Once again I had a hard time counting to 10 as I started thinking about my favorite albums of 2011, because I continue to commit the sin of buying whatever music I want, without considering whether it’s new or not.
So, here are my here are my top five albums:
1. Tune-Yards – Whokill
Unique album from a talented and creative artist. There’s something naive and complicated at the same time about Tune-Yards’ African-influenced indie rock. It’s as if Merrill Garbus found some uncontacted tribe in the African rainforest and instead of going the Deep Forest ethnic-ambient direction, turned it into something off-kilter and funky. I guess I would have to say this is not for everyone, since a couple of people I tried to turn onto this album didn’t seem to take to it. Maybe they’ll come around.
2. Rebirth Brass Band – Rebirth of New Orleans.
This was an impulse buy at Waterloo Records. I picked it up last July and I still can’t seem to get enough of it. It’s a jazzy mix of New Orleans second line, funk and hip hop. Mostly instrumental, but with some great shouted choruses, in songs like “Why Your Feet Hurt” and “I Like It Like That.” I gushed about the the band a little bit in in a blog post which includes an awesome video of the band in the streets of New Orleans.
3. Sarah Jarosz – Follow Me Down
Very impressive sophomore album. I love her voice. Her original material continues to impress me, but her covers are amazing, especially her cover of Radiohead’s “The Tourist.” I also love “Annabelle Lee,” adapted from the poem by Edgar Allan Poe. She also has some really good bluegrass musicians backing her up.
4. Pickering Pick – Tiger Balm
This one caught me off guard. Sam released this in June, but I just discovered it a few weeks ago. As always, excellent songwriting, beautiful melodies and sweet vocals. This time he had a new studio and you can really hear it in the production. He’s busy updating the equipment, so the next album will sound even better. I love every song on the album, but “Like a River” is truly amazing.
5. Daughters of the Sun – Ghost with Chains
Nice album from one of my surprise discoveries at this year’s Psych Fest. And by the way, they are very impressive live. It’s partly psych, partly ambient, but with tribal-sounding percussion and shoegaze vocals. To look at them, you expect some kind of heavy metal, but instead you get this hypnotic psychedelia. Catch them if they come to your town.
And here are my top five artists discovered in 2012:
1. Sleepy Sun. I found this group at Psych Fest in Austin back in April. Awesome, trippy, acid-drenched blues. Fever has become one of my favorite albums and it would’ve made my top five of 2010 if I had discovered it in time. Check out their website which has an embedded live version of “Marina.”
2. Atash. Kickass Austin-based group I discovered almost by accident during SXSW. I was hunting for free and cheap shows and was just about to give up when I found them giving a free performance at Central Market on North Lamar. They put on a HELL of a live show. Their music seems to have Gypsy, Persian, Indian, and other influences. I downloaded Republic of Love off Amazon.com and I’ve really been enjoying it.
3. Chubby Knuckle Choir. A great local find. As I said about them in June, they have such an odd fusion of sounds, yet they sound like roots music, like roots music from a country that never existed – but should have. They are performing in Bastrop, Elgin and in the Austin area. You can hear what they sound like and download some of their tuns on their Reverbnation page.
4. Dana Falconberry. One of the musicians featured in the wonderful documentary Echotone. There were actually several new artists in that soundtrack that impressed me (Belaire was another), but Dana’s “Possum Song” was especially wonderful. I got a free soundtrack album from Paste Magazine (I think it still works – enter your e-mail and see) and I’ve been playing the hell out of it for months. She just came out with an EP, Though I Didn’t Call It Came, which I have yet to get my hands on.
5. Jogja Hip Hop Foundation. This was a recent discovery, one of those truly startling discoveries. The idea of melding hip hop with gamelan music never even occurred to me. They’ve created something unique and vibrant and I think we’ll be hearing from these guys for years to come.