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Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Top 40 Albums of the Year (11-20)

Without further ado, here is the second installment of my top albums of the year. Albums 21-40 can be viewed here. Just like yesterday 8 of these 10 albums are $5 or less on Amazon, so get buyin!

M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
M83 is the second French band on my countdown (along with Jamaica). While DJing on a car ride home from my grandma's house for Christmas, my dad asked how they got their name, so I can now tell you they are named after Messier 83, a spiral galaxy in the constellation Hydra. Do with that info what you choose. The album has a kind of ambient electronic/indie pop sound. I'm not familiar with their earlier work, but I plan on looking into their back catalog after really enjoying this album. My favorite song on the album is "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire" (or "Tell Me A Story"). I don't think I could do it justice with any explanation, so you'll just have to listen to it below. If you can't quite get behind a kid telling a story for a song, I can assure you their other tracks are voiced by adults.

19) Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears - Scandalous
Black Joe Lewis is a soul/blues artist from Texas. I remember hearing him get a lot of buzz from some of the blogs I read when he released his debut album two years ago. I tend to gravitate toward a lot of more folky music sometimes, but if you're looking for something to get you bobbing your head and dancing around, you could do worse than giving Black Joe Lewis a listen.

18) William Elliott Whitmore - Field Songs
Nobody has accused Iowa of having a booming music scene, but fortunately they do have William Elliott Whitmore. In 2009 his "Animals in the Dark" was my #1 album of the year. That was my first exposure to WEW and unfortunately that's an awfully tough act to follow. This album is more in keeping with the sound of some of his releases before "Animals in the Dark". It's not quite up to the high bar of greatness that he set, but he still knows how to use that absolutely wonderful gravely voice to play some really solid rootsy music.

17) Death Cab for Cutie - Codes And Keys
I'm having a hard time figuring out what to say about a band like Death Cab For Cutie. For the first year or two of undergrad they were my favorite band, and I swore by them. There are only probably 5 or 6 artists over my life that have had a sustained run as an unquestioned favorite (which will probably end up being a blog post at some point). So while I'm not the fanatic I once was, I still have a soft spot for them. Thankfully Ben Gibbard and company have done a really good job over the years churning out solid albums and this one is no exception. They may not be my favorite artist any more, but I still enjoy almost everything they release. If you're not already a fan, I doubt this album will change your mind, but if you are, it should a welcome addition to your collection.

16) Blind Pilot - We Are The Tide
Blind Pilot are one of the lesser known artists to me on this list. I know that they are an indie folk/indie rock band out of Portland, but that's about the extent of my knowledge. On my first couple listens to this album I enjoyed it, but nothing really stuck out too much and I sort of dismissed it. Fortunately I came back to it enough times to allow it to really grow on me and to see it steadily climbing my list of favorites for the year. I've found myself going back to this one more often than several others by artists that I've enjoyed for years. Blind Pilot can consider me a new fan eagerly awaiting their next release.

15) JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound - Want More
I don't keep up with the soul or blues or R&B scenes like I do the indie pop/indie rock/etc scenes on various blogs. Fortunately JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound has come onto my radar (along with Black Joe Lewis and #11 on this list). In this case, it was because of a meeting of these various scenes. Sometime last year JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound released a cover of Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart," which is one of my favorite songs from an all-time great album "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." Since then, I've decided to keep tabs on them, and I'm thankful I did because this album is a real joy for the ears. I've put a video of that cover below so that others can become exposed in the same way that I did, but I also HIGHLY recommend checking out the song "Want More" as well as the whole album by that name.

14) The Antlers - Burst Apart
Few bands can bring about as emotional of a response to their music as The Antlers. In 2009, they released the album "Hospice," which contained "Two" and "Bear," two of the most emotionally intense songs I can recall recently. That whole album was fantastic, and I feel like sometimes I don't rate them highly enough because it's hard to just put the songs on and sing along and listen in the background. So keep in mind that if this album were about 10 places higher, it wouldn't be out of place. "Burst Apart" took me a while to get into because it is a slight departure from "Hospice." Since music can be experienced in so many ways and has so many sounds, it's hard to compare across these elements. If this were a list of the best albums for putting on headphones and just becoming lost in the music "Burst Apart" would likely find itself in the top one or two spots.

13) Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - Mysterious Power
I know exactly two (maybe two and a half) pieces of information about Tufts University. Guster was formed there and Ezra Furman & The Harpoons was formed there (the half is that I think it is somewhere on the east coast). I think Ezra Furman can be a bit hard for some people to listen to at times. The music can sound chaotic and his voice can seem shaky, raw and nasally. But I think that's a lot of the charm also. The songs are full of energy, every once in a while you'll get a Little Richard like howl, or a scream of some sort. It may not be the type of thing I always want to listen to, but at times there is nothing better than just putting this band on and singing along at the top of your lungs.

12) Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
It's amazing to me that a band could manage to succeed in this world while making it almost impossible to Google them. Their debut album in 2009 was called "Album." If you're not already popular, I don't know how someone types in "girls album" and comes across your band. Well, it seems to be working out for them anyhow. They suffer from the same thing as some of these other bands on the list for me. I'll rarely go out of my way to listen to this record, but whenever I find that I am listening to it, I really enjoy it. With that being the case, it couldn't crack my top ten, but there is no shame on being just outside of that.

11) Charles Bradley - No Time For Dreaming
Charles Bradley's story has been told over and over in various places this year. I don't think I could do it justice in such a small recap, but I would suggest heading over to his website and checking out his bio here. Just know that life hasn't come easy for him, but at the ripe old age of 63, he was able to release his debut album this year, and the world is a better place because of it. If you're at all inclined to enjoy soul/funk/R&B, make sure you give this one a listen. At the bottom of this page is a link to his song "No Time For Dreaming," which is one of the catchiest songs I've come across this year. After listening to it yesterday afternoon, I found myself just periodically loudly bursting into the chorus of the song throughout the rest of the day.

And just like yesterday, if you made it all the way to the end, enjoy some of my favorite songs from these releases.

A great cover of Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" by JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound.

As promised above, M83's "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire"

A wonderful song from soul singer Charles Bradley's debut album
Charles Bradley - No Time for Dreaming by isaidahip

Same time tomorrow for albums 6-10!

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