After the the unbridled success of 2011 Girls LP Father, Son, Holy Ghost, it appeared as if the stars were aligning for the San Francisco duo led by Christopher Owens. Just as the duo’s stock reached its peak, Owens announced in July that he would walk away from the project. Fans were left in limbo, awaiting the songwriter’s next move.
Yesterday, Owens reassured listeners that the wait would be brief with the announcement of his solo record Lysandre, due to drop on Fat Possum in mid-January (pre-order). With the announcement came the release of the album’s first single “Here We Go.” Owens’ sedated delivery, reminiscent of late indie rock Eeyore Elliot Smith, sounds at home against the track’s rolling, acoustic arpeggios. Flourishes of flute and a few whistling bars on harmonica add color to an otherwise bleak landscape. Here, we find Owens on a trip to New York City hoping to be welcomed with open arms and minds. The track is nothing short of gorgeous. Listen to “Here We Go” and check out the track listing for Lysandre below.
1 Lysandre’s Theme
2 Here We Go
3 New York City
4 A Broken Heart
5 Here We Go Again
6 Riviera Rock
7 Love Is in the Ear of the Listener
9 Everywhere You Knew
10 Closing Theme
11 Part of Me (Lysandre’s Epilogue)
Written by Rob Peoni
10. Cold Cave – Cherish the Light Years
The title of this album suggests that there is glimmering feeling transmitted when you push play. After opening track “The Great Pan is Dead” entered my brain for the first time, I quickly realized that the light years were being cherished because they did not exist. This album is for a dimly lit room with plenty of space to get up and bang out. The quest for one shining moment is the message that I am left with every time I listen to this record. This record leaves me empty in a good way. I feel like I am stuck in the mines of Chile, face full of dust, yearning for salvation. The fact that I enjoy this dark musical dungeon is reason alone why Cherish the Light Years makes this list. As I look around my apartment I find a handful of light builds that need to be replaced. I think it can wait.
9. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing
This album is a void filler. We all understand what it feels like to be the rebound, but albums like this make it feel comfortable. Lines like “I will hold you tight enough to crush your veins” in opening track “Two Lovers” sends a gripping message to me. This album is about loss and The Rural Alberta Advantage brilliantly makes me ok with the topic. Losing anything in life can be a personal challenge, but songs like “Tornado 87” make it relatable. There are few records that should be used as medicine or a coping mechanism and Departing certainly is my remedy for any thrashing defeat. Although the scars of defeat remain, Departing gives us a direction to head in order to mend.
8. The Bonesetters – SAVAGES!
It is absolute honor to put a local album on my list. The Bonesetters deserve this one. Rob’s review was laid out so brilliantly that I can’t possible think of anything more to say about it. I am so excited to be in the space for this band’s escalation. The ceiling is high for the Bonesetters, and believe me, we will let you know about their every move. They have earned it with this initial gift to Indianapolis.
7. The Drums – Portamento
The proud sophomore effort that sings like a plea but is as confident as the class president. I feel like I am walking the halls of my high school, but the era is the 80s. This album is the answer to all of The Smiths requests from years back. Lines like “The people look at me with a little sympathy” make me think that The Drums were the underappreciated youth of their respective schooling systems. A subtle popularity to own and I am glad Portamento drives this under the radar status symbol in the proper direction.
6. Cults – Cults
A book of snippets laid out more like a photo album than a record. I see before I hear when I visualize this record. This drastic switch in my experience flips the script while changing my outlook on music. “Go Outside” was the first song I heard from this record and it has paved the road and painted the lines into my 2012. The writing is on the wall in lyrics, “You really want to hole up, you really want to stay inside and sleep the light away.” A relatable situation where Cults step in a presents me with a challenge. Why not yonder outdoors, I will turn the page because there are plenty of pretty pictures.
5. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
The guys from Girls write about relationships. Their debut Album and EP Broken Dream Club taught me this. These two first releases was the coaching that allowed me to truly appreciate what Girls was all about. After listening to Father, Son, Holy Ghost for the past few months I feel like I finally understand Girls enough to pass their test. These guys rarely have the answer to their own female problems, but they use music as an elixir. Song, ‘Die’ yells “No, nothing’s gonna be alright, no we’re all gonna get fucked up tonight, no, nothing’s gonna be okay, no it’s all going down the drain tonight”. Certainly, the remedy to any post relationship blues.
4. Yuck – Yuck
It feels like this album has been with me the longer than any release of the year. It feels like an old pair of ripped jeans that I just can’t part with. While some doubt the authenticity of Yuck because of their homage to a collection of indie rock forefathers, I continue to feel genuine comfort with each successive spin. Describing each of their songs might take so long that it puts another hole in my Wranglers. As the winter continues, Yuck will inevitably provide me warmth. Even as the oncoming snow storms enter the air, Yuck sews a patch on my jeans as the ball drops on 2011.
3. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
Smith Westerns grew up a lot with Dye It Blond. Although, these guys are not of legal drinking age I feel like they are so musically mature that they deserve a free pass in any bar in America. Dye It Blond is like a fake ID. It not only makes the band look older than they may appear, but also serves as evidence that they belong in the same scene as the older kids. The guitars on “Still New’”are perfectly placed and layered. The lyrics of “Imagine Pt. 3” are the work of an old savvy songwriter. The tips that they convey on “End of the Night” can be used by any man, of any age, regardless of circumstance. Straight to the point “Oh, it’s the end of the night, it’s the end of the night, are you going to go home?” I wish I had this kind of courage. I guess I will listen to Dye It Blonde a couple more times for inspiration.
2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
It is rare that I describe an album as beautiful, but this is one of those times. It does not feel right to listen to this record on anything, but vinyl. It was made for the time. I feel cold as I listen to every single lyric of Justin Vernon. Bon Iver released this masterpiece in June, but it is peaking now because it embeds itself in the blistering winter months on the horizon. The tip of the icicle has yet to be formed for this record for me. The point is that this album has withstood a half a year and traveled through many different locations on my musical map. Minnesota, WI, Hinnom, TX, and Lisbon, OH to name a few. Authentic or not these are all places we have all traveled. This record is just a means to bring us all back these spaces at the same time. I feel like I am riding in a sled and Bon Iver is the driver. Who knows where we are heading next? I have my coat and mittens. Thrilled to me along for the ride.
1. Real Estate – Days
Real Estate Days is me. It is everything I look for in a record and more. The melodic guitars carry me from beginning to the end. It is Alpha and the Omega and I’m stuck in between. They build a comfortable space for me each and every time I reach for a listen. Tracks like “Green Aisles” challenge me not only to explore myself but my surroundings. Lyrics “All those wasted miles, all those aimless drives through the green aisles, our careless lifestyle, it was not so unwise, no” provide validity to my own personal cause. This album teaches me that it is completely acceptable to mess up, because it will point me in another direction. Days is a seasonal inspiration to me. Days is my lotion in the sunlight and winter jacket in the snow. It is the perfect protector. It is the compass that directs my next move. This album teaches me to tighten my strings, even if my first attempt is a bit out of tune.
Written by Brett McGrath
I will preface my Top 10 list by saying you won’t find Bon Iver’s self-titled on it. I have nothing against you, Justin, and I do love your album. It’s just you were #11 and Rob told me I could only write about 10. No hard feelings? And without further ado, my Top 10 albums of 2011.
10. Craft Spells – Idle Labor
I feel like this album doesn’t get enough credit for how great it is. New wavish, 1980’s synth electro-dream pop in 2011? And yes, I did in fact have a seizure after I wrote that sentence. In any case, this album features not only my personal #10 song of the year in “After the Moment,” but also such gems as “Scandinavian Crush,” “Party Talk,” and the “Your Tomb.” Like a fine wine, this album gets better with age and every spin I give it.
9. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
When I first heard “How Can U Luv Me” I thought it was an interesting song and a band worth checking out more. Hard to believe the band’s initial hit may be the least interesting song (and it’s still a good song) on this fantastic self-titled debut. Armed with a guitar climbing all over the place and some scratchy mic’d vocals, their sound is one you won’t forget. Be sure to listen to “FFunny FFrends” and “Little Blue House.”
8. Hooray For Earth – True Loves
I first encountered this band listening to SiriusXM U in my car when True Loves came on. The sound of the drum sticks banging the edge and setting the beat….some echoed ahhs and then, the synth drops. My reaction, “What the fuck is this? I like this. No, I really like this.” And even better, the band wasn’t a one hit wonder. “No Love,” “Bring Us Closer Together,” “Last Minute,” and my personal favorite, “Same,” all deserve your attention.
7. The Drums – Portamento
I enjoyed The Drums first self-titled album, but I absolutely love this record. It still features a heavy dose of bass and sing-along choruses, but this one seems to venture down a darker path than its predecessor. The focus of the record is on relationships and eventually, their death. “What You Were,” my favorite track, describes the impending doom of going into a relationship you know isn’t going to work out, but yet, you try anyway. “But still I cave in. I gave you my heart. I cave in. I knew I would die.” Let the The Drums get you through the ones that really hurt.
6. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
How far has this band come? It combines that loveable beach pop from their first record Album (“Honey Bunny”) with a dash of that fuller sound on Broken Dreams Club (“Alex”), ultimately culminating with a true anthem moment on this record (“Vomit”). Taken as a whole, the band dives even deeper into the human spirit than before, resulting in a true masterpiece of sound.
5. Destroyer – Kaputt
A record in the truest sense, this requires being listened to from start to finish to truly appreciate the beauty and entirety of the emotion put into it. Dan Bejar weaves you rich, aesthetically pleasing tracks that will transfer your mind away from this world to whatever you choose to imagine. Perhaps no better song represents this full-bodied work than the 8 minute long “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker” in which you’ll begin with a gorgeous flute solo before having a blaring trumpet help you cross the finish line.
4. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
Thankfully for us all, Trevor Powers decided to leave his bedroom and share his music with the world. My favorite aspect of this album is how his voice is recorded in lo-fi. At times it sounds so soft and fragile…almost broken, before breaking out in renewed strength and vigor. “Cannons,” “Afternoon, Seventeen,” “Daydream”…actually, just listen to the whole thing.
3. Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!
My favorite electronic album of the year, Holy Ghost! brings the fun on their self-titled debut. In fact, as I’m looking at my list, I seem to have enjoyed a lot of the 1980’s pop revival bands that put out records. Well, I was born in the 80’s , so I guess it fits. In either case, “Wait and See, Hold My Breath,” and my #2 song of the year, “Jam For Jerry,” highlight a fantastic debut from this NYC duo that will get your feet moving.
2. The Antlers – Burst Apart
The Antlers make you ponder the big things in life. While Hospice was a runaway emotional train wreck, this album is about musical experimentation while focusing on loneliness and death. But that truthfulness and darkness is what truly makes this band great and this album so beautiful, for they allow the listener to completely dive in and explore parts of ourselves that we don’t on a regular basis. How deep you will go, well, that’s up to you. The Antlers just provide the sound to get you there. Focus on “Parentheses, No Widows,” and personal Top 10er “I Don’t Want Love.”
1. Real Estate – Days
On first glace, this album appears to be about the 21st century American experience of the Suburbs. But at its core, this album is less about the suburbs and more about taking a nostalgic look back at beauty and simplicity in growing up there.
If it takes all summer long
Just to write one simple song
There’s too much to focus on
Clearly that is something wrong
At 26, the sentiment that “life passes you by” is beginning to hit home. My focus has gradually shifted over the years from what I was going to do all summer off school to now how I want to invest my money, how much life insurance I need, and all those other adult questions I used to avoid. Somewhere along the way, I grew up. But while we all can look fondly at the past and with anticipation for the future, don’t ever forget to live in present.
Written by Greg Dahman