Well, as the blog sputters into 2012, it looks like no one has posted a proper Top 10 list yet, and I'm not going to either. Instead, I'll just list 10 things that I liked or observed in 2011-- several of which were created in years past.
10. Best Rock Concert Ever- "Queen Rock Montreal" I actually first saw this on PBS, and then I acquired the DVD for repeated viewings. This is the best rock concert I have ever seen, including the many I've seen in person. You will not find 4 musicians more on top of their game than these guys were at the time of this concert. Mind-blowing.
9. Best archival discovery- Jobriath. Speaking of flamboyant glam rockers (see above), I was amazed to learn about this guy, who was completely lost to history. His manager said that comparing him to David Bowie was like comparing a Ferrari to a Ford Model A. He's basically everything that Bowie and Marc Bolan and Bryan Ferry were-- but in total overdrive. And it so happens that his 2 albums are awesome-- particularly the first one. (I should also mention that Lost Moon Radio created a character partially based on this guy. We didn't push it much farther than the real life Jobriath.) Read about him online and then check out his music.
Second-best archival discovery- Roy Harper (Led Zeppelin's "Hats Off to Harper" couldn't be less representative. His actual records sound more like a mystical Nick Drake.)
8. Past raves of mine that held up nicely in 2011: Superchunk "Majesty Shredding" and Guns 'N Roses "Chinese Democracy" (and I'll spare you further editorial comment; all I'm saying is it's still great, as recent listens have confirmed)
7. Two Observations: First, the best way to listen to Radiohead's "King of Limbs" is in rush hour traffic. It helps calm you and it focuses you rather than putting you to sleep. I've definitely appreciated that record more in my car than in my home stereo. Second, Nick Cave's cover of "All Tomorrow's Parties" is way better than the Velvet Underground original. Just wanted you to know. (This will be my only mention of a Lou Reed-related work in this post. Sorry, Metallica.)
6. A couple new releases I enjoyed this year: St. Vincent "Strange Mercy," Buffalo Tom "Skins," Wye Oak "Civilian," Wild Flag s/t, The Rosebuds "Loud Planes Fly Low," Tom Waits "Bad As Me," PJ Harvey "Let England Shake," Drive-By Truckers "Go Go Boots," Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit "Here We Rest" (huge step forward from his last one), J Mascis "Several Shades of Why," R.E.M. "Collapse Into Now," Bill Callahan "Apocalypse," Fleet Foxes "Helplessness Blues," Robbie Robertson "How to Become Clairvoyant" (surprisingly enjoyable!), TV on the Radio "Nine Types of Light," Lucinda Williams "Blessed," Bonnie Prince Billy- Wolfroy Goes to Town
5. Indie bands from the past that I got into: The Grifters, Mule, Beat Happening, The Wipers, the Ryan Adams album (Love Is Hell) where he decides he wants to be Jeff Buckley and is admittedly pretty good at it
4. Band that I love just as much now as when I discovered them 17 years ago- Buffalo Tom. I happened to be in Boston the weekend of their 25th anniversary concerts. So awesome, and that was either my 5th or 6th time seeing them. Really criminal that they never got bigger. Honestly, listen to "Let Me Come Over" and "Big Red Letter Day." Two of the best albums of my lifetime.
3. Album that I finally appreciate to its full degree- "Dark Side of the Moon." I was lucky enough to be invited to play this record live from start to finish with a very cool band here in LA. In performing/listening to it live, I realized how much awesome raw power the record contains and how good all the individual parts are-- particularly David Gilmour's guitar lines. I gained all new levels of respect for that dude. But really it's all of them-- great set of songs.
2. Thoughts on Wilco's "The Whole Love"- While it was among my favorite releases of the year, I'm not quite sure where it ranks for me in terms of their total output. I'd say it might settle on the second tier of three for me. I know we all have our own opinions, but for me, I think it's: Tier One- YHF, Ghost, Sky; Tier Two- Whole Love, Being There, Summerteeth; Tier Three- A.M., (the album) Either way, I'm still planning to listen to this many more times before rendering a final verdict. It's definitely a return to form after a record (the album) that I consider unfinished. It also utilizes the full band much better than (the album) did.
1. Top ranking that Pitchfork actually did get right- Bon Iver had the best record of the year. Totally haunting and more fully realized than the one before it. I've been listening to this one a lot lately. It really holds up.
Happy New Year!