Welcome to the first installment of Up on the Sun's 2011 Review. Over the next week, we'll be counting down our favorite songs, shows, national and local releases of 2011. This installment comes from Lenni Rosenblum, who has been a major contributor to Up on the Sun for a few years now. Enjoy!
I was fairly unimpressed by this year's new releases, which says a lot considering I'm not all that hard to impress, musically speaking. Although a lot of great albums came out, I don't think that 2011 was a very special year as far as new releases go, and frankly I think that's disappointing.
I'm all about artists that are able to maintain their magic touch but still explore new territory on each of their albums. Sure, my list is pretty mainstream, but I'm not sorry about that. And sorry I'm not sorry for not thinking that Goblin by Tyler the Creator, Bon Iver's self-titled album, or Lady Gaga's Born This Way were fantastic works of art. It's just that I enjoyed Childish Gambino's Camp and Birdy's cover of "Skinny Love" a lot more.
I'm proud to say that I've been lucky enough to have seen more than half of the acts on my list perform live this year. For one reason or another, each of these artists' performances solidified their spot on my list because something about each show was particularly special.
Check out my top picks of 2011 after the jump...
Even though I think they were kind of playing it safe on this album, "Heaven" really did it for me in terms of proving they could make a single that doesn't sound like anything they've done before.
9. El Camino, The Black Keys
While it's always nice to see a band go in a new direction, hey, if it ain't broken, don't fix it. Pat and Dan have kept their classic blues rock sound on this record. They've still got tight drum rhythms, distorted vocals and that fuzzy guitar, and I will always love that about them.
8. Metals, Feist
Leslie Feist reappeared on the scene in 2011 just as charming as ever. She still has that gentle sound, and something about songs like "How Come You Never Go There" just sound so right.
7. Mine is Yours, Cold War Kids
Nathan Willett's distinct voice has a special touch that is back and good as ever on his band's latest release. "Louder Than Ever" and "Royal Blue" are sensational.
6. Torches, Foster the People
These guys have officially claimed the spot on my list that's reserved for the breakout band of the year. I was initially pissed that "Helena Beat" wasn't their first single, but as long as the world still got to know and love FTP, I didn't care.
5. Learn and Burn (Deluxe), The Sheepdogs
Rolling Stone Choose the Cover Contest winners The Sheepdogs are sharing the spotlight with Feist by representing Canadian musicians. Their groovy boogie rock brings listeners back to the '70s in the best way possible, and for that I thank them.
4. Angles, The Strokes
While everyone else was gushing about Radiohead's early release of The King of Limbs, I was busy forcing myself to like The Strokes' new record. It probably took me 10 listens until I started to like any of it, but the more I gave Angles a chance, the more it grew on me and established the Strokes' successful 2011 comeback.
3. In Light, Givers
Even though indie newcomers Givers came up on my radar because of an internship with some of the good people that work with them, I was pleasantly taken back when I first listened to "Up Up Up." The indie pop track received some stellar reviews this summer, all of which the band definitely earned. "Words" and "Ceiling of Plankton" are fun tracks as well. Each song is the new "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" in terms of the clever was it is broken up into parts.
2. I'm With You, Red Hot Chili Peppers
RHCP has claimed the "most highly anticipated" spot on my list. This album has got mad bass intros by Flea, flawless vocals from Anthony Kiedis and driving drums from Will Ferrell...I mean Chad Smith. It even serves as a solid bigtime debut for new member Josh Klinghoffer.
1. Wasting Light, Foo Fighters
Hands down, this album was everything I was hoping to get from the Foos and then some. Even at first listen I thought that this might be the group's best record yet. In my humble opinion, Grohl and the gang definitely deserve top spot status this year.
Honorable mention: all of The Flaming Lips' collective monthly efforts of 2011