Over the final weeks of 2011, FR will break down their favorite or most notable works and events of the preceding calendar year. The art explored need not have been released this year, mind you; it’s been quite the set of months here at FReadquarters. Two of us changed cities. All three of us switched jobs, two of us more than once. One of us ended a long-term relationship. Each of us are, y’know, semi-young dreamers in a time of economic distress. Oh yeah, back in ’11’s early months, FR was born.
All that said, we kick off our year-in-review here. 2011, bitch. TUNES.
Travis: Music for Dudes Who Still Piss Standing Up
Somewhere along the way, underground music or indie rock or college rock whatever you want to call it lost its way and the majority of it has become some twee, Wes Anderson-scoring, doe-eyed Zooey Deschanel-loving beta and omega male bullshit, ranging from the pounding, orchestral whinging of the Arcade Fire to the CSNY-ing of new music embodied by bands like Fleet Foxes. While there’s plenty of orchestral whinging and acoustic, harmony-laden mumble I love, I’m glad there are some bands out there that are still carrying on the underground tradition of feedback-laden, distorted guitars, throat-shredding screaming, and being pissed off instead of sad. This year, loud at least made its presence felt among all the soft: Trash Talk, Trapped Under Ice, Iceage, Liturgy, Weekend Nachos, Xibalba, et. al. More music for scumbag fuckups, less music for grad students in sweaters please.
Nathan: R.E.M. Releases Yet Another Sub-Par Album / R.E.M. Break Up
Collapse Into Now is a halfway decent pop album. Which is exactly why R.E.M. needed to break up. They weren’t interesting anymore. There was no reason to genuinely anticipate a new release. And just as soon as they broke up, they decided to release a “career-spanning” greatest hits album. Can someone tell me who exactly needs that album?
I’ve been telling people for the last ten years or so that R.E.M. needed to break up. Maybe my idea got around to them somehow.
No, that is not the name of a band, though, if it were, said band would feature three guys, two girls (only one of whom sings, in a shrill high background-noise psuedo-falsetto), moody promo pictures taken in some sylvan milieu, and song titles like, I dunno, “Kerrie’s Summer Crucifix,” or “Leaves, Trunks, May ’91.” Anyway. “Gallimaufry” is actually a term I jacked from FireJoeMorgan.com, long, long ago, and it is under the heading that I will list my favorite songs or works that didn’t quite stick enough to warrant their own entry. (Probably because I’m weird and whimsical when it comes to my binge-listening habits.)
Principally, Florence + The Machine’s “Shake It Out,” from the haunting Ceremonials, is damn-straight one of the songs of the year. The title track, as well as the rest, of My Morning Jacket’s Circuital is one of the coolest paeans to adulthood crafted in years. Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 was damn solid, especially the diamond-dazzling Santigold-featuring “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win.” Maroon 5 continue to win me back over with ridiculous shit (“Moves Like Jagger”). Fountains Of Wayne rebounded from the likable-but-scattershot Traffic And Weather in releasing Sky Full Of Holes, a scaled-back distillation of their impeccable pop skills (see, especially, “Acela” and “A Road Song”). My power-pop tastebuds were also tickled by Guster’s Easy Wonderful, which came out in 2010 but which I bought with a Christmas giftcard back in January (see, especially, “Do You Love Me” and “Stay With Me Jesus”). Finally, my beloved Gallagher brothers brought out their first post-breakup/pre-reunion/non-Oasis albums this year, Liam with the half-good Beady Eye LP Different Gear, Still Speeding, Noel with the very good Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. From the former, get after “The Roller”; the latter, “If I Had A Gun.”
Actually, f’real, it’s all about “Shake It Out,” a song by a girl, about heartache. I should probably mention for Travis’s sake that, shared opinions about 21st century manhood acknowledged and seconded, I stand tall when I piss. But this song might be my absolute favorite of the year. And, it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back. So shake him off.
Travis: Dum Dum Girls, “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”
One of my favorite new-ish bands covering my favorite Smiths song (maybe I do piss sitting down), and doing justice to it.
Nathan: Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues
Travis wants more music for men who piss standing up. The boys from Fleet Foxes are all probably well mannered enough to sit down when they gotta do their thing. Meh. They put out a pretty amazing album anyway. It took a little longer for me to crack this one than it did their first album, but it’s worth it.
Tyler: Ryan Adams, Ashes And Fire
My boy had a rough stretch, and then came back strong. Every time my life gets a bit fucked up, it seems that Ryan is there to save me. His hunger to leave? Well, it gnawed his poor heart alive. But, y’know, ashes and fire. And, hey, love will mend your heart–but only if you’re lucky now.
Travis: Foo Fighters, Wasting Light
Tyler wrote at length about this one already. I’m as surprised as anyone to be putting a Foo Fighters album on a best-of list in 2011, but when maybe the biggest mainstream rock band in the world outdoes nearly everyone in the underground, it deserves notice. Special bonus for me: “Dear Rosemary,” which pits Foo frontman Dave Grohl in a vocal duel with one of his idols (and mine), Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü and Sugar.
Nathan: My Morning Jacket, Circuital
MMJ have a tendency to let their albums go on and on and on. They corrected that with Z, went back to the long-windedness on Evil Urges, and finally came out with another album that I can listen to in one sitting without having to skip through a bunch of filler.
Tyler: The Decemberists, The King Is Dead
One of the tightest, earthiest, most heartfelt, Van-like albums I’ve heard in years…and it’s from THE DECEMBERISTS??? What is this world coming to?? Oh well. Don’t carry it all, dear readers. Don’t carry it all.
Travis: …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Tao of the Dead
I wrote a review of this elsewhere, so I’ll keep it brief: this loud, prog-punk epic is the band’s best album since 2002’s amazing Source Tags & Codes and maybe the year’s best album-length statement, front-to-back. Standout track: “Summer of All Dead Souls.”
Nathan: Cults, Cults
If, like me, you have an unhealthy love for female-fronted bands who use The Shangri-Las as a reference point, then you’ll understand this choice. If not, then just move along. So Cults aren’t breaking any new ground. I don’t care, because I put this album on and when it’s done I start over from the beginning.
Tyler: Jay-Z & Kanye West, Watch The Throne
Ball so hard, mo’fuckers wanna find me.
Sounds so soulful, don’t you agree?
P.S. – No church in the wild.
Radiohead released an album this year, but the best Radiohead-related music came from this collaborative single. The lush, organic-feeling electronica of Four Tet makes a perfect bed for Yorke’s yearning vocals, and the darker edge of dubstep pioneer Burial (who also released the excellent Street Halo EP this year) brings a hint of paranoia to the proceedings that keeps it from being background music. Haunting but gorgeous stuff.
Nathan: Battles, Gloss Drop
Mirrored was an incredible start for this power collaboration of former Helmet and Don Caballero members, but it tended towards the repetitive. With Gloss Drop, every piece seems like it’s own tiny universe. The most shocking thing about the second Battles album, though, is that it’s sort of peppy. It can put you in a fun mood.
Tyler: Foo Fighters, Wasting Light
FR’s very first article was my review of this album. God only knows if the review holds up, but the album sure does. Hair to heel, there’s not one weak spot to be found, from the thrash starting-gun of “Bridge Burning” (“These are my famous last WOOOOOOOOOAAHAHHHRDS!!!”) to the all-time, Hall Of Fame, don’t-dare-diss-it-or-T-will-cut-you album-closing brilliance of “Walk.” If you can be behind the wheel of a car, on the freeway, hear “Walk,” and not end up fifteen MPH over the speed limit, well…you and I probably don’t have much to talk about down at the bar. NOW. For the very first time. Don’tcha pay no mind. Set me free, again. Ya keep alive, a moment at a time, but still, inside, a whisper to a riot, to sacrifice, but knowing to survive. The first decline, another state of mind. I’m on my knees, I’m prayin’ for a sign. Forever, whenever. I never wanna die. I NEVER WANNA DIE! I NEVER WANNA DIE! I’M ON MY KNEES! I NEVER WANNA DIE! I’M DANCIN’ ON MY GRAVE! I’M RUNNIN’ THROUGH THE FIRE! FOREVER! WHATEVER! I NEVER WANNA DIE!! I NEVER WANNA LEAVE!! I’LL NEVER SAY GOODBYE!! FOREVER!! WHATEVER!! FOREVER!!! WHATEVER!!!
Learnin’ to walk again. I believe I’ve waited long enough. Where do I begin?