Weeping Elvis selected its Top 30 Albums of 2011 via a scientific process that was so intricate, so complex, and so innovative that it has been submitted to the folks in Stockholm and Seoul for their consideration. It also required an Oxford comma in that last sentence. No one else takes this sort of care in picking their best albums of the year, but we are keen observers of the relationship between math and music…so we do.
Obviously, this meant that a lot of albums rated very highly by our esteemed voting panel did not make the list. And since we exist mainly to point our magnifying glass upon music-worth-a-listen-or-three, here are some of our panel members’ highest-rated albums that didn’t make the final list. As noted philosopher Quiz Kid Donnie Smith once said…we “We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us“. Not to mention…we too “have lots of love to give“.
Full list after the jump…
No, this is not a joke. Just keep reading. Opeth has always been among the most listenable of heavy metal bands, thanks to their intricate song structures and clever use of light and shade, which make the quieter passages more poignant and the heavier parts more brutal. For their tenth release, they took their prog leanings to a natural conclusion, dispensing with growled vocals and blast-beat drumming in favor of a King Crimson-esque song cycle with plenty of “non-metal” instruments like mellotrons, flutes, classical guitars and grand pianos. With the exception of the Ronnie James Dio tribute “Slither,” you’ll find precious few toe-tapping or even headbanging moments—just plenty of complex rhythms and ingenious arrangements and emotional textures. — SIR DUKE
Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keys
When the writers and editors at Weeping Elvis each submitted our top picks for the year, Death Cab For Cutie’s Grammy nominated Codes and Keys, was in my top five. So imagine how shocked I was to see the final tabulated list, sans this sophisticated, and effortlessly cool album.
Quite an oversight in my opinion as Death Cab’s seventh album shows them stretching beyond the confines of the indie rock genre and incorporating ambient influences and soaring production with an authentic soulful sensibility.
The opening notes of the lead track, “Home is a fire” starts off quiet, slowly building with a sense of mystery and expectation, ultimately leading you on a satisfying eleven-song journey, not to be overlooked. — FERRISE
Little Dragon: Ritual Union
Little Dragon is not your typical “pop,” “electronic” or “dance” group although they have been described in such simplistic terms by many a reviewer. My affection for all things Swedish runs deep through my music-obsessed soul and Little Dragon is no exception. While they formed in 1996, it wasn’t until the band’s third album, Ritual Union, was released in 2011 that the Rise of the Dragon truly began, selling out shows across the world. For me, Ritual Union is a magical, dream-like journey through the perils of love found and love lost. It unleashes thoughts about the choices in life we are forced to make, whether they be due to the pressures of society or from our own fears and the resulting effects of our actions. This lyrically creative album allows the uniquely-wild minds of its listeners to add their own imaginative interpretations. And, like the finest works of art, it is a piece that can be enjoyed to exhaustion and beyond; I certainly listened to it for nearly three months straight! If you’ve ever experienced the extreme highs and lows, confusion, and utter-ridiculousness of this “crazy little thing called love”, chances are this album will touch that organ on the left side of your chest. You know, the one some refer to as the “heart.” Spend some time getting cozy with Little Dragon and Ritual Union in 2012…It is the year of the Dragon after all! — P FUNK
Nikki Lane: Walk of Shame
Of my top ten albums, only four made our final list. (Others left behind included releases from Ron Hawkins, The Rosebuds, Youth Lagoon, Dan Mangan and Beastie Boys). Nikki Lane’s debut album came in at #4 on my list and is a dirty-boot clad walk through the dusk-’til-dawn aura of Ms. Sinatra’s Americana. (And what do you know; these boots fit me just right for walkin’!) It’s a sort of music that resides timelessly in an era gone-by but crosses over the boundaries of time to remain relevant in the here and now. It’s the romantic renovation of that $30 motel on the side of a country road by artists like Chris Isaak and Crash Vegas. It’s Waylon and Loretta and the loneliness and been-done-wrong demeanor of old school lap steel country. Nope, this thankfully ain’t about something trivial and escapist like a plastic cup. Now nestled into the Nashville scene, we can only hope that Ms. Nikki Lane succeeds just as mightily with her next album and never goes on back to Greenville. — BEHRNSIE
Gone, Gone, Gone by Nikki Lane
Korn (Featuring Skrillex): The Path Of Totality
I have long been a Korn fan but I normally get…”oh that’s metal…I don’t like metal”…or “you can have your hard rock”. But now that they have made an album featuring the uber hip Skrillex, (along with other electronica/mixmasters) maybe they will get a bit more juice. Looking at it on paper one might not think it a fit but the 1/2 time Dubstep fits hand-in-glove-like with the bombastic groove of Korn. If you have never been into Korn, The Path of Totality could be a good toe-dipper for you and you hipsters can not feel bad about it as it is some of what you are gettin’ your rave on to at your favorite dance club. A late year release didn’t keep the rock press from noticing this worthy effort. The hope for me is that it will open the sounds of Korn to a whole new audience. The vocals of Jonathan Davis that we Korn fans love are still there along with the nasty-ass bass grooves and intricate drumming. When these signature elements of Korn meet the Mac driven sequences, rises and drops of these great electronic artists the result is something totally unique that you can bang your head to and get your groove on at the same time. — CLEM
The Go! Team: Rolling Blackouts
Quite simply, there isn’t another band out there making music like this. There are a lot of them trying, but they end up with un-listenable mish-mashes of noise. On their third LP, (after the relatively inconsistent Proof of Youth), The Go! Team hit their stride again, finding a way to pull together beats, raps, shout-outs, and everything else but the kitchen sink (although you might want to check, because it could be in there) to create a groovy, double-dutch-worthy collage of sound that makes this 43 year-old professional and father of two want to get his booty out of his chair and move. — DUDUKOVICH
Pistol Annies: Hell On Heels
Recognition of valid music should not be based on sales. But in one instance, commerce and musical integrity met in a perfect storm, when the consumer alone actually pushed a product to the top of the charts. How many current artists’ side projects debut at the top of a genre’s Soundscan? With no releases to radio and virtually no radio play at all, sell close to 250k copies in the final quarter of the year?
Hell on Hells was all that plus the most inventive, yet traditional, album to come out of Nashville in years. Addressing everything from drug use to hunting to family in-fighting, the take no prisoners lyrics lie atop authentic country arrangements and vulnerable, raw vocals delivered in aching 3 part harmony. This is not the Ronstadt/Harris/Parton TRIO of the 1980’s. This is their spunky, modern little sister(s). — TRISHA McC
Pistol Annie’s “Hell On Heels” by skernahan
Future Islands: On The Water
‘On The Water’ is not the same anger-filled break-up album that Future Islands have previously delivered. Instead Sam Herring and company ensure that you are comfortably soothed as they bring you along their path of heartache. Future Islands have created an album that raises the specter of the love of your life stomping your heart as you calmly and gently rock back and forth in a dingy at sea. Gerrit Welmers on the keyboard/beats and William Cashion on guitar are featured more on this album than in the past, and ably back Herring’s more temperate turn as frontman. But, when the time is right, Herring unleashes his monstrously gravely voice which symbolically amps up the heartache hurt just a bit more. ‘On The Water’ has taken heart-achingly powerful lyrics and living room sounds and polished them up to create the calmest heart wrenching experience imaginable. — Brenden
Future Islands – Balance by edin2sun
The Limousines: Get Sharp
“The kids are disco dancing / They’re tired of rock n roll / Don’t bother telling them that drum machine ain’t got no soul” is a pretty accurate description of much of today’s music scene. That observation is fittingly repeated in The Limousines’ drum machine heavy “The Internet Killed the Video Star”, which kicks off an album that is perfectly self-aware of what “the kids” are listening to these days.
The Limousines’ Get Sharp wound up in my Top Ten of 2011 if for no other reason than all eleven of the tracks are such perfectly danceable hipster-popgasms you can’t help but want to throw on some face paint, adorn a few feathers and fit right in somewhere on Bedford Ave. Sometimes, for me, a “best of” album needs to be one that I can play at any time and instantly improve my disposition — pure fun listenability. After all, music should make you happy and a happy life can be pretty simple, as The Limousines remind us in “The Future”: “I want to laugh as many times as I can before I die / Wanna love, wanna smile / Just want to fuck every once and awhile.” — SPSEZ
tUnE-yArDs – WHOKILL
From the Sam Cooke-esque bridge in the charmingly bouncy and catchy track “Doorstep” (about police brutality and injustice) to the hauntingly sexy soul ballad “Powa”, Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs pushes the boundaries and expectations of popular songwriting. Whokill is a stimulating genre melding journey of lyrical honesty and musical precision. Her strongest instrument is her voice — owning more tracks in each song than any other — and its versatility commands respect. Perhaps the most provocative songwriter and arranger on the scene today, Garbus produced an album with the appeal of a flawless urban flash mob and the mesmerizing schizophrenia of the boat trip down Wonka’s Chocolate River. “There’s no earhtly way of knowing which direction we are going…” but I’m totally down for the ride if tUnE-yArDs is steering the way. — Sweater Sara
Mayer Hawthorne: How Do You Do
1979 – Joe Montana goes completely undrafted through the first round of the NFL draft…..and the second round, finally getting picked up by the San Francisco 49ers in the third amongst a bunch of tight ends and equipment managers.
1990 – GoodFellas, easily the third greatest mobster movie of all time (behind The Godfather I and II, but way ahead of The Godfather III) and arguably one of the greatest films ever made, loses the Academy Award for Best Picture to Dances With Wolves, which is barely even the best movie with the words “Dances With Wolves” in the title. Martin Scorsese, the Joe Montana of directors, also loses the Best Director category to Kevin Costner, the Kevin Costner of directors.
2011 – Weeping Elvis releases their Top 30 Albums of 2011 list, and Mayer Hawthorne’s How Do You Do is nowhere to be found.
The most shocking thing about the next three statements is that, after listening to Hawthorne and his single-malt smooth and caramel silky latest installment, is that there is nothing shocking about them.
1. Mayer Hawthorne is a white guy singing Motown. And he’s doing it better than anyone else.
2. While the musical style defines the term “old school,” filtered through Hawthorne, his genuine reverence of early soul and funk melded deftly with his expert and effortless grasp of hip-hop and R&B, it couldn’t sound or feel more current.
3. Hawthorne’s music is both awesomely familiar, and like nothing you’ve ever heard.
While Harry Connick Jr. and Michael Buble are charming your grandparents, Mayer Hawthorne is probably seducing your girlfriend. And his whole vibe is so damn cool, you would proudly put “Girlfriend stolen by Mayer Hawthorne” on your resume. To say his songs are baby making music is an understatement. Listening to Hawthorne’s music will straight up get you pregnant. With triplets.
“The Walk” off of this latest album is entirely about wanting to break up with a girl and I’ll bet you after hearing that song, she still slept with him. I fully believe he owns at least two 70’s style white Cadillacs with red leather interior.
Joe Montana went on to win four Super Bowls, Martin Scorsese finally won his much deserved and long overdue Academy Awards for “The Departed” and one day soon Mayer Hawthorne will find himself on countless “Best Of” album lists. — JEEVES