Welcome to another installment of Up on the Sun's 2011 Review. Over the next week, editor Jason P. Woodbury and the staff will countdown their favorite songs, shows, national and local releases of 2011.
A lot of people imagine this job as nothing but us writers lounging around listening to records, opining about what local bands suck in a smokey clubhouse over booze, and occasionally dragging ourselves out of bed at 5 p.m. to head to out and watch a band for free.
This is exactly what this job is like.
Kidding, but seriously, we get to see a lot of shows. This year, I saw excellent shows Pavement, Bob Dylan, Lindsey Buckingham, Six Organs of Admittance, Liturgy, The Bo-Keys, Dave Bazan, Dirty Beaches, and so many more. I wrote about some of them, and some I just attended like a blessedly-duty free music fan.
So what shows came out at the very top? Read on.
What I Said At The Time: "With both artists well past the "sell-by date" that so often gets applied to modern pop stars, it was incredible to be a part of a night of music that wasn't bound by decades or genre. When you boil it all down, Mavis Staples and Dr. John play soul music, and truly great soul music feels universal."
What I Said at The Time: "I joked that last night's show by Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, and The Walkmen was like the "Superbowl" of indie shows here on the blog, and I stand by it. (With one extra team? I hadn't really thought it through.)
If you define "indie" as "independent," then last night's show was certainly indie. The three bands represent three of the biggest indie labels going, Secretly Canadian, Sub Pop, and Fat Possum. But if you define it as that "other" thing, that vague, hazy definition in which St. Vincent is the same thing as Foster the People or Washed Out, well, it was indie that way, too."
What I Said at the Time: "Of course art-rock moves are going to win critics and music nerds like me over, but what was astonishing was how they won over the casual fans. I stood by the merch table for a few songs, and watched as young fans picked up the new record (on LP, natch), with one teenaged girl holding it and just sort of staring at its cover. It's funny that Clark wishes in the song "Marrow" for a "gentle mind and a spine of steel." The former, I can see her still pining for, but there's little need for a new backbone."
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2. Kurt Vile at Rhythm Room, July 31, 2011 What My Friend Anthony Said at the Time: By the time the quartet got around to playing "Jesus Freak", the third song of their set, Vile had already displayed his stringed-instrument dexterity on a twelve string and a six string guitar. Opting for a Fender Jaguar on "Jesus Freak", he sang "I pack my suitcase with myself but I'm already gone/I cleanse myself with that atoning hell, but I'm already gone."
The reverb on his vocals is as ever-present as the comparisons to Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty--and rightfully so (he even covered Springsteen's "Downbound Train"). 1. Randy Newman at the Arizona Biltmore, May 29. 2011 What I Said at the Time: I generally despise when people say stuff like, "They don't make them like they used to" about songwriters. There are songwriters as good as Randy Newman working today, cranking out albums in studios and basements around the country. There are people with as firm a grasp on life and art as Newman, touring in vans and playing pianos, guitars, and pressing play on laptops in some bar. There are artists as tender, moving, and as funny as Randy Newman working right now, making good art that will last for years.
You'll just have to forgive me, though, for not remembering any of their names at this moment.