Thursday, December 22, 2011

My 20 Favorite Records of 2011

1. Jennifer O’Connor - I Want What You Want (Kiam)
I knew this record would make it onto my year end list before I even heard it because I kind of have a thing for Jennifer O’Connor. What I didn’t realize, was that Jennifer O’Connor had a year like mine, and that this record would be a document of the ups, downs, fears and doubts a whole lot of change and uncertainty will drag you through. But I Want What You Want isn’t an unconstructive pity party: O’Connor offers clarity, reflection and hope in these 13 exceptionally catchy and intimate songs. If you could really benefit from a life coach right about now but can’t afford one, buy I Want What You Want and listen to it on repeat. It worked for me.

2. Austra - Feel It Break (Domino)
When I first heard Katie Stelmanis’ voice, I thought to myself, “This is good, but I wonder what her voice sounds like without all the studio treatment?” Then I saw Austra live and thought, “Oohh. That wasn’t studio treatment. That’s really how her voice sounds in real life. Holy shit.” I also thought, “I am pretty sure the Austra back up singers are two of weirdest ladies I’ve ever seen perform. I will never get their dance moves out of my head.” Do you like knowing my deepest, darkest Austra thoughts? Good.

3. Richard Buckner - Our Blood (Merge)
Richard Bucker is one of my all-time favorites, so I was thrilled to find out he’d be putting out his first record since 2006 this year. I figured there must be a good excuse for the lag between records, but it never occurred to me that the excuse might involve Buckner, for instance, being a suspect in a murder investigation in his small upstate New York town. Which, really, considering how obsessed I am with true crime stuff, it’s amazing that this wasn’t the first thing that came to mind, “I wonder what Richard Buckner’s been up to? Probably trying to clear his name for murder, most likely.” It was worth the wait and I hope they find/found the real killer. They should get O.J. on the case.

4. Little Scream - The Golden Record (Secretly Canadian)
I saw Little Scream this year play a gracious and beautiful show for about eight people. One listen to this record and you’ll realize you missed out by not being one of those eight.

5. Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Straight Lines (Merge)
Break ups and heartache done power pop style. The catchiest cathartic experience the recently dumped can have.

6. Wye Oak - Civilian (Merge)
I was totally gay for Wye Oak when their 2nd album The Knot came out. Looks like the rest of you are finally catching up. Good work. Wye Oak for president.

7. J Mascis - Several Shades Of Why (Sub Pop)
Several Shades Of Why is everything you love about Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis, just turned up to 10 instead of 11. Mascis is one of the only guitar players I truly love. I am not typically nuts for guitar solos. Or harmonicas. But that’s not important right now.

8. Crooked Fingers - Breaks In the Armor (Merge)
Eric Bachmann at his gruff country best. Liz Durrett’s background vocals are perfect.

9. Destroy This Place - Resurrect The Mammoth (Bellyache Records)
I’m glad these Detroit boys are not scientists. Otherwise they’d surely succeed at reviving nature’s most bad ass extinct species the way they’ve revived high energy indie rock.

10. Times New Viking - Dancer Equired (Merge)
I've seen Times New Viking live twice and both times I wished their records matched their live show rather than sounding like the songs were recorded by a homeless person sleeping in the back of a moving garbage truck. With Dancer Equired, my wish was granted.

11. Zola Jesus - Conatus (Sacred Bones)
That Zola Jesus girl’s got a serious set of pipes on her. I vote that she and Austra’s Katie Stelmanis have a no holds barred sing off. But not to the death. Because I love them both. Wait. Maybe they should just be best friends. Yes. I like that better.

12. Cut Copy - Zonoscope (Modular Recordings)
I put off listening to this record for a long time, but then the guy who cuts my hair wouldn’t stop going on and on about it and his earnestness was infectious. As is this record.

13. Vetiver - The Errant Charm (Sub Pop)
This record makes me feel like curling up on a comfy couch in a sunny picture window with a good book. Other people would probably say, “On a beach” or something, but I don’t really like going outside all that much, excuse me for living. It also sounds like it’s for hippies so I’m surprised I like it so much.

14. Carradine - In Case I Lose It, We Both Have It (self released)
Every time I feel disappointed by how boring the new Stephen Malkmus album is, I put on this record and feel a little more hopeful for the future of sloppy indie pop and Pavement's legacy.

15. Leslie Hall - Destination Friendship (self released)
Because being serious all the time is stupid. Plus, Leslie briefly cupped my breast (some say this was “by accident” but that’s clearly their jealousy talking) and touched my face when I saw her in concert. So we’re basically soul mates.

16. The Head and the Heart - The Head and the Heart (Sub Pop)

17. Bill Callahan - Apocalypse (Drag City)

18. Active Child - You Are All I See (Vagrant)

19. Still Corners - Creatures Of An Hour (Sub Pop)

20. Fionn Regan - 100 Acres of Sycamore (Heavenly)

Gratuitous, self-promotional bonus record:

21. John Nelson - Things In My Mind (Jack Holmes Recording Company)
I play drums for John Nelson & the New Girlfriends, the live band that John put together after recording this record. But it would be dumb to play drums on songs you don’t love, right? Unless you were getting paid thousands. I am not getting paid thousands. Hardly at all in fact! But that’s ok. I love this record.

There you have it, folks! I'll be making a CD with one track from each of these records for your listening enjoyment should you be interested. As always, I'll gladly trade you one for something cool. Send me an e mail if you are interested: laura (d0t) witkowski at g mail (d0t) com 

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