2011 was another incredible year in music. Here is the year encapsuled: my twenty five favorite albums , top ten songs, and my most seen live acts of 2011.
The most stalked live acts of 2011 were The Stereofidelics, David Wax Museum, Abigail Washburn, Hannah Miller, and Merry Ellen Kirk although Merry Ellen appeared so many times on my favorite local shows Eleven O’Clock Rock and The Blue Plate Special that it could be argued that she was stalking me. I have lost track but I know I saw each of these acts between five and ten times this year. Lucky me.
The Top Twenty Five List saving the best for last:
25) Tie – Merry Ellen Kirk – Firefly Garden and Morgan Bracy – The End of Cinderella
Two Nashville friends complete their parallel years side by side. Both put out official videos, duo side projects, and full length solo albums in 2011. Merry Ellen has her Blinding Me video and The Shakespeares EP (with Aaron Krause), along with Firefly Garden. Morgan has her Lovechild Zombie video Honey and EP (with Joel Jacks).
24) Toy Soldiers – Get Through The Time
One of two Philadelphia bands to make the list, catch Toy Soldiers live when you get the chance.
23) Laura Meyer - Golden Delicious
A late 2011 release from a wandering musician finally settling down. Golden Delicious continues Laura’s evolution from folk to rock.
22) Gwyneth and Monko – Self Titled
An eclectic mix of old time, rootsy, bluesy fun. Be sure to check out the Gwyneth clones on the album cover.
21) Bess Rogers – Out of the Ocean
Bess created an incredible Kickstarter campaign to fund this album. If she had only put the song she wrote for her Kickstarter video, Out of the Ocean might have cracked my top ten. Go watch and listen now.
20) Katie Powderly – Slips of the Tongue
Katie founded Red Winged Blackbird Records to release Slips of the Tongue which she plans to promote via a 50 State RV tour in 2012.
19) Lady – You and Me
The first full length album from a Philadelphia band lead by the amazing Kate Foust.
18) Amy LaVere – Stranger Me
You don’t often see anyone singing lead while playing stand up bass, especially when the bass is bigger than the singer. So don’t miss Amy when she comes around.
17) Ten Cent Poetry – Picking Through the Pawnshop
Be sure to listen to Galileo, a stunningly beautiful song that could have been my favorite song of 2011 if I hadn’t been hearing it live for several years.
16) Treva Blomquist – These Fading Things
My favorite singer from Arkansas. Ok, I’ve never been to Arkansas and can’t name any other singers from there but that does not diminish my love for Treva’s songs.
15) The Stereofidelics – Live From Binghampton
A full rock band with only two members. Guitar, bass, drums, electric violin and male and female voice, all in the same song, all performed live, all from two people. Live From Binghampton is not as good as watching them on video, and watching them on video is nothing like seeing them live but their live album is still one of the best of 2011. Your New Year’s Resolution needs to be: See The Stereofidelics live. It’s not that hard as they tour nationwide extensively.
14) Adelle Cotton – Live From Eddie’s Attic
Darby Wilcox and Sarah Schaffer started the year changing their name from O Mello Cello Tree to Adelle Cotton and ended the year splitting up to work on solo projects. They left us with Live From Eddies Attic to treasure until the solo work starts showing up. Can’t wait.
13) Hannah Miller – O Black River (EP)
The middle disc in a three EP set, O Black River produced one of my favorite songs of the year in the title track. I saw Hannah at least five times in 2011 and every time a different song stuck out as my favorite. Find a list of those favorites on O Black River.
12) Tyler Lyle – The Golden Age and The Silver Girl
This year’s annual output from this prolific LA via Atlanta writer is a break up album for the ages. Tyler’s interests lie beyond music. Be sure to read his account of his arrest during the OccupyLA protests. Tyler proved his popularity with his fans at a recent show in Knoxville. In response to a request, Tyler said he would try but he didn’t often play that particular song live anymore. He attempted the song but couldn’t get started, the words wouldn’t come to him. Undeterred, two young ladies proceeded to prompt him with the lyrics to his own song, singing along with Tyler until he managed to make his way through the song. One of the coolest things I have seen live in some time.
11) Matt Otis – Life Love Death. Check out Matt’s You Tube channel. He is making videos for every song on the album. The first four songs are done.
10) Charlie Faye – Travels with Charlie
To get the story of the tour that birthed this album read this Feed Your Fan interview. Be sure to go to her website to check out the coolest jukebox on the website.
9) The Black Lillies – 100 Mile of Wreckage
My favorite album title of the year and home to one of my five favorite songs. Keep reading.
8 ) Eilen Jewell – Queen of the Minor Key
Another cool jukebox currently playing Bang, Bang, Bang. Take a listen.
7) Greg Holden - I Don’t Believe You
Check out the video to my favorite song of the year. Special thanks to Bess Rogers who appears in the video and pointed me toward Greg and Bar On A.
6) Over The Rhine – The Long Surrender
Get yourself the deluxe box set with the CD and vinyl versions of the album plus a 32 page booklet before they are all gone.
5) Jill Andrews – The Mirror
The ex-Everybodyfields singer’s first full length solo album is too gorgeous to believe.
4) Tom Waits – Bad As Me
It’s a major upset when Tom Waits puts out a new album and it isn’t my favorite of the year. Bad As Me was a minor disappointment as I expect each new work from him to be groundbreaking beautiful and bizarre. Still strong enough to reach number four and still strong enough to keep him my personal all time favorite.
3) Amy Speace - Land Like a Bird
Vertigo didn’t make my top five list of favorite songs of 2011. I am not even sure it is one of my five favorite songs on Land Like a Bird. It is the song that most often played unbidden in my head. All year long it would come to me, a melody at the edge of my consciousness, perhaps the most powerful song of 2011. A song of lust and anticipation. Play it and anticipate the rest of Land Like a Bird.
David Wax Museum – Everything Is Saved
For a month this fall I stalked David Wax Museum, following them from The Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion to the Americana Music Awards in Nashville to the Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain North Carolina but my favorite show was unscheduled and thrown together in less then twenty four hours. Read the story of the power of fans and Social Media here.
1) Abigail Washburn – City of Refuge
On January 11, 2011 City of Refuge was released and over the remaining 254 days of the year no one was able to release a better album. I spent 2010 listening to this album live over the course of nine shows. I heard the songs develop and grow and knew by its release that it was my favorite album of 2011. If you don’t believe me go back and read this review from December 2010. I deliver on my promises.
I will conclude this wrap up of 2011 with my ten favorite songs of 2011, each an irresistible earworm.
10) Can’t Stay Long – Gwyneth and Monko
9) So Wrong For You – Treva Blomquist
8 ) Galileo – Ten Cent Poetry
7) Theme to a Kickstarter Campaign – Bess Rogers
6) Bang, Bang, Bang – Eilen Jewell
5) Two Hearts Down – The Black Lillies
4) Born With A Broken Heart – David Wax Museum
3) The Mirror – Jill Andrews
2) O Black River – Hannah Miller
1) Bar On A – Greg Holden