Saturday, December 31, 2011

Hey-yooooo! What up, bitches?! Long time, no blog - I know, I know...what an asshole, amirite? But, I can't go into the new year without doing my annual selection of (drumroll, please) the best albums of 2011! As always these are purely based on my opinion, so if you don't agree, tough titties. It was a hard decision cutting a few, but in the end I think the list is pretty solid. So without any further delay, I give you Stereophonic Zoology's Top 20 Albums of 2011:

20. TV on the Radio Nine Types of Light
The boys from Brooklyn had a pretty intense year. After non-stop touring, they took a break and recorded this album, and in the process veered away from their signature fuzzy static and noise and wrote some of the best ballads in their career. Sadly they lost their beloved bass player, 34 year-old Gerard Smith, to lung cancer shortly after the release, making it a bitter sweet moment in their career.
Highlights: Keep Your Heart, Will Do, Repetition

19. Theophilus London – Timez Are Weird These Days
From the moment I saw this guy perform at SXSW this past year, I knew this was something special. His unique style of rhyme's are delivered over synthesized beats you could swear were pulled from Studio One in the 80's. It's just so damn catchy. If you're not moved by this music by the second song, you might wanna check your pulse.
Highlights: Last Name London, Love is Real, One Last Time

18. Young the Giant – Young the Giant
Yes, it's your typical, radio friendly group. Yes, they have a very mainstream sound. And yes, at times they can sound like everything else out there. But then you listen to them again. And again. And again. Why you ask? Because sometimes, that "popular" band is just a really fucking good band. Deal with it.
Highlights: Apartment, 12 Fingers, St. Walker

17. SerynThis Is Where We Are
This five-piece out of Denton, Texas seemingly came out of nowhere with their debut album. Their soaring melodies and grandiose instrumentals immediately catch anyone's attention within earshot. Whether you hear them recorded or live, you can't help but be drawn in by their earnest, dynamic sound.
Highlights: So Within, We Will All Be Changed, Our Love

16. BeirutThe Rip Tide
Four years after his last release, the multi-talented Zach Condon is back with a new album of eastern European melodies and gypsy-tinged folk ballads. However, on this set, his disposition seems sunnier. His voice, sounding older and dustier than his years, keeps the songs grounded. His growth as not only a musician (of which he plays many an instrument) but as a solid songwriter is clear.
Highlights: A Candle's Fire, East Harlem, Vagabond

15. Iron & Wine Kiss Each Other Clean
You got to respect an artist who's willing to make a big departure from a sound that established him on the scene with his many fans. Sam Beam did just that with this release. Are those horns I hear on an I&W album? You bet they are. His jazzy ensembles and heavily-layered rhythms rubbed some the wrong way. But if you took the time to let this album seep in, it was quite intoxicating.
Highlights: Walking Far From Home, Tree By The River, Rabbit Will Run

14. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
This folk rock group's sheer unpretentious attitude is one of their most endearing attributes. The harmonies and storytelling in each of their songs is one of the biggest reasons why they continue to build an audience year after year. And with a record as deep and analytical as this one, there's no doubt the boys from Seattle will keep mining gold in the future.
Highlights: Montezuma, Helplessness Blues, Lorelai

13. The Features – Wilderness
Flawlessly juggling chaos and control with just his voice, lead singer Matthew Pelham instantly makes you take notice. This band just rocks, plain and simple. They're serious without taking it too seriously. When this band is going full-tilt, they're hard to beat.
Highlights: Kids, How It Starts, Offer Up

12. Grouplove – Never Trust A Happy Song
Angsty, introspective, sunny, nostalgic, rebelliously carefree, saccharine hippie rock. That pretty much sums up Grouplove, a band of friends whose origins as a group started on the island of Crete. This album will make you wanna give the finger to the establishment and get away from it all.
Highlights: Itchin' On A Photograph, Colours, Love Will Save Your Soul

11. Bon IverBon Iver
After Justin Vernon's first release, most wondered how he could ever top it. How about by taking that signature "folk" sound and combining it with a chamber pop experimental edge. It's flawlessly arranged sound combined with Vernon's exquisite songwriting makes it a piece of beauty.
Highlights: Holocene, Michicant, Calgary

10. TennisCape Dory
This album screams nostalgia. No matter what kind of mood you're in, once you hit play, everything is sunnier. It takes you to breezy coastal waters and warm sandy beaches. You instantly want a Mai Tai. You'll want to set sail for the nearest hammock. Be sure to bring some flip flops.
Highlights: Take Me Somewhere, Marathon, Seafarer

9. The Black Keys El Camino
Anyone who's a fan of good old-fashioned rock knows this Akron, Ohio duo. They're one of the only survivors of the garage rock revival from a few years ago, but dammit if they don't own it. Time and time again, they show us that often times perfection is simply a wailing guitar and pounding drums.
Highlights: Lonely Boy, Run Right Back, Sister

8. White DenimD
This Austin quartet's latest release harkens back to a grungy, classic-rock era, with distorted guitars and punk attitude aplenty. There are psychedelic flourishes, hippie mysticism and raspy howls. It would sound as good at the Fillmore in '77 as it does today.
Highlights: It's Him!, Street Joy, Is and Is and Is

7. CultsCults
This debut is one hell of a fun listen. Lead singer Madeline Follin's youthful voice soars in an alto-like state, making this some of the most enjoyable indie pop in a while. It's a perfect length, at just over half an hour long. It's catchy as hell. What's not to like?
Highlights: Go Outside, You Know What I Mean, Oh My God

6. Jay-Z & Kanye WestWatch The Throne
Hova. Yeezy. I mean, c'mon. Really? 'Nuff said.
Highlights: No Church In The Wild, Ni**as In Paris, Otis

5. St. VincentStrange Mercy
Anyone who knows me knows that I have an affinity for this local talent. You could even go so far as to say there's a bit of a crush involved. But can you blame me? One listen to Annie Clark's hypnotic voice, unhinged, lurching guitar style and grounded, emotional songwriting is enough to make anyone swoon. That goes for you too, ladies.
Highlights: Cruel, Cheerleader, Strange Mercy

4. Manchester OrchestraSimple Math
These fellas are deep. They're introspective. They have existential crises and question everything. Yeah, yeah, yeah...we get it. You're fuck ups. So why are they on here? Take a listen to the title track and tell me that's not one of the best damn songs you've heard in a long time. Now listen to the rest of the album. You'll thank me.
Highlights: Pensacola, Pale Black Eye, Simple Math,

3. Of Monsters And MenMy Head Is An Animal
Who? What the what? Don't worry. The fact you haven't heard of these guys isn't that surprising. This album flew under the radar most of this past year, but for those that found it, what a pleasant surprise. This Icelandic folk-pop group takes everything you love about Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons and Edward Sharpe and weave their own brand of catchy, irresistible tunes.
Highlights: King and Lionheart, Little Talks, Six Weeks

2. The Dear HunterThe Color Spectrum
You can never accuse Casey Cresenzo of being a lazy ass songwriter. On his latest piece, the dude started writing, and writing, and writing...36 songs to be exact. Rather than whittle them down, he created a concept album consisting of nine EP's, with four songs per EP. Each is represented by a corresponding color, and accordingly sound completely different from each other. It's one of the most ambitious albums I've heard in a while.
Highlights: Deny It All (Red), The Canopy (Green), Mr. Malum (Violet)

1. The Head and the HeartThe Head and the Heart
From the moment I heard this album, I was instantly drawn to its sound. The grass roots feel. The catchy rhythms. Everything just seemed to work. It made me want to drink rye whiskey and jump a freight train outta town. I know there are quite a few haters on this album *cough Pitchfork cough* but screw it. Albums connect to us in one way or another for whatever reason, and this one will be a favorite of mine for quite some time to come.
Highlights: Down In The Valley, Lost In My Mind, Sounds Like Hallelujah

If you happen to have never heard of some of these albums or artists, I highly suggest giving them a listen. Me thinks you'll like. Here's looking forward to another amazing year in music. I can't wait to hear what's to come.