2011: The Year of Escapism

Conjuring up motifs and noises of the past, these ten artists have put their spin on nostalgia and have created a sound unique to each of them.  Music as always is a testament of the times, somehow it seems we’re being catapulted backwards. In some cases the artist deals head on with the current turmoil lyrically, but even when the content is irrelevant we’re sucked into a simpler time. Although it’s hard to remain hopeful when the skies look so dark and gloomy, there’s always “Watch The Thrown.”

10. Bon Iver- Bon Iver: While the album is it’s own independent identity, I can’t help but still yearn for Emma. Justin Vernon, Bon Iver’s brainchild released his self-titled three years after his debut For Emma, Forever Ago. Unfortunately Bon Iver leaves me feeling unsatisfied in comparison with the mental therapy that is For Emma, Forever Ago.  This album is filled with soft songs and serene imagery. Each song seems to represent a place, at some points it’s difficult to distinguish which is more vivid, the instrumentation or the thoughts he evokes.

9. Kanye West & Jay-Z- Watch The Thrown: That shit cray.

8. Panda Bear- Tomboy: Rooted in guitar, Noah Lennox released his fourth solo creation Tomboy. Tomboy feels easier on the ears than any of Lennox’s previous works, tying together his bright-synthesized guitar with his beach boys-eque (as usual) harmonies. Tomboy dabbles in the slightest bit with the “chillwave” style that has become popular in recent years, however Lennox’s craftsmanship seems tighter than other chillwave bro’s, while entangled with 60’s soft pop.

7. Cults- Cults: Layered in lazy beach ridden hooks, Cults is a gold mine of neo-retro (is that a contradiction?), up-tempo, wispy songs. 2011 marked a year of escape and nostalgia, probably because we’ve begun to realize how screwed we are. Cults reels you back to a simpler and happier time. It’s the perfect flee from the modern mold while still maintaining something previously unconcerned.

6. Girls- Father, Son, Holy Ghost: Chris Owens is back for his second release of the decade and a follow up to 2009’s “album.” Father, Son, Holy Ghost feels quite similar to both of his past releases, only this time Owens adds more solidarity and body to his work. However it’s the out of tune, relinquished thirst type of sound that first drew me to Girls. Although Album felt more true to self, Father, Son, Holy Ghost is not at all a disappointment, in fact it’s one of the best albums of the year.

5. St. Vincent- Strange Mercy: Somewhat of a concept album, St. Vincent’s Annie Clark takes on the roll of different characters as well as resuming as herself on Strange Mercy.  Clark has remained constant with her ability to recreate herself over the course of three albums, Strange Mercy is arguably her best work. Clarks usual weapon is her striking voice and has found a partner in crime, her guitar. Clark’s Guitar buzzes like a bass about to short circuit and fits perfectly on top of her deeply layered music. All of this commotion comes together with a bang on “Cruel” the single of the year, Hands down.

4. Yuck- Yuck: Yuck is one of the most unique sounding bands of the year. Their sound draws in a reminiscence of 90’s shoe-gaze guitar rock, all while still maintaining a distinct sound of their own. Yuck hones a perfect balance of being distorted, untamed and mellow all at the same time.

3. Givers- In Light: When I saw Givers at terminal 5 as an opener for Portugal. The Man, they stole the show. The first thing that drew me in was how alive Givers were (even the bassist), and how the crowd reciprocated that energy. The two fronts of the band Tiffany (percussion and Ukulele) and Taylor (guitar) have a great mix of female and male vocals while the rest of the band wildly yet perfectly perform along side them. Givers music is upbeat and happy (somewhat party worthy), however has a complexity to it that stems from their origins as New Orleans musicians. “In Light” can get down right funky and will not disappoint, unless of course you were looking for something awful.

2. M83.- Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming: When Anthony Gonzales promised “a very, very, very epic” album, he delivered your childhood, teen years, and the strange feeling of finding your way. Rich with sounds of both industry and forest; Gonzales creates a feeling of comfort in such a discouraging time for all of the 20 something’s encroaching on “real life.”

1. Portugal. The Man- In the Mountain, In the Cloud: Drawing in elements from all past albums, Portugal. The Man has created a modern masterpiece. Jam Packed with political content, this album represents the times with somewhat of Dylanesque poetry about it. “Sleep Forever” is the albums jewel in crown with its echoing message of unity and action, leaving you with a sense of pride during a time of such upheaval as John Gourly finishes the song belting out- “We don’t need no preacher to make us believe that everything’s perfectly fucked up like me.”

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4 Responses to 2011: The Year of Escapism

  1. kylewcdb says:

    like this list a lot, though I didn’t think In the Mountain, In the Cloud was AOTY quality

  2. nbondy says:

    I guess I’m a bit biased to portugal… This album was special for me

  3. nicole says:

    Finally someone showing the Givers album some best of ’11 love. Their live show at CMJ was SO fucking good. Definitely the best performance I saw all week.

    Solid list.

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