Archive for Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List 2011

Black Keys Shove A Classic Out For Christmas, And Just Destroy Our Top Ten List

Posted in Music with tags , , on December 7, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Just as in certain polities, candidates run for At Large seats — no numbered district assigned to them, they represent the whole city or state — let’s just grant right now that the Black Keys’ incredibly infectious El Camino is such an obvious album for the ages, it clearly made Tulip Frenzy’s Top Eleven List of The Best Albums of 2011.  We’re just not assigning them a number.  I mean, we’re clearing out space for them, changing formats, so our previously published Top Ten List has been transformed into the Top 11 of 2011.  Yeah, that’s the ticket; we’re not moving anyone else down, but we are definitely expanding the category.  Couldn’t they have released it earlier, to make things more convenient for us?  Why are they playing to all the boys and girls’ Christmas lists, and not critics’ Top Ten Lists?  What misplaced values…

We assure you, this is the only thing El Camino has misplaced.  From Michael Carney’s desaturated photos of cars — like Stephen Shore filtered through the Hipstomatic app — to the sweet soul music of “Stop Stop,” from the T.Rex bones of “Lonely Boy,” to the sheer sleazy rhythms of “Gold On The Ceiling,” this is such a fun record, let’s just take the rest of the year off and listen to it maybe 50 times each day.  This is music Dan Ingram would have played on WABC back in the day, and our mono radio would have shorted out from how high the volume would be turned up.

Look, we’ve enjoyed Dan Auerbach’s singing and his great blues chops for years, but we’ve never really loved the Black Keys because two-person bands don’t swing.  Their music is constructed more than played.  But Messrs. Auerbach and Carney do something really smart on El Camino: they play fast.  They sound like a band, not a project.  And not just a band, they sound like the greasiest garage band in town, auditioning for Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets 16.  The last time a band transformed itself like this was when, after Peter Buck hung out with the Fleshtones and produced their Beautiful Light, REM came out with Monster.  Maybe you think the Black Keys have always been a garage band, but they’ve always played tempi about half the speed of what careens down the road in this filthy El Camino.

For a while there, it seemed like the Black Keys were the Tiger Woods of rock’n’roll — most of their money actually came not from playing, but from the uses to which their music was put by advertising agencies.  El Camino may move too fast to be captured by 30-second beer spots.  But there’s no question this will be the soundtrack of our lives for the next few months.  So welcome, guys, to the Tulip Frenzy Top 11 list.  When our friend texted us that we should wait until this album was released before locking in on the year’s best music, we were skeptical.  No more.

Tulip Frenzy’s #1 Album of 2011: Radiohead’s “The King Of Limbs”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

The King of Limbs may be the first record that ever sounded like it was made specifically to be played on an Apple device: sonically elegant, airtight, perfect.  When we realized how much “Morning Mr. Magpie” tracked “Shhh/Peaceful” from Miles Davis’ In A Silent Way — down to the Jack DeJohnette drum figures — with Thom Yorke’s beautiful voice taking the role of Davis’ trumpet — well, it’s pretty clear we’re dealing with a band of higher-order artistry.  Normally we would hold that against them, and in fact we have: we’ve been skeptical of Radiohead in part because while what they produced was impressive, it wasn’t real rock’n’roll.  The King of Limbs isn’t either, but it is a tight, melodic, beautiful album, significantly upbeat, with Jonny Greenwood’s compositional sophistication in greater service to efficient pop music than anything they’ve done in years.  So we cast all our resistance to Radiohead overboard and strapped in for the ride.  While fans of Fugazi and Blur, even U2, will on occasion locate the antecedent riff, this is a band that has largely created its own vocabulary.  If White Denim works in a hot Texas garage chewing on jimson weed, Radiohead seems to work in a Swiss lab, the kind of place that produced LSD almost by accident.  We don’t hold it against them that, in fact, their recording studios have reportedly been constructed from Drew Barrymore’s borrowed manse, for that’s the orbit in which they circle.  But we really are done resisting: they can record their next one in a Swiss bank, for all we care, so long as it sounds like this.

Tulip Frenzy’s #2 Best Album of 2011: PJ Harvey’s “Let England Shake”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

It’s been a long time since PJ Harvey produced a record that vied for Album Of The Year honors.  We thought that 2000’s Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, was so good we would have named it Album of The Decade, if only we could have figured out which decade it belonged to, the 1990s, or the Aughts.  No question that Let England Shake was a record for the ages, an angry, beautiful meditation on Albion’s wars, proving artists have long memories of their nation’s psychic wounds.  A rare blot on Sasha Frere-Jones’ workbook, for his early review prepared us for the worst, though maybe it was all the sweeter when we were stunned to find that Let England Shake wasn’t just a fine record, it thoroughly revived our faith in Harvey.  Released around the same time as Adam Hochschild’s brilliant book To End All Wars, we will never think about World War One the same way again.  Yeah, a rock album did that.  Hint: the NPR podcast of her performance of it in San Francisco earlier this year is in some ways even better than the album release.

Tulip Frenzy’s #3 Best Album of 2011: White Denim’s “D”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

White Denim is the inverse of The Black Keys: a maximalist band that shows off what can be created by overdoing it.   Adding a second guitarist on D, they plied the ground between Southern and prog rock, two unfashionable genres that when mixed in the Austinite’s mixmaster came out as an elixir of joy.  When we wrote about D earlier this year, we described them as one of those Ben & Jerry’s mashups mixing Brendan Benson with The Magic Band, because they found a way to take a power pop sensibility and stick it spoon deep into the tight choreography of a Captain Beefheart track.  But even that doesn’t do justice to a band that produced some of my favorite country music of the year.  Great singing, great songwriting, with a turning radius tighter than a Fiat 500, these guys would be the house band for any benefit raising money to Keep Austin Weird.

Tulip Frenzy’s #4 Best Album of 2011: Capsula’s “In The Land Of The Silver Sun”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Is Capsula the best rock’n’roll band in the world?  Earlier this year, we wrote “Capsula is a throwback to an era of punk rock that may not ever have existed, a remnant of a Platonic world where all songs are played fast, where the drummer keeps an animalistic beat for hours on end, a place where the pogoing guitarist can fill the stage and stage the fills with melody and soul as the girl bassist with the bunny ears rocks harder than Izzy Stradlin. They are, in short, a revelation, Buenos Aires expats who moved to Bilbao, Spain because in South America, in Tom Verlaine’s words, the distance it kills you, and there was no way to foster a career having to cross the Andes just to get a gig in Santiago or Punta Arenas.”  On In The Land Of The Silver Sun, Capsula came close to hitting the high standard set five years ago with Song & Circuits, which was maybe the best punk album since Nevermind.  If you can listen to “Town of Sorrow” and then “Hit and Miss” without smiling and starting to move, there is something seriously wrong with you, deserving of a heaping dose of pity, if not contempt.

Tulip Frenzy’s #5 Best Album of 2011: Robyn Hitchcock’s “Tromso, Kaptein”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Robyn Hitchcock’s glorious late career run of fine albums continued in 2011 with the the release of Tromso, Kaptein.  Taking the title track from Goodnight Oslo and reworking it in Norwegian, this quiet record proves that one of the great guitarists of the punk era can, some thirty years hence, still rock with a backing band comprised entirely of bass, drums, cello. What’s most notable about the Hitchcock who, since 2004, has produced one great album after another, is that rock’s great ironist is taking the craft of making albums entirely seriously.  Maybe he’s done that since the days with the Soft Boys, and only now we notice.  To the uninitiated who have seen Robyn Hitchcock show up on Tulip Frenzy’s Top 10 List lo these many years, and you wondered where, given the diversity of options, to start, Tromso, Kaptein would be a wonderful entry point, a mature, unplugged album of pop songs that have such finely wrought hooks, they should be displayed in a museum.  And we do not mean Robyn Hitchcock’s “Museum of Sex,” for this was an album that was all about love.

Tulip Frenzy’s #6 Best Album Of 2011: A.A. Bondy’s “Believers”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

So incongruous is the description of what A.A. Bondy produced on the magnificent Believers — an album that owes equal debts to Tom Petty, Ryan Adams, and Brian Eno — it’s hard to convey what a fine accomplishment this is.  Beautiful singing, a glorious sounding record — with the sonic space of British art-rock undergirding classic American folk and roots rock — this was the sleeper album of the year.  We did not see this coming, not from a guy who in the 1990s fronted a Nirvana-esque punk band.

Tulip Frenzy’s #7 Best Album of 2011: Wilco’s “The Whole Love”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Ambitious, but not to a fault, comforting yet still with an edge, America’s finest band explored new ground on The Whole Love even while producing a work on the continuum stretching back to A Ghost Is Born. Jeff Tweedy dissed the dissers in advance of the album’s release, mocking those purists who, no matter what Wilco now does would go, “Meh.”  The fact remains that Wilco, in the kind of groove the Stones hit with Sticky Fingers, have had a run of great albums, and while Wilco, The Album gave us pause, the moment we heard “The Art of Almost,” and then “Born Alone,” we knew it wasn’t over.

Tulip Frenzy’s #8 Best Album of 2011: Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter’s “Marble Son”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

With a voice we compared to the Good Witch, and a guitarist with more tricks than the Wizard of Oz, Jesse Sykes &  The Sweet Hereafter’s Marble Son was the strangest album we’ve ever been unable to get off our playlist.  Phil Wandscher’s tasteful, artful pickings struck a chord, if you will, as it took time til we learned Whiskytown’s great guitarist was backing a singer with so odd a vocal aspect singing genuinely powerful tunes, at which point it all came clear. If not a pure psychedelic band, as some claimed, a record that brought both Whiskeytown and the Quicksilver Messenger Service to mind was a welcome addition to our iPod.

Tulip Frenzy’s #10 Album of 2011: Wye Oak’s “Civilian”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 26, 2011 by johnbuckley100

When Wye Oak’s Civilian was released early in the year, we wrote that it was “a band so ambitious that it’s produced its (first) masterpiece while there are still no more than five rings around its arboreal trunk.”  An album as delicate as early Eno, as powerful as Sonic Youth, Civilian disproved the rule that two-person bands suffer from limitations.  Of course, it helps that Andy Stack plays the Centaur’s game — half drummer, half bass player — and that Jenn Wasner sings and strums like a one-woman army.  Civilian may have been demilitarized, but it packed a delicate wallop.

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