NOTE: I’m posting two lists today because I have stuff I want to post going into Christmas, so we’re getting these things DONE. Read ’em both. Or only one. Or read a damn book. It doesn’t really matter what you do. I’m still writing them.
2011 was a really, really good year and I’m really happy with the list I wrote at the time. It’s only changing because I’ve since bumped into a couple of records that were list-worthy that I missed…but I have no major regrets about the list as it stood then.
What I listed at the time:
(I unofficially listed 15, so I’ll list them all here.)
- Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
- Flogging Molly – Speed of Darkness
- The Black Keys – El Camino
- Tom Waits – Bad As Me
- Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu
- Cake – Showroom of Compassion
- Beady Eye – Different Gear, Still Speeding
- Hayes Carll – KMAG YOYO
- Imelda May – Mayhem
- Deer Tick – Divine Providence
- Centro-matic – Candidate Waltz
- Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose
- …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead
- Wilco – The Whole Love
- Old 97s – The Grand Theatre Vol. 2
REVISED Top Ten Records of 2009:
1. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
I absolutely stand by this being the best album of that year. It was so good I also wanted to list it as the best record of LAST year, and it’s still regularly hitting my player today. The accompanying documentary Grohl and the boys put out showing the history of the band leading into this record is definitely worth watching, as it provides a solid backing to support that this record was apparently as fun to make as it is to listen to. It’s solid from start to end without ever feeling like “just another Foos record.” This is the BEST Foos record. If you’ve always meant to get into the band but just never knew where to start–START HERE. It’s great.
Favorite Tracks: “Bridge Burning,” “Rope,” “Dear Rosemary,” “These Days,” And “Walk” (“Walk” is one of the best rock songs that has been written in decades. You NEED a copy of that song.)
2. Flogging Molly – Speed of Darkness
Really excellent record. Shows that Flogging Molly is more than just “one of those Irish punk bands…no not Dropkick Murphys…the OTHER one.” A true rock record, and you’d miss the Irishness of it if you weren’t specifically listening for it. (Well…except in the vocal track. You just can’t hide that accent!) A truly great listen that actually grows on you WHILE you’re listening to it the first time, and on multiple listens was a true contender for the record of the year. It ended up being second on my list…but just know that it’s a VERY CLOSE second.
Favorite Tracks: “Speed of Darkness,” “Don’t Shut ‘Em Down,” “The Power’s Out,” and “Rise Up”
3. Tom Waits – Bad As Me
“Whiskey over razor blades.” That’s the best way of describing Tom’s voice. And that’s part of why we love him. His words are more important than the delivery, but he found a delivery that’s wholly unique and he’s been honing it for decades…it was finally honed to the perfection, so he finally delivered a perfect album. A record that sounds like a New Orleans funeral march and a New York deli all at once. A growl worthy of death metal meets music that might’ve fallen right out of your favorite (Chicago) blues-bar, if a band that didn’t quite belong there was playing that night. It is, plainly, brilliant.
Favorite Tracks: “Chicago,” “Bad As Me,” and “Hell Broke Luce”
4. Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones
Frank Turner is kind of the British answer to Flogging Molly. Acoustic folk-punk. Sweary, atheistic, charming, angry, loud, and witty. And these songs will be stuck in your head for the rest of your life. Discovered this one in 2012 after Turner performed on Conan one night and immediately kicked myself for not finding it earlier. Knew by the end of his performance on the show that this one belonged on my 2011 list.
Favorite Tracks: “Peggy Sang the Blues,” “I Still Believe,” “I Am Disappeared,” and “Redemption”
5. Lou Reed & Metallica – Lulu
I was championing this then and I’m championing it now. This SHOULD be regarded as the boldest move either of its creators has ever made. It is instead dismissed almost en-mass. When Lou Reed died this year, Lars Ulrich defended the project saying that he thought it would find its audience over time and that in 20 years everyone would be lying saying they loved it all along. Well, Lars…I actually HAVE.
Favorite Tracks: “The View,” “Iced Honey,” Frustration,” and “Junior Dad” (“Junior Dad” is one of the best songs Lou ever wrote, by the way.)
6. Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 My Nightmare
It took me a while to come around and appreciate this one. It took a long time for me to get past the “Really, Alice? Back to the well?” factor. And that’s legitimate…but structurally, I maintain this record is probably actually BETTER than the original “Nightmare.” Blasphemy, I know. I guess I cam to appreciate it fully in the week leading up to seeing Alice and Iron Maiden in Chicago in 2012. Listened to it on the way there. And then a few more times. And then a few MORE times. And I don’t know why I didn’t have it on this list all along. Fun, funny, and with a story that actually makes some goddamn SENSE this time, this record is a must for all Alice fans.
Favorite Tracks: “Caffeine,” “Last Man on Earth,” “The Congregation,” “When Hell Comes Home,” and “I Gotta Get Outta Here”
7. CAKE – Showroom of Compassion
I wasn’t the biggest CAKE fan when they first roamed the earth, but I’m glad I fully got on board with this one. (Again, largely thanks to a Conan episode!) This one’s easily as good as what they were doing in the early part of their career. Immediately catchy and infectious. If you don’t have this record, I actually kind of feel bad for you. It might not be my number one record of that year, but it’s a damn fine listen. “Sick of You” belongs on everybody’s Springtime playlist forever.
Favorite Tracks: “Long Time,” “Mustache Man,” and “Sick of You”
8. Beady Eye – Different Gear, Still Speeding
Really great Brit-rock release. From the ashes of Oasis rose Beady Eye, and who knew I’d like it, since I kind of hate Oasis? Knocked my socks off. It’s not necessarily breaking new ground in the field of rock and roll, but it is breaking new ground for Liam. It’s a rock record that actually rocks. Good for him! (And, by the way, I’m extremely irritated that I haven’t been able to FIND the record they put out this year. If anybody sees it, pick it up for me and I’ll reimburse you.)
Favorite Tracks: “Four Letter Word,” “Beatles and Stones,” and “Three Ring Circus”
9. Black Keys – El Camino
Sunk significantly on my list, but it’s still a really good record…it’s just that when I think of it, I often can’t remember if it’s this record or their previous one. I like it, but it doesn’t stand out as unique for their band…it sounds like they made “Brothers” again. And that’s okay. “Brothers” is a damn fine record, and if I had the kind of success they had with that one, I’d try to recreate it too. They did a good job doing that…but maybe TOO good a job since I now can’t separate them in my mind anymore. Nevertheless, still Top Ten worthy.
Favorite Tracks: “Lonely Boy,” “Gold on the Ceiling,” and “Little Black Submarines”
10. Hayes Carll – KMAG YOYO
Hayes is a GREAT voice in country music. Trace Adkins, take note…THIS is how you don’t suck. (You suck, Trace. That’s what I’m saying.) Hayes provides a smart sense of humor with a gritty realism that produces some really outstanding lyrics against a backdrop of fun and at times soulful and even heart-rending country music. A real gem, just waiting to be discovered by mainstream country music. Unfortunately, country music has a lot of people pissing in the mainstream, so Hayes isn’t likely to be a household name…but he goddamn SHOULD be.
Favorite Tracks: “Stomp and Holler,” “Hard Out Here,” “KMAG YOYO,” and “Bottle in My Hand”
- Imelda May – Mayhem (Still love it. Just have to be in the mood for it.)
- Deer Tick – Divine Providence (Kind of broke my heart to move this one off the list.)
- Centro-matic – Candidate Waltz (Listened to it recently, and it’s still fantastic)
- Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose (Grows on me more every time I hear it.)
- …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead (Still good, but not the one I reach for when I want to hear the band.)
- Wilco – The Whole Love (Good…but to be honest, I don’t really need to hear it again.)
- Old 97s – The Grand Theatre Vol. 2
- Drive-By Truckers – Go Go Boots (Worst album they’ve ever made, but still better than most of the shit out there. A couple great songs, but a lot of misses.)
- Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events (Fine. Not great.)
- Steve Martin – Rare Bird Alert (GREAT bluegrass record)
- Anthrax – Worship Music (GREAT return to form)
- Chickenfoot III (Perfectly good, silly-assed rock and roll.)
- Dropkick Murphys – Going Out in Style (Good, but repetitive)
2012 coming later tonight. Or like a year ago. Or something. Shut up.