Mark’s Best of 2011

2011 was truly a blessed year for music. Many of my favorite groups released new records and, as always thanks to NME, I found some fab new ones to geek out over. Without further adieu, here are my Top Ten Albums and Top Ten Tracks of 2011 (Click on the album or track to purchase).

Albums

10. Unknown Mortal OrchestraUnknown Mortal Orchestra

This Portland, Oregon band have a a combo lo-fi, groovy throwback sound that makes me smile. “Thought Ballune” is a must download.

9. American RevivalThe Worst Is Over Now

My fave new local band by way of Pete getting me back into alt.country. Their debut is magnificent. Here is their first video which showcases one of the best local bars, Williams Pub.

8. ElbowBuild A Rocket Boys!

Yes, these Ramsbottom, Bury lads sound like Genesis avec Peter Gabriel but so what? Every new release sees treasure after treasure.

7. The VaccinesWhat Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

I can’t wait to see all the music this band is going to make over the years. Caught them live in a warm up for the Arctic Monkeys last spring. Bril!

6. Noel GallagherNoel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

It’s about time that Noel did his own thing. I say it all the time – he’s the better singer. This album has been like a comfy blanket to me of late.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZT1RZzuU4M

5. Beady EyeDifferent Gear, Still Speeding

I was pleasantly surprised to see Liam try on some different musical styles. The results speak for themselves.

4. The Arctic MonkeysSuck It And See

Another great fucking record from the Sheffield lads. I don’t think it’s possible for them to make a bad one.

3. The KooksJunk Of The Heart

Every three years The Kooks make an album that is seamless from the last one in its perfection. Just a joy to play over and over again…like this Simon and Garfunkel-esque gem..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXsMxP7shSE

2. The Original 7venCondensate

This barely missed being the album of the year. The only thing that honestly held it back was it came out later in the year (October) and I haven’t lived with like I did with my #1 pick. Morris, Jerome, Jimmy, Terry, Jesse, Monte, and Jellybean made the best Time album out of the five with this absolute corker of a record. Done without the help of that dude from Chanhassen, the greatest band in the history of funk delivered a stunner that has deepened my desire to be Morris Day.

1. Friendly FiresPala

The soundtrack to my summer and, indeed, the entire year. I think I have played this disc at least 200 times start to finish since it came out and I still find layers to it previously unheard. Pala sets a mood that is sorely lacking today, not just in music, but in our culture in general. I’m not entirely certain I can describe it in words but it’s reminiscent of what the most gorgeous flower would sound like as it blooms…in a club at 1:30am with piles of sweaty bodies writhing around to massive and thumping beats. And if it could tell Robert Browning-esque love stories. Like their self titled first release, Pala deserves to be forever enshrined in any Hall of Fame.

Lay back in the sun and listen to the title track…

Tracks

10. “Whirring” – The Joy Formidable

I imagine this song as being the soundtrack to an indie love story. A true gem from this North Wales group.

9. “Endless Blue” – The Horrors

It begins like a gentle kiss from a beautiful woman and switches mid way through into a full on frenetic, saliva-dripped shag…just like love making should be.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cjCPS-_eO0

8. “Boogabear” – American Revival

“I’m so tired of fighting the battle for who could care less…” singer Thomas Pendarvis croons in my fave from the Mpls alt. country outfit’s debut. This song is now officially the anthem of every bar in every small town for every person having a cold one. (No video here so go listen to the track by clicking on the song).

7. “Minnesota, WI” – Bon Iver

The Eau Claire, WI natives perfectly captured that autumnal shimmer that I write about constantly. A nice shout out to my neighborhood of the country.

6. “Wasted” – Glass Rock

I love the mood this song sets and the album cover art is the best of the year. It’s a photo I would take. And it came out on my birthday! (No video here so go listen to the track by clicking on the song).

5. “Shuffle” – Bombay Bicycle Club

This Crouch End, London group may become my new Brit Rock darlings. This track struck me as sounding very different from what I normally hear from across the pond. It’s free on Amazon!

4. “Days” – The Drums

This is my son’s best track of 2011. He wanted me to make note of it and it’s funny because it’s appropriate considering the video below. This Brooklyn based guitar pop outfit continues to make great music with their third release, Portamento.

3. “Post Break-Up Sex” – The Vaccines

If Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks is the best break up album of all time, this track holds the best break up song mantle. We’ve all been there, and it’s wonderful.

2. “Junk Of The Heart (Happy)” – The Kooks

A perfect pop song in just about every way. Luke does it again!

1. “Blue Cassette” – Friendly Fires

Not simply the best track of 2011, but one of the best of all time. Friendly Fires really outdid themselves with this stunning song that waxes nostalgic about cassette tapes and lost love. My heart melts every single time I listen to it.

Those are my albums and tracks. What are yours?

Still Wishin’

I had all but given up checking the news wire for the new release from the original members of The Time.  Jimmy Jam told us it was “coming soon” when I saw them in June of 2010 and I think the last time I googled “The Time” and “New Album” was in September of this year.

Imagine my surprise (I guess a watched pot never boils) when I opened the Minneapolis Star Tribune today and saw that the original 7 members of The Time (now called The Original 7ven) had played a gig here in town last Saturday night at the State Theater. More shocking was their new album, Condensate, had slipped out on October 18 and I didn’t even notice! Kicking myself for not being more attentive, I immediately scrambled for my iPhone and downloaded it straight away.

As I was watching each song load onto my iPhone, I wondered if the disc would live up to the hype I had built up in my mind. I had been waiting for a new album from The Time since their 1990 release, Pandemonium and my dream to someday be Morris Day had actually grown stronger as I had gotten older. I admit that I had my doubts about this new offering. Would they still be relevant in the year 2011?

As soon as I heard the opening dialogue between Morris and Jerome as they visit their old hood in North Minneapolis, I knew that I would be: a) way the fuck off for ever having any doubts whatsoever and b) in for a real treat.

The first track, “Strawberry Lake,” is straight from the same shop where one can buy paisley dripped rasberry berets. In fact, this tune, being the lead off number, almost makes me wonder if it isn’t a giant middle finger to Prince who would not allow the lads to use the name “The Time” for this record.

After this we have a “press conference” in which Morris explains to a reporter why he is still cool. The answer is hilarious and leads straight into the title track. This skit, along with many others sprinkled throughout the album, is vintage Morris/Jerome and ranks right up there with “If The Kid Can’t Make You Come” and “Sexy Socialites/Jerk Out.”

“#Trendin”, the album’s single, fits perfectly into any club at 1am when the bodies are moving and sweating…it’s beat, relentless and pounding…and has lyrics that bring the boys firmly into the 21st century with Morris singing about “tweetie pies posting on blogs.” Regardless of what time it is (:)), we can always count on Morris to be the hippest of the hip. Honestly, our current age of digital vanity and Morris Day are a match made in heaven.

The next two tracks “If I Was Yo Man” and “Role Play” are up beat love songs that both shine in their own special way. The latter oddly reminds me of Tony Carey/Planet P Project with Morris’ haunting voice seemingly coming from another world. It’s here that we fully realize how important it is to have Jimmy and Terry at the producing helm.

Then we come to the albums two gems: “Sick” and “Lifestyle.” The former showcases some serious shredding by Mr. Jesse Johnson. His solos are nothing short of stunning and several of the lyrics made me grin from ear to ear. The lyrics to “Lifestyle,” the true ballad of the album, made me laugh out loud at several points and brought my desire to be Morris Day to an all time high. The song is simply perfect for every single thing that these guys are all about….vanity with none of the downside…rampant materialism that’s not shallow in any way but is actually cool…ego with perfectly understandable reasons…swagger that is completely justified because…well, it’s Morris!

Next up is “Faithful” which showcases some great back up vocals by some very hot sounding ladies. “Cadillac” could easily be on their self titled debut or “What Time Is It?” and continues that materialism-is-the-best meme in yet another successful way. “Aydkmn” makes use of the word persneckity in its chorus which marks the first time I’ve ever heard that used in a song. “One Step” and “Toast To The Party Girl” both sound like they were recorded in 1983 but that’s probably the (wonderful) idea. “Hey Yo” is also straight from that decade (now working on 30 years ago!) that saw so many power ballads just like it.

The last track, “Go Home To Yo Man,” gives us that last little gift that these guys have always given us: melancholy humor. The story in this song is amusing but also somewhat serious as Morris croons, “Play time is over and you got to go home to yo man.” As the final strains of this last track fall away with Morris (fake?) crying, one has to wonder why the 07 waited so long to make new music. I’ve always been an impatient fellow and this is especially true when it comes to my great love…music. Perhaps they didn’t have the tunes or maybe they were just taking their time (I know, I know…the puns are too easy:)) but do any of us care? I know I don’t because it was well worth the wait. This record is fantastic.

And I still wish I was Morris Day!

Here’s the video for the single “#Trendin” although “Sick” “Lifestyle” “Cadillac” and “Strawberry Lake” should be downloaded before it.