The Best of 2011: Part One

First of all, I’d like to issue a formal apology. It’s directed at my readers, for sure, but mostly at myself since that’s the main reason I keep adding to this blog – I’m terribly sorry for not posting anything for the last 4 months. It’s really inexcusable. It makes me feel good to write about music that moves me, and though it makes me feel even BETTER to know a few people are reading this stuff, I would still post it if that wasn’t the case. But really, I’d like to make it a goal to post stuff at least 3 times a week, so that’s what I’m going to aim for from here on out. Thanks again to everyone who reads and comments on RGH – you make my day, and I will have more for you to look at very soon! First off, I will begin my “Best of 2011” column right here, where I will post 3-4 capsule reviews of my favorite 2011 albums in each section. Let’s begin!

Matador Records

Kurt VileSmoke Ring for My Halo

Kurt Vile’s wheezy vocal drone has likely caught the ears and hearts of many a disaffected hipster in the past few years. When it comes to his music and general attitude, Vile fits today’s Rock and Roll nativity scene perfectly – he has the balls to point out bullshit going on in the world, but also possesses this Elliott Smith-esque sense of responsibility, as if anything bad happening around him were all his fault. It’s this dichotomy of anger suppressed by an almost laughable guilt that creates Vile’s most usable energy and gives his tunes a bottle-up-and-explode quality, like a hushed scream. The tension might be too much to bear if it wasn’t for Vile’s unmistakable knack for songwriting and his beautiful, unique guitar playing, coupled with his obvious love for the classic rock styles of Springsteen and Petty. It’s quite refreshing to finally get a modern take on this sort of rock music, and to know that younger generations still see worth in it.

Yep Rock Records

SloanThe Double Cross

In the wake of what may be their worst release to date (2009’s Parallel Play), Sloan hit back hard in 2011 with The Double Cross, an album that celebrates 20 years of the band’s infectious brand of Canadian power pop in name (double cross, two x’s, twenty years, get it?) and strength of composition. While it’s the band’s most versatile album in years – thanks to Chris Murphy and his crafty knack for memorable phrases and hooks, Jay Ferguson’s winning balladry, Pat Pentland’s anxious punk anthems and Andrew Scott’s 70’s-rock-reference-littered street jams – The Double Cross is also Sloan’s shortest yet, coming in at under 35 minutes. But when an album is this consistently good, a shorter play length only serves to make the addiction even more severe. Like the band’s seminal 1999 release Between the Bridges, some of the songs flow together seamlessly. But unlike that album, The Double Cross does not rely on this trick for the duration, just as it does not rely on one style or genre to keep the listener’s attention. It doesn’t have to – the songs are that strong.

Self-Released

The ACB’sStona Rosa

Speaking of short albums, the second release from Kansas City’s indie pop heroes The ACB’s collects ten jarringly original anthems of Y-chromosome insecurity in just under 26 minutes. There are five-song EPs longer than this out there, but somehow, the brevity of Stona Rosa only serves to strengthen its overall effect. Just as a dude would flash a double-take at an attractive woman jogging past him on the sidewalk, the only option after a first listen of Stona Rosa is to listen again – it’s over so quickly, there’s no time to even gauge a reaction before the last track ends. But thanks to songwriter Konnor Ervin’s knack for integrating his indie-rock quirkiness in with a spot-on take on classic power pop, these KC dudes have created a wonderful little record that’s going to hold up for several listens – and most likely several years – down the line.

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One Response to “The Best of 2011: Part One”

  1. Antonio Rajewski Says:

    Never thought of it that way.

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