Pittsburgh Union of Record Geeks electronic

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Lou's Top 20 of 2011, Part 4

Here's the last 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. 

1.) Otter Petter - Nice Night for A Knife Fight (self-released)

There's not a song on this Chicago band's second full-length that doesn't simply ooze pop greatness. More hooks than a meat locker and a perfect balance between aching vulnerability and searing propulsion, personified in the exemplary vocals of Michael Pritchard, which resemble a more forceful Ben Gibbard or more grounded Ken Stringfellow. The instrumentation reveals charming intricacies without distracting from the enthralling melodies. Every tune here is a triumph, but "Torch" stands out as the most exultant moment with its searing organ and a slightly sneering Pritchard driving an absolutely slaying hook. Truly cannot get enough of this record.

2.) Old Calf - Borrow A Horse (No Quarter)

While Ned Oldham's adaptations of poetry, nursery rhymes, traditional folk tunes, etc. in former band the Anomoanon were uniformly pleasant, they served too to make one pine somewhat for that band's finest work, which revealed him as an amazing craftsman of beautiful indie-folk in his on right. The debut from his new project is the first on which he has gone the traditional route and has been able to rival the power of his own pen. While the instrumentation is largely authentic and homespun it is inventive enough to not strike one as "traditional," and Oldham's aching vocals add something special to even a tune as well-worn as "Bonny Cuckoo."

3) Damon & Naomi - False Beats and True Hearts (20-20-20)

It seems like I write this review every year or two, but here we go: Damon and Naomi just get better and better. They are constantly becoming even greater singers and writers. Their instrumentation is singularly enchanting yet unobtrusive. Their partnership with guitar magician Michio Kurihara is brilliant. Their material has a unique beauty. They have outstripped the legacy of Galaxie 500 with their own work. This is their strongest record yet.

4.) Southeast Engine - Canary (Misra)

Frontman Adam Remnant likened SEE's previous effort--2009's From the Forest to the Sea--to an Americana version of the Kinks' Arthur, and the follow-up seems to duly reflect Muswell Hillbillies, observing a soul-trying period of the first half of the 20th century with wry humor and a buoyant appreciation of simple pleasures. While it's the band's rootsiest effort yet overall, they appropriately indulge the irony of rocking out "The Great Depression," though the beautiful folk ballad "Adeline of the Appalachian Mountains" stands out as the highlight here.

5.) Mikal Cronin (Trouble In Mind)

San Franciscan Cronin mixes up Beach Boys, Barrett-era Floyd, and shoegaze influences to come up with this refreshing debut full of hooky, fuzzy goodness. Throw in an always appreciated early Byrds nod on "Again and Again" and this is about as good as it gets.



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