Thursday, July 7, 2011

Midway Through the Year 2011 Music Awards: Pt. 2

Disappointments of the Year:

With few exceptions, it's been a pretty lousy year for regular old Americana music. I'll admit there's been a bit of a paradigm shift in my tastes over the past few years. Still, I find myself shrugging releases from the snap-shirted guitar slingers I used to revere. Gillian Welch may be the exception to prove the rule, but it also shows that I'm not a lost cause for folky/Americana stuff. They just have to deliver the goods.

To wit: I was less than impressed by the 2011 releases from The Drive-By Truckers (2nd consecutive year on this dubious list,) Jason Isbell, Columbia natives Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion, Lucinda Williams, and Dawes. The Low Anthem doesn't belong on this list, but I think Smart Flesh wasn't particularly well-produced, and therefore some of the band's intimacy was lost.

I'd also be remiss not to mention Cass McCombs' Wit's End, which is his follow-up to HSW's Favorite Album of 2009 Catacombs. I actually spun Wit's End the other day during a night drive, and my ears seemed to welcome it a bit more readily. Still, the album is undynamic and painfully slow-paced. Hopefully it'll continue to reveal itself in some way, but unfortunately, it may just lack the rib-sticking appeal of Catacombs.

Best Live Experience:

Iron and Wine w/the Low Anthem

Of the six shows I've caught this year, the only one that I wouldn't write home about was the Old Crow Medicine Show gig here in Charleston back in May. But that was about the venue/audience, as the band was exemplary. But of the other five, I've give the edge to Iron and Wine over the Fleet Foxes. It's close, but the Low Anthem's opening set and the plush theater seating warrant placing Sam Beam's set slightly above the Fleets in my book. This is not to say the Fleet Foxes didn't play an awe-inspiring show in Atlanta.

New Discovery Award:

Would you believe I'm only now diving into David Bowie's catalog? Sure, I know all the hits,  "Changes"and the "Ziggy Stardust" and so on. But I tired of the inadequacy of hearing my favorite musicians reference the guy as an influence, and so I decided it was time to explore the world of the Thin White Duke. I've spent a great deal of time with Hunky Dory, and I'm about ready to move on to another of his celebrated early LPs. Any suggestions?

The "Most Likely to Crack the Top 3 Before 2011 Is Over" Award:

The obvious choice is Wilco, but their last two albums haven't even cracked our top five, so I'm a tad hesitant. Girls just, and I mean just announced a new album (due out in September). As much as I loved their last one, I'd say there stands a chance this one could chart higher. And why not Bon Iver? Sure, his self-titled second LP is sitting at #9 right now, but when I give the album the attention it deserves, I anticipate it will ascend the rankings.


I'm having fun with this, so I choose not to end it at two posts. I'll be on a company retreat for the rest of today and tomorrow, so next week we'll do top 20 songs of the year and a poll recap.


Justin said...


I have another discovery of my own that you really need to try out!

Its titled, "Tell My Sister" by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Its a reissue from 1975 that came out in May. Being a huge Rufus Wainwright fan, I've searched out stuff by his father Loudon, sister Martha and most recently his Mother Kate and Aunt Anna. All of them did NOT disappoint.

"Tell My Sister" was not something that I thought I would like, but it won me over after the first couple tracks. Give it a good listen and I'm sure you'll feel the same.

"Saratoga Summer Song" will definitely make my best songs of the year list. It's especially heart-breaking as Kate passed away in the past year.

I think a list of your top discoveries would be a pretty fun idea for a blog entry. David Bowie is another artist I've recently gotten into within the year. Shame on us for waiting so long to try him out.

George said...

Thanks Justin -- Would love to check it out...I'll take a look and see if I can find it somewhere.

Agreed re: discoveries. I'm hitting up a record store around here that boasts a vast used section, so I would imagine a few more will crop up... And yeah, don't know how we slept on Bowie. Better late than never!

Justin said...

Look for it over at nodata...

Justin said...

One more recommendation for you. This one is a must!

Check out a Minneapolis musician named Chris Koza. Last year he assembled a band named "Rogue Valley" which is absolutely beautiful! His concept was to release four themed records. One for every season. My favorite of the four is the "winter" one named "False Floors", which is getting a lot of play on our local indie music station 89.3 The Current. All of them are amazing though.

If you check out their site, they are offering all four as a "pay what you want" deal:

I'd love to hear what you think of them.

(Check out these two tracks: "Bay of Pigs" and "Onward and Over" - both from the False Floors record)