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

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)

“Black Star” (Radiohead Cover)

By Jeff Copperthite:

And now for a new band (finally) to add to our expanding library.

This song comes from Radiohead’s 1995 album “The Bends”, which is a personal favorite in my collection. There are many songs from this album I can play, and you may see in future laptop sessions.

Thom Yorke has a very unique voice. It is amazing how different my voice sounds when going up a register.

Anyways, enjoy this song. If you have requests from Radiohead or any other band that has been featured by FMP’s laptop sessions, please send me a message. I’d love to fill the request!

(Note: On this particular video, Youtube gave me three very terrible options for Screenshots. I apologize for the ugly mug of me before you play this video, but in the other two I look like I just sniffed three dead skunks simultaneously).

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and origianal music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!

“Exit Music (For A Film)” (Radiohead Cover)

For Radiohead chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to another week of new music and material, brought to you by the best acoustic cover song music video this side of the Alpha Quadrant!  (That’s a little Star Trek: Voyager reference for those of you nerds out there…)

For my song tonight, I’ve chosen my first Radiohead cover.  How did I get to this song?  Well, I’ve been listening non-stop to A Singer Must Die,  Steven Page’s collaboration with the Art of Time Ensemble.  The final track on that album is a cover of Radiohead’s song “Paranoid Android.”  That song is from their 1997 album OK Computer.  Listening to that album today, I came across “Exit Music (For A Film),” a great little track that has a strong acoustic foundation.

And, after all, I realized that Jeff is the only contributor to the blog who has recorded a Radiohead track, and all four of his selections are from their album The Bends.  Now, I’ve never heard The Bends, but of the albums I’ve heard, my favorite has always been OK Computer.

What better reason to pull out a track from that release for tonight’s video?

The other story behind tonight’s session is that I had originally planned to cover a song in honor of the final edition of the Johnny Cash “American” series, American VI:  Ain’t No Grave, which comes out tomorrow.  I would have loved to record Sheryl Crow’s “Redemption Day,” but I couldn’t work out an arrangment I was happy with.  The only other song I was halfway interested in taking on was Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times.”  I had learned, practiced, and planned to record it until I got home and realized I was too bored by it.  It would have been an extremely simple song to record — easy chords, basic country structure, etc. 

But what fun would that be?

So, I kept coming back to Radiohead and the fact that we’ve never recorded a cover from the classic OK Computer.  Figuring out the chords for “Exit Music” was more difficult than “For the Good Times.”  I found a couple different versions online, and what confused me most was how both sets that I found began with the same couple chords but then varied wildly.  In some cases, the first was accurate.  In others, the second was accurate.  In others, neither were accurate.  In the end, that was half the fun of this session: I feel like I got acquainted with the song through having to figure it out, so I felt a lot more passionately about recording it.

I suppose I’ll just have to wait for Johnny Cash’s versions of “Redemption Day” and “For the Good Times”…

Going back to the reason I started listening to Radiohead today in the first place, I wanted to repeat that I have been enjoying Steven Page’s A Singer Must Die much more than I initially thought I would.  When I first learned of this release, the prospect of an album of covers performed with an ensemble did not appeal to me in the slightest.  As time went on, I became more and more interested to hear what it sounded like.  Although I couldn’t bring myself to pay for the shipping that it would have taken to get a physical, autographed copy, I had assumed that Newbury Comics would be stocking it.  Then, last Tuesday, I was shocked to learn that it wasn’t available at any retailer in the U.S., nor was it available on iTunes.  I thought I would have to wait…

…that is, until Steven Page tweeted the link to his online store that had just added the digital version of the album.  As you can read in my review (CLICK HERE!), I found the choice of songs, the performances, and the arrangment of tracks to be outstanding.  To be fair, it’s not an album I’ll be cranking up in my car, but it is certainly an album that has and will continue to get a lot of air time at home.  The most exciting part about this week’s edition of the Weekend Review is the endorsement it was given.  After I wrote and posted the review yesterday, I also posted a tweet with a link so that people who follow me could read it.  Then, Mike retweeted my post and added Steven Page (@stevenpage).  Finally — and this is the exciting part — Steven Page actually retweeted Mike’s post!  So, in summary, Mike and I both managed to be retweeted by, as I wrote in my text to Mike, STEVEN FRICKIN’ PAGE!!!  In all seriousness, I was thrilled that he took the review seriously enough to retweet it, and I was happy to see the increased traffic on the page for yesterday and today.

As a final, non-music related note, I spent my first hour and a half after school today camped out in the living room with snacks and season five episodes of The Office.  The reason?  Not just because I’m lazy, although that was probably a contributing factor.  No, it had to do with the stench coming from my dishwasher.  There’s some kind of issue with the pipes or the dishwasher itself, and nothing I did seemed to help the smell.  So, after retreating for a while and feeling a bit depressed about the whole situation, I got excited about this session, which revived me.  Then, Nicole came home from her class with some advice from her father.  Fifteen minutes later, problem solved!  At least for now, as this will only work permanently if it’s an issue with the pipes.  If it’s the actual dishwasher, then I’ll probably return home today (or, at the latest, when I run the dishwasher next weekend) to a not so pleasant odor.

I’m not sure why I felt the need to share that, other than the fact that it is a great example of the power of the Laptop Sessions — they have the power to ruin a night (computer issues, multiple takes, etc.), or to revive your day.

And, with that, I hope you have a great week, keep checking back for new material this week, and I’ll see you next session!

“Fake Plastic Trees” (Radiohead Cover)

By Jeff Copperthite:

Welcome to your thumpin’ thursday edition of the Laptop Sessions (been waiting 3 weeks to use that again). Today I bring you another Radiohead song from their album “The Bends”, and another song i’ve known how to play for quite some time.

The song is “Fake Plastic Trees”, and is one of the singles from the album. I love the dynamic change in this song, and the vocal changes throughout the song.

Naturally, like most Radiohead songs, I don’t know what it’s about either. Apparently, however, one site says it’s about Canary Wharf, a large shopping area in London.

This video goes down as a “I recorded it despite being sick” video. We can’t skip a day here at laptopsessions.com! Can’t use sickness as an excuse. Gotta keep the streak alive! I missed a note near the last verse, and the last line of the last verse my voice didn’t quite hit the falsetto I had been hitting in the previous verse lines. This is by no means my top vocal performance for sure. I’d have been better off recording this while my voice was 100%.

I’m hoping to hit 5k views by next Wednesday’s edition! I’m really racking up the views as of late. Hopefully I can start racking up the ratings and comments as well!

Until then, enjoy “Fake Plastic Trees”, another Radiohead hit!

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, Jeff’s acoustic cover song music videos are no longer on YouTube, but we decided to keep his cover song blog posts up.  We figured these music blog entries would be good for posterity’s sake and because Jeff always gave such insightful posts each Session.  We hope to see Jeff’s impressive catalog of acoustic rock songs here on the Laptop Sessions cover songs and original music blog again in the future.  But, for now, please make sure to check-out hundreds of other acoustic cover songs from all of your favorite bands here on the Laptop Sessions music blog!