31 December 2011

Best of 2011: Records

To commemorate year number three of carefully organizing my thoughts into list form, I searched through the past and found the artwork that Gary did for the first ever No Gift for the Gab Album of the Year list. I chose to use it because A. I like the way it looks, B. I don't have the energy to sift through a google image search to find a comic book frame, and C. it seems like ages ago when it all started. 2011 was somewhat of a tumultuous year. On a personal lean, shit was all over the place. I moved into my own apartment, broke my boombox in the first week, slept on the floor for five months, lost my job, got denied unemployment (twice), bought a boombox at a South Philly yard sale, got another job, and finally became a member of the press albeit one who does not write about music. All things considered, I kept my shit together for most of the year. Those first couple months, though, I failed miserably. I attended very few shows, bought virtually no records, and did very little beyond. Pardon the over-wrought introduction, but I want to set the stage because at times it seemed like the musical landscape of the last twelve months was just as erratic. A lot of really good albums came out, but there was never really one that trumped all the rest. To put it simply, there was no Monitor in 2011. Also given the turbulent times, this isn't going to be a Top Ten list or a Top Twenty for that matter. No, what follows are my five favorite records from the year. Are they the best? Maybe not, but they are the ones that I was always running back for. Apologies to Gary because his two picks for albums of the year didn't make the cut. (Mirror Traffic by Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks was absolutely a stellar record but how surprising would it be if I heaped praise onto it? I never got the chance to sit down and listen to Goodbye Bread by Ty Segall but I told Gary to buy it so that has to count for something, right?) There were also other albums that came out this year that were awesome because they done by awesome, wonderful people but again there'd be no surprises if I gushed over them so apologies to Wild Flag, St. Vincent, Dum Dum Girls, Sonny and the Sunsets, The Sandwitches, Fresh & Onlys, Mikal Cronin, Black Lips, Fucked Up, and tUnE-yArDs. About twenty minutes ago, I listened to Leave Home by The Men. That record seriously owns, but in good conscience I couldn't put it on the list. Finally, I'd like to apologize to everyone else. I didn't hardly blog at all this year. I was too busy fucking shit up for better or for worse. Now, here it is. No Gift for the Gab's most dug albums of 2011.

5. Thee Oh Sees - Carrion Crawler/The Dream EP (In The Red)
John Dwyer & Co. actually dropped two albums in 2011. Castlemania was cool, no doubt about it, but it was the second release of the year that truly fired me up. These songs are vicious and righteous. They make me want to stomp around, whether I'm in a small apartment or a painting studio. They make me want to take down the bourgeoisie. They make me want to get banned from my neighborhood pizza joint. Simply put, the ten tracks on this album are what big time hanging out sounds like in my mind.
4. Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo (Matador)
The Constant Hitmaker. After wrapping everything in reverb and fuzz, it was borderline mindblowing when this album came out. It was just this terrific, tremendous achievement which was kind of wild in and of itself since most of his songs are about not doing anything at all. Just hanging out smoking cigs in the apartment; these tracks were stirring. "Puppet to the Man" is heavy as fuck. Possibly one of the heaviest things I heard all year and I heard my share of doom and sludge.

3. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saint (Souterrain Transmissions)
This record makes me feel uncomfortable, in a good way if that's possible. It's like a punch in the gut, but I have it coming to me because too often I spend my time dancing around my emotions. One of the most indelible marks of a great album is that it must be played from beginning to end, and with no track-jumping. This is one of those albums. For the full 37 and a half minutes, I listen. The guitar is quite striking, and the vocals echo when necessary. There are things happening yet at the same time everything comes across as quite naked. I read an interview where she talks about exposing herself with this album, and I see it. I get the "Oh, woe is me"'s every now and then; actually quite often, but when I listen to this album its like whatever is happening to me is nothing. It's like the galaxy or something. It seems very large and important to me, but in the grand scheme of things it is quite inconsequential.

2. Panda Bear - Tomboy (Paw Tracks)
This was the one I was holding my breath for the most. Noah Lennox is a member of Animal Collective, and on a previous solo venture released Person Pitch one of my most favorite records EVER. Last summer, I stood underneath the Chicago sun hoping to get an idea of what would come next. Between the guitar and laptop setup, and the brutal heat it was hard to tell. The masses dropping doses expecting a carnival to take place didn't help matters either, but nonetheless I kept telling myself that the proper record played with headphones on would be another story. Fast forward to the present day in the morning, on the train to work. I am able to escape. On a track like "Last Night At The Jetty", I feel downright divine. I don't miss the old things, and I don't know what will happen next. I just don't want the music to end.

1. Atlas Sound - Parallax (4AD)
Bradford Cox believes in rock and roll. I believe in Bradford Cox. Halcyon Digest and the Bedroom Databank collection hinted at it, but this was the deliverance. Something truly smashing. With every listen, something new.

18 December 2011

This happened at some point this year. A blistering performance, but probably even better than that descriptor may suggest. On this performance alone, quite possibly my artist of the year. Holy shit, straight up.

almost there

i haven't forgotten about any of you. enjoy this video for now (it's quite great), and in a few days things will go back to normal for this time of year and i will post way too many lists.