Here are 50 songs that defined 2011 for me. This year, I only included one song per band, as I wanted to feature as many bands as possible.
Listen. Enjoy. Tell me what you think.
And yep, that's my ugly mug on the cover.
Here's the playlist:
1. Wilco - One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)
2. City Reign - Anywhere Anyway
3. The Mountain Goats - Never Quite Free
4. Zaac Pick - Whitewater
5. Yuck - Holing Out
6. The Tallest Man on Earth - Weather of a Killing Kind
7. Ryan Adams - Dirty Rain
8. Laura Marling - My Friends
9. The War on Drugs - Best Night
10. Bright Eyes - Shell Games
11. Radical Face - Always Gold
12. Beirut - East Harlem
13. Carter Tanton - Murderous Joy
14. Air Review - America's Son
15. Michael McGraw - Poorboy
16. The Middle East - Land Of The Bloody Unknown
17. The Antlers - Putting The Dog To Sleep
18. Megafaun - State / Meant
19. Bon Iver - Holocene
20. Robbers On High Street - Monkey
21. The Whiskey Saints - Curtains
22. The Far West - Bound to Lose
23. Dan Mangan - Oh Fortune
24. James Vincent McMorrow - Sparrow and the Wolf
25. James Blake - The Wilhelm Scream
26. Siskiyou - Twigs And Stones
27. Foo Fighters - Walk
28. The Black Keys - Lonely Boy
29. Iron & Wine - Walking Far From Home
30. Joshua Hyslop - If I Was a Better Man
31. J Mascis - Is It Done
32. Kurt Vile - Baby's Arms
33. Girls - Die
34. R.E.M. - It Happened Today
35. Fruit Bats - WACS (ft. J Mascis)
36. the august arrival - Through it all
37. Young Liars - Colours
38. Sporting Life - Immigrant
39. Alela Diane - To Begin
40. The Rest - The Last Day
41. William Fitzsimmons - The Tide Pulls From The Moon
42. The Rural Alberta Advantage - Stamp
43. Wye Oak - Civilian
44. Jim Ivins - House Of Three
45. Real Estate - It's Real
46. Snowmine - Curfews
47. David Thomas Broughton - Apologies
48. Creepoid - Old Tree
49. Cut Off Your Hands - You Should Do Better
50. The Dodos - When Will You Go
New mix for December 2011/January 2012 on 8tracks.com:
All of the songs on this list have either been featured on GTI or are due for a post. Whether I actually get around to writing all these posts is a matter of speculation, but in case I don't, at least you get to hear the songs. "Whitewater" is my wife's favorite song of 2011, and "Poorboy" is my early favorite of 2012 (despite actually being released last year). Sporting Life's "Immigrant" is on my definitely-need-to-write-about list, along with First Aid Kit's "Emmylou" and a bunch of other songs on this mix.
While the selection here is all over the place, from delicate indie folk to the in-your-face energy of Young Liars, I still think these songs manage to work well together. Let me know if you like it.
1. Zaac Pick - Whitewater
2. Michael McGraw - Poorboy
3. Sporting Life - Immigrant
4. Young Liars - Colours
5. Shearwater - You As You Were
6. First Aid Kit - Emmylou
7. Tanlines - Brothers
8. dress rehearsal - River Blue
9. Tucker Green - Someday You'll See
10. The Far West - More Than This (Roxy Music cover)
11. Good Old War - Calling Me Names
Aside from all the great full-length albums released in 2011, Given and Taken in Ink also featured several noteworthy EPs. Because of their shorter length (and the overall brevity of this list), the list below is in no particular order. Still, I had a great time featuring each of the releases; clicking a title will bring you to GTI's review from earlier in the year.
Here are GTI's picks for the top EPs of 2011:
Right on cue (if you believe that culture repeats itself every 20 years), 2011 saw the emergence of several bands playing an updated version of 90s garage rock. Two British bands in particular caught my attention this year. The first was Yuck, drawing from the American indie rock scene of the 1990s - Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth, in particular. The other was City Reign. Combining the frantic energy of Idlewild with the arena-sized sound of Oasis, City Reign's influences are much more British in origin. Their guitar-driven rock songs are filled with big, melodic hooks and wistful vocals. "Making Plans," the band's fantastic single from 2010, makes a reappearance here, as do several songs from their previous singles. But despite the band's knack for writing catchy rock anthems, the real gem here is "Anywhere Anyway." With its shimmery acoustic guitars and pretty background vocals, the song is pure magic. As someone who grew up on 90s rock, I was excited for a band like City Reign and its focus on that sound; but "Anywhere Anyway" shows that this band has the potential for so very much more.
Joshua Hyslop is destined to be a tour-de-force in the realm of indie folk/pop. Combining his warm vocals with impressive songwriting depth and musicianship, Hyslop is poised to break out in the near future. He's got the tenderness of Damien Rice or Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) and the knack for throwing interesting, genre-defying curveballs, like the Spanish jazz of "If I Was a Better Man."
The title track of Zaac Pick's Whitewater was one of my favorite songs of the year. As I said in my review, "Whitewater shows off Pick's knack for melody, pairing his warm, expressive voice with layers of guitar, piano, strings, and percussion. Each of these four songs seem to revolve around central theme of time, either in adapting to its impermanence or in appreciating the things that endure in spite of it. The title track, a cautionary tale about the unpredictability of life, opens with just vocals and finger-picked guitar before slowly adding layers of percussion, mandolin, and violin. The video for 'Whitewater' is absolutely brilliant, too. With cardboard sailboats for characters, it's charming and heartbreaking in a way few music videos even attempt anymore." Whitewater was a wonderful little surprise to close out the year.
My review for Late Night Drive was probably my favorite write-up of the year. Jim let me pick his brain with a bunch of questions, something I normally don't do, and the result was a great insight into his mindset and writing process for this EP. As I said in my review, my favorite track from this release was "House of Three," a heartbreaking tribute to Ivins' mother, who passed away in 2010. The entire EP engages the listener in a very personal way as it progresses toward this final cathartic release of all the emotional tension built over the previous tracks.
I spend a lot of time goofing off on this blog, but my review for skyline goodbyes was probably the silliest of the year. Hopefully that didn't obscure the message, that skyline goodbyes was an extremely impressive debut for this emerging Canadian folk band. Lead singer Sara MacDonald's voice is absolutely haunting. The august arrival's future is very bright, and I look forward to hearing a lot more from them.
Zaac Pick is an emerging talent in the Canadian indie-folk scene. Former guitarist of the indie rock group Doubting Paris, Pick first earned critical acclaim as a solo artist for his 2009 debut EP, Fierce Wind, including the top selection in Vancouver's Shore 104FM Song Search, as well as spots in various television shows. Now, after two years of touring (including a double header at SXSW this year), he has released a new four-track EP, Whitewater.
Whitewater shows off Pick's knack for melody, pairing his warm, expressive voice with layers of guitar, piano, strings, and percussion. Each of these four songs seem to revolve around central theme of time, either in adapting to its impermanence or in appreciating the things that endure in spite of it. The title track, a cautionary tale about the unpredictability of life, opens with just vocals and finger-picked guitar before slowly adding layers of percussion, mandolin, and violin. The video for "Whitewater" is absolutely brilliant, too. With cardboard sailboats for characters, it's charming and heartbreaking in a way few music videos even attempt anymore.
Adding slide guitar to the mix, Pick ventures into alt. country on "Out of Fashion" and "Heavy." And on "Modern Times," layers of guitars, violin, and cello cradle Pick's vocals while he sings a stirring lamentation of self-doubt: "Older now, but I’ve got no plan / please forgive me for I know not who I am / just an empty faded vision of a shadow of a man I knew."
Fans of Josh Ritter, Ray LaMontagne, and Joe Purdy should love Zaac Pick.
My only disappointment with Whitewater is that it ends far too soon, but thankfully Pick will be working on a full-length record in 2012. And my wife, whose standards are so high she doesn't seem to like anything, says "Whitewater" is her favorite song of 2011. It's near the top of my list, too.
Check out all of Pick's music, including the Whitewater EP, here.