Thursday, December 22, 2011

End of 11: Various and Sundry Awards

Last year, I crafted a massive series of posts cataloging all the year end fare. But as I've lamented through both words an inactivity, it's not in the cards this year. So here's a pile of shit for you to sort through. Best albums and songs upcoming in later posts. Enjoy!

Late As Usual:
A few artists and albums from years past I finally took the time to appreciate.

Palace, Palace Brothers, Palace Music, etc.: Delved into the off-beat yet beatific world of Palace-era Will Oldham. Haunting fringe-folk dramatics that set the scene for his Bonnie Prince Billy days ahead.

R.E.M.: A band I'd largely taken for granted outside of their radio hits, their earthshaking break-up led me to seek out their massive 2011 greatest hits album.

David Bowie: Hunky Dory, in specific. Incredible, obviously. I love when I finally take the time to check out an album that I know I'll love. It's such a low-risk maneuver with a tremendous pay-off.

Steve Earle: I own a couple Earle albums, but I only passively appreciated him before discovering El Corazon earlier this year. Like all great alt-country albums, it's a rich mix of twang, crunch, and balladry.

Superlatives:
Various acclaim, doled out in this season of giving.

Actually Liked This Album: Ryan Adams - Ashes and Fire : This isn't really fair to Ryan, as we all know he's fully capable of putting out excellent albums. But my expectations were tepid based on the past few. Empirical evidence suggested an uptick in quality, but I was hesitant to expect it lest I be letdown yet again. But Ryan actually put out a nice fall album, even if it isn't as brilliant as his glory days during the first half of the last decade. 

Finally Clicked: Dr. Dog - Fate: Sometimes it takes a live presentation for studio work to click. Fate stands as one of my most called-upon albums of 2011, thanks to Dr. Dog's outstanding February performance at the Music Farm. 

Singer-Songwriter Album of the Year: Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest: What's interesting is it that Harrow is not my highest-ranked 2011 album by someone who I'd deem a singer-songwriter. Confusing, yes. But as an album, Harrow is the strongest example of an album borne from a single voice (Dave and Gil are essentially that, I'm sure you'd agree.)

New to George Award: Kurt Vile: Just a name in prior years, a chance run-in with "Jesus Freaks" led me ton buy Smoke Ring For My Halo based on nothing more than that single. Considering "Jesus Freaks" isn't in my three favorite songs from the album, I'd say the risk begat rewards.

Now some quick hits:

Comeback of the Year: Wilco - The Whole Love
Instrumental Track of the Year: Megafaun - "Isadora"
Vinny Award (awarded to best debut): Yellowbirds - Color
"Come At Me, Bro" (Song/album I liked in the face of ridicule): Bon Iver - "Beth/Rest". I was actually moderately surprised at the backlash this song endured. Seemed like the perfect coda to me. First time I heard it I was cutting through a North Carolina rural road under a star-peppered sky. Worked well enough for me.

We soldier on: Next we'll have best songs, then best albums. Stay tuned...

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