I did this last year for 2010. I did the top fims and albums. Like last year I have to add the disclaimer that this is based off things I haven’t seen, listened to, or read before and what I picked up on in the last year. Like my buddy is doing with his list for top picks I’ll give why I dig them. To start things off would be albums of 2011.
Albums that were not released in 2011 that I thoroughly enjoyed and picked up this year include: She&Him-Volume Two, Counting Crows-Recovering the Satellites, Mumford&Sons-Sigh No More, Transatlantic-The Whirlwind, Neal Morse-Sola Scriptura
5: Soundgarden-Live On I-5. This album was great. It was live and raw recordings done from Soundgarden’s west coast tour of 1996. Soundgarden finally reunited in 2010 and has started to put out previously unreleased matrerial. Obviously this is a compilation of live recordings and of their most famous songs, but the quality is truely amazing. Also the performances are packed with extra little on the spot improvisations by band members to make it really worth the buy. Their complete new arrangement of Helter Skelter by The Beatles is slow and raw sounding and then that goes straight into Boot Camp, one of the lesser known tracks on Down on the Upside. Tracks to listen to: Helter Skelter, Black Hole Sun, Rusty Cage, Seek and Destroy
4. Chris Cornell-Songbook. This one has a real special place in my heart due to the fact that I saw Chris Cornell while he was on tour at this time. I was so excited back in February of 2011 when I heard that he was going to embark on a solo acoustic tour and stop in Atlanta, 2 hours away from where I was. I quickly dropped 50 bucks to get my ticket. Though none of the tracks were taken from the night I saw him it is a great representation of what I heard. Songs spanning Chris Cornell’s career from Soundgarden-Audioslave-Temple of the Dog-his solo career. The energy in his voice is amazing still. He can hit those high notes that he hit back in the early 90s. The power is simply amazing. Also, this album included his newest song fromt he film Machine Gun Preacher, The Keeper. This song is so simple and perfectly crafted like only Chris Cornell can do with such emotinal power. It is one of the only songs in a long while that has almost brought a tear to my eye. Tracks to listen to: The Keeper, Cleaning My Gun, Scar On The Sky, Thank You, Imagine, I Am The Highway
3. Eddie Vedder-Ukelele Songs. I received this album not long ago for Christmas. Obviously I am a huge Pearl Jam fan and of Eddie Vedder. This album puts him in a completely different context though. Minimalist. Him and a ukelele. The guy who sings songs like Jeremy, Spin The Black Circle, Blood, is stripped down to him and his ukelele, one of the most uncool instruments ever. On his appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman, Letterman puts it so perfectly, “The guy who made it cool to play the ukelele.” This album all gasps aside is wonderful. You can’t help but be happy when listening to the ukelele and Vedder’s heartfelt, true love driven poetry. On the accompanying dvd Water On The Road, Vedder talks of how he thinks he can take this little instrument and make it sound depressed and evil. The film was shot in 2008. Seeing his album release in 2011, it seems that Vedder still can’t depress the instrument or his true fans or the fans of good music. This truely is a treasure in this year’s catalog. Tracks to listen to: Can’t Keep, You’re True, Satellite, Light Today
2. Jack+Jill-Brightest Star In The Nightmare. This album will probalby not make it in any professional circles of year end reviews but it is too good not to put into my list. These guys are local to my hometown in Grand Junction, CO, but that didn’t earn them the spot on the list. What got them here was good music. This might be the most diverse album I listened to in the year. These guys recorded the album at their home and turned out an amazing independent product. I was given this album the day I left to work up in the Rocky Mtns. at summer camp. I popped it in that day and gave it the preliminary run through. I noted that there were some cool vocal spots and intrumental sections. I didn’t listen to it again though until about the middle of my summer and that was when I actually started to listen to what was going on in this album. Vocally it is amazing! Lead singer and guitarist Aaron Seibert does not miss a note. He sings with such power and confidence in his voice I would liken it to Vedder’s on Ten. Along with his voice the arrangement and guitar parts in particular are boggling. He plays some very none traditional chord progressions that you wouldn’t think go in a standard pop song but he makes it work. Aaron Seibert is joined by his wife Jessica on violin. There were sounds when I first listened I wasn’t sure what they were untill I realized that she was feeding her violin through wah pedal and getting this gorgeous under the sea type sound. This album features top notch musicianship, memorable melodies, and truely a whole new kind of listening experience. Different styles from reggae, eastern influence, progressive, classical, pop, it really has something for everyone. Trakcs to listen to: Overplay Me, In Summary, Watch The World Disappear, Alzheimer’s
5. Dream Theater-A Dramatic Turn of Events. I’ve been a Dream Theater fan for several years now. I have many of their albums and have really loved the band. Petrucci is an amazing virtuoso guitarists, Jordan Rudess plays the heck out of anything electronic, John Myung has long black hair, Labrie has some great moments. But I really loved Mike Portnoy from DT. This guy’s drumming has amazed me times and times over from odd time signatures to just how much endurance and memory power he has. I was devastated when I heard that he was leaving Dream Theater in Septembe of 2010. I remeber that that was all I could think about the entire day. He’s left DT, What’s going to happen now? He, along with John Petrucci, have produced all the albums since Metropolis Pt 2:Scenes From a Memory. He has handled almost the promo for the band, he made all the setlists( he archived every setlist since the band formed in 1985, by city so that if they would return to a city he could make a different setlist than the last time they were there), he has written a majority of the song lyrics, and much more. On top of that you can’t help but like him and his New York accent.Heck, I made my top 10 list after seeing him do the same thing. After he announced he was leaving though, I like many other fans said screw you Dream Theater! Your nothing without Mike Portnoy! Luckily the guys in Dream Theater gave me time to cool off and start thinking about their next album and maybe even think of giving it a chance. During this last summer they released their first single On The Backs of Angels. I listened to it with as open a mind as I could, but wasn’t sure what to think of it. I finally decided to wait until the actual album came out and see what else they had in store. All the while waiting I of course listened to many interviews with Mike Portnoy about leaving the band. One of the things he has said in many of those interviews is that he knew that something within the machine of Dream Theater had to change. He wanted the band to go on an extended vacation and recharge due the staleness of touring and that music seemed less inspired. I could agree with him on that. Though I love the last album DT had done, Black Colouds and Silver Linings, it was a stale album compared all their previous works. Portnoy wanted a break. The rest of the guys didn’t. Portnoy left. In these interviews Portnoy often says something in the Dream Theater machine had to change and that unfortunately it had to be him. After several months of anticipated waiting we the fans found his replacemnt was Mike Mangini, who I must say is a excellent drummer on par with Portnoy. But thats not to say I won’t be a Mike Portnoy fan and cross my fingers that he comes back to DT. All this sadnes and loss aside, A Dramatic Turn of Events is the recharge that Dream Theater needed. Though I didn’t take to On The Backs of Angels right away, the rest of the album is a different story. It is heavy, it is progessive, it is melodic, it has moments that are actually personal. The remaining members have finally come together the way they used to on this album. There are contributions from everyone in the music and on lyric writing. It is fresh. Though I miss Mike Portnoy and his leaving Dream Theater was a shock and sadness, this album is a true achievement. I hope Portnoy will one day play again with Petrucci, Rudess, Myung, and Labrie, but this is what Dream Theater needed to kick the staleness and make one of this years best albums. Tracks to listen to: Bridges in The Sky, Far From Heaven, Beneath The Surface, Lost Not Forgotten
Albums that I will listen to but have’t yet from this year: Neal Morse-Testimony 2, Steve Wilson-Grace For Drowning, Coldplay-Mylo Xyloto, The Black Keys-El Camino