, Le Butcherettes, Titus Andronicus, Beirut, Deftones, Lia Ices, Phantogram, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, watching Elijah Wood DJ
  • EMA at Empty Bottle and Pitchfork — she is a force
  • The Kills at the Vic with Cold Cave opening — a sweaty, gothy night
  • Shannon and the Clams at Empty Bottle — another tremendous force
  • Pitchfork — No Age, OFF!, Deerhunter, HEALTH
  • Leslie Hall at Subterranean — perfect as always

Here’s to 2012!

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