If the world ends today …

Saturday, May 21st, 2011, 12:28 pm by Ben Salmon

I wanna be on the record with my favorite albums of 2011!

And if it doesn’t, well, then these are my favorite albums of 2011 so far.

1. Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues”
A stunning sophomore effort by the Seattle-based masters of rustic harmonies that is, at once, among both the prettiest and most ambitious albums of the year. Add Robin Pecknold’s informal three-song solo EP (see below), and you’ve got a fast-growing case for him as arguably the best young songwriter going.

2. Adele, “21”
A powerhouse pop record by a woman blessed with incredible talent and excellent taste. It’s not often that the best music is also the most popular music, but that’s the case here.

3. Yuck, “Yuck”
Young, frail, floppy-haired and English, this quartet has all the charisma of a wet mop in a dark closet. But put instruments in their hands and distortion pedals at their feet, and they’re a fuzzy pop-rock Frankenstein of a band made up of the best bits of Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., Teenage Fanclub, Sonic Youth, Built to Spill and the Pixies.

4. The Decemberists, “The King Is Dead”
After the bloated, underwhelming excess of “The Hazards of Love,” Portland’s brainiest band went back to their roots, strumming out 10 solid tracks of modest, jangling Americana. It’s not as challenging as Colin Meloy’s most literate rock opuses, perhaps, but sometimes being endlessly listenable is enough.

5. The Psychic Paramount, “II”
Noisy, frenzied psych-rock freakouts that’ll leave you frazzled, paranoid and anxious. An acquaintance said “II” is “kinda like getting kicked around by a hit squad with the helicopter hovering ten feet above.” Yes, please!

6. Telekinesis, “12 Desperate Straight Lines”
Dude tosses out power-pop gems like it’s his job. Which it is. And he’s better at his job than just about anyone.

7. Moon Duo, “Mazes”
More repeato-drone from these space travelers, this time with a touch more psych-damaged sunshine melody mixed in.

8. Foo Fighters, “Wasting Light”
One of the best BIG rock bands returns with more arena-ready hooks for the masses. Sweaty, muscular, fist-pumpin’ shout-alongs, etc.

9. Frank Ocean, “nostalgia, Ultra.”
Say, have you heard of Odd Future? Tyler, the Creator? Yeah? This dude knows those dudes, and his mixtape’s better than anything they’ve done this year.

10. (tie) White Fence, “Is Growing Faith” … Explosions in the Sky, “Take Care, Take Care, Take Care” … Jonny, “Jonny” … Grails, “Deep Politics” … Hauschka, “Salon des Amateurs” … Mogwai, “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will” … Big K.R.I.T., “Return of 4Eva” mixtape … Thee Oh Sees, “Castlemania” … Tim Hecker, “Ravedeath, 1972″ … Matthew Robert Cooper, “Some Days Are Better Than Others” soundtrack … The Dodos, “No Color” … AgesandAges, “Alright You Restless” … Robin Pecknold, “Three Songs” … Xray Eyeballs, “Not Nothing” … Apex Manor, “The Year of Magical Drinking” … Darlings, “Warma” … Beastie Boys, “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two” … The Very Best, “Super Mom” mixtape …

OK, I cheated. But at least I got everything in “print” so that when whoever, whenever opens up Earth’s vast online time capsule and makes a beeline for this blog to see what I was into in early 2011, they won’t be disappointed. And they’ll learn that the Beastie Boys actually made a good record. Talk about a sign of the apocalypse!

5 Responses to “If the world ends today …”

  1. Mud says:

    Watching the Yuck performance from SXSW was painful in it’s lack of excitement, but I’ve really grown to like what I’ve heard from their recorded work.

    And that Frank Ocean is great, although immature at times, it comes nowhere near the juvenile theatrics of his Odd Future compatriots. When comparing Frank Ocean with the more discussed OFWGKTA member, Tyler the Creator, Frank comes off looking like a wise elder while Tyler looks like a 13 year old having a temper tantrum.

    • Ben Salmon says:

      Mud! Good to see ya. Thanks for the comment.

      Yeah, I saw Yuck open for Tame Impala at the Wonder Ballroom a few weeks ago. They certainly don’t DO much up there … but those songs. Man. Those songs. Actually, I can understand people not digging them. The fact is, they absolutely, positively hit me right in my sweetest sweet spot. As a dude who grew up in the early ’90s and did some college radio in the mid- and late-’90s, that sound gets me like no other. And they do it perfectly. I cannot resist.

      Re: Frank Ocean, I do find it a bit spotty and immature. But I like his way with melody, I like that the immaturity isn’t in your face ALL THE TIME. He’s not clobbering me over the head with it like Tyler does. I don’t hate Tyler’s “Goblin.” In fact, I think the beats are like next-level terrific. But (a) it’s way too long, and (b) as much as I understand the fact that it’s art/fiction and he’s playing a character and all that stuff, I just find myself turned off by some of the lyrics. I listen to it, and I find it to be compelling *music* but after a while, I just kinda feel icky. Maybe that’s not fair to him, I don’t know. And maybe I would feel differently if I was 19 instead of 34. But that’s the way it is.

      I do like what OFWGKTA is doing as far as presentation, overall aesthetic, attitude, etc. And I do think most of their tracks – across all the releases – are dope. I hope they keep all that over the next few years … and grow up a bit.

      Overall, though, I feel like it’s been a pretty terrible year for hip-hop. Looking forward to Shabazz Palaces, but other than that … yikes. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

  2. Scott Halvorson says:

    I like that Fleet Foxes album a whole lot as well, I’m sure it’ll belong on best of lists by year’s end, but Mike Watt’s Hyphenated Man is still the front-runner for album of the year for me. Anything’s possible, but I have a hard time imagining anything dislodging Watt.

    Been listening to The King In Yellow, the Dead Milkmen reunion album a bit as well. Kinda stunned at how much of a downer it is; It’s been 16 years since their previous album, and considering their concern for environmentalism and the fact that they lost their original bass player to suicide, it’s not surprising that they’re a bit more pessimistic now than they’re really known for, but still… It’s worth checking out though.

    I’m actually curious about that new Beastie Boys.

    Ohgr (singer for Skinny Puppy) is releasing a new album any day now. His solo albums generally lean a bit towards mixing industrial with 80’s gothic pop, (they remind me a lot of Tones on Tail) so I’ll be excited about that.

    At that Opio / A-Plus show, A-Plus did a few tracks from an album he’s working on called Pepper Spray; all him (with help from Del The Funky Homosapien) rapping over Red Hot Chilli Pepper samples. Probably won’t album of the year type stuff, but it definitely has potential to be among the funnest albums of the year. (Which, I’m sure is what he’s aiming for anyway.)

    And if you don’t mind things getting a little grindcore up in here, Napalm Death is working on a new album and they can do no wrong, at least for me. Brutal Truth just finished up a new album. Their previous album was a reunion album and was stunningly good, especially for a reunion album. It’s even their best release since their debut. And I like pretty much everything they’ve done.

    • Ben Salmon says:

      Hi Scott! Thanks for the comment.

      I promised you, I think, to listen to that Watt album. Or at least I meant to. I am going to make a point to seek it out based on your recommendation. Same goes for the Milkmen. That’s a band I never really got into, so now’s as good a time as any.

      How was the Opio / A-Plus show? Good-sized crowd or no? Anyway, “Pepper Spray” sounds right up my alley. Even if it’s not high art, I love the *idea* of records like that, with a sort of theme or whatever. (That Frank Ocean mixtape I mentioned is basically auto-tuned crooning over tracks by, like, The Eagles, Coldplay, MGMT, etc.) I’ll definitely be interested in hearing it when he gets it done.

      Certainly don’t mind hearing about grindcore, just not sure it’s every quite going to be my thing. One album I didn’t mention, though, that is a little heavier and I’m hoping will grow on me is Red Fang’s “Murder the Mountains.” I love their debut, so I’m confident I’ll come around on the new one eventually.

      Also been meaning to investigate Krallice, a black metal band out of NYC. I dunno … I wish I was more educated about metal. I love heavy stuff, but I have to have some melody in there, too. Cookie Monster vocals are not for me.

  3. Scott Halvorson says:

    On The Dead Milkmen; they’re one of my favorite bands, flat out. If you don’t feel like you’re cheating by starting with a best of comp instead of a proper album, Death Rides A Pale Cow is a good overview of why people love this band and it has a lot of great stuff. Punk Rock Girl is pretty much the perfect pop song.

    The Opio / A-Plus show? Attendance was dismal. Nary a soul over 20 people for the headliners. I was stoked on the show as that first Souls of Mischief is one of the best hip-hop albums ever released, and the other Souls / Hiero related shows I’ve seen over there were well attended, Other, lesser hip hop shows there I hear are well attended, it was a weekend night, but this one… I dunno. It was a good show though. As much as Opio seems like the most well regarded member of the Souls crew, it was A-Plus’s night. Opio was good, but A-Plus played last was very much the one who brought a little extra and made it a memorable show. Joked about the size of the crowd, promised that it just made those of us who did show up more special. Lots of charisma, he’s great at projecting a “we’d be friends if we hung out” aura. Because of the samples, he’s not gonna try selling The Pepper Spray album, just gonna throw it on the internet for free. I was impressed that he used up 3 or 4 songs of his set time hyping an album he’s giving away. Left me with no doubt that his stock in the hip-hop world would be considerably higher if more people caught him live solo.

    I’ve heard good things about Red Fang, I’ll check them out. They were supposed to play the Domino Room a few months ago but canceled due to van troubles.

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