Its that time of year when many writers look back at the year and try to create some sort of account of what will be memorable for them. What are the best albums of the year? The best movies? The best books? Etc. I have never really tried to have much a formal take on this whole list-making business, even though I really enjoy looking over what others have to say. I certainly do not have a formal way of keeping track of what has come out this year and what I have encountered and enjoyed, so I am sure that I will completely forget something totally amazing. Oh well. Here are some of the albums that I found myself listening to a lot this past year.
Overall, I think I have a lot to say about music from this year and not a whole lot on books and movies. I think I totally missed the boat on movies and books that came out this past year. Well, that’s grad school for you. I did see a fair amount of films, but I don’t think much of it was newly released. Enjoyed the new Planet of the Apes in the theater, but still not sure that it will hold up to repeated viewings. Criterion’s re-release of Brian DePalma’s Blow Out was pretty great. Surprising got a real kick out of Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. Great twist on the slasher premise. Rubber was kinda, sort of, pretty great. One viewing is probably all I need in this life, but at the same time, it was really well done and interesting. None of the big, important films of the year got me to the theater. Any time Terrence Mallick comes out from his cave, its an event that is likely worthwhile, but I just didn’t make it to Tree of Life. Sorry Terry. Not your fault, its mine. Same goes for Drive. Realize that it is worth seeing, but somehow, it just didn’t compel me to see it. Yet. That’s what I remember for films, and some of those may have come out last year. Oh well, I saw them this year. Again, I’m blaming it on grad school.
I read a ton of great comics this year, but I will have to do some more thinking and research what actually came out this year. I will get back to you on that one.
I can’t really tell from here what the musical trend of the year was. I didn’t spot anything completely new and specifically 2011. Did you? Guess sometimes it take a few years to gain perspective. Although, of course, I know that my tastes are pretty far off the charts from whatever the heck is going on in the mainstream, or even the mainstream indie world. Seems like a lot of folks around here in the Seattle (based on what’s hyped at the music shops and what people are talking about) are really into some clean, slightly electro, adult contemporary sounding stuff. You would really think that with all of the messed up stuff going on in the world that there would be a whole lot more anger and revolt in the music of today, but that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. Thanks to the Internet and mobile devices we are way more connected and informed, but somehow complacent as well. I don’t know really. This is obviously just my theorizing, but I can’t help but wonder if this doesn’t have some role in how inoffensive the “indie” music of today seems.
As usual, its not hard for me to think of a bunch of great stuff I heard this year. This is the stuff that I listened to most and releases that have high artistic merit in my book. This year I found myself listening to a lot more poppy, catchy, song-oriented music than I had been over the previous few years. Labels like Slumberland, In The Red, Woodists, and Captured Tracks seemed to be releasing pop gem after pop gem. Of course, since I had been ignoring this type of music for the past few years, there were lots of great older releases to get into too. Last year, for me was really THE YEAR for Slumberland in many ways, but there were some great follow-ups and sneak peeks into the studios in 2012 and The Crystal Stilts In Love With Oblivion was a stone cold beauty. Since their resurrection in 2005, Siltbreeze has continued a strong run that takes on the skewed, fractured, messed-up, damaged side of the pop equation. They also had some crucial New Zealand reissues from Axemen and Above Ground. Speaking of NZ, looks like the epoch defining label Flying Nun is getting with the program and kicking out some classic beauties on vinyl. Horray! Or really I should say, Tally-Ho! Also in the reissue camp, more Japanese heavies see the light of day thanks to Phoenix Records – Les Rallizes Denudes, Taj Mahal Travellers, Flower Travellin’ Band and others. Beyond crucial stuff. Also been trying to fill in the gaps of my Dischord collection. Thankfully their remastering, reissuing campaign continues. It is a really, really good time to be a vinyl fanatic – although the super, duper deluxe, special addition trend seems to be to be artificially pushing the prices higher and higher. Sorry, but 30 bucks for most albums is just a little too rich for my blood. (Most of the time). Luckily there are still many label putting great music on this earth, on vinyl, for the 10 to 15 range. As I say, I’m really glad that vinyl is popular again, but some of these super expensive releases really feel like someone is trying to cash in on the craze.
Speaking of budget minded labels, Mississippi continues to absolutely kill it. I miss being in Portland so much, for many different reasons, but Mississippi Records is a big one. Their releases are really in it for the long haul. I may not listen to them every day, but I know that I will cherish each one for years to come. As far as packaging, they keep things simple, but always press their records on nice heavy vinyl, without making some big deal about how many grams it is. Used to be that info on the releases way minimal at best, which really added to the whole mystery, but this year has seen some releases with booklets and photos. The absolute best of the bunch in my opinion is Ishilan N-Tenere a collaborative release with Sahel Sounds. Technically, this beauty was release in December of 2010, but I say that is close enough for me. Totally stunningly beautiful collection of songs from Senegal and Mali. Christopher, the brains behind Sahel Sounds has been recording and releasing great African music. Be sure to check out his blog that has lots of great info and sounds. Looks like more collabs with Mississippi are in the works, and if you have a change to go to the store in Portland, be sure to keep an eye out for the cassettes Christopher puts together. Mississippi’s cassettes have continued to blast out this year and the jams just keep coming. They are supposed to stop at a hundred and are almost there. Been trying my best to keep up, but its crazy. You never know which ones you’re gonna find. Luckily, they seem to continue to dub the older ones too. Maybe, just maybe my collection will be complete someday. I guess its kinda sick, but they are just about the best mixes for any occasion. What can a music nut do? On to the goods. This stuff blew my mind and made me happy this year.