Great Records from 2011 – listed in order of enthusiasm: Part 1

DestroyerKaputt

Dan Bejar’s strangely amelodic & lackadaisical cryptic poetry delivered over austere rhythms and bizarre arrangements is the trademark of Destroyer.  Kaputt continues this tradition while standing out from the band’s other albums.  This record is immersive and wonderfully bleak & wistful, with an anachronistic mellow 70s AM-radio feel to it.  The melodies are carried by saxophone, trumpet, and flute.  Synthesizers provide copious atmosphere and fills, with guitars providing mostly background rhythm.

The lyrical content is diverse and engaging, including ruminations on the futility of song writing, disregard and contempt for music industry biz, and despondency & loneliness in modern society.  Bejar offers some interesting observations on his critics: the non-defensive, “I write poetry for myself” (from ‘Blue Eyes’); the cheeky, “I wrote a song for America; they told me it was clever” (from ‘Song for America’ – in reference to The New Pornographer’s ‘Myriad Harbor’?); “I heard someone said it before; I don’t care”, presumably with regard to his habit of borrowing phrases from other artists (from ‘Chinatown’); and the mildly encouraging admonition, “I sent a message in a bottle to the press; it said don’t be ashamed or disgusted with yourselves; I’ve thumbed through the books on your shelves” (from ‘Blue Eyes’).   ‘Savage Night at the Opera’ is a relatively upbeat rebuke of music industry practices and the barriers they create to the realization of music as art.  This theme also appears in ‘Kaputt’, with the lyric, “Sounds, Smash Hits, Melody Maker, NME, all sound like a dream to me” – an apparent disregard for music criticism and analysis.  Beginning with what sounds like a dirge, ‘Suicide Demo for Kara Walker’ is a moving and empathetic description of persistent “feminine grace” in the face of spiteful social pressures, imbuing metaphysical hope, “enter through the exit, and exit through the entrance”, and repeating the lament “what passes for love these days”.

For realizing the incredible potential in Destroyer’s music, Kaputt is one of my top albums for 2011.

Check Out: Chinatown [mp3]

BIRDRIDERRIGHT WING

The first track on RIGHT WING ‘Did You Call Her?’ opens with enchanting, tantric harmonies and punching bass, which launch a rollicking repastination of romantic regret in tandem with piano, guitar, and drums.  It’s a salvo that proclaims the new musical prowess of Benoit Fiset (AKA BIRDRIDER). RIGHT WING (and companion album LEFT WING) is the result of a three-year musical odyssey during which Fiset honed his craft and embraced live instrumentation (in place of electronics) in Russian clubs & festivals.  More than anything I’ve heard recently, RIGHT WING album captures the joy of expression found in a new voice.

Musical highlights: ‘I’m Flying’ is an addictive camp fire song that finds delight in resignation. ‘You Behave Like a Child’ is a jubilant pop song reminiscent of Davendra Banhart’s finer moments.  ‘Love Didn’t Die Out’ is a mutated reprise of the Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’.  ‘Grooviest Waiting Room Ever’ provides a distressed glimpse into Fiset’s song-writing process, and ‘Pack’ sounds like it was lifted (roto-toms and all) off of an 80’s action movie soundtrack.  Replete with vibrant vocal harmonies, engaging melodies, crunching guitars, and enthralling compositions, there is not a bad track on RIGHT WING.  Overall, the music of BIRDRIDER embodies the ethos of the Flaming Lips’ acid rock at its spiritual zenith and the quirky intrigue that made the Talking Heads art house favorites.  

Check Out: Did You Call Her [mp3]

Stream or Download: RIGHT WING

PJ HarveyLet England Shake

Everything that makes PJ Harvey an amazing talent is showcased on her latest album Let England Shake.  The juxtaposition of gentle xylophone notes and tense, paranoid guitar chords on the opening and title track portend the depth and intricacy within this record.  PJ Harvey draws on varied musical traditions and exhibits a new level of maturity in her song writing as she takes on the decline of western civilization, the horrors of war, and environmental degradation.

Watch: ‘The Last Living Rose’

Panda BearTomboy

From the echoing bewilderment of ‘You Can Count on Me’ to the chill-wave swan song ‘Benfica’, Tomboy demonstrates that experimental music can also serve as ear candy.  Noah Lennox (AKA Panda Bear) ventures outside of his band Animal Collective to refine his unique electronic sound while not insisting that it alienate the uninitiated.

Check Out: Last Night At The Jetty [mp3]

Young CirclesJungle Habits

After many lineup, name, style, and sonic changes, Miami’s Young Circles have become wonderfully unsettled.  While we’ve come to expect euphonic art rock from stalwarts like Sonic Youth and Radiohead, it’s refreshing to hear a young band embrace this vibrant genre so successfully.  The songs on this year’s Bones EP and the new LP Jungle Habits flaunt freewheeling experimentalism, widely varied textures, and strange timbres.  A nice surprise in 2011.

Check Out: 2012 [mp3]


One response to “Great Records from 2011 – listed in order of enthusiasm: Part 1

  1. Pingback: Great Records from 2011: Clif’s Picks Part 1 | The Dadada·

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