The TOP TWENTY ALBUMS of 2011 (The Year-End Awards)

Originally posted 2012-02-05 02:00:04. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

It is the best and truest mark of artistry in the music industry, and sales are no indication of significance.  Sequencing and thematic continuity, sonic experimentation within a basic set of familiar parameters, a healthy range of types and topics: these are the standards by which to judge an album.

The album.

It ascended into an art form in the mid-sixties under the careful work of artists like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Beach Boys.  It was taken to new heights with the experimentation of later bands, from the concept albums of the Moody Blues to the spin-off success of artists like Bruce Springsteen.  The album – and rock in general – saw a rebirth in the nineties, with the work of those like Weezer, the Wallflowers, the Barenaked Ladies, and a slew of others who led a surge of excellent rock music.

These days, the album has faced a crossroads.  Specifically, with the advent and surge of digital sales, the physical formats of music are on the chopping block.  Still, with the rise of vinyl sales even as CD sales continue to decline, there is hope yet.  And, contrary to an army of naysayers, there are still excellent albums being made.  This year, as with the past several years that I have been tuned into a vast array of albums, I would say there are about five albums that will undoubtedly stand the test of time and compete for top spots when I eventually get around to my Best Albums of All Time list.  Which, at this point, might have to wait until I hit retirement.

But, for the moment, you have my Best Albums of 2011 list, and if you’re interested in reading more about any of these albums, you can access my Weekend Review report (including star rating, production info, and a full review) by simply searching the album title and band name in the search bar above.  And, of course, if you see reason for disagreement or any gaps in my list, it’s up to you to leave comments below.

1)  The Whole Love (Wilco)

2)  The King is Dead (The Decemberists)

3)  Last Night on Earth (Noah & the Whale)

4)  Wasting Light (Foo Fighters)

5)  Bad As Me (Tom Waits)

6)  Unfortunate Casino (Gerry Beckley)

7)  The King of Limbs (Radiohead)

8)  Yuck (Yuck)

9)  Lasers (Lupe Fiasco)

10) W H O K I L L (The Tune-Yards)

11) The Graduation Ceremony (Joseph Arthur)

12) Vol. 2: High and Inside (The Baseball Project)

13) Collapse Into Now (R.E.M.)

14) Move Like This (The Cars)

15) The Valley (Eisley)

16) Cloud Maintenance (Kevin Hearn)

17) I’m With You (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

18) Alpocalypse (Weird Al Yankovic)

19) No Color (The Dodos)

20) Nighty Night (8in8)

 

Honorable Mention:

The Way It Was (Parachute)

The Dreamer, The Believer (Common)

“New Year’s Eve” (Tom Waits Cover music video)

Originally posted 2011-12-31 18:06:45. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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By Chris Moore:

Just in the nick of time, here I am for my very first true Laptop Session of 2011…  and with a whole seven hours to spare!  This year, I’ve been busy and my attention has been directed elsewhere: to my long-overdue album, The 2010 Project, and to coursework toward my graduate degree, to name a couple of the largest commitments that have kept me away from the blog.  I’ve even been behind in my duty as resident music reviewer, though I’ve begun to make good on that this past week, and I’m looking forward to the end of the year “best of” lists (already being compiled!) that I’ll release over the next couple weeks.

It dawned on me this morning, as I was working on writing reviews, that there is actually a brand new song this year called “New Year’s Eve” and that it would be a shame to pass on that opportunity, particularly in a year when I have only recorded Original Wednesday music video performances.

So, I give you “New Year’s Eve,” the closing track off Tom Wait’s excellent 2011 album Bad As Me.  This is the first album — and I’ve listened to a range of his music — that has instantly captivated me, both lyrically and musically.  There are some cool, if subtly handled, guest performances, including Keith Richards and Red Hot Chili Pepper bassist Flea on several tracks, as well as the lesser known Augie Meyers.  Meyers, best known to this Dylan fan for his work on 2001’s Love & Theft, contributes vox organ, piano, and accordion across Bad As Me, adding to its beautifully textured feel, one not entirely dissimilar to the aural sensibilities of Dylan’s own masterpiece.

It’s a beautiful, haunting track, and (somehow) the first Tom Waits cover ever done here at the Laptop Sessions acoustic cover song blog.  I figured, if we’re going to maintain our reputation as the best one of its kind in the universe, I’d better, with a respectful nod, add a Tom Waits notch to our belts.  He is, to say the least, a brilliant songwriter, truly inimitable, yet isn’t that one of the goals of this site: to interpret our favorite artists, and to stretch our own abilities and perspectives with their best songs?  I’ve always thought of this site in that way, and I must say that the hour and a half I spent with “New Year’s Eve” today was among the most relaxing hours spent alone of my week off.

The first Tom Waits Laptop Session.  My first cover song music video of the old year.  The eve of the new year.

Quite a moment.

I wish you and yours a safe and relaxing New Year’s Eve; I hope you enjoy this song and that you’ll stop back soon for all the new material headed your way in 2012.

See you next session (hopefully that’ll be in less than a year)!

 

The BEST PACKAGING of 2011 (The Year-End Awards)

Originally posted 2012-01-22 10:00:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Album covers are nice, but there is something transcendent about artists who put their full effort into designing an album package that elevates their work beyond music alone and into the realm of physical art.  This year, the award for best album packaging has to go to Sonic Youth member Thurston Moore’s solo release Demolished Thoughts.  Though a fairly minimalist black and white design, there are – in addition to lyrics, the presence of which is no longer a foregone conclusion – a slew of drawings and a collection of poetry to complement the music.  Tom Waits’ deluxe edition of Bad As Me comes in a close second, the booklet alone being a visual and lyrical experience, and the four bonus tracks providing a little extra for the true fan.  Wilco’s deluxe edition design for The Whole Love, another close contender for the top spot, offers four additional tracks (with the wry take on Nick Lowe’s “I Love My Label”) and a beautiful booklet that includes a visually brilliant set of drawings.

Each of these albums is proof positive that there are quality physical releases still being produced, even in what is clearly the age of the digital release.  This being said, I couldn’t help but point out two of the many terribly thin and unrewarding packages to see the light of day this year.  These are, inversely, reason to stay at home and download.

1) Demolished Thoughts – Thurston Moore

2) Bad As Me (Deluxe Edition) – Tom Waits

3) The Whole Love (Deluxe Edition) – Wilco

4) Ukulele Songs – Eddie Vedder

5) Mine is Yours – Cold War Kids

6) Tripper – Fruit Bats

7) Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes

8 ) So Beautiful or So What (Deluxe Limited Edition) – Paul Simon

9) The People’s Key – Bright Eyes

10) Wasting Light – Foo Fighters (includes a piece of the original master tape!)

 

Honorable Mention:

All Eternals Deck – The Mountain Goats

 

Worst Packaging:

No Color – Dodos

El Camino – The Black Keys

The BEST VOCAL PERFORMANCES of 2011 (The Year-End Awards)

By Chris Moore:

This is a tough category.  All of the songs on the my upcoming top fifty songs list have excellent vocals, many of which are standout performances.  However, there are also songs that go unrecognized on the top fifty list that are notable for their outstanding vocals.  Thus, as a rule, songs included in the top fifty list are not considered here.

I suppose you could consider this my way of sneaking in an extra ten songs that I didn’t find room for on my best songs list, but I hope you’ll consider it an additional category.  These ten songs are great in their own rights, but especially by virtue of the excellence of their vocals.  Some are smooth, some are rough; some are passionately outraged, some are tenderly heartfelt.  Taken together, they’re the standout vocal performances of 2011:

1) “Something to Believe In” – Parachute (The Way It Was)

2) “Estate Sale Sign” – The Mountain Goats (All Eternals Deck)

3) “Blue Spotted Tail” – Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues)

4) “Shakin’ All Over” – Wanda Jackson (The Party Ain’t Over)

5) “2012” – The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger (La Carotte Bleue)

6) “When You Wish Upon A Star” – Brian Wilson (In the Key of Disney)

7) “Talking At The Same Time” – Tom Waits (Bad As Me)

8 ) “Sunloathe” – Wilco (The Whole Love)

9) “Bridge Burning” – Foo Fighters (Wasting Light)

10) “Amy, I” – Jack’s Mannequin (People And Things)