Music from 2011 in Review (Part One)

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Every year since 2010… ok, last year… I did a year in review of music from 2010 that I really enjoyed. I can’t exactly give you a link to it, because I did it on Facebook for the benefit of my friends, though I’m not sure how often my friends listen to my links. I know Nathan will pick up on a few here or there. I’m going to spend as many of my remaining blog posts for the year doing the year in music review. I know I’ve listened to enough music to fill in the posts, but as a review can mean to go back and revisit, I’m at the mercy of how much stuff I can listen to again between now and the end of the year.

As I tend to listen to most new (or music I haven’t heard before) music in free and legal formats (You Tube, Pandora, library check outs, play list sites) I sometimes will run into the problem of not hearing a full album. This is unfortunate, but I own hundreds of albums (most bought used) so it’s not like I’d ever have to hear anything new to have plenty to listen to. If I miss a few tracks here and there, I should be alright, and if I really like what I’ve heard, I’ll probably buy the CD used eventually.

So onto 2011. I’m not sure if this was a great year for music, but there were many good releases. I’m reviewing what I’ve heard in the course of the year, so don’t look at this as a top albums of 2011 list.

Wire – Red Barked Trees

Wire is a group that I should be really, really into. They have been implanted for decades in my genre of choice, and on top of that, they are a good band. After hearing most of the tracks on Red Barked Tree, I found myself wondering why I haven’t been listening to them most of my life (especially since the band form when I was three). Later, when I came back to this album, I made a point to start listening to some of their other work. I don’t think this is their best album, but it is one of the best albums I heard this year.

This is the most punk sounding track on the album. Good stuff.

The first track on the album. It’s a catchy track with mildly psychedelic tendencies.

This is my favourite track on the album. It’s not so mildly psychedelic. It’s still melodic though, rather than just being outright strange.

311 – Universal Pulse

I have always liked 311. I think they have an interesting sound in a world where interesting gives way to trying to appeal to the widest audience. I picked this album up at the library, and enjoyed it from the first listen through on, but I wasn’t immediately sold on it. When a good band starts out, they are typically coasting by on the pent up creative energy. Their sound tends to feel more raw and inspired, regardless of their songwriting ability. Some artists over the years will improve on their songwriting to the point that you don’t miss the raw energy, because the songs are so well crafted. Some artists move more in the direction of constantly reinventing their sound, so that you never know what to expect (I’m looking at you David Bowie). Then there are bands like 311. They just remain consistently good. The problem is that somewhere the raw energy feel leaves the equation and you’re left with a band that is every bit as good as when they started, but feels a little lackluster. Every song on “Universal Pulse” is good, and I would recommend it to fans of 311 or the rock/hip hop/funk fusion genre, but listen to the album a few times, because you don’t realize just how catchy these songs are until you’ve heard them a few times.

This is easily the best track on the album. I would get this track and “Trouble” stuck in my head.

If there is a track on this album that I think is more intriguing for its music than its vocals, this is it.

This is just an odd little song that ends out the album. I think this was the track that sounded the most like 311 doing a song that isn’t a 311 track at times. It still has segments that are decidedly their sound, but I would always make sure to listen all the way through the album to get to this track

Moby – Destroyed

I don’t want to talk bad about Moby. He’s truly a talented songwriter, and I’m not so sure that I can say that “Destroyed” is a bad album, as much as it hasn’t caught my attention. I became a fan of Moby in his post-punk, in your face days with the album “Animal Rights,” and tracks like “All that I Need is to Be Loved.” I liked “Play” and “18” just fine, though they were certainly more focused on a mass audience. “Destroyed” feels like an album that is not focused on mass market appeal, which is a good thing, but is also not the hardcore Moby that I enjoy the most. It feels more like an album that is meant for him to DJ rather than perform. It’s also an album that I think I’ll be more likely to use individual tracks for compilation discs rather than listening through if I ever buy it.

Another odd thing about this album is the lack of Moby’s actual voice on it, at least compared to the typical album by a solo artist. I’m not saying he doesn’t sing, but there is less of his singing than I would have expected. This is really a great track too. I’m reminded of Dream Academy meets Icehouse, which is a happy place to be musically.

This track is one of the tracks that makes this album rough for me. It’s really good, but I can’t latch onto it while listening to the album. If it had been a single track with a guest vocalist somewhere in between more tracks like “The Day” and fewer tracks like “Be the One” then it would have stood better for me on the unique quality of it.

This track calls back to the “Animal Rights” era, but more for the sprawling mellow sound. Very beautiful

Ok, that’s it for today. I’m going to try to keep it to three albums each post and three tracks from those albums.

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