Top 10 Albums of 2011

Remember when we owned things?


2011 was an odd year for me and music. Looking around year-end lists by other publications made me worry about how out of step I’ve become. Yes, some of the albums you’ll see on this list have popped up on other lists, but not as often as in year’s past. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve become more original and iconoclast, but honestly, it seems like the way to make this list was to be an artist I already liked releasing an album of similar quality to that which I’ve liked in the past (although it could just be that what was buzz-worthy this year was genres I don’t really care for). While I stand by my choices here, it’s possible that in the future, I may end up thinking of 2011 as the year my tastes calcified and I just gave up. But until then, at least I’ll have these albums to sustain me.
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A Moment in Song: “Fake Empire”

The National - Fake Empire

The National - Fake Empire

Welcome to a new feature on the blog, “A Moment in Song”, where I analyze some of my favourite moments in some of my favourite songs. Music can work on many levels, with the best songs featuring a combination of lyrical content, musical arrangement, tempo, vocal stylings, and just a little bit of magic to create something memorable. But sometimes within a song is one transcendent moment that stands out, a moment that hits you the first time you hear it and every moment after that. That moment may only be seconds long, but it’s what you always remember when you think of the song. This feature focuses on such moments to try and highlight all the little things that make music such a special experience.

The Song: “Fake Empire” by The National from Boxer LP (2007)

(To download, right click on this link choose Save Link As: https://andythesaint.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/01-fake-empire.mp3)
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A Moment in Song: “The Good That Won’t Come Out”

Rilo Kiley - The Good That Won't Come Out

Welcome to a new feature on the blog, “A Moment in Song”, where I analyze some of my favourite moments in some of my favourite songs. Music can work on many levels, with the best songs featuring a combination of lyrical content, musical arrangement, tempo, vocal stylings, and just a little bit of magic to create something memorable. But sometimes within a song is one transcendent moment that stands out, a moment that hits you the first time you hear it and every moment after that. That moment may only be seconds long, but it’s what you always remember when you think of the song. This feature focuses on such moments to try and highlight all the little things that make music such a special experience.

The Song: “The Good That Won’t Come Out” by Rilo Kiley from The Execution of All Things LP (2002)

(To download, right click on this link choose Save Link As: https://andythesaint.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/01-the-good-that-wont-come-out.mp3)
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Top 10 Albums of 2010

This is a list by Critically Speaking.

For the past three years, I’ve done a Top 20 Albums list. I could’ve easily done the same with this year, as there were double that many albums I was into this year. But as I was compiling the contenders for the list, I realized that there were only 15 I felt strongly about. If I took more time, I’m sure I’d feel that way about at least five more (especially ones released later in the year). But taking more time is something I really need to do less of on this blog (as followers of my top films of the decade list will attest. Only 12 more to go!). So a top ten with five honourable mentions made the most sense, but don’t take that as an indictment of the quality of music in 2010, which was generally high.
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Top 20 Albums of 2009

He likes their eclectic sounds. Either that, or he prefers jewel cases to digi-packs for chewing on.


Some people look at the calendar and think “doing a year end list over a third of the way through the following year is beyond indulgent”. I’m actually one of those people, but if I cared about being indulgent, I wouldn’t exactly be posting my thoughts about my favourite things to an ambivalent audience of dozens, now would I? This list, like all the lists I’ve been doing since January, was delayed due to personal reasons like being busy with work and my newborn son (pictured – already a developing music snob). With this particular list, there was also the practical reason that I spent most of 2009 listening to the best albums of the decade. So I needed these past few months to really experience and embrace the music of 2009 – and once I did, I must say, it was a pretty good year for music. So good that I couldn’t let it go unlisted (of course, my own compulsions probably wouldn’t allow it to go unlisted even if it were an average year for music).
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Bonus List: Top 25 Canadian Albums of the Decade


Inspired by Maclean’s list of the Top 10 Canadian albums of the decade, I decided to bang out an all-Canuck version of my top 25 albums of the decade. This has been a fantastic decade for Canadian music, which benefited from the fracturing of pop culture that allowed small acts from Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and points in between to gain a foothold in the popular consciousness throughout the world, without having to overcome the traditional barrier in spreading Canadian art: we don’t have a big enough population to warrant attention. This was a problem back when bands had to sell millions of records and dominate the charts to get buzz. Now you just need to get the attention of the proper taste-makers, sell a few units, do the right festivals, and let the internet do the rest. Oh yeah, and have the talent to back it up.

Sure, we still had some artists getting attention the traditional way, like Nickelback and Avril Lavigne, and for that… I apologize. But judging our music by its most popular acts would be just as big a mistake as dismissing American music because of the work of the Black Eyed Peas and American Idol or the UK because of James Blunt and The X Factor. Instead, let’s celebrate the best.

The following is just a short list, with no write-ups, designed to just give an idea of what kind of decade it’s been for the True North Strong and Free (although, if you want to read write-ups for the top 8, see my Best Albums of the Decade list). I didn’t take too much time putting this list together, so don’t get too focused on the order. As always, this list is for entertainment purposes only, and should not be used for wagering of any kind.
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May Recommendations

recommendation
It’s time for another instalment of me giving quick recommendations from assorted pop culture categories of things I’m currently into. These things may or may not be current, but are things that I’m currently enjoying (or have recently enjoyed) that I think you (the reader) might enjoy as well. Provided that you enjoy things that are awesome.

In the past, I’d write reviews of things that I wanted to recommend, but I don’t have as much time to write those reviews as I used to, so instead of deciding how good something is, or weighing pros and cons, and all those things a responsible reviewer does, I’m just gonna come right out and say “I like these things. They are worthwhile”, which is basically what anyone is looking for when reading a review anyway. And because blogging can (and should) be a two-way street, please feel free to leave a comment with any recommendations you’d think I’d be into.
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Top 5 Songs by The Weakerthans


I’m going to see The Weakerthans in concert this weekend for the third time. It will be the first concert I’ve been to in awhile, and probably will be the last I’ll go to for awhile, so to get the full experience, I decided to pick my top five songs from their four album catalogue. The group’s greatest strength is easily John K. Samson’s poet laureate-level lyrics, which strike a perfect balance between playful cleverness and emotional connection. But another thing I really appreciate about The Weakerthans’ music is how overwhelmingly Canadian it is.

A problem we Canadians often have is defining what is unique about our culture, and what is mere adaptation of either our neighbours to the South or our old colonial masters. One of the reasons this is a problem is that those that should be our cultural arbiters and touchstones — our artists, musicians, and writers — often relinquish their role in culture-building for the understandably pragmatic reasons of wanting to reach a larger audience than our population can support. So Douglas Coupland sets his early novels in American cities, and Neil Young becomes an icon of American Southern rock. But not The Weakerthans, who litter their songs with references to Canadian subjects like curling, loonies, the GST, hockey, and of course, their hometown of Winnipeg. They’re like sort of like a less famous version of The Tragically Hip in that way, only they don’t suck (yeah, I said it).

And with that, on to the list…
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April Recommendations

recommendation
It’s time for another installment of me giving quick recommendations from assorted pop culture categories of things I’m currently into. These things may or may not be current, but are things that I’m currently enjoying (or have recently enjoyed) that I think you (the reader) might enjoy as well. Provided that you enjoy things that are awesome.

In the past, I’d write reviews of things that I wanted to recommend, but I don’t have as much time to write those reviews as I used to, so instead of deciding how good something is, or weighing pros and cons, and all those things a responsible reviewer does, I’m just gonna come right out and say “I like these things. They are worthwhile”, which is basically what anyone is looking for when reading a review anyway. And because blogging can (and should) be a two-way street, please feel free to leave a comment with any recommendations you’d think I’d be into.
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List: The 15 Most Influential Albums of My Life

This is a meme making the rounds at Facebook (I guess now that everyone is done writing 25 random things about themselves, they need something else to write about). The idea behind it is thus:
“Think of 15 albums, CDs, LPs that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life, dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the wazzoo, literally socked you in the gut, is what I mean.”

Okay, first off: IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR AN ALBUM TO LITERALLY SOCK YOU IN THE GUT!!! Contrary to popular opinion, the term LITERALLY does not mean “a term used to express exaggeration”, it actually means the exact opposite, in that it is to be used to distinguish reality from exaggeration (or figurative speech). But, getting back on topic, this is a topic I’ve thought about in the past to use as a blog post, as I’ve seen interviews in some music magazine (maybe Spin?) where they interview musicians asking what albums changed their lives.

Of course, those interviews are generally more interesting because: A) famous people are more interesting than random bloggers (at least that’s what US Weekly tells me), and B) as musicians, they’re probably talking about albums that convinced them to become musicians and influenced their style of music. Whereas for the rest of us, we’re talking about albums that maybe helped you through a break-up/taught you about the mysteries of love/first got you laid. In my case, these 15 albums helped shape my life as a fan of music, making me the audiophile I am today. Allow me to tell you why…
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March Recommendations

recommendation
Welcome to a new feature for this blog where I give quick recommendations from assorted pop culture categories of things I’m currently into. These things may or may not be current, but are things that I’m currently enjoying (or have recently enjoyed) that I think you (the reader) might enjoy as well. Provided that you enjoy things that are awesome.

In the past, I’d write reviews of things that I wanted to recommend, but I don’t have as much time to write those reviews as I used to, so instead of deciding how good something is, or weighing pros and cons, and all those things a responsible reviewer does, I’m just gonna come right out and say “I like these things. They are worthwhile”, which is basically what anyone is looking for when reading a review anyway. And because blogging can (and should) be a two-way street, please feel free to leave a comment with any recommendations you’d think I’d be into.
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Top 20 Albums of 2008

They still make CDs?

They still make CDs?

After the banner year in music that was 2007, I suppose it was inevitable that 2008 would be a let down. And it was. It’s not that there wasn’t any good music released this year; after all, I was able to come up with a full list of 20 (unlike with 2006, where I wimped out at ten). But there was a lack of greatness this year, with albums that rank very highly this year that would have ranked much lower the year previous. In fact, until I seriously started to think about how this list would shape up, many of the albums on it had failed to grab me throughout the year. In part, this has more to do with the fact that I spent the year listening to older music, but still, if I loved these albums like I loved the ones that topped last year’s list, I would’ve taken notice much earlier. The result is a list where I’m more comfortable with the bottom half (20-11) than I am with the top half. Not because the albums at the bottom are better (if they were, they’d be higher on the list), but because those albums feel like 20-11-type albums, whereas the albums that place highly on this album don’t really feel like high placing albums, but this year they are.

That said, these are all good to very good albums, and to prove it, I’ve included playable songs from each album. If that’s not enough to convince you click on the (more…) link, then there’s a good chance you don’t like my writing. And who needs you?!?
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Playlist: 18 Great Songs to Appear in Commercials

No, they aren't all from Apple commercials

No, they aren't all from Apple commercials

I don’t watch a lot of commercials, since almost everything I watch (aside from sports) is from my DVR, but even with the small amount of commercial breaks I tolerate, I’ve noticed that a lot of the music I listen to has been showing up in advertisements. Some music snobs look at the increased presence of indie rock in commercials with disdain, rejecting artists that choose to allow their music to be used in ads as sell outs. To those people, I can only say: grow up.

We live in an age where many music fans get their music without paying for it, where radio playlists have been reduced to about 25 songs a day, and the channels on television that used to play music videos now play reality television instead. So if a band feels the need to get a guaranteed pay day for their efforts, while taking a shot at exposing their music to a wider audience, who are we to begrudge them (of course, there are some that can’t enjoy any music that is exposed to wider audiences, and to them I repeat: grow up).

So inspired, I decided to make a playlist of songs in my collection that have appeared of late in commercials. I call this mix “Commercial Songs that Aren’t Necessarily Commercial”. Click on the link to see the full track list, along with clips of the commercials in which they appear.
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My Record Collection: A-M

That’s right, RECORD collection, AKA vinyl, AKA those big old black round things your parents listened to music on, AKA the hipster music accessory for the new millennium. I started to collect vinyl a few years back, for no good reason other than to do it. Sure, aficionados will tell you that music sounds better on vinyl, and talk about audio waves and digital loss or whatever, but I can’t really say that’s true given that my record player isn’t exactly hi-fi.

Instead, I collect records because I like them. I like owning things, but the digital revolution has made that less and less necessary. I download music all the time, so this isn’t some luddite reactionary thing. But in an era when owning music means having something on your hard drive, I guess going back to a clunky, classic format is a way of separating myself from the herd. Any idiot with a decent internet connection can avail themselves of almost any album (and I usually do), so I guess listening to records is my way of showing that I’m more of a fan of music than them. Or maybe I just think it’s cool.

I’m posting my collection here for the usual stupid reasons: to show off my collection (even though I suspect no one cares), to have a digital copy of my collection should something happen (you know, like theft or fire), so I can remember what I have when I’m away from my house (possibly on my way to buy more records on a lunch break), and for the off chance anyone reading this is thinking of buying me a record, they can consult this list to avoid duplication (look for a link to this post on the sidebar of my blog). And, you know, the whole point of being an obsessive collector is to obsess. So feel free to peruse, critique, discuss, blahblahblah.
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