Geeking Out About Gift Guide 2011: Musical Taste

So it’s the last week before we’re forced into close proximity with our families. The snow is falling, the parking lots are icy, and the malls are a hellscape of screaming infants, cacophonous carols and pushy sale signs. Which is why it’s time for another musical rendition of the GOA Gift Guide.

There is a large quantity of music put out in a given year. Some is great, some is mediocre and some is oh-god-where-is-khans-earworm awful (I’m looking at you LMFAO). What we’re looking at today are some of the best albums of that last year, from the Christmas music you may have ignored to the album that really was that great, we’re not all deluded. Let’s kick things off with that one

Adele – 21: This is going to make a lot of best-of lists this year. Adele’s sophomore work is brilliant, all the way through. While odds are you might never want to hear “Rolling in the Deep” again, it is one of the best, most soulful songs in a while, comparable other modern songstresses from the late Amy Winehouse to Sharon and Norah Jones (no relation, just easier to type that way). It is a beautiful album by a woman who has one of the strongest and best new voices around.

Hugh Laurie – Let them Talk: Hugh Laurie is awesome. He’s great in almost everything he’s ever done. That being said, the idea of him anchoring a blues record raised some eyebrows. However, no need to worry. This is a fantastic album, and one that deserves a look from everyone who scoffed at it. Doing mostly traditional songs, Laurie is a dynamo; his takes on ‘Swanee River’ and ‘They’re Red Hot’ are worth the album price alone. Watch a performance here.

Wild Flag – Wild Flag: If you’ve watched Portlandia at all, you’re familiar with Carrie Brownstein. This also applies if you’ve been a fan of female-fronted punk, as she was a member of Sleater-Kinney. Her new band, Wild Flag, made with former members of other bands including Quasi, The Jicks and The Minders, is loud and rough, but beautifully so. They put the basics of rock and roll together in a way that sounds completely new.  Pop it in and turn it up.

She and Him – A Very She and Him Christmas: If you’re a fan of either of She and Him’s albums of dreamy, 60s surf pop, their new holiday album is definitely something you should grab. While short (clocking in at barely 30 minutes), Zooey Deschanel’s (and occasionally M. Ward’s) vocals make for a pleasant listening experience. A laid back Christmas album for everyone.

Hayes Carll – KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories): An unusual country album, it seems pretty traditional until you focus on the lyrics. Not a lot of country music out there that references James Brown, the war in Iraq and hilariously awkward bar hookups. Well, ok, maybe some of those, but Carll manages it with a mixture of twang and bluegrass that is appealing to the non-country fan. And he’s written one of the saddest, most nostalgic Christmas songs in a while, ‘Grateful for Christmas’.

James Blake – James Blake: Dubstep, but something unique. This is a dreamy album, which makes the throbbing beats that drive over his wailing, distorted vocals all the more terrifying. Check out ‘A Wilhelm Scream’ just to see what it is that makes this something you won’t play at a club, but that you might instead find on the weirdest nature show ever.

Tom Waits – Bad as Me: Tom Waits is a god. He manages to sound like he’s been gargling with razor blades, rabid squirrels and lemon juice for 65 years at the same time that’s he’s singing some of the best written songs out there. This album is chock full of what has made him so popular, with the title track, ‘Get Lost’ and ‘New Years Eve’ as particularly badass standouts. Best listened to (allegedly) while hot-boxing cigarettes with a blind jazz guitarist who may have sold his soul to the devil.

So that’s some of the best of 2011. There are plenty more, including all musical Muppetry that happened this year, the latest from St. Vincent and The Decemberists’ newest magnum opus (not to mention Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ upcoming Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Soundtrack), but this is just a taste. Check out more of the best of lists out there and plug your ears into something beautiful this holiday season.

Posted on December 19, 2011 at 22:17 by Lincoln Eddy · Permalink
In: Columns, Eyes and Ears, Music · Tagged with: ,