It’s beginning to feel a lot like Top 10 List time again. So today and tomorrow Now I’ve Heard Everything will be presenting its Best Albums of 2011, with the Best Songs of 2011 to follow later. Each of those lists will be presented in two parts.
2011 was an excellent year musically and I struggled to whittle down this list to just 10 records. Since the records that just missed making the list would have been on the list in lesser years, I’ll name them in part 2 tomorrow.
The top album of 2011 is:
Garland Jeffreys – The King of In Between: It’s difficult to rattle off a facile description of The King of In Between. Maybe this is the briefest accurate description of it: a heartfelt and mature record that will hold your attention throughout 12 diverse songs. TKOIB includes rock, folk, folk-rock, blues, reggae and even disco. Highlights include the lead off song, Coney Island Winter, both a sad look at a once great neighborhood and a metaphor for where New York City and this country in general find themselves today, I’m Alive, a rocking, joyous number about surviving, and ‘Til John Lee Hooker Calls Me, a straight ahead blues.
The rest are presented in alphabetical order
Joy Askew – Drunk on You: Drunk on You is a gorgeous sounding record made with a stellar cast of musicians. Drunk on You sounds the way it does, atmospheric and occasionally moody, because Joy produced it trying to get a sound that is distinctive to the record. Drunk on You was mixed without the dynamic compression that makes so much of today’s recorded music difficult to listen to for long periods. The songs on Drunk on You have literate lyrics and catchy choruses. Highlights include the title track, AOAO, I Broke the Law and Walk the Dog.
The Baseball Project – Volume 2: High and Inside: The second outing from this indie rock amalgam (Steve Wynn and Linda Pitmon from Steve Wynn and The Miracle Three, Peter Buck from R.E.M. and The Minus 5, and Scott McCaughey from the R.E.M. touring band and The Minus 5) is a delight. You’ll hear echoes of mid 60s surf pop and along with more straight ahead rock. This time around the subject matter includes Mark Fidrych, Reggie Jackson, Bill Buckner and the 1986 World Series, and the history of the Minnesota Twins (with lyrics from and sung by Craig Finn). You do not need to know baseball to enjoy this record, but if you do you certainly will.
Emily Zuzik Band – The Wild Joys of Living: The Wild Joys of Living is the 2011 record from Emily, officially billed this time out as the Emily Zuzik Band. At eight songs, it’s a short album but there isn’t a drop of filler here. You’ll find a combination of rockers and ballads all of which highlight Emily’s skills in songwriting. Although the production here is fuller than the way Emily has played many of these songs in the past, it all just works. The lead off track, You Want to Go Out Tonight is given a power pop treatment which makes it a perfect summer song. Also of note is the darker, moody Motels.
Charlie Faye – Travels with Charlie: Travels with Charlie is the record that grew out of Charlie Faye’s unique 2010 tour of America. She stayed in each of 10 cities for a month, found musicians to play with, wrote a song and recorded it. Consequently the songs on this record are a diverse lot, ranging from Americana, Country, Alt Country and even a few 60s pop infused songs. Charlie is a top notch songwriter and has a wonderfully rich expressive voice and you will not go wrong with anything on here.
Click here for Part 2 of the Best Albums of 2011