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Benton Evening News - Benton, IL
  • 21 awesome albums you may have missed in 2011

  • There was plenty of great music released in 2011 — and some that was not so great — but these 21 albums managed to find their way into my iPod playlists more than most over the course of the year. Whether they’re the “best” is certainly debatable … but you could do a lot worse than to give each of these a spin before the ball drops on 2012.

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  • There was plenty of great music released in 2011 — and some that was not so great — but these 21 albums managed to find their way into my iPod playlists more than most over the course of the year. Whether they’re the “best” is certainly debatable … but you could do a lot worse than to give each of these a spin before the ball drops on 2012.
    1) “I Got to Get Back!,” The Bo-Keys. Mix Stax-era horns and organs, Sam-and-Dave playfulness and Al Green sensuality and you’ve got a modern soul masterpiece.
    2) “Setzer Goes Instru-Mental!,” Brian Setzer. This instrumental tribute to influences from Les Paul to Chet Atkins to Hank Garland to Django Reinhardt rocks and rolls, and everything in between. Play it with the top down.
    3) “The Spade,” Butch Walker. Walker waxes as nostalgic as ever on his latest disc, name-checking everyone from Bryan Adams to Iron Maiden, but he’s still got the modern sensibility and the musical chops to create the most rollicking grown-up pop out there.
    4) “Everything is Saved,” David Wax Museum. The acoustic revolution continues, this time with a mariachi feel. A foot-stomping, castanet-clicking triumph.
    5) “Rosler’s Recording Booth,” Don Rosler. Rosler’s concept album, set in a run-down arcade recording booth, employs styles from alt-folk to music hall stomp to achieve a bittersweet perfection.
    6) “Only in Dreams,” Dum Dum Girls. Frontwoman Dee Dee channels the ghosts of Chrissie Hynde and Blondie to exorcise her personal demons, and the result is girl-group guitar heaven.
    7) “Sky Full of Holes,” Fountains of Wayne. Is there another group that captures the essence of our everyday foibles with the same sumptuous pop enthusiasm? A perfect precursor to surviving early middle age.
    8) “England Keep My Bones,” Frank Turner. The most compelling folk-rock anarchist since Billy Bragg, Turner turns in a foul-mouthed love letter to his home country, not to mention such diverse topics as commitment, religion and rock ’n’ roll. His relation to every one of those is complicated, and the music that results is in turns gritty, rambunctious and beautiful.
    9) “Old Mad Joy,” The Gourds. New Orleans stomp, roots rock and southern boogie (and even a wisp of punk) join with country twang for a compelling, raucous collection.
    10) “Elsie,” The Horrible Crowes. This side project by Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem is a little quieter than his usual output, but just as heartfelt and trenchant. (And still steps up and rocks more than once or twice.) Full of gravelly street poetry in the Springsteen tradition, it’s the latest proof that Fallon’s bound for glory.
    11) “Mayhem,” Imelda May. Who would have thought that rockabilly could make its latest revival on May’s slight shoulders? Hot licks, sassy vocals and an occasional flash of vulnerability make for a wild and welcome return for the sometimes-forgotten genre.
    Page 2 of 2 - 12) “Signs & Signifiers,” JD McPherson. A low-fi rockabilly triumph, “Signs” draws from a wealth of late-’50s influences and manages to sound retro and timeless all at once.
    13) “Born This Way,” Lady Gaga. Sounding like Donna Summer meets Pat Benatar by way of Meat Loaf, Gaga’s latest seems tailor-made for nostalgia. Forget the kids, 40-somethings will love it.
    14) “Middle Brother,” Middle Brother. This roots supergroup (featuring frontmen from Deer Tick, Dawes and Delta Spirit) successfully merges folk, rockabilly and Neil Young. Worth it for the rowdy title track alone.
    15) “Muppets: The Green Album,” Various Artists. It may have a certain hipster sheen, but quickly gets beneath it to capture the Muppet mindset. Tracks by the likes of Weezer, Airborne Toxic Event and the Alkaline Trio have just the right combination of quirk and melancholy.
    16) “The Grand Theatre Vol. 2,” Old 97’s. Rhett Miller and the boys are back to their alt-country roots with the “Grand Theatre” series, and this edition is even better than the first: Confident licks, Dylanesque lyrics and a slightly twisted sensibility abound.
    17) “Rave On Buddy Holly,” Various Artists.There’s barely an off note in this stellar collection, the better of the two Holly tributes out this year. Florence + The Machine, She & Him and My Morning Jacket provide standout tracks.
    18) “Wild Goosechase Expedition,” Spottiswoode and His Enemies. An ambitious, far-reaching 17-track song cycle — rife with elements of jazz, folk, Broadway and Leonard Cohen-style poetic musings — that may be nothing short of an analogy for life itself.
    19) “How To Become Clairvoyant,” Robbie Robertson. The Band founder’s music is as forward-looking as ever, with lyrics that are nostalgic but clear-eyed. Plus, Clapton!
    20) “The Party Ain’t Over,” Wanda Jackson. Imelda May (see above) may be the latest “Rockabilly filly,” but Jackson was the first, and the title of her latest album proves prescient: Her collaboration with Jack White is a rocking throwback that also manages to propel Jackson into the 21st century in style.
    21) “Alpocalypse,” “Weird Al” Yankovic. Who better to end with? His parodies of Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift are a hoot, and Al continues to be the world’s premiere satirist of modern quirks from ringtones to TMZ. Plus, polkas!
    Peter Chianca writes for the Gatehouse Media blog Blogness on the Edge of Town. Email him at pchianca@wickedlocal.com.

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