Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Favorite Albums Of 2011

To kick off my "Favorites of 2011" posts I decided to start with the area that would be the most difficult for me. I work part time in a record store where I process online orders. As I package the CDs, it never ceases to amaze me the amount of music that I will never be exposed to in my life. I'm constantly listening to and looking for new music, but generally I'm behind the times when I find an artist that I like. For example: I literally just discovered Elvis Costello about a month ago and could kick myself for not listening to him sooner. If not for my co-worker playing a mix CD that happened to have a few of Costello's songs, I never would have been exposed to his songwriting. That would have been really depressing as he has skyrocketed into my top five artists.

But enough about Costello. Instead, let's talk about my favorite albums of 2011.

Favorite Songs: Mercy, Queen of (k)nots, Faster

While I might be a bit biased, Matt Nathanson is the most under appreciated musicians... um... ever. He's been around for a long time, and his most recent album Modern Love, just shows how he continues to grow as a musician. It's a mix of folk, rock, and pop... and actually is probably the "poppiest" (is that a word?) album that Matt has released.

I dare you not to dance along to "Faster" or rock out during "Mercy" (the double claps, which I normally do not tolerate are perfectly acceptable since this is Matt Nathanson). For those that are used to Matt's touchy-feely love songs there's "Run" (a duet with Sugarland) and "Kiss Quick" which is so perfect it makes me want to die a little.
Like I said, I'm completely biased when it comes to Matt, so just trust me on this one. If you're a fan of singer/songwriters start listening to Matt Nathanson. (While Modern Love is amazing, I will forever be biased to Matt's Beneath These Fireworks album... which you can buy here.)

Favorite Songs: Round Here, Anna Begins, A Murder of One

In my opinion, The Counting Crows could put out an album a week and I'd never get sick of them. Fans of The Counting Crows that have been lucky enough to see them live know the amazing experience their concerts are. It's not just a concert - you feel like you're watching Adam Duritz pour out his heart and soul right on the stage. I've seen them live several times and have never been bored during a single second of their act, including the songs that I wasn't overly familiar with.

That said, fans  have been waiting a very long time for a live DVD. August and Everything After - Live at Town Hall gives us just this: the live experience not only on audio CD, but complete with DVD as well. Adam and the rest of the gang take their debut album and play it track by track in all their gut wrenching and soul crunching glory.

I've never been more affected by a band like I was with The Counting Crows. I've never had a musician reach out and grab me the way Adam Durtiz does between the lyrics and the obvious emotion that he pours into each song. The Counting Crows give a sounding board to the self deprecating voice that sometimes talks far too loudly in my head... and somehow make those feelings okay. There are portions of "Round Here" that I swear could be ripped from pages of my diary, and I never cease to tear up when I hear '... she says she's tired of life, well everyone's tired of something...'.

It's difficult for me to put into words the perfection that is this album (yeah, I said it was perfect). This is music experience that you need to feel instead of listen to.

Favorite Songs: Kiss With a Fist, Dog Days are Over, My Boy Builds Coffins

I don't know where to begin with Florence + The Machine. I was first introduced to Florence when I heard "Kiss With a Fist" during the credits for Jennifer's Body. Instantly I was on amazon downloading the single, and it quickly became one of my favorite songs. It was a different style than I was used to - not pop, not rock, and not quite folk. It was more a mixture of everything. 

Then I heard Lungs. And I was IN LOVE. Florence Welch is the vocalist who collaborates with other artists on each song. Once I discovered this, the eclectic nature of the album made perfect sense. There isn't a song that I dislike on Lungs. There isn't a moment during the album when I'm bored or want to skip a track. It is wonderful, funky, and most of all fun. Florence is brilliant

"Dog Days are Over" has become my anthem (or so I like to pretend) and if I could harness the passion and raw talent in Florence's voice in anything in my life I'd be a happy woman.

Favorite Songs: Half of Something Else, All for a Woman, All at Once

Another completely underrated artist, The Airborne Toxic event fist hit the music scene with their single "Sometime Around Midnight". All at Once is their sophomore album, and a great follow up to their self titled debut a few years ago.
All at Once is a rock album, but the ballads that The Airborne Toxic Event add to the track list are perfect love songs. "Half of Something Else" (my favorite track)  is basically Mikel Jollett pouring out his soul in song form. You'll notice that theme with my favorite albums - they're all lyrically heavy. I feel that if you're going to take the time to write a song that you need to SAY something in your writing. Don't be lazy. Lazy songwriting is obnoxious and makes me question why I should continue to listen.

That said, The Airborne Toxic Event is a group that mixes their through provoking lyrics with a really rockin' soundtrack. While most are love songs ("All for a Woman" will be played at my wedding), there are also tracks ("Welcome To Your Wedding Day" & "All At Once") that won't let you sit still.

Favorite Songs: I Don't Want to Be a Bride, Hear the Bells, Carousel

Getting back to the singer/songwriter style that I love so much, Vanessa Carlton's newest album Rabbits on the Run made me literally clap my hands in delight when I downloaded it. I'm not a huge fan of Carlton's - which isn't that far of a statement as I've never given her much of a chance to prove herself to me. 

Then I saw her open for Matt Nathanson and was blown away by her talent. I took piano lessons for YEARS growing up (it's one of my biggest regrets that I stopped), and seeing someone play the piano THAT well was mind boggling to me. Again, Rabbits on the Run is all about the story the songs tell. If you're looking for a pop album to just toss on the background - this isn't it. In order to really appreciate Carlton's latest, you need to tune in and listen to what she's conveying. I'm completely okay with listening to music this way, and hadn't heard an album that really invited me to LISTEN; so Rabbits on the Run was a welcome change.

"I Don't Want to Be a Bride" is hands down my favorite track on the record. The story of not needing a white dress, not wanting the perfect wedding, and just wanting to be "someone's girl" is a breath of fresh air in a world where marriage and the white picket fence are all but shoved down our throats. Musically, Rabbits on the Run is beautiful. It's beautiful in it's simplicity which allows the lyrics to really shine.

1 comment:

  1. A+! Kelly, you need to hear the new Florence + the Machine CD, Ceremonials. It's as good as the first - I can't take it out of my cd player!