Over the next few days, I’ll be listing out my favorite things of 2011 – music, movies, games. I’d do books, but I only made it through a pitiful number of books in 2011, not even worth listing. All this stuff is listed on my 2011 Favorites page, which I’ve been keeping updated all year, but calling my favorites out with a bit of explanation is something I always look forward to doing.
To start things off, here are ten albums (in no order) that I really enjoyed, but didn’t quite make my favorites of the year.
Neon Indian – Era Extraña
I came across Neon Indian via NPR’s First Listen – I often check First Listen to preview albums I’m planning to buy a week early, but once in a while I find something I’d never heard of before. Neon Indian are a bit heavier on the electronic-sounding distortion than I usually like, but something about their sound really pleases me, especially when it falls into fuzzier distortion. Both “Hex Girlfriend” and “Polish Girl” would rate among my favorite songs of the year, but the rest of the album left me colder – kind of same-y and unmemorable, knocking it down into the honorable mentions.
St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
I can easily see this album being in my top twenty if I’d given myself more time to get accustomed to it, but I find St. Vincent something of a tough sell, personally. I don’t know why; lots of people whose taste I generally share love Annie Clark a lot, and I can see the appeal, but she just doesn’t grab me immediately. Like I said, with more time to let it seep in, it might.
An Horse – Walls
The third album from this Australian duo takes their basic sound and polishes it up a bit – not quite so much reliance on the fourth interval, for one thing, which is welcome.
Braids – Native Speaker
A January release, so this one has had plenty of time to earworm me, but only the opening song “Lemonade” has succeeded in sticking with me very long. That song is killer, a pop-happy experimental number that promises more than the rest of the album can quite deliver.
The Pauses – A Cautionary Tale
It’d be disengenuous of me not to mention that I’m pretty good online friends with this Florida band’s drummer; I wouldn’t know they existed otherwise. They have a very pleasing indie pop sound, with strong vocals and a bit of experimentation around the edges that sets them apart from the crowd.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical
I’ve not really liked Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s previous albums all that much, but listened through this one on a whim and was duly impressed. It’s tighter and stronger than what I’ve heard before, with catchier hooks and a great sound.
Pepper Rabbit – Red Velvet Snow Ball
I saw these guys opening for another band several months ago and remembered enjoying their set, so when I saw they had an album out now, I figured why not check it out. Often I enjoy opening bands at the show because, well, live music is awesome, but Pepper Rabbit followed through in the studio.
Feist – Metals
Most people who like the bands I like put Feist way up at the top of their lists. I like her all right, but I just can’t quite love her stuff (aside from her vocals with Broken Social Scene, of course – those are awesome). It’s a little too spare, a little too quirky, or something. That said, I enjoyed listening through Metals more than I’ve enjoyed her other albums. Maybe next time is the charm?
The Violet Lights – Sex & Sound EP
Another band I’m friends with, but I think this EP is really strong aside from that – an LA-tinged throwback to Britpop, like a touch of Oasis mixed with a dash of the Libertines, and then a sprinkling of Jack White thrown in on top.
Twin Sister – In Heaven
A bit of an electropop touch layered in makes this album really listenable; with a bit more time it might’ve risen higher, but on the other hand, it’s maybe a tad forgettable outside of definite earworm material like “Bad Street.”