I realize I don’t post much anymore, although I try to post baby pics and the occasional opinion on Facebook and Twitter. So this will seem even more random than if I had five or six Braves or Harding posts as a cushion. With that caveat, I’ll say that 2011 was a pretty good year in music, or at least it was for me. The lists below are restricted to albums that came out during the calendar year 2011. I used to do a lot of these kinds of lists, and for some reason I was inspired to do some more.
Five albums I bought and liked in 2011, ranked:
1. Mutemath: Odd Soul. There are few bands I would bother to see live more than once at this point in my life, but I can see myself attending another Mutemath show after having seeing them for the first time in October. Odd Soul is their best work so far, with more guitars, strong melodies, better lyrics (but with room to grow), and Darren King’s trademark out-of-this-world drums.
2. The Belle Brigade (eponymous). You may not want your kids to repeat a select line from “Losers,” but you can only hope they learn to harmonize as well as these grandchildren of composer John Williams. If you enjoy harmony at all, it is a must-listen.
3. Foster the People: Torches. I don’t get the commotion over “Pumped Up Kicks.” Is it really that cool that they made a song with a moderately catchy chorus from the perspective of a crazy person? Maybe it is, I don’t know. The rest of the album is terrific, and if that song can wedge Foster The People into the pop consciousness, I suppose it’s a small price to pay to get something that is actually interesting on the radio.
4. The Black Keys: El Camino. I’m pretty sure that everyone who still likes rock or soul music is obligated to like The Black Keys, and well, I like them too.
5. Manchester Orchestra: Simple Math. He sounds like he might completely lose it one day, but the singer’s introspective lyrics and unhinged delivery give Manchester Orchestra an interesting sound for the rock genre.
Three notable albums that did not meet my expectations, ranked:
1. Coldplay: Mylo Xyloto. Hugely disappointing given their step forward on Viva La Vida. I could only manage one full listen of the entire album, although I do like “Every Teardrop…” a little, so I guess that’s something.
2. Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keys. The last three DCFC albums each had several songs that would have topped or nearly topped the next list, but there was nothing memorable to me on this album.
3. Switchfoot: Vice Verses. Perhaps I’m in the minority of Switchfoot fans when I say it has been a slow descent for them, from having albums full of interesting, catchy rock songs with a serious message to something more bland and less moving, but Vice Verses is definitely the latter. There were enough bright spots on their prior album, Hello Hurricane, so hopefully the Switchfoot song well is not dry.
Ten favorite songs of 2011, ranked:
1. The Belle Brigade: Losers
2. Mutemath: Blood Pressure
3. Foster The People: Call It What You Want
4. Manchester Orchestra: April Fool
5. Mutemath: Prytania
6. The Joy Formidable: Whirring
7. Foster The People: Helena Beat
8. The Black Keys: Gold On The Ceiling
9. Gotye featuring Kimbra: Somebody That I Used To Know
10. The Belle Brigade: Where Not To Look For Freedom
Just missed the cut (alphabetical by artist):
Florence + The Machine: Shake It Out
Foo Fighters: Rope
Foster The People: Don’t Stop (Color On The Walls)
Manchester Orchestra: Simple Math
Mutemath: Odd Soul
Saint Motel: Puzzle Pieces
A note on my musical tastes
Rock with a pop sensibility, or perhaps the other way around. I like music with melodic hooks and beats, so a lot of critically-praised music is just inaccessible to me. It’s not for lack of trying—I just don’t like a lot of it. Also, a creative lyricist usually isn’t enough to get my interest, so you won’t see a lot of singer-songwriter stuff. And for those who think I should listen to more Christian music, I find most of the popular stuff to be boring retreads of pop/rock from a few years prior, but I’m always open to something new (or new to me). As with all genres, there is certainly good Christian music I haven’t heard. Just understand that and take all of the lists above with a grain of salt.