Each year, we’ve posted our top ten albums of the previous year. 2011 was an intriguing year. The best albums were fantastic, but it felt like their was a dearth of great new bands. Bands that put out great singles in 2010, tended to follow up with mediocre albums in 2011. You’ll certainly want to check out our list of Top 10 EP’s of 2011, as we think there’s still a few bands with great promise on the horizon. Thanks to the bands, the labels, the promoters and most of all….the readers. Over the next week, we’ll also be bringing you the top ten lists of some great musicians, writers and music industry folks for you to peruse. Check back soon!
This year we’re presenting individual lists from the three main contributors to the site. Each brings their own tastes and we hope you’ll enjoy them all.
Special thanks to our friends at Rdio, who’ve helped us to embed virtually every album on our top ten lists, so that you can listen to them in their entirety. Enjoy!
As we’ve watched others post their top 10′s of the decade, we’ve been a bit flummoxed. Other than the obvious Radiohead choice, we seem to disagree with the cool kids once again. We believe that faithful readers of this site will find our picks logical and a perfect fit for their own taste. There’s no politics in these picks, no succumbing to the arm-twisting of certain labels who are trying to grow the future of their brand…. I mean band. If you write great melodies and believe that emotion IS music, then you’re likely to find yourself on this list. And with that…. the top ten.
10) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- BRMC (2001)
Recommend Track: Whatever Happened To My Rock n Roll?
Why We Love It: While we loved the 90′s, it was clearly time to shake off the Pavement/Nirvana indie plaid. IBRMC used their first album to reintroduce the world to songs that didn’t follow the “loud/soft/loud” formula that bands like Smashing Pumpkins had run into the ground. They challenged listeners without the Strokes-like tendency to worry about their “look” more than their sound. A classic.
9) Bloc Party- Silent Alarm (2005)
Recommended Track: Like Eating Glass
Why We Love It: While the sound of this decade frequently became homogenized, Bloc Party were one of the few bands who people couldn’t emulate. With one of the best drummers in rock and guitar riffs that veered from Gang of Four genius to a sound unlike any other, they made a record that will stand the test of time for decades to come.
8)The Boxer Rebellion- Exits (2005)
Recommended Track: Watermelon
Why We Love It: On their first self-released album, The Boxer Rebellion were able to create sounds and emotions that took U2 decades and millions of dollars to put on record. Any band that can draw comparisons to The Verve and U2 without hesitation is likely to create the kind of masterpiece that this record was.
No songs available on Lala.com (for shame!), so here’s the video for Watermelon:
7) Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- Baby 81 (2007)
Recommended Track: Lien On Your Dreams
Why We Love It: Is it politically incorrect to say that this is our favorite Black Rebel Motorcycle Club record? While their contemporaries were busy spewing out the same style of music for the umpteeth time, BRMC added and edge and immediacy to this record that threatened to reach through the speakers and tear you apart. While you can argue with some of our selections, there is no reason why this album shouldn’t be in the top 10 of every music critic in the world.
6) The Duke Spirit- Cuts Across The Land (2004)
Why We Love It: On their first record, they took the concept of a Kim Deal-only Pixies record and created an album so unique and so magnificent that they created their own genre. Whether they intended this path is doubtful, but they became the most interesting band of the decade by making a sound that seemed unconcerned with their references and left music critics to spend the decade running to catch up. Expect them to be the band of the decade in the 2020 wrap-ups, as Spin and Rolling Stone finally catch on.
5) Calla- Strength In Numbers (2007)
Recommended Track: Bronson
Why We Love It: Perhaps it was their classification as slo-core that scared people away. By the time they released Strength In Numbers, they’d moved away from their beautiful codeine-like pace (which we loved) and produced a record that was jarring, yet mesmerizing. Vocalist/ guitarist Aurelio Valle has always had a knack for writing beautiful vocal melodies that linger over the cacophony of sound that he creates with the band. On this record, they reached perfection and left the world gasping for more.
4) Alberta Cross- Broken Side of Time (2009)
Recommended Track: ATX
Why We Love It: The critics don’t have a clue. Whether classifying them as “southern rock” or just failing to recognize the majesty of this record, they do a disservice to music listeners around the world. When I first heard this record, it moved me in a way I hadn’t been moved since the first time I heard The Verve’s “A Storm In Heaven”. Like that record, there are layers and layers of music to peel away on this record. Guitars, vocals, keyboards and drum rhythms combine to create what is easily the most beautiful record of the decade.
To read our interview with Alberta Cross, click here.
3) Radiohead- Kid A (2000)
Recommended Track: National Anthem
Why We Love It: A genius record, borne from their hatred of being… Radiohead. Thom Yorke has said that he’d “completely had it with melody. I just wanted rhythm.” Eschewing guitars and aiming to create an electronic record, they took a risk that could have ended them. Instead it gave them the courage to set the course they sailed for the remainder of the decade. You can argue with us over it’s place as the “best” Radiohead record of the decade, but you can’t argue it’s significance in their career path.
2) The Duke Spirit- Neptune (2008)
Recommended Track: Step and the Walk
Why We Love It: Clearly one of the most under-rated bands in the world. The Duke Spirit’s second record showed no signs of a sophomore slump. Liela Moss earns her reputation as one of the greatest singers in rock, but it’s her ability to control the push and pull of a song that sets her apart. Impossible to categorize, they write rock songs that are pure and honest with every member of the band adding their own aural treat for their listeners.
1) Interpol- Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)
Recommended Track: PDA
Why We Love It: Our favorite record of the decade, if for no other reason than it’s track by track consistency. While they’ve never shaken the Joy Division comparisons, Paul Banks writes vocal melodies which were never a strength of Ian Curtis. To be compared favorably to one of the greatest bands in history is nothing to be ashamed of. Nor should they be punished for the plethora of bands that tried to follow them down the path. Daniel Kessler’s guitar work, coupled with the best rhythm section of the decade created perfect songs for a perfect record.
So I was reading through the ‘Guide To Being One Of The Cool Bloggers’ (You can download it on Pitchfork, but you have to answer a 20-question quiz on Kraut-rock before you can access it. I used my Julian Cope book to cheat.) and it says that I have to do a “Best of the first half of 2009″. Seriously? Are the cool kids that desperate for content? I started reading through the lists a few sites have already published and noticed a disturbing trend: They were listing albums released in 2008. Sorry everyone, but Ida Maria was released in July of 2008 and I don’t want to hear the “it wasn’t released in the U.S. until 2009 argument. Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ was released online in 2007 and was properly put on the 2007 “Best of” lists. NOBODY, put but it on their 2008 list.
Instead, I make a different proposition. Why not put out a revised ‘Best of 2008′? I’m the first to admit that sometimes I miss an album release. With so many bands self-releasing albums and with the internet creating a larger number of accessible bands, it’s hard to catch everything. So I’m going to take this opportunity to reflect back on 2008 and list my revised top 10.
Here’s the list I published on January 1 of this year.
1) The Duke Spirit- Neptune (Both of their albums have been my number 1 for their respective year. Clearly, the most under-rated band on the planet)
2) The Virgins- Self-Titled (Still a good pop record, but fading fast in my memory)
3) Darker My Love- 2 (Despite mailing it in when they were interviewed by me, this album still packs a wallop.)
4) Steve Malkmus- Real Emotional Trash (As with many Pavement records, it continues to grow on me. Such a great songwriter.)
5 thru 10 were occupied by albums that I still like, but have quickly faded from my frequently played list: The Kooks (Konk), The Late Greats (Life Without Balloons), The Pigeon Detectives (Emergency), Fujiya & Miyagi (Lightbulbs), We Are Scientists (Brain Thrust Mastery), The Bronx (3)
So, with apologies to those I originally forgot, here’s the revised Best Albums of 2008…with a little perspective:
I’m efforting to post some videos that haven’t been shown here before. With bands like TDS, it’s hard because we’ve written them up so many times. But I’m pretty proud of these brand spankin new videos.
1) The Duke Spirit- Neptune
2) The Black Box Revelation- Set Your Head On Fire
3) The Black Keys- Attack and Release
4) Ida Maria- Fortress ‘Round My Heart
5) Darker My Love- 2
6) Jaydiohead- Jaydiohead: What? I can’t put a mashup album on my list? Well, this is the best mashup I’ve ever heard and deserves to be on this list.
7) Steve Malkmus- Real Emotional Trash
8) Division of Laura Lee- Violence Is Timeless
9) The Pigeon Detectives- Emergency
10) The Virgins- The Virgins
What do you think? What albums did you miss the first time around in 2008, that you’re loving now?
True confession: I liked the O.C.. I liked everything about it: the music, the cheesy acting, the cheesy story lines, did I mention the music? The thing is, while there weren’t future Oscar winners in the show, they were perfectly effective for what the show was. The pacing of the show and the music made it thoroughly entertaining.
I also like Gossip Girl. Same reasons. Rather than go for the top 40 hit d’jour, these shows took little known bands and used their songs effectively. It made it edgy, yet fun at the same time. I would argue that the O.C. started the trend of using small bands to move the message long before Apple and every other company started doing it via commercials.
So….this means that Josh Schwartz (who created both shows and Chuck) is our hero. We pace the halls at night waiting for him to call us and ask our opinion on what bands to use in his next shows’. (I’d go “Slow Burning Crimes” by East Hundred. I can see Lonely Boy walking down the street after his latest break-up with this as the soundtrack. I’ll give you that one for free Josh.)
When I heard that Josh Schwartz had created a webisode series, I was intrigued. Once I watched it, I was in love. The show, Rockville, CA is set in a club and it’s characters are obsessed with music. I likey. Here’s whatcha get:
1)Episodes that average 5 minutes. Easy, quick and entertaining.
2) The usual Schwartz wit. The opening of the first show includes a rant on how fickle blogs are and how bands rise and fall in a heartbeat.
3) Great. Music. You’ll be scrambling to identify the background songs and because of the premise of the show, you get love bands. Who? Among many, are TDOA favorites: The Kooks, The Duke Spirit, White Lies, Passion Pit, Kaiser Chiefs…..did you leave yet? Are you watching it yet? What are you waiting for?
After reviewing the entire 1000+ songs on the SXSW torrent, reading, listening and watching videos. This our list of the 10 bands you must see while at SXSW. If you’re not at SXSW, these are the bands that you should be rushing out to see.
Our criteria: 1) Not a one-hit wonder. They’ve got a 30 to 45 minute set at their disposal that’ll blow you away.
2) Great live band. Either we’ve seen them personally or the weight of public opinion merits seeing this band live. Their show at SXSW is going to be an “event”.
3) They’re on the cusp of something bigger. This may be the last time you can see them in a smaller venue.
In no particular order:
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Duke Spirit
The Soft Pack
The Living Things
Division of Laura Lee
No videos this time. We’ve done oodles of videos on each of these bands. Time to get out there and see ‘em folks!
One of my pet peeves is the number of websites who post their “best of” lists beginning in mid-November. With albums still being released and still plenty of opportunity to give an album a couple more spins, why rush? Having said that, I’ve seen the release schedule for the last couple of weeks in December and there’s nothing coming out that has the slightest chance of being on this list. As I get older, I hate hear my (older) friends say that there isn’t as much good music coming out. Unfortunately, this year seemed a little sluggish. The top three on this list would make my list any year, but beyond that I struggled. Good news is that there are quite a few bands who put out amazing singles (I’m looking at you White Lies and It Hugs Back) and will be releasing great albums in 2009 (not that I’ve heard leaked versions or anything…).
I’ve tried to do something that’ll seperate my list from the masses. Not only have I posted one video for each of the albums, I’ve tried to steer clear of the “official” video. This presented challenges since the “live” videos tend to have bad sound quality. In almost every case I was able to come up with something that is a little special. Enjoy!
…and with that, here’s the list:
1) The Duke Spirit- Neptune
2) The Virgins- The Virgins
3) Darker My Love- Darker My Love 2
4) Steve Malkmus & The Jicks- Real Emotional Trash