For me, music in 2011 was a schizo year. Finding any real new artist to appreciate seemed to be tougher than ever, with the latest waves of 60's retro, chill wave and hipster-lite never striking a chord with me. Ultimately, what saved the year was the resurgence of old pros dropping solo efforts, effectively saying "I'm still here and know how to make it." Looking over my ten favorites of the year, it's comprised of said veterans whose music I either grew up on or feverishly adopted over the last few years. Maybe I am getting old.
10. J Mascis- Several Shades Of Why
As the perennial voice and writer of lauded 90's indie band Dinosaur Jr, songwriter J Mascis' solo album evokes the yesteryear of his pained songs and slurred guitar. Along with Thurston Moore and his solo release this year, Mascis' album is a thing of beauty.
9. Beirut- Riptide
Beirut is an anomaly in modern music, sounding like a gimmick at first with their influenced sound of Eastern European horns, polka and dance hall flavor. But lead singer and songwriter Zach Condon is the real deal, heartfelt with his inflections and a brilliant songwriter. While "Riptide" isn't quite up to the magnificence of "Flying Club Cup" or previous outings, it's still head and shoulders above everything else out there.
8. Bill Callahan- Apocalypse
I can just get lost in the subtle sound of Bill Callahan... one of the most important songwriters working today. As the lead singer for influential rock band Smog and general Austin icon, Callahan's latest solo album came and went with little fanfare back in the spring, but it deserves more recognition. This is one dark, but ultimately uplifting work.
7. Mogwai- Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
Honestly, there's nothing revelatory in the music of Mogwai. You know exactly what you'll get and how their largely instrumental arrangements will build, but damn if they don't continue to impress with every new release. I have a penchant for rousing post-rock (see "Explosions In the Sky or "Do Make Say Think") and Mogwai does it better than most.
6. The Twilight Singers- Dynamite Steps
I just love Greg Dulli and his tormented voice, and The Twilight Singers is yet another project that he lends his talents. Messy, loud and complex, "Dynamite Steps" is probably their best album since the early 00's.
Next up: the top 5