Christopher T: Top Albums of 2011

Bethlehem, PA

top ten albums

10Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost

The driving rock of “Die.” The fuzzed out guitar and Floyd-esque arrangement of “Vomit.” These things are good. A well-rounded album full of humor and pathos.

09Wild Beasts: Smother

I imagine Wild Beasts as an even more sexual version of Genesis, which is like a thing of nightmare. Smother is practically all Night Man and barely any Day Man. As with Genesis, singing along with Wild Beasts is really, weirdly fun.

08TunE-yArDs: w h o k i l l

Unruly, cacophonic energy saturates all the best tracks of w h o k i l l.

07Bill Callahan: Apocalypse

Man, what a voice. Kind of an eclectic folk mix. Mostly simple cowboy tunes, but with maybe a touch of desert rock and just a bit of fuzz out of nowhere to remind you it’s 2011 and the world is ending.

06Timber Timbre: Creep On Creepin’ On

The misanthropic hate-child of trad-folk and avant-garde horror cinema.

05PJ Harvey: Let England Shake

Sort of a less parodic update to the Kinks’ Arthur: Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire. As an American, I find British notions of Empire old-timey and quaint like cottages and scones, but I still like this an awful lot.

04Gillian Welch: The Harrow and the Harvest

Welch has made herself a spare but cozy home in the genre of soft, depressing, country folk. Released after an 8 year music-making hiatus, The Harrow & the Harvest sings succinctly and bitter-sweetly about loss, death, sorrow, whiskey, and all of that good stuff.

03James Blake: James Blake

There’s a silence and deliberate calm about this music that can really transport you. Sort of the complementary opposite of TunE-yArDs: she fights and this surrenders. Quietus, I guess. As strange and experimental as Blake’s heavy vocal modulation might sound at the first listen, he’s no radical.

02Shabazz Palaces: Black Up

Exciting and other-worldly hip hop from erstwhile Digable Planets MC Ishmael Butler. Everything about it sounds fresh, daring, and new. I’m sure I wasn’t the only listener surprised by the out-of-nowhere thumb-piano solo at the center of “An Echo from the Hosts that Profess Infinitum.”

01Colin Stetson: New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges

Even if you didn’t know that almost every sound on this album somehow comes out of Colin Stetson’s multiple-mic’d bass saxophone, it would still astound you. Part Philip Glass, part Ornette Coleman, Stetson somehow manages to combine the abstract with the savage–the hypnotic with the disruptive. Balance isn’t the right word because there’s nothing settled or equanimous about it. Imagine a pissed off and wounded tyrannosaur trapped inside of some obscure, unsolvable mathematical equation, and you’ll have some idea of what Stetson has accomplished.

similarity to overall top ten: 17.5%, 4 matches

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