Top Pop of 2011
(with all due respect to Fleet Foxes and P.J. Harvey)
25. Destroyer Kaputt (Merge) CD - A narcotic light art pop blend from Dan Bejar and company in which all vestiges of David Bowie worship have been stripped in favor of a lazy guitar and synth (and sax!) shuffle that lands somewhere between prime Luna and classic Steely Dan.
24. Matt Valentine What I Became (Woodsist) LP - See here.
23. Coppertone Best Of The First Six Months (Night People) CS - 2010 release, but who cares? See here.
22. Ford & Lopatin Channel Pressure (Software) LP - While Daniel Lopatin's other project hogs all the critical spotlight, his synth art pop duo with Joel Ford is where the real gold is found in '11. Heavily indebted to "the '80s," but to call this mere pastiche would do a disservice to its otherworldly electro-pop rhapsodies.
21. Arborea Red Planet (Strange Attractors) LP - See here.
20. Miminokoto Hitoyogiri (Important) CD - Lumbering garage psych workouts that are a little bit doom, a lotta bit PSF guitar psych and all awesome, bursting with eruption after eruption of fuzz catharsis in every song.
19. Six Organs Of Admittance Maria Kapel (Pavilion) LP - This limited vinyl self-release sold out in the blink of an eye, but don't let that stop you from seeking out its devotional string and harmonium meditations. Beautiful aural succor that's ideal for laying down in The Light.
18. U.S. Girls U.S. Girls On Kraak (Kraak) CD - Grimy, infectious art pop noise racket from Megan Remy with her amazing vocal melodies up front, loud and proud.
17. Real Estate Days (Domino) CD - Matt Mondanile's (Ducktails) other band delivers a wonderfully breezy guitar pop album which offers a worthy alternative to the bloated excesses of, say, The Arcade Fire (who I just can't stand). File alongside Galaxie 500, Yo La Tengo, The Clean.
16. TV Ghost Mass Dream (In The Red) LP - See here.
15. Ralph White The Hanged Man (Sloowtapes) CS - Sneaking in just under the wire, Austin's Ralph White continues to mine bluegrass country gold with his ornamental tapestries of guitar, banjo, fiddle, vibes, voice winding and whirling their way through the backwoods of the human soul.
14. Sic Alps Napa Asylum (Drag City) CD - Another grungy slab of stumbling art punk/garage psych from these Frisco weirdos that continues their carefully choreographed trip through ramshackle post Royal Trux psychedelic revelry.
13. Wooden Wand & The Briarwood Virgins Briarwood (Fire/Mad Monk) LP - An abrupt shift from the more stripped down acoustic Death Seat, but I'm all for movin' on. Briarwood is rife with loud full band arrangements and hooks galore and delivers another bold step from the indie margins into that big shiny spotlight that is rock 'n' roll.
12. Renderers A Rocket Into Nothing (Ba Da Bing!) CD - Another stellar noir country bad trip from these legendary New Zealanders (currently occupying the USA, along with the rest of the 99%) and their strongest record in well over a decade. Moody, stark seasick melodies with Brian Crook's distorted grime billowing up like dark clouds and engulfing Maryrose's world weary croon to dramatic effect. Fantastic.
11. Skull Defekts Peer Amid (Thrill Jockey) 2LP - To call this pop might be a stretch, but I loved it all the same. See here.
10. Hot Knives Hot Knives (Grown Up Wrong) CD - Flamin' Groovies freaks will love this killer dish of folky power pop circa 1976, which makes for a fine companion piece to the Groovies' classic Shake Some Action but stands proudly on its own two feet thanks to a healthy injection of West Coast sunshine (they cover Moby Grape's "Hey Grandma" here). The lineup features two original 'Groovies (Danny Mihm and Tim Lynch) along with siblings Mike and Deborah Houpt. Unreleased till now.
9. Peaking Lights 936 (Not Not Fun) LP - See here.
8. Jerusalem and the Starbaskets Dost (De Stijl) LP - See here.
7. Willam Tyler Behold The Spirit (Tompkin's Square) CD - There are dozens of quality guitarists occupying the post-Fahey realm today, but Tyler sets himself apart with an album that's at once emotionally resonant and masterfully performed across rolling symphonic constructions (accented at times with violins drums, bass, synth and tapes) that defy simple rock-geek description. Timeless melodies with undeniable nods to UK greats like John Renbourn and Bert Jansch mixed in with the more recognizable American counterparts make it a genuine treat to these ears.
6. Dan Melchior Assemblage Blues (Siltbreeze) LP - Awesome psych garage blues weirdness from the Mighty Mr. Melchior. I'm not sure how to describe this other than damn fun and highly addictive. Or in Dan's words: "It's so good, it's so good. It's so good, it's so good. It's so good..."
5. D. Charles Speer & The Helix Leaving The Commonwealth (Thrill Jockey) LP - See here.
4. The Bats Free All The Monsters (Flying Nun) CD - One more timeless classic of jingle jangle brilliance from Robert Scott and his Bats. Essential is an understatement.
3. Metal Mountains Metal Mountains (Amish) CD - See here.
2. Charalambides Exile (Kranky) 2LP - Maybe the finest Charalambides record of them all, definitely the most heartfelt and immediate since Market Square. Christina's vocals dig deep while both Carter's pick and strum some of their most memorable guitar lines to date. "Into The Earth" is as close to soul therapy as a song can get.
1. Alvarius B Baroque Primitiva (Abduction) CD - See here.