Friday, December 23, 2011

Year in Music 2011 - Part Three: Albums 21-25

Here are albums 21-25, counted down in descending order:

25. Fucked Up  David Comes to Life (Matador).  Fucked Up or “F@cked Up”, as you may see written in mainstream publications (but that's not how I roll here), are best described as melodic hardcore. David Comes to Life, their third full-length release, is an expansive 78-minute concept album about a guy named "David" or something. The band apparently went to painstaking lengths to flesh this out with several singles and the like over the past year laying the groundwork for the character on this album. I’m not quite a convert to this band overall yet. They have some really good songs and I like their overall melodic hardcore vibe, but this album just runs on too long. And in some cases it almost seems like some pretty good rock songs are overshadowed by hardcore vocal stylings of the singer, Pink Eyes. In general "concept albums" probably work better when you can actually clearly understand the lyrics. But it is what it is and it was pretty good.  “Queen of Hearts” (video), "Turn the Season", "Running on Nothing", and “Recursive Girl” are among the highlights.

24. J MascisSeveral Shades of Why (Sub Pop). This was a back-to-basics acoustic solo record from the Dinosaur Jr guitar god. While lacking the sonic boom of a Dino Jr record, it makes up for it with tight, simple, well-crafted folk/pop songs that sound like something Neil Young may have released in the 1970’s. After an “in the wilderness” period in the mid to late 90’s, Mascis has now had a solid decade of good to great releases from his albums with the Fog to his reunion albums with the original Dino Jr lineup, and now this surprising gem. Check out the videos for "Not Enough" (video) and "Is It Done?" (video), along this live clip of the title track (live in studio). And just for shits and grins, here’s a clip of him just killing on the old Dinosaur Jr song “Get Me”, live from World CafĂ© Live in March (I was there!).  This studio version of this song contains one of my favorite guitar solos of all time, and an incredible live version occurs around the 2:30 mark here. 

23. The BabiesS/T (Shrimper).  This is another Vivian Girls side project, this time involving a more high-profile collaboration between Cassie Ramone of the Vivian Girls and Kevin Morby of Woods. I actually preferred this much more to the Vivian Girls’ proper album, so maybe the whole isn’t greater than the sum of its parts. These songs just seem a little poppier, and I guess I prefer Morby’s vocals with this sound than those of the Vivian Girls, which is also weird because I seem to like Morby’s vocals here better than in Woods too. They definitely seem to have more of a Pixies' era Frank Black vibe to them. Overall, I had the same reaction to this that I had to Ramone's bandmate Katy Goodman and her side project, La Sera. I don't think it would be a bad thing if Ramone focused more on this instead of Vivian Girls. Highlights include "All Things Come to Pass" (live), “Meet Me in the City”, “Sunset” and “Breakin the Law” (live). 

22. Jeff the Brotherhood – We Are the Champions (Infinity Cat). Garage-rocking Nashville duo Jake (who could pass for a young George Harrison especially with this look) and Jamin Orrall are brothers and have been recording for much longer than I realized. I got into their 2010 release Heavy Days, but didn't like this follow-up quite as much. It’s still pretty good though. Fans of lo-fi garage rock with punk influences will thoroughly enjoy this riff-heavy release. Think Weezer or Nirvana Nevermind style power chords with a lo-fi vibe. Crank-it-up-worthy tracks include "Cool Out", "Bummer", "Mellow Out" (live in studio), "Ripper" (live in studio), and "Wastoid Girl." And the more melodic "Diamond Way" is a nice change of pace.

21. Old 97’sThe Grand Theatre, Vol. 2 (New West). This is probably the most 90’s era alt/country sounding album the band has released since then, harkening back to their more alt/country and less pop/rock leanings. This is underscored by including 2 old songs from those years that never made it onto albums – “Ivy” (one of the first songs the band ever wrote together) and “Visiting Hours” (live - an outtake originally from Fight Songs demos, I believe).  “Brown Haired Daughter” (live), “No Simple Machine” (live), “Perfume” live in studio (which at times sounds a bit too much like "Question", but hey), “Manhattan (I’m Done)” (live), and “White Port” (live) are all very good and would rank up their with their best stuff. Overall, there’s not a bad song on here, less highs than previous releases but no lows. 

Next:  Part Four: Albums 11-20

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