This year is shaping up to be jam packed full of great new releases. We’ve already seen some big names like Iron and Wine, Radiohead, and Explosions in the Sky drop new albums and there is plenty more to come. Washed Out, Fleet Foxes, The Sea and Cake, and The Antlers are just a few of the ones announced to be out by the summer (or already out this May). I can tell picking a Top Ten of the year is going to be really hard when December rolls around.
Here is a sampler of some albums that caught my ear in the first four months of 2011.
You can listen to the individual tracks below by clicking on the play button next to the track titles, or download the zip of them all by clicking the green arrow to the left. As always, I hope this sampler inspires you to learn more about the bands and support them by purchasing their music and attending their shows.
From the compilation Seven Swans Reimagined
When Sufjan Stevens released his epic Age of Adz/All Delighted People albums last year a lot of fans complained that they want to hear Seven Swans banjo strumming Sufjan again. Anyone who gave his new work a few listens was won over eventually and embraced his new sound and ideas (myself included). However, the geniuses over at On Joyful Wings made everyone happy again with the release of their for-charity compilation Seven Swans Reimagined. The collection features Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, The Gregory Brothers (sorry, no autotuning from them this time), Unwed Sailor, Half-Handed Cloud, David Crowder Band, and more. You can stream the album for free on bandcamp or drop a mere $10 to download it in super-dee-duper high quality. Best of all, the profits go to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.
From the album Kiss Each Other Clean
“Walking Far From Home” was the first single Sam Bean released from this album and it blew me away on the first listen. Like his song “The Trapeze Swinger,” he throws out conventional song structure for a never ending, ever beautiful song that is the purest example of poetry set to music. I defy you not get chills when the piano and ooo’s & aaah’s kick in after the line “I saw sinners making music and I dreamed of that sound, I dreamed of that sound” at the 30 second mark.
From the album Wounded Rhymes
This Swedish artist’s debut album in 2008 didn’t grab me like this sophomore effort has. I’m sure the comparisons to Bjork are rampant, if not only for their shared Scandinavian heritage. However, her ability to marry beautiful visuals with her music (both in videos and performances) is something she shares with her Icelandic contemporary. Be sure to head over to her YouTube channel and watch some of the stunning (and bizarre) music videos she has released this year.
From the album Pop Music/False B-Sides
I not only got to interview Will Wiesenfeld of BATHS this year, but caught him in concert. On his tour he was selling digital downloads of this b-sides album. I’ll be honest and say it’s hit or miss – there are a couple tracks that I can’t stand. However, the good tracks are so great they completely overshadow the bad ones. Worth it.
From the album Native Speaker
I saw Braids open for BATHS in Atlanta and had no idea who they were. Wow. So far, my best new find of 2011. Seeing as how this is their debut album, I can’t wait to see what they have to deliver down the road.
From the re-release of their self-titled album
Yes, I’m cheating here… sort of. THATH earned the #1 spot on my Top Ten Albums of 2010. In January they signed to indie super label Sub Pop and re-released their album in April. The album was completely remastered and featured the new track “Rivers and Roads” which was a fan favorite from their live shows. If you haven’t seen this early live performance of the song be prepared to have your mind blown.
From the album Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
It’s been a solid 4+ years since these Texas instrumental post-rockers gave us a studio LP. Their return delivers the tried and true – their original sound that won them so many fans in the first place.
From the album The Vanishing World, Part 1
Adam Randall (of The Adam Project) released a digital mini-album this winter that really highlights his strengths. The stripped down production lets the poetry of his lyrics shine. I saw him perform with a full band at the SEVEN DAYS arts festival in Tampa, FL a couple months ago and he showcased some incredible new material; some quiet and intimate and a few loud and raucous. The “Part 1″ of this album’s title has me really pumped about the Part 2 and really hoping for a Part 3.
From the album The Magic Place
By far, Julianna Barwick’s The Magic Place is one of the best things to come out this year. Her vocal arrangements cover you like waves as each beautiful layer of her looping voice washes over you. Whenever I need to relax and clear my mind, I play her music and peacefully slip into bliss. Like her previous work, her choral loops are front and center, but the sparse instrumentation she brought to the table with this album is what makes it. There’s no better example than the simple piano melody that fades in at the end of “Flown.”
From the album The King of Limbs
There is a satirical BBC video that sums up perfectly a lot of music lovers’ feelings about Radiohead over the last few years, but I’m not in their camp. The group has been my favorite band ever since I first heard OK Computer back in 1998 on my little Sony Discman that skipped if you look at it wrong. While their latest (mini) album is worlds apart from that pinnacle of rock music they put out 13 years ago, it still holds up for me. I’ve also seen a lot of criticism saying that The King of Limbs is just another Thom Yorke solo project and I disagree. As I listen to their latest offering I can hear Phil Selway’s signature uneven percussive rhythms, Colin Greenwood ever present on the bass, Ed O’Brien’s voice complementing Yorke’s as he croons out backup vocals, and of course Johnny Greenwood’s brilliant soundscape throughout. Yorke’s influence is of course very strong, but I’m not complaining. It’s as he said himself, “We’re like the U.N., and I’m the U.S.”
From the album Raven in the Grave
I was a late joining The Raveonettes fan club and I almost cancelled my membership in 2009. It was their 2008 album Lust, Lust, Lust that won me over and their 2009 album that was lost on me. I didn’t want to get over excited about this 2011 release for fear of being disappointed again. I’m happy to say they returned to shoegazing noise pop of their earlier albums that I love so much. While probably not the best representative slice of the sound & feel of the album, “Forget That You’re Young” is definitely my favorite cut.
If you are a copyright owner of any of these tracks and wish to have them removed, please contact me and it will be promptly removed. These tracks are not posted for profit, but to promote the artists and their labels.