Wednesday, November 30, 2011

That Time of Year

No, not that time. It's the time of year when music geeks everywhere are contemplating their year-end Top Ten Lists. But this year no list-making can commence until this coming Tuesday, when the Black Keys and the Roots will drop El Camino and undun, respectively.

Major releases don't often come out this late in the year; labels try to time their critical buzz, just like studios hold back their Oscar contenders. But these two discs seem to be worth waiting for. The tracks that have leaked so far are oozing awesomeness. The Keys just kicked my butt across the room with "Little Black Submarines," and the vitality of their sound is just my thermos of tea, simultaneously neo and retro. Both albums look like strong contenders for my Top Ten - though as always, there are a lot more than ten strong contenders, and the painful task is winnow them down until ten are left standing.

To my mind, some of the best albums of 2011 were by women. I've already written about Tune-Yards, and the St. Vincent album Strange Mercy is also one of my favorites. PJ Harvey's Let England Shake is one of her best in many years, and of course everybody loves Adele and Florence. I can see those last two cleaning up at Grammy time. Newcomers Cults and Wild Flag are also likely to turn up on a lot of lists.

The other new band I fell for was Yuck, a couple of British chaps with a strong '90s vibe (who have their own blog over here). The Kills also killed me, as previously mentioned. I got a big kick out of the third album by Gang Gang Dance. And then old favorites like Wilco, Stephen Malkmus, Tom Waits and TV on the Radio delivered strong sets as well.

That's sixteen names I've mentioned already, without even bringing up the Radiohead album. Or Bon Iver. Or James Blake. You can see I have my work cut out for me. But next post I'll mention a few of the also-rans that might make good stocking-stuffers for someone on your list.

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