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Top 20 of 2011 (National)

I think I listened to more new music in 2011 than I ever have before in my life. On a local level, I literally try and listen to every release at least one time. That’s not really possible on a larger scale, but I did listen to a ton of new music this year. Here are 20 of my favorite albums of the year. I included links to other articles and videos and a song to stream, so hopefully you will find some new music here. They are ranked in no particular order.

The War On Drugs-Slave Ambient

01%20Best%20Night.mp3

Show Review

I fell in love when I saw them open up for Destroyer in Asheville earlier this year.  Slave Ambient is like a laid back tribute to Bruce Springsteen.

Destroyer-Kaputt

02%20Blue%20Eyes.mp3

Show Review

Speaking of Destroyer, Kaputt is one of my favorite albums of the year. Destroyer is on the edge of my “indie” spectrum and I’ve never really completely understood my relationship with their music. Maybe it’s the person that introduced me to them, maybe it’s something fresh to me. Whatever reason, the 11 minutes 18 seconds of “Bay of Pigs” is absolutely beautiful to me.

The Decemberist-The King is Dead

05%20January%20Hymn.mp3

Ummm, I have an R.E.M. obsession, and a banjo obsession. This album channels R.E.M. and even features Peter Buck, so yeah, it’s one of my favorites of the year.

Jessica Lea Mayfield-Tell Me

02%20Our%20Hearts%20Are%20Wrong.mp3

Album Review

I’ve always favored female vocalists and songwriters. If I was 16, I would have Jessica Lea Mayfield on my wall of fame. The only thing I love more than a bitter sad song, is 10 bitter sad songs. JLM was my favorite find of 2011.

Middle Brother-s/t

MB02%20Blue%20Eyes.mp3

Pick of the Week

Dawes, Deer Tick and Delta Spirit combined. Need I say more? Also note that Fall for Greenville has featured Dawes and Deer Tick over the last two years.

Dawes-Nothing is Wrong

02.%20Dawes%20-%20If%20I%20Wanted%20Someone.mp3

This album was exactly what I was looking for at the exact right time. Dawes is simply good classic Americana. A step above everyone else in the game when it comes to songwriting. On a level with Jackson Browne, Neil Young and David Crosby. You might not see it now, but give it 10 years.

Portugal, The Man-In The Mountain, In The Cloud

01%20So%20American.mp3

Our Live Video

I wasn’t a big Portugal, The Man fan before this album outside of a couple of songs. Every single song is great on this album and it flows together as well as any album I’ve ever heard. Also top 5 live shows of the year.

Ryan Adams-Ashes and Fire

02%20Ashes%20&%20Fire.mp3

This was a return to the Ryan Adams that I had been missing. The songwriter. The story behind this album is incredible and the fact that it took him two years to relearn how to play guitar adds to its’ legend. I’m glad he can make this album without having his heart broken.

Washed Out-Within and Without

03%20Amor%20Fati.mp3

Interview

This album became my life for a while working and promoting his music and his Columbia show earlier this year. Call it whatever you want to call it, but it’s chill and it’s pretty. I would have fallen for it whether he had played that Columbia show or not.

We are Augustines-Rise Ye Sunken Ships

07%20Philadelphia%20(The%20City%20Of%20Brother.mp3

Album Review

I’ve spent more time wondering why this album isn’t on everyone’s list. Recommended if you like great song writing and scruffy voices. We are Augustines captures the feeling and sound of Brooklyn on the fourth of July.

Jill Andrews-The Mirror

08_a_little_less_1.mp3

Winter James

This was my most anticipated album of 2011 and it didn’t disappoint. “Sinking Ship” and “A Little Less” are two of my favorite songs ever. I’ll still always miss The Everybodyfields, but Josh Oliver does what he does and he does it well.

The Front Bottoms-s/t

11%20Legit%20Tattoo%20Gun.mp3

Album Review

No one can describe The Front Bottoms, but by the time that we brought them to Columbia I had memorized every single word on their album. And that’s no easy task. They have a lot to say and crunch it into 4 minutes. This album has been in my car CD player for months. I’m not sure I’ll ever take it out.

Bon Iver-s/t

10%20Beth%20_%20Rest.mp3

Who has two thumbs and has Bon Iver figured out. This guy. And believe me, it’s Freudian. You let a baby boomer listen to Bon Iver and they are like this is good! Then he starts to sing and they are like, this isn’t good anymore, I can’t understand a word he’s saying!

20-30 year olds LOVE Bon Iver. Why do they love Bon Iver? Because it reminds them of the days riding in the car listening to adult contemporary with their Mom. Finally these people have an excuse to listen to something that sounds like Steve Winwood, but is cool. Who cares we can’t understand what he’s saying. It sounds like the prettiest of pretty Don Henley songs.

Gillian Welch-The Harrow and The Harvest

Gillian%20Welch%20-%20The%20Way%20It%20Will%20Be.mp3

David Rawlings and Gillian Welch picked up right where they left off on The Harrow and The Harvest with a timeless album filled with great songwriting and seamless harmonies.

William Fitzsimmons-Gold In The Shadow

07%20Let%20You%20Break%20(Featuring%20Julia%20St.mp3

Album Review

Fitzsimmons isn’t as heartbreakingly sad on this album, which is probably a good thing. Last year friends were spotting him around Charleston. That’s because he recorded the new album there with Jay Clifford and Josh Kaler.

Grouplove-Never Trust a Happy Song

11%20Cruel%20And%20Beautiful%20World.mp3

Album Review

One moment you’re hearing something intoxicatingly fun, light hearted and poppy liked “Naked Kids” or “Tongue Tied,” and the next your in the middle of the slow moving aptly titled “Slow” or the banjo driven “Cruel and Beautiful World.” Whatever the case they have each song perfected and have woven them together with purpose.

Parachute Musical-Kill It Cut It Down

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Pure piano pop goodness. What’s not to like about it?

The Head and The Heart-The Head and The Heart

06%20Lost%20in%20My%20Mind.mp3

I’ve seen this on some peoples best of 2011 list. It was reissued. I just want to point out that Meredith had this in her top albums last year. I keep telling you she is the brains, a lot of y’all already realize that.

Owen-Ghost Town

04%20I%20Believe.mp3

Album Review

Just like on past records Owen remains consistent in song structure and over all sound.  Intricate guitar leads over dreamy melodic backdrops.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.-It's a Corporate World

01%20Morning%20Thought.mp3

Free Download

I never thought I would like a band called Dale Jr. Jr. It’s an incredibly dumb band name and I was predisposed to disliking a band from the Yankee north using a Southern Legends likeness. The album is good though.

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