My Top 10 Favorite Albums Of 2011

As much as I hate to admit it…I’m not as into buying albums as I once was. It’s so much easier now with ITunes and other music outlets to simply pick & choose singles and a lot of times I would rather spend a dollar or two on a couple of songs rather than spend $12 on an entire album online. Shopping for music isn’t the same as it was 5 years ago and that is unfortunate. I used to really enjoy shopping for CD’s at the local music shop but those days seem to be gone now. It takes too much time and I haven’t got a few hours to waste going through bargain bins and racks of $20 CDs. So…I am sad to say that I don’t buy as many albums as I used to. But there were a few this year that I made the trip out to the store to get because I wanted the physical copy of it and so…without further adieu…here are my Top 10 favorite albums of 2011!

10. Teddybears – “Devil’s Music”
This Swedish band knows how to make you move your butt. From the opening track, they hit you with techno beats and silly lyrics that are just fun. And with a slew of artists making appearances (from The Flaming Lips to Cee Lo Green), they leave no beat unturned.

Favorite Tracks: Rocket Scientist, Devil’s Music

9. Foo Fighters – “Wasted Light”
From the opening track, David Grohl & company hit you with solid left hooks and slamming guitars and they have made another incredible rock album. It’s almost to the point now where you would think Grohl would phone in an album or two but when it comes to rocking out, there’s no one that can put together the melodies with the metal like the Foo.

Favorite Tracks: Bridge Burning, Rope, These Days

8. Social Distortion – “Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes”
7 years came and went between their 2004 album “Sex, Love and Rock N Roll” and this one but it was worth the wait! With their bluesy rock still as fresh as when they rolled it out of California in 1983, Mike Ness leads the way on this jam packed album. Solid from start to finish, it’s kind of refreshing that my favorite track on the album is actually a slower song.

Favorite Tracks: Bakersfield, California Hustle & Flow, Machine Gun Blues

7. Beastie Boys – “Hot Sauce Committee Part 2”
If ever there needed to be a return to their roots, The Beasties picked the perfect time. After a few overproduced albums and one cancer scare, Committee is a return to the glory days of chest thumpin’ and party bumpin’ of “You Gotta Fight For Your Right (To Party)”. Hooks and wicked beats pepper this album and it’s hard not to get motivated when you got this album boomin’ in your system.

Favorite Tracks: Here’s A Little Something For Ya, Don’t Play no Game I Can’t Win, Make Some Noise

6. Blue October – “Any Man In America”
I don’t know what to say about this album other than it is honest in every way. With his marriage falling apart, lead singer Justin Furstenfeld dove into his art and came out with one of the most curious and angry albums I have ever heard. The key is listening to it in its entirety as it goes from the beginning to the end of the relationship and where it stands, we’re not sure. But it sure is a fascinating journey.

Favorite Tracks: The Honesty, The Follow Through, You Waited Too Long

5. Gotye – “Making Mirrors”
Not gonna lie…I haven’t had this album very long. It came out in August but I just recently discovered it when it appeared on ITunes as a “selection I might like.” And man…I really do! It’s quirky and poppy and has all kinds of loops and whisperings and…well…you get the point. Wally De Backer is a unique talent and this album showcases his ability to find the perfect hook to go with his unique style.

Favorite Tracks: Eyes Wide Open, Save Me, No Easy Way Out, Somebody That I Used To Know

4. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
The half of Oasis that is known for writing the music continues to do so and he does it so well. This album is chock full of soaring guitars, Beatle-esque hooks and the famous Gallagher attitude.With brother Liam leading the charge for the rock band “Beady Eye,” Noel stays true to his roots and puts together a classic that I’ll be listening to for a very long time.

Favorite Tracks: Record Machine, AKA…What A Life, (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach

3. David Nail – “Sound Of A Million Dreams”
If there is one thing I love about country music, it’s that it can be familiar and yet new all at the same time. Taking a page from the Glen Campbell handbook, Nail has that smooth country croon that makes everything he sings about seem like it could be happening at this very moment. It could be love, it could be heartbreak, it could be a fleeting moment in time. But whatever it is, it grabs my attention and I can’t stop listening, wondering what will happen next. This will undoubtedly be one of my favorite country albums of all-time. Granted, only time will tell. But I enjoy ALL of the songs on this album and it’s damn near perfect in it’s pop country way.

Favorite Tracks: She Rides Away, That’s How I’ll Remember You, Let It Rain, I Thought You Knew

2. Black Keys – “El Camino”
There’s not a hotter rock band in the world right now than these guys. Straight outta my neck of the woods (Akron, OH is maybe 2 hours from my hometown), The Keys have won several Grammys and this highly anticipated 7th release was everything I hoped it would be. With fuzzy guitars and thumping drums, this album can only be played loud or it’s just not being played correctly. And the fact that it sounds like it’s straight from a 70’s porn flick gives it all that more street cred.

Favorite Tracks: Lonely Boy, Gold On The Ceiling, Money Maker

1. R.E.M. – “Collapse Into Now”
My world was rocked when one of my favorite bands of all-time called it quits earlier this year…but I totally understand. They’ve been together for almost 30 years and each member has other interests outside of the band so it makes sense. And it is only fitting that they call it a day with this album. Sounding almost like a collection of greatest hits that spanned their careers, this album, the 15th studio album in their collection, is far and away one of their best since drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1997. I am hoping that there are hundreds of new tracks in a vault somewhere that will be released over time however if that’s not the case, then this album is a classic that R.E.M. should be very proud to leave us with.

Favorite Tracks: It Happened Today, Oh My Heart, Discoverer, Mine Smell Like Honey, That Someone Is You, Blue

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Tunes From ITunes_9.2.11

If only Cobra Starship had HALF of this guys’ charisma…or ability. 

Comfortable temperatures are in the forecast and even though it’s too early for the leaves to start changin’, there certainly is a nip in the air in the morning and the neighborhoods are a lot quieter now that the kiddies are back in school. So here I am, 11am on a Friday and I figure it’s time to dole out my recommendations as far as new music is concerned. Here are some singles that you can spend your hard earned dollar (or in ITune’s case…$1.29)!

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Even You Brutus?”  (alt-rock)
It’s the return of Flea and the boys and they are back with a familiar bass line and hip lyrics. This one seems to be about meeting girls and Brutus must be a lousy wingman. Either way, it’s funky in the way only the Peppers can be.

Jon Fratelli – “Santo Domingo”  (rock)
Lead vocalist for the band The Fratellis (imagine that) goes solo and this is pretty straight forward for fans of that band. Catchy and downright addictive even if the refrain is repeated maybe a bit few too many times.

Lenny Kravitz – “Everything” (Funk)
If there is one thing that Kravitz can do it’s rock like the good ol’ days. This track off his new album, “Black And White America,” is fairly typical but funky and easy on the ears. I can also recommend “Boongie Drop,” “I Can’t Be Without You,” “Stand,” and the song he performed in Seattle when opening for U2, “Come On And Get It.”

Glen Campbell – “Ghost On The Canvas”  (country)
I remember when I was a kid, listening to Campbell sing about the “Rhinestone Cowboy” and the “Wichita Lineman.” He was a definitive voice for country back when country & pop were commonly mixed. Now he returns with what he says is his last album. He’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and is embarking on his farewell tour this year. This free track is worth listening too for those not sold on Campbell’s back catalogue but I would also recommend “In My Arms,” A Thousand Lifetimes,” “Strong” with the Dandy Warhols and  “It’s Your Amazing Grace.” Hell…just download the entire album. It’s worth it and it really doesn’t sound like country at all. It’s just really good pop with a country twinge. And go check out his greatest hits. You’d be amazed how many of the songs you probably know but didn’t know it!

David Guetta feat. Chris Brown & Lil Wayne) – “I Can Only Imagine” (dance)
Guetta is making a mint recycling the same techno beat that’s been used over & over since the mid-90’s but this track breaks out a beat that is so freakin’ funky that I had to get it. I dunno if it’ll be a hit but I like it and imagine I’ll be crankin’ it up on my IPod for awhile.

Flo Rida – “Good Feeling” (rap)
Why this track wasn’t released during the summer months is beyond me. It’s got that summer “party on the beach” sound that is Flo is known for. This one should be heating up the DJ turntables for awhile. It’s familiar yet unique with it’s refrain and will mix with just about any pop song out there today. If you like Top 40, you’ll LOVE this one.

Gotye – “Don’t Worry, We’ll Be Watching You” (alternative)
Belgian-Australian multi-instrumental musician Wouter De Backer brings the lights down with a slinky single off the new album “Making Mirrors.” Thanks to my buddy Ethan for bringing this one to my attention. It’s a good combo of pop & alternative but Wouter knows how to rock a little also. I downloaded “Easy Way Out” & “I Feel Better” as well but really I’ll probably end up getting the entire thing before too long. It all sounds pretty damn good.

Florence + The Machine – “What The Water Gave Me” (alternative)
This first single from the band’s yet-to-be-titled November 7th upcoming 2nd album is typical Florence and that means it’s pretty damn good. If you liked the first album, this is exactly what you’d expect.

Jacuzzi Boys – “Cool Vapors” (rock)
Garage punk at it’s best. This Miami band knows how to put together a good beat and Spin magazine gave em 7 out of 10 on their new album, “Glazin’.” This track is slammin’ in all the right ways!

Nas  – “Nasty” (rap)
This is a return to 1985. The way rap USED to be. Nas always has something to say and this could be on the latest Kool Moe Dee or  EPMD album. Sweeeeet….

Rihanna – “Fading” (R&B/pop)
I know, I know…really? Well…I have to admit, I’m a fan and this track is one of the few that HASN’T hit pop radio yet. Which I don’t get because it’s MY opinion that this is a lot better than “California King Bed.” But leave it to a recording label exec to screw that one up. It’ll hit soon enough, I imagine but you can say you heard it first!

Maroon 5 with Christina Aguilera – “Moves Like Jagger” (pop)
I like it. Bite me.

Mickey & The Motorcars – “A Thousand Tears” (country rock)
This band could be in a local bar and you wouldn’t know it. I like the grungy sound yet familiar twang of it. Dunno if they’ll ever hit big but I like this track.

Kanye West & Jay Z – “Why I Love You” (rap)
This album blew up with so much pomp & circumstance that I had to check it out and was almost ready to buy it but honestly…I can only stand for so much chest-thumping. Are Kanye & Jay the biggest names in rap? Of course. So why do they have to ram it down our throats? Either way, I downloaded this and “Otis.” Are they the best songs I’ve ever heard? Nope. But they’re good enough to give them a listen.

Mat Kearney – “Ships In The Night” (pop)
I have been listening to “Hey Mama” since last May so why it’s just now hitting the radio is beyond me. Either way, it’s time to move forward and this track SHOULD be his next release. Perfect for pop and adult contemporary radio, this is a “John Mayer-ish” single that could be huge! But probably won’t be. But it WILL be one of my favorite songs of this year!

Mickey Avalon – “Stroke Me” (rock rap)
If you have ever heard Avalon, you know this guy is not afraid to make you blush and with this track he takes Billy Squire’s big hit and strips it of any hidden context. Probably don’t wanna be listening to this one with the kids in the car but with the familiar hook, it sure does rock!

Roxette – “Speak To Me” (pop)
I’ve heard the first single on XM (“She’s Got Nothing On But The Radio”) so I went to check out the album and honestly, there’s not a lot to say about it. It’s kind of boring and it’s obvious that this band wore out it’s welcome back in the late 80’s. But this little track reminds me of their older stuff and is on par for them. Not a great song but if you’re a fan, it’s not bad.

Peter Murphy – “Seesaw Sway” (alternative)
Murphy has been around forever and his warbling crooning has been an alternative radio staple for years. This new track is excellent and is featured on his new album, “Ninth.” If you have ever liked anything by him, you should get this one now!

Memory Tapes – “Wait In The Dark” (alternative)
This song sounds like it was recorded in a garage with an old tape recorder and synthesizer. I recommend it highly for listening when you’re in the mood for something a little mellow yet not sleep inducing.

Kenny Chesney – “Somewhere With You” (country)
This guy just cranks out hit after hit and this was big earlier this year but I just heard it not too long ago and love it. I’m not a huge country fan but it’s songs like this that remind me that country is actually the new pop while most pop has become mostly dance. It’s fun watching music genres flip flop and country music is easily the most accessible form of music. Straightforward lyrics and easy to understand with simple guitar hooks and familiar bass lines. I get it and so do millions of fans.

Global Communication – “Maiden Voyage” (electronica)
This is essentially lifted straight from Tangerine Dream’s “Love On A Real Train” but with added beats. If you are a fan of TD, you’ll like this remake that picks up the pace a little bit.

Jeff Bridges – “What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do” (country)
This was a free track on ITunes a few weeks ago and I downloaded it and I can’t stop listening to it. This is pure pop country but Bridges’ singing style reminds me of the classic country sound. It’s a simple song that is effective and perfect in every way.

He Is We feat. Owl City – “All About Us” (pop)
You will be hearing this on pop radio and at weddings everywhere in 5…4…3…2…1… (you heard it here first though)

The Head – “Separate Bodies” (alternative)
Reminds me of any number of bands and nothing here is original but I like the familiar sound of it and reminds me of just about anything I listened too in the early 90’s.

MOST DISAPPOINTING ALBUM FROM A GUY THAT I’VE BEEN LISTENING TOO FOR OVER A DECADE: Mike Doughty – “Yes And Also Yes”
Dunno what Mike was thinking but this is about as bland as anything I’ve ever heard from him. I don’t know if his odd vocal style has finally worn out its welcome with me or what but man…this stuff is BORING.

WORST FREEBIE FROM ITUNES IN A WHILE THAT I DOWNLOADED THEN DELETED ‘CAUSE IT’S THAT BAD: Cobra Starship – “Don’t Blame The World, It’s The DJ’s Fault” (dance)
Repetitive and horribly boring. I can’t even understand how stuff like this gets made.