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The CHIRP Blog

Entries on the topic of “Best Of 2011” 30 results

Stephen Dobek writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2011 (Stephen Dobek)

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2011. The next list is from DJ and Assistant Music Director Stephen Dobek.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members’ picks.)

  1. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact (4AD)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    New York’s Gang Gang Dance stole the show for me this year. In an era when genre descriptors are used to exhaustion GGD escape easy categorization. Their sound isn’t tied to any particular time, or any particular place, it’s unfamiliar and weird but at the same time it’s totally intoxicating and a hell of a lot of fun to listen to.

     

    Favorite Song – ‘Glass Jar’

  2. Mark McGuire – A Young Person’s Guide to Mark McGuire & Get Lost (Editions Mego)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Released in April, A Young Person’s Guide is a collection of older material from this extremely prolific Clevelander and member of Emeralds. The 2 disc collection is pure instrumental magic, and serves as a great entry point for anyone unfamiliar with his music. His latest album, Get Lost is an electro-acoustic journey that shows McGuire’s mastery of the guitar and all the wonderfully different sounds you can make with it. This stuff is introspective to the core, and will easily transport the listener anywhere their mind desires.

     

    Favorite Songs – ‘The Marfa Lights’ & ‘Alma’

  3. Big K.R.I.T. – Return of 4Eva (self-released)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    2010’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here piqued my interest in this Mississippi native and his follow up to that superb slice of Southern hip hop has been my constant companion ever since. R4 isn’t necessarily memorable for K.R.I.T.‘s prowess on the mic, but rather his abilities as a producer. He rolls out track after track of soul-kissed magic that is pure Dirty South, recalling the likes of Outkast and UGK. With a Def Jam contract now under his belt the sky seems to be the limit.

     

    Favorite Song – ‘Get Right’

  4. The Weekend – House of Balloons (XL)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    The debut mixtape from Toronto’s mysterious The Weeknd spread through the interwebs like wildfire. House of Balloons collected over 200,000 downloads in a matter of weeks and quickly made these guys into a household name. It’s easy to see why. As far as contemporary R&B goes there aren’t too many artists, The-Dream aside, that are doing stuff like this. The beats are so good they might buckle your knees if you’re not prepared, and when combined with Abel Tesfaye’s considerable pipes and a penchant for darker subject matter this stuff becomes downright sinister in the best way possible.

     

    Favorite Song – ‘The Morning’

  5. Miracle Fortress – Was I the Wave? (Secret City)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Driven by endlessly positive and propulsive drum beats Was I the Wave? is a fine follow up to Miracle Fortress’ debut, which garnered the one-man band a Polaris Prize nomination. This time around Graham Van Pelt is dabbling in the synth-pop of Depeche Mode and other 80’s stalwarts and taking his sound to a whole new level.

     

    Favorite Song: ‘Everything Works’

  6. Pulseprogramming – Charade is Gold (Audraglint)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Chicago electro poppers Pulseprogramming came of age on this album, sounding like a fully coherent unit with a fully coherent focus. The somber electronics of Charade is Gold are mixed exceptionally well, and when listened to in headphones the experience is transcendent.

     

    Favorite Song – ‘Island Answer Anywhere’

  7. Ford & Lopatin – Channel Pressure (Software)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Joel Ford and Dan Lopatin don’t just pay lip service to the 1980s, they totally immerse themselves in the decade. Channel Pressure, the duo’s debut LP, is made using vintage synths and old school recording techniques, no laptops or Logic Pro for these guys. It would work well as a soundtrack for any Reagan era sci-fi movie.

     

    Favorite Song – ‘Break Inside’

  8. Tycho – Dive (Ghostly International)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Scott Hansen’s second album as Tycho is a pastoral mix of live instrumentation and electronics that is bathed in perpetual sunset. His slow burning synths were the perfect companion for the shortened days of fall and almost any outdoor activity.

     

    Favorite Song – ‘Coastal Brake’

  9. DaVinci – Feast or Famine EP (SWTBRDS)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    DaVinci has never sold out an arena, he’s never appeared on MTV, he doesn’t have a Grammy. The production value of his music, and the confidence he shows on the mic would make you think differently though. Feast or Famine is a slick set of 8 songs that further cements this San Franciscan as one of the hottest underground MC’s today. Big things are coming for DaVinci, but for now I just hope he keeps doing what he’s doing.

     

    Favorite Song – ‘Where My Dough At’

  10. Korallreven – An Album by Korallreven (Acéphale)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    If it’s Swedish and it’s pop then I’m probably going to love it. Case in point is the uber-lush debut LP from this Scandinavian duo, a record that puts a smile on my face and a skip in my step. Listening to it is to be transported a tropical paradise.

     

    Favorite Song – ‘The Truest Faith’

 

Honorable Mentions

  • Craft Spells – Idle Labor (Captured Tracks)
    G-Side – The One…Cohesive (Slow Motion Soundz)
    Rustie – Glass Swords (Warp)
    Junior Boys – It’s All True (Domino)
    Soft Metals – Soft Metals (Captured Tracks)

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James Vest writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2011 (James Vest)

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2011. The next list is from James Vest.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members’ picks.)

  1. Alexander – Alexander (Community Music)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Alexander Ebert created an album so diverse, so uniquely ambitious, it was instantly written off as unfocused. Maybe CHIRP heard a bit of itself when it put Alexander into rotation–an album with a Kevin Ayers sensibility, unbound by genre, an explorer and a mirror of it’s own vision and influences. Armed with a Jeff Buckley vocal range, Ebert puts together an album bursting with musical curiosities waiting to be appreciated.

    Island Song: “Truth”
  2. Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin’ On (Arts & Crafts)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    If a young Elvis could have somehow been body swapped with Leonard Cohen, Elvis presumably would have ditched Rockabilly for Rhythm and Blues. Because such a situation isn’t possible, there’s Timber Timbre to put to rest what that scenario would have sounded like. The album is a haunted space–expansive, mysterious, and eerily exciting, making you want to cling to something you love.

    Island Song: “Woman”
  3. Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    If I told you a bass saxophonist recorded an album with only one instrument, recording live in one take, you might say that sounds pretty weird. If that sounds weird, you need to hear this album. “I’ve never heard anything like it” is just the beginning of this dark, dynamic, blast of sound that is an experience to behold from being to end. Even with vocal guests, the sounds coming from Stetson’s sax draws the focus. A truly original work of art-amazing what can be expressed by one instrument.

    Island Song: “Judges”
  4. Charles Bradley – No Time for Dreaming (Daptone)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Charles Bradley isn’t “new soul trying to sound like old soul,” this screaming eagle is the very definition of old soul. From 40 years of hard knocks, Charles Bradley emerged singing songs of heartache and love of a man glad to be alive. Backed up by the equally brilliant Menahan Street Band, this album is as close as we can get to that timeless soul music of the ‘60s.

    Island Song: “Lovin’ You, Baby”
  5. Maker & Joe Beats – Falcon By Design (Fieldwerk)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Maker & Joe Beats have their own rich histories as Hip Hop producers, so playing back to back on this split release, they have a beat building foundation that doesn’t need an MC to stand tall. The album is a sightseeing tour from beginning to end, of urban strength and hustling feet, tightly flowing from riding the train to working out–a perfect soundtrack for Chicago.

    Island Song: “Blunted Lapdance”
  6. Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread (Drag City)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Goodbye Bread sounds like something John Lennon could have recorded if he had lead The Kingsmen instead of the Beatles. Segall plays all the instruments on this garage romp, that packs as much toe-tapping, pop sensibility as it does fuzzy guitars, that when mixed together will fill your winter with warm, psychedelic sunshine.

    Island Song: “You Make The Sun Fry”
  7. Ikebe Shakedown – Ikebe Shakedown (Ubiquity)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Both hailing from Brooklyn, it’s hard not to compare Ikebe Shakedown to the venerable Budos Band. Yet both house different ingredients into their Afrobeat-Soul kitchens. Ikebe Shakedown adds ‘70‘s cinematic soul and disco elements to a lively collection rhythm and horns that will have your body shaking long before the credits role.

    Island Song: “Tujunga”
  8. tUnE-yArDs – W H O K I L L (4AD)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    As inventive as any album this year, Merrill Gerbus’ sound is a junkyard of Afro-Caribbean, R&B, Funk, and Modern Rock influences, though her voice maybe her music’s most unique quality. After her first album, BiRd-BrAiNs, found an audience despite being recorded on a digital voice recorder, Gerbus’ took advantage of her first studio-recorded release that turns tunes to treasure.

    Island Song: “Bizness”
  9. Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: Nickel and Penny Labels (Numero Group)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    In the ‘60‘s and ‘70s, Chicago’s #1 Dusties DJ Richard Pegue helmed the Nickel and Penny labels writing, arranging and producing some of Chicago’s most beautiful soul records. Numero Group spent five years digging up and restoring these gems to soul museum quality, despite the death of Pergue during the process. From Bar-Kay gospel-funk instrumentals, to Motown Do-Wop clap-a-longs, to Funkadelic-Sly-Stone-love-fests, this is Numero at their best.

    Island Song: “Shadows”
  10. The Beach Boys – The SMiLE Sessions (Capitol)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    The history of 1967‘s SMiLE is as big as the music itself: the legendary, heartbreaking backstory and the label of “most famous unreleased album of all time.” Add in bootlegs and individual song releases over the years and the 2004 resurrection and complete re-recording by Brian Wilson, and it would seem impossible for the actual album to offer anything new. Yet SMiLE’s ability to continue to surprise me every time I hear it, a timeless testament to the Brian Wilson’s unbelievable range and artistic depth, cut short. SMiLE was so far ahead of it’s time, it’s a fitting discovery in any century.

    Island Song: “Vega-Tables”

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Patrick Seymour - Dizzy Spells writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2011 (Patrick Seymour)

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2011. The next list (in no particular order) is from Patrick Seymour.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members’ picks.)

  • Iceage – New Brigade (Dias/What’s Your Rupture?)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Yes yes yes! This quartet from Copenhagen bang out 12 quick tunes a la Wire’s Pink Flag or early Joy Division. The hooks and melodies are there, but they are secondary to frantic guitar playing and full throttle drumming. An impressive debut from this young group, I’m stoked to see what’s next.
  • Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (Constellation)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Just one guy, a saxophone and a whole bunch of microphones. Stetson is able to fill up a whole lot of sonic room just with his saxophone (Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden lend some vocals) and without any overdubs. The multiple microphones capture percussive noises, ambient sounds, Stetson’s breathing and other miscellany providing additional textures. Making an albums worth of engaging solo saxophone pieces is a tough feat, but Colin Stetson certainly has on “Judges.”
  • Psychic Paramount – II (No Quarter)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    This is some time travel music. Put on some headphones and hop on your bike (please bike responsibly), press play on this album and your normal 25 minute commute will now take about 10. This trio play bombastic instrumental music that doesn’t let up. One minute it is wandering and hazy then the drummer (total beast) steps on the gas and it is five blissful minutes of dive bombing guitars and helicopter bass playing. This is the music I wanted Acid Mothers Temple to play before I had heard Psychic Paramount.
  • Starlicker – Double Demon (Delmark)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Local jazz trio Starlicker is made up of superstars Rob Mazurek on cornet, Jason Adasiewicz on vibes, and John Herndon playing drums. Everyone in the band is involved in about 10 other groups which makes it a wonder that this album got recorded in the first place. Adasiewicz is a remarkable talent providing an array of colors and tones while Mazurek steps in and out of the picture, leading when it is called for and holding off to let the other two shine.
  • PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (Vagrant)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    PJ Harvey albums are exciting because each one is different from the last, so you are not quite sure what you are going to get. All the more impressive is the fact that she has continued to put out great music with each album and “Let England Shake” sits among her best work. The album which focuses on the conflicts of her homeland and the images she conjures are often grisly. The music compliments the lyrical content and prevents this from being a grim album, resulting in what can best be described as Harvey’s take on folk music.
  • Hauschka – Salon des Amateurs (Fat Cat)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    I tuned into Volker Bertelmann aka Hauschka’s music last year for his fantastic “Foreign Landscapes” for which he paired his prepared piano with a 12 piece woodwind ensemble. On “Salon des Amateurs” Bertelmann chose a different route, pairing his piano playing with several percussionists (members of Mum and Calexico), strings, and electronic noises. Post-classical never sounded so catchy. Sounds bubble along and the music comes up just short of full on dance tunes.
  • Charles Bradley – No Time for Dreaming (Daptone)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Making his debut at the ripe young age of 62 Charles Bradley has recorded a monster of an album. Backed by one of the best contemporary studio bands, the Menahan Street Band, “No Time for Dreaming” delivers 12 sharp funk/soul tracks. Akin to James Brown, Lee Fields, or the local group JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, this is prime material for your soul dance party nights.
  • Radiohead – The King of Limbs (Tiker Tape Ltd.)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    There is so much baggage and hype with Radiohead that I just leave them alone. I was drawn in after hearing a couple of tracks on “King of Limbs” and had to question my previous stance on the band. They recorded a concise album that moves even further away from the guitar albums of the 90s/early 2000s and into the realm of brooding electronic sounds and studio constructed music.
  • Shawn Lee & The Ping Pong Orchestra – World of Funk (Ubiquity)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    This is one of those albums that is not an earth shattering great record, but it is really solid and a hell of a lot of fun to listen to. Shawn Lee, for this album takes a slew of instruments found commonly in the music of other cultures around the world and used them to record a globe trotting funk album. You are treated to sneaky grooves, Korean scatting, exotic sounds, and much more.
  • Arrington de Dionyso’s Malaikat Dan Singa – Suara Naga (K)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    This gets my great weird album of the year award. Arrington de Dionyoso fronted the late blooming Beefheart inspired band Old Time Relijun before he started his Malaikat Dan Singa group, which further mines the territory of his old band. He sings in Indonesian over some heavy post-punk weirdness. The album title translates to dragon’s voice which gives you a clue to Dionyoso’s singing style. He also plays the bass saxophone which he wields with abandon. This record is in a league of its own, give it a shot.
  • It has also been a great year for reissues. Here are my top 5…
    Skip James – Today! (Vanguard)
    Raincoats – Odyshape (We Three)
    El Rego – El Rego (Daptone)
    Vagrants – I Can’t Make a Friend (Light In The Attic)
    Beach Boys – Smile (Capitol)

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Jonny writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2011 (Jon Schechinger)

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2011. The next list is from Jon Schechinger.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members’ picks.)


(Albums listed chronologically by release date)

  • Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde (Fat Possum)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    I still want to know where they learned those glam rock ethics. I could only hope for more harmonies, a few new stompboxes, and please keep those amazing hooks. Time is on their side.

     


    Songs: “Still New” and “Smile”

  • PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (Vagrant)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    This record still haunts me, so I won’t give it up. I was never into PJ until now. Better late than never.

     


    Songs: “The Last Living Rose” and “Hanging In The Wire”

  • La Sera – La Sera (Hardly Art)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    How can we control fate so the next album blows us away? Another great debut LP. Very vinyl worthy.

     


    Songs: “Never Come Around” and “Devils Hearts Grow Gold”

  • The Feelies – Here Before (Bar None)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    I cannot rave too much about this record without dissing a fair to significant amount of music released in the last five years. Boring or old? no, just good.

     


    Songs: “When You Know” and “Time Is Right”

  • Cults – Cults (In the Name of)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes

     


    Songs: “Walk at Night” and “You Know What I Mean”




     

    and…


     

    The Poison Control Center – Stranger Ballet (Afternoon)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes


    Songs: “Porcelain Brain” and “Reoccurring Kind”



     

    Two of the most accessibly great pop records of the year released on the same day.

  • Wild Flag – Wild Flag (Merge)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    As good as Sleater-Kinney? Yes.

     


    Songs: “Short Version” and “Electric Band”

  • Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls (Slumberland)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Formulaic and catchy? No problem. Married types are unattainable. It’s okay.

     


    Songs: “Beachy Head” and “Veronica Falls”

  • Dum Dum Girls – Only in Dreams (Sub Pop)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Ambition and song craft kick in the head. This is not selling out, but selling up. Shockingly grower of an album.

     


    Songs: “Heartbeat (Take It Away)” and “In My Head”

  • Class Actress – Rapprocher (Carpark)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    A record that makes a case for the eighties retro sound and shockingly delivers.

     


    Songs: “Keep You” and “Weekend”

  • Escort – Escort (Escort)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Finally! They released an album!

     


    Songs: “Makeover” and “All That She Is”

 

Reissue:

Honorable Mentions:

Belong, Blood Pressures, Sucre du Sauvage, Dirty Beaches, Strange Mercy, Mannequin Men. Where Are You?: Rage Against The Machine, Queens of the Stone Age, NOFX, Weezer, The Cure, The Smiths, XTC.

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Clarence Ewing: The Million Year Trip writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2011 (Clarence Ewing)

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2011. The next list is from Assistant Online Media Director Clarence Ewing.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)

  1. tUnE-yArDs – W H O K I L L (4AD)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    I’m not the kind of person who stands on street corners loudly exclaiming “Holy S#%!” with my headphones on, yet that's just what I did when I first gave this album a listen while waiting for a bus. Merrill Garbus' melodic gymnastics and fiercely inventive technique (backed by Nate Brenner's sweet bass lines) are just brilliant.
  2. Battles – Gloss Drop (Warp)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    They combine the blunt force of a punk band with the dexterity and precision of a chamber orchestra, genre-hopping all over the place to suit their needs. It's the most focused and confident experimental music or the most advanced pop music I've ever heard. Either way, it's fantastic.
  3. White Hills – H-p1 (Thrill Jockey)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    A hot vortex of noise-rock that brings to mind jet engines, the drone of a billion computer servers, sports stadium entrance music, the static-y aftermath of bomb explosions, and political rallies, all mashed together and powered by anger and fear. No other album I've heard in the last decade so completely nails what the 21st century sounds like.
  4. Panda Bear – Tomboy (Paw Tracks)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    I was prepared to be underwhelmed by this album when it was first released. The knock on Noah Lennox's follow up to his landmark album Person Pitch was that it’s “more of the same.” But sometimes that's a good thing, especially when it comes from a gifted musician who continues to sharpen his electro-ambient-avant-pop craft.
  5. Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place (Asthmatic Kitty)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    If forests could sing, I suspect this is what we would hear.
  6. Daedelus – Bespoke (Ninja Tune)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    A remarkable sampler of the bleeding edge of dance and electronic music from a group of today's brightest talents (including Milosh, Inara George, Baths, and Young Dad) whose common denominator is Alfred Darlington, an accomplished musician in his own right and one of those guys who knows everyone in the scene.
  7. Blueprint – Adventures in Counter-Culture (Rhymesayers)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    A terrific offering from a gifted rapper who draws from many musical sources to express himself (everything from gangsta beats to club-ready dance tracks to New Wave retro to Coldplay-ish anthemic mainstream pop), tied together by an undercurrent of melancholy and world-weariness. It's not just a great musical journey but a vivid picture of an individual.
  8. The Cool Kids – When Fish Ride Bicycles (Green Label Sound)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    When it comes to rap, artists need to either move forward into new territory, or go back to what made it so great to begin with. This album from Antoine "Sir Michael Rocks" Reed (Matteson, Illinois) and Evan "Chuck Inglish" Ingersoll (Mount Clemens, Michigan) takes the latter path, using stripped-down beats and vocal dexterity to breathe new life into an increasingly stale pop genre.
  9. The Fleshtones – Brooklyn Sound Solution (Yep Roc)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Remember a time when you could not play Rock unless you knew how to play Blues? The Fleshtones remember, and this legendary New York outfit serves up meat-and-potatoes glam-garage jams that pack more punch than most of today’s distortion-and-effects-laden alt-rock. And they make it sound effortless (after all, they've been doing it since 1976).
  10. The Eternals – Approaching the Energy Field (Addenda / Submarine)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    The Eternals sound like what would happen if a funk band and an avant-garde jazz ensemble had a jam session one sunny afternoon in the ‘70s. Channeling the spirit of Sun Ra and Sly and the Family Stone, with political comment and poetry added for good measure, this is the modern example of how to do Fusion.
  • And Some Outstanding Singles from 2011...
    "Beat and the Pulse" by Austra
    "Fast Challenges" by Chad Valley
    "Mop It Up" by Gauntlet Hair
    "As young As Yesterday" by Korallreven
    "Natural Causes" by Nite Jewel
    "Amor Fati" by Washed Out

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Curtis Swank writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2011 (Curt Swank)

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2011. The next list is from volunteer Curt Swank.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members’ picks.)

  1. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo (Matador)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
  2. tUnE yArDs – W H O K I L L (4AD)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
  3. Likki Li – Wounded Rhymes (LL)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
  4. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints (Soulterrain Transmissions)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
  5. Washed Out – Within and Without (Sub Pop)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
  6. Steven Malkmus and The Jicks – Mirror Traffic (Matador)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
  7. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient (Secretly Canadian)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
  8. Wild Flag – Wild Flag (Merge)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
  9. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Mute)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
  10. Mates of State – Mountaintops (Barsuk)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes

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Dylan Peterson writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2011 (Dylan Peterson)

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2011. The next list is from Dylan Peterson.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members’ picks.)

  1. Detroyer – Kaputt (Merge)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    I don’t think a great album can ever be neutral. The best records probably get an equal amount of love and hate (I’m thinking Trout Mask Replica, Velvet Underground, Another Green World, In Rainbows, Rumours, anything by ELO, etc.). Believe it or not, people still think Bob Dylan has a weird voice. And yeah, Kaputt should divide us. People should get upset when they hear this easy-listening, cheesy-sax-drenched, vocals-recorded-lying-on-a-couch, artsy shit.

    But what can I say. I haven’t listened to any other album this year more than Kaputt. I am infatuated with every track here. I guess artistic audacity just gets me every time. I want to hear someone giving a crazy idea his all, even if that could potentially mean utter failure. Dan Bejar could’ve made the worst decision of his life by releasing Kaputt, but as long as listeners like me are around, we’ll make sure this isn’t the last time an artist doesn’t play it safe. Kaputt is my favorite album of the year.

     


    Best Track: Kaputt

  2. Real Estate – Days (Domino)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    I completely slept on Real Estate’s self-titled debut, but after seeing their show at the Subterranean this summer, along with a majority of new songs in their set, I woke up. You don’t have to look too deep beneath the haze to hear a band that cares deeply about music. Precision and harmony are of utmost importance to Real Estate, and the result is an arresting album of indie surf rock. And no, you shouldn’t just listen to this in summertime. I just listened to it again, and it sounds great on 40-degree Chicago evenings.

     


    Best Track: All the Same

  3. Washed Out – Within and Without (Sub Pop)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Chillwave came out of the bedroom in 2011. Washed Out is the frontrunner of the movement, and is taking pride in being so. Whether you’re getting high, having sex, dancing, reading, or sleeping, Within and Without should be the soundtrack. It’s a strange time for music like this though. Washed Out opened for Cut Copy on their last North American tour, and leaving the venue I overheard some awful girl call Washed Out “the hipster Enya.” First I wanted to turn around and tell her to check this out, but then I just shrugged it off and thought, “Enya is awesome.”

     


    Best Track: Soft

  4. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo (Matador)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Hey, guitars! Yeah, that’s an instrument for old dudes, but Kurt Vile doesn’t care. He knows how to write a great song with his guitar, and he should continue. Kurt has an aura that you can’t really fuck with. The timelessness of songwriting wins again here, whether you’re a fan of Bruce Springsteen, Sonic Youth, or Arcade Fire, Kurt Vile’s music somehow stretches across decades of rock and roll cool and comes back with a uniquely original style.

     


    Best Track: Jesus Fever

  5. Korallreven – An Album by Korallreven (Acephale)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    It was a great year for quiet music. Actually, I don’t know. Does screamo exist anymore? Is punk still a thing? I have a feeling that loud shit doesn’t do as much for us anymore because of how easy it is to make a high-quality album in one’s bedroom with a laptop. Our ears are collectively refined, and emotional music can’t be achieved as easily or brutishly these days. Korallreven is like new-age, Native American, sacred music, ambient, Sigur Ros and chillwave delicately smooshed into one lovely as honey viiiiiibe.

     


    Best Track: The Truest Faith

  6. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Mute)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    It was 2011’s epic album. And hey, if I’m looking for something grandiose and overwhelming, this is the stuff. It sounds like the 80s, but no, it actually doesn’t. It sounds like 2011. This is music that people are connecting with right now. We’re not going back in time. We’re hearing synths clearer than ever, and they warm our hearts. Don’t forget about shoegaze either. M83 is a culmination of a couple decades worth of ideas, succeeding today and today only.

     


    Best track: Midnight City

  7. Chad Valley – Equatorial Ultravox [EP]
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    If anything should be considered a “surprise” in my top 10, I guess this would be it. Equatorial Ultravox wasn’t even reviewed on Pitchfork, so y’know. But these seven tracks still get me up. He sounded great at Schubas, so I have really high hopes for a full length (or another EP, or whatever he decides to release). It’s the ideal chillwave, and I am still unapologetic about loving it. These guys are making fresh music, and it gives me the bliss.

     


    Best Track: Fast Challenges

  8. G-Side – The One…Cohesive (Slow Motion Soundz, LLC)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Rap album of the year. In a recent interview I did with ST 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova, they said that their music is not cloud rap, just Alabama music. But whatever we want to call it, G-Side has the most radical sound in hip-hop today. They sample Beach House, Enya, and Tame Impala like it’s nothing. Seriously, they’re not gimmicky at all. If the sound works for their song, that’s why they’re sampling it.

     


    Best Track: How Far

  9. Bon Iver – Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    I couldn’t stop listening to this when it came out. Replay value is what gets an album in my top 10. I would\ rather not even explain why this album works for me, it just does. If you also put these songs on repeat, you got it. If you turned it off seconds after hearing it, fine. I don’t think this an album that needs to be defended.

     


    Best Track: Beth/Rest

  10. Active Child – You Are All I See (Vagrant)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    An ex-choirboy plays the harp over post-dubstep beats. I don’t really feel the need to say anything more. He gets a guest vocal from How To Dress Well, brought Chad Valley along as the opener of his North American tour, and is now the opening act for M83’s tour. He is running with the right crowd. We will hear a lot more Active Child in the years to come. You Are All I See is a beautiful haunt of an album, but it really feels like the beginning of something special.

     


    Best Track: Hanging On

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CHIRP DJ writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2011 (Liz Smyth)

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2011. The next list is from Liz Smyth.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members’ picks.)

  1. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (Vagrant)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    This album is beautiful in its quiet grace, and the honesty of its lyrics. Even 9 months after its release these songs still get happily stuck in my head.
  2. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar (Atlantic/Canvasback)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    This group is very easy to listen to (beware of spontaneous sing-alongs). Their accessible rock/pop mixes lilting verses with grungy, crunchy choruses.
  3. The Weeknd – House of Balloons (XL)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    The title track is great, and the rest of the album is filled with solid, lush night music.
  4. Timber Timbre – Creep On Creepin’ On (Arts & Crafts)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    I love the inventiveness of this group, and especially on this album. It’s like the melancholy love-child of a crooner and a folk-rock band, with atonal influences.
  5. Blind Pilot – 3 Rounds and a Sound (ATO)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    This album is perfect for quiet mornings. I appreciate the detail given to every song, from the lyrics to the subtlety of its chord and voicing changes.
  6. Radiohead – The King of Limbs (Ticker Tape Ltd.)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    This is another album that contains a ton of musical detail. I’m probably in the minority, but I really enjoy the electronic and jazz influenced direction Radiohead has gone lately.
  7. Likki Li – Wounded Rhymes (LL)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Lykke Li portrays her vulnerability with such passion on this album. “I Know Places” is one of my favorites.
  8. Adele – 21 (XL)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    I and every person in America love this album, but who can deny the pull of “Rolling In the Deep” or “Someone Like You”?
  9. Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 (Capitol)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    This album makes me feel like a bad-ass, which is hilarious. I especially like the first half of the recording.
  10. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Does anyone else feel like Fleet Foxes are our generation’s Simon and Garfunkel? The title track is one of the best on the album in my opinion.

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Bobby Evers writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2011 (Bobby Evers)

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2011. Our first list is from CHIRP DJ Bobby Evers.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members’ picks.)

 

In making this list, I realized 2011 has been a year of “Don’t Miss” albums. Like, you should absolutely make it your business to listen to “The King is Dead” “21” “Watch the Throne” and “Bon Iver, Bon Iver.” The word “epic” gets thrown around a lot, but 2011 seems to have turned out to be a pretty important year albums-wise.

First, The Honorable Mentions: Artists whose Albums I regret not listening to more that likely would have made the list had I gotten around to it: Peter Bjorn and John, Bill Callahan, Fleet Foxes, Radiohead, Tapes N’
Tapes, The Joy Formidable, Feist, Death Cab For Cutie, Beyonce, Fruit Bats, Mister Heavenly, Saves the Day, Wilco, Bjork, St. Vincent, BOBBY, Eleanor Friedberger.

And now, the top 10…

  1. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead (Capitol)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    The first #1 for Pacific Northwestern indie folk troupe The Decemberists saw them stripping away 100% of their theatrics to get back to their roots and do what they do best: simple, sweet folk songs with an alt country bent. Play to your strengths, Meloy.

     

    Recommended Tracks: Rise to Me, January Hymn, June Hymn, This is Why We Fight

  2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    At first I was listening to it over and over again because I was trying to see what all the hype was about. It charted at #2 on the Billboard 200 and everyone was talking about it. I couldn’t quite figure it out, but eventually I was listening to it over and over again because I couldn’t stop. It had become the film-within-the-book in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest that renders the audience incapacitated.

     

    Recommended Tracks: Holocene, Michicant

  3. Wye Oak – Civilian (Merge)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    “I still keep my baby teeth, In the bedside table with my jewelry, You still sleep in the bed with me, My jewelry, and my baby teeth. I don’t need another friend, When most of them I can barely keep up with. I’m perfectly able to hold my own hand, but I still can’t kiss my own neck. I wanted to give you everything but I still stand in awe of superficial things I wanted to love you like my mother’s mother’s mothers did…Civilian…”

    No explanation needed.

     

    Recommended Tracks: Civilian, Holy Holy, Doubt

  4. Thao & Mirah – Thao & Mirah (Kill Rock Stars)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    What started as a tour together between Kill Rock Stars darlings Thao Nguyen (of her assembled Get Down Stay Down) and Mirah Zeitlyn of Mirah quickly turned into collaborative songwriting and the world was made better for it. The album was produced by Merrill Garbus (see #5).

    Recommended tracks: Eleven, Teeth
  5. tUnE yArDs – W H O K I L L (4AD)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    This is the year Merrill Garbus exploded with her musical project tUnE-yArDs, a collage of multi-instrumentation and sound effects. The album is bombastic, fun, and incredibly original. I seriously didn’t understand what I was listening to the first time I heard it streaming on NPR.

     

    Recommended Tracks: Gangsta, Powa, Bizness

  6. Nicole Atkins – Mondo Amore (Razor & Tie Music)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    The follow-up to her debut Neptune City, singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins is moody and soulful and dark. Taking inspiration from Ennio Morricone, a lot of the songs give you the unsettling feeling you’re living a David Lynch movie. It was actually her poster hanging at Subterrenean the night after she performed there that made me listen to this record, making me immediately regret missing her there.

     

    Recommended Tracks: Cry, Cry, Cry, Hotel Plaster, This is For Love, War Is Hell

  7. Adele – 21 (XL)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Another #1 record, this is the sexy, soulful followup to her debut album 19 (I hope she titles all of her albums the age she was at the exact moment she wrote them, like a diary). It is all at once empowering and heartbreaking soul pop.

     

    Recommended Tracks: Rolling in the Deep, Rumor Has It, Someone Like You

  8. Tennis – Cape Dory (Fat Possum)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Ridiculous album cover aside, this is a record by a married couple who traveled the world and then made an album about it. It is dumb, fun twee pop and one that I listened to over and over again at work, alongside Bon Iver and Civilian. Unfortunately I missed them at Lollapalooza, but I could still hear them.

     

    Recommended tracks: Take Me Somewhere, South Carolina, Cape Dory

  9. Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck (Merge)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    2011 saw a return-to-form for John Darnielle’s songwriting project The Mountain Goats after a dissappointing response to 2009’s Life of the World to Come. It is driving, full, and dripping with the cleverness audiences come to expect from Darnielle.

    Recommended tracks: Damn These Vampires, High Hawk Season, For Charles Bronson
  10. Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne (Roc-A-Fella/Roc Nation/Def Jam)
    BUY: Insound / iTunes
    Another collaboration that once it came together seemed fairly obvious with fantastic results. An annoying ad campaign for a pretty brilliant hip-hop album that is dark and fun and has a cornicopia of special guest stars including Beyonce, Frank Ocean, Mr. Hudson and a polarizing use of an Otis Redding track. The songs that have “featuring” credits are the best ones on the album. This album is kind of a big deal. If you haven’t heard this, you’re basically out of the loop.

     

    Recommended Tracks: Otis, No Church in the Wild, Lift Off, Made in America, That’s My Bitch

 

P.S. I also made a Spotify playlist that is accessible to anyone with Spotify that has a lot of the aforementioned recommended tracks.

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Clarence Ewing: The Million Year Trip writesDecember Means It’s Time for CHIRP Radio’s Best of 2011!

2011 has been a tremendous year for CHIRP Radio, and now it’s time to wrap things up strong as we look back on the best music the year had to offer. Starting tomorrow and continuing throughout December we will present our volunteers’ lists of their favorite music from 2011.

At the end of the month (aka the end of the year) we’ll present our combined list of what we feel are this year’s outstanding records. So check back here regularly and get ready to add a bunch of items to your wish list…and Happy Holidays from all of us at CHIRP!

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