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Aside from the art that I practice professionally, no other art gives me more pleasure than music.  Here is what kept me sane in 2011 (in no particular order).  Rich


“El Camino” by the Black Keys.  Never thought I’d say this.  “The Black Keys make a pop album.”  Just a few years ago, the Black Keys were making raw, heavy, Hendrix-influenced blues rock.  Today, as Rolling Stone Magazine calls it, they’re making Sixties bubblegum garage pop.  Sort of goes along with the old wood-paneled Dodge Caravan parked on their album cover.  This album is a blast.  It’s still the Black Keys, and seems like a nice progression from last year’s awesome “Brothers.  Get in you car and crank up “Gold On The Ceiling” for a good time.

“No Time For Dreaming” by Charles Bradley & Menahan Street Band.  Soul music (you know, the Otis Redding-James Brown kind) lives.  Bradley’s backstory is amazing.  At the age of 63, he finally got his shot (another Daptone Records find).  It’s worth every heartbreak he pours into this amazing album.  He even covers Neil Young.  If you could buy only one song give “Stay Away”, “Golden Rule” or “The World Is Going Up In Flames” a try.  Better yet, buy it all.

“Nine Types of Light” by TV On The Radio. My favorite albums are those full of discovery that lasts. This is one of those albums. So many different sounds, and all of them seem to echo my musical listening past…soul, funk, punk, jazz, art rock, all rolled into a lush and beautiful sound. If you could only buy one song, check out “No Future Shock”, “Killer Crane” or “Forgotten”. Of course, I’d recommend the whole album again.

“Middle Brother” by Middle Brother.  Sometimes it hard to say exactly why you like an album, but I can’t stop listening to this album.  Must be chemistry, I guess, which these guys have.  Middle Brother is the confluence of Matthew Vasquez from Delta Spirit, John McCauley of Deer Tick, and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes.  The music is straight forward, harmony laced alt-country.  If you want a good sampling, download their cover of the Replacement’s “Portland”.

“King of Limbs” by Radiohead. Radiohead purists might like other albums more, but for those of us who have wanted to join Radiohead’s legions of fans, this album is the one. It’s dreamy, dense, but accessible. There is so much to like here from one of the most artist bands of their generation. If you could only buy one song, “Lotus Flower” is it, although “Separator” is an equally good choice. I think “Lotus Flower” is one of the best songs of the year.

“The Harrow & The Harvest” by Gillian Welch. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are national folk art treasures. It’s been eight years since their last album, and the more you listen to this ten songs of despair and sorrow, the more you’ll like it. If you’re looking for uptempo, it won’t be found here. If you’re looking for original Americana folk music craftsmanship, you’ll be rewarded. And if you have the opportunity to see them live, whether a fan or not, go! If you could only buy one song, check out “Tennessee” or “The Way It Will Be”.

“Helplessness Blue” by Fleet Foxes. Maybe not as good as their last (debut) album, but still special. Their originality reminds me of early REM, but with a different sound. If you could buy only one song, I’d recommend “Helplessness Blue”. It’s not the best music on the album, but definitely the best lyrics. “I was raised up believing I was somehow unique. Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see. And now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be a functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me.”

“Revelator” by Tedeschi Trucks Band.  Seems like a simple formula for success.  Find an nine-piece band, mix with guitar virtuoso Derek Trucks (Allman Brothers) and blues singer Susan Tedeschi, and you’ve got some tasty tunes that range from blues rock to Memphis soul to 1970’s funk.  Trucks and Tedeschi are husband and wife and lets hope for a long marriage.  If you could only listen to one song, definitely make it “Until You Remember”.

“The Whole Love” by Wilco.  Best Wilco album in a while.  There will never be another “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” but this album has some of that spirit.  This album seems to cover a lot of Wilco musical ground from the art rock of “Art of Almost” to the calm of “Black Moon” to classic Wilco in “Born Alone” or “I Might”.  If you bought the album and only listened to “Art Of Almost” and “One Sunday Morning”, you’d be rewarded.



“The Wilhelm Scream” by James Blake. Play this loud and it’ll take over your room. There’s so much space in this song, check it out and you’ll know what I mean.

“Supercollider” by Radiohead. If you like “King of Limbs” this would be a good complement. I think I listened to this song six times in a row the first time I heard it.  It’s seven minutes long!

“Circuital” by My Morning Jacket.  Awesome!

“Getting Ready For Christmas Day” by Paul Simon.  This is a great album that I overplayed, but probably should have put on my album list.  His best since “Graceland”.

“Ocean” by the John Butler Trio. One of the most amazing, one-man, one-acoustic-guitar solos I’ve heard in years.

“Valley Of The Silver Moon” by Jonathan Wilson.  A song that ranges from lazy Neil Young guitar (ala “Cortez The Killer”) to Pink Floyd.  A good album also.

“Holocene” or “Wash.” by Bon Iver.  I never fully warmed up to the album, but still found some nice singles.

“Written On The Forhead” by PJ Harvey.  An original.  I keep buying songs from this album, and if I keep that up, it might become one of my favorite albums of the year.  “Bitter Branches” is another song I like.

“Ritual Union” by Little Dragon.  I really enjoyed the entire album from this Swedish electronic band.

“Toward The Sun” by Alexi Murdoch.  Five years after the great album, “Time Without Consequences”, Murdoch releases an album of only seven songs.  The good news is that he hasn’t strayed too far.  If you like Nick Drake, you’d like Murdoch.

“Rain On Tin” by Sonic Youth from The Bridge School Concerts, 25th Anniversary. This whole album is great, but this song really stands out for me.

“Lie Down in Darkness” by Moby. Classic Moby.

“Yerba Buena Bump” by Tommy Guerrero.  Cool Latin jazz sound from a former professional skateboarder.  If you like this sound, there’s plenty more on the album.

“Machu Piccu” by The Strokes.  If The Police kept making music, it might sound like this.

“Moonbeam” by John Doe. Made me think of Art Garfunkel’s “I Only Have Eyes For You”.

“The Waking Sleep” by Katie Herzig.  Really like her voice.

“What The Water Gave Me” by Forence + The Machine. I didn’t like this album as much as her last, but this a great song (the longer version).

“Tongue Tied” by Grouplove.  A nod to a fun pop song.

“The Wind” by Alela Diane.  Beautifully sad.

“Coney Island Winter” or “Rock On” by Garland Jeffreys.  A black Bruce Springsteen, but much older…if that can be.

“Take It All” by Adele.  The album is my pop music guilty pleasure.  This song is pure soul.

“Stone Rollin” by Raphael Saadiq.  It’s worth it just for the harmonica.

“Our Hearts Are Wrong” by Jessica Lea Mayfield.  A languid neo-country voice.  Produced by the Black Keys Dan Auerbach.

“She’s So Scandalous” by Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears.  Dripping in reved-up funky soul sounds.

“Bright Lights” by Gary Clark Jr.  A great blues EP.

“City of Refuge” by Abigail Washburn.  I’m a huge fan.  You might also like “Bring Me My Queen”.

“Haller Lake” or “Clever Creatures” by The Cave Singers.  Love this band.  A little Lou Reed in there somewhere.

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