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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lou's Top 20 of 2011, Part 3

Here's the third in a four-part series revealing my choices for the Top 20 records of 2011. Feel free to submit your own list to purgegeeks@gmail.com and I'll strongly consider posting it.

6.) Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire (Pax-Am)

Last year, I lamented Ryan Adams' spotty output since his 2000 solo debut Heartbreaker when including that fantastic album in the upper echelon of my best of the decade list. Finally, he returns with an album approaching those heights. Adams seems to rediscover his gift for heart-tugging melodies impeccably delivered in his aching voice. The backing is subdued, rootsy, and totally authentic sounding, better than the pleasant but somewhat forced-sounding Cold Roses or Jacksonville City Nights. While his efforts to explore various genres and stretch out of his comfort zone have been oftentimes laudable, its good to hear Adams back in the domain in which he is a master.

7.) Dolorean - The Unfazed (Partisan)

Al James continues to become a more expressive and complete songwriter on his band's fifth full-length. He can still break your heart, but has tempered his melancholy tendencies with prettier melodies and more fleshed-out backing tracks. Not that most of the songs don't remain somewhat devastating, but that's James' strength, and he only continues to hone it here.

8.) I Was A King - Old Friends (Sounds Familyre)

Norway's I Was A King stays out of the trap of many '60s revivalists by bringing enough of their own exuberance and creativity to the proceedings rather than being entrapped by perceived faithfulness to their progenitors. It doesn't stop them from gloriously channeling the Byrds with a delightfully psychedelic 12-string break on "Learning to Fly," the Hollies' harmonies on "Nightwalking," or the Zombies' moodiness on "Here To Stay," not to mention fellow disciples like Teenage Fanclub and Apples In Stereo throughout.

9.) Little Scream - The Golden Record (Secretly Canadian)

A deeply inventive album with parts that seem to come from nowhere, recalling genres all over the map, the constants being the evocative songwriting and vocals of Laurel Sprengelmeyer. While "The Heron and the Fox" stands out despite (or perhaps because of) its status as the most straight-up folky tune here, "Guyegaros" and "Red Hunting Jacket" sound like tracks that Neil Young and the Doors, respectively, were never quite weird enough to make (which is obviously pretty weird).

10.) Meg Baird - Seasons on Earth (Drag City)

A truly eye-opening record somewhat radical in its sheer simplicity, with Baird's heavenly voice and plaintive acoustic augmented only occasionally by the perfectly utilized pedal steel and dobro. More focused than her work with Espers and a more worthy heir to the great female-led American and British folk of the '60s and '70s than much else that has been done since.



Anonymous ingrid said...

old friends was on my 2010 list.

9:34 AM  

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