The Year 2011 in Music

I found this to be an extremely exciting year in music.

Quite a variety of sounds have gotten to me. I’ll run through what’s still at the top of my head. . .

311 – Universal Pulse
I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that my favorite teenage band can still rock when four of the five members have cracked 40 (makes my 30 seem not so bad). 311 went back to their roots with this one. It is a short album and half the songs sound like they could be outtakes from the blue album or Transistor sessions. I haven’t been this excited about a 311 record since 2003’s Evolver. See: “Time Bomb” (sounds like “Creatures..”), “Weightless” (the mellower side).

Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song (their self-titled E.P. is pretty good, too)
Yes – now they’re the band from the iPod commercials (“..take me to your best friend’s house..” la la la). This band’s story is insane: artist Hannah Hooper attends the show of solo musician Christian Zucconi, falls in love – one week later she is offered a residency in Greece – she asks him along and.. he accepts. They meet the rest of the vagabonds in the band there. And the music sounds like that – youthful, passionate and thoughtful. Check out some of their stuff at the player on their webpage: GrouploveMusic.com. See: “Colours,” “Naked Kids.”

LCD Soundsystem
What the hell, James Murphy?!? How do you put out the best music of your life, growing stronger each album with Sound of Silver, 45:33 and This is Happening. . . AND THEN RETIRE. Not terribly happy about that. But I keep hearing new things in the lyrics to “Drunk Girls,” so that has me entertained for now. (And hell – Jordan came back, right?)

The Givers
This band is Vampire Weekend with a little more jangle and feel. An extremely strong first album.

G. Love
He finally put out a blues album. That’s all G. Love fans need to know.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Don’t need to tell you about these guys.

Radiohead put out some more good stuff (“Lotus Flower” is a good example), as did the Beastie Boys (if you haven’t seen the full-length vid for “Make Some Noise,” find it), REM retired (much love), Papadosio and STS9 made their way into my head and Foster the People became ubiquitous. Good year. Good times…..

That’s what has me buzzing right now. Please leave your thoughts and suggestions.

Rock and/or roll.

Comments

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  • Personally, I find most music since the mid-90's quite banal. I say this because today's music is lacking a "scene," a movement to underscore its relevace.

    For the first time in the era of "pop" music, the music and bands are creations of the ether.

    the 50's had the Beatniks and their revolutionary smooth-jazz sounds while also giving birth to the bi-cultural "race" music later called "rock-n-roll. The 60's had their counter-cultural tour-de-force of enduring bands, literature and art. By the mid-70's, like it or not, had the Disco scene as a force to be reckon with which found itself displaced by the Punk/New Wave and nascent Hip-Hop cultures. The early 90's had the "Manchester" and Grunge scenes which evaporated by the mid-late 90's.

    . . . and since then, for the first time, nothing. No "youth culture" with its corresponding "revolutionary" music scene. Today, neither adults in general or PARENTS in specific "fear" youth music or its attendant scene -- there is a resounding silence in the adult's cries of, "what will become of society".

    Perhaps this can be blamed on the homoginization that the digital-era has fostered, where a band from Brighton may sound like a band from Boston. I fear, that today's kids simply have run out of steam and creativity, and have been weened to conform . . . and for the first time in a few generations, society will suffer because of it.

  • In reply to Ameriviking:

    (Note: my response to @Ameriviking and @therealneiljohnson are combined into one response to the conversation (i.e. this and the below are the same). Thanks!)

    I agree that music is lacking a centralized scene these days, but would disagree that most of it has been homogenized by the digital era. I’d say, rather, that it has been fractured beyond scenes. For a few reasons.

    I recall reading an article last year (2010) that worried about the state of rock ‘n’ roll because it had failed to produce one giant radio hit, yet somehow bands were selling the hell out of albums. Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem (both of who have been known to concentrate on ALBUMS, mind you) did extremely well selling, touring and even on indie-rock radio stations. The fact is, these guys are learning a new way to quietly go about their business catering to fans and not labels and radio stations who want nothing to do with them.

    Beyond this, bands and even writers and comedians with already-established followings have been self-publishing as the industries grow too big for anyone’s own good (Radiohead and Louie C.K., in particular, have been extremely successful).

    The caveat? I believe it’s the opposite of what @therealneiljohnson pointed out. Today you have to search even harder for your own kind of music (your scene): radio, late night talk shows, YouTube, friends, etc. There is no general record store to trek to. YOU must become the scene. Or you and your wife. Or you and your bar friends (or, for me, your old band).

    There are so many mediums to hear about music from – Rolling Stone gives everybody three stars, AVClub.com doesn’t like anybody unless you’ve never heard of them – that I find myself cross-referencing several sites after hearing a band on late night, then asking my friends if they’ve heard and then researching on YouTube before giving an album a shot.

    Based just numbers there must be more people alive today, more bands and therefore more kinds of sounds if just anybody can mix up their own little thing on Garageband (my tool of choice).

    I find that a lot of kids who only care a little about music (they like it, but don’t care where it comes from) DO get lazy and put on whatever pop radio now tells them to. This is what I believe society suffers from: need coupled with laziness.

    But I don’t think music is dying and I don’t think it lacks creativity. The creative ones are just sick of pandering to people who don’t want to listen and companies who rob them and then water the tunes down anyway. There are no “rebels” because they are not changing the system – the system is changing itself.

    It is very easy to pick up Guitar Hero and not put the effort into learning what six strings are. I wonder about these kids all the time.

    But to say that music and creativity are dead in a time when Gogol Bordello is plowing an insane path through the world completely on its own seems wrong to me. We may not be bursting into a new Beatles or Nirvana-like era... But i think that things usually move slower than that, each scene building on the next.

    Today’s music scene is your own. It’s on your iPod.

    My band’s Annual Jam has been a scene, for 8 years, of trading music, jamming, recording and planning what else to play. And it’s still growing.

    And I’m here to share it with you. Let’s make this our scene.

    (Thanks for the insights, guys. Very thoughtful. Please stop by again and let me know what you find. *db)

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    Sorry to add... but the one thing that bothers me is the belief that bands do not make albums anymore. There are still concepts at work out there. LCD Soundsystem made an album for a continuous workout, "45:33" (http://youtu.be/iKOjhPvqxrU), Arcade Fire particularly concentrates on this and the Flaming Lips (granted, AmeriViking, a band out of the '90s) have a website streaming a 24-hour long song (http://flaminglipstwentyfourhoursong.com/).

    I realize that just a few examples do not construct the whole, but you can't say that every band from the '70-'80s was making "The Wall." In fact, The Beatles concentrated on hitmaking BEFORE they jumped into albums, from what I've heard.

  • I love that the Beastie Boys are still making good music as they're about to be inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame. Proves their staying power and no decrease in quality. I write another music blog here on CN and will try some of your picks that I'm less familiar with. Thanks for the ideas!

  • In reply to annekip63:

    Hey Music Mom! Thanks for checking out the Jam Room.

    I still listen to the Beastie Boys' "Check Yo' Head" all the time. That's a top ten all-time album for me (including the classics). Such a wide variety of sounds employed... Still gives me chills and drives me onward.

    Based some of the music over at your site, I'd suggest checking out Grouplove (some of their stuff may not be for the kids, but some of it would be fine) and The Givers ("In Light")(http://youtu.be/hctJWj4ca14). I've suggested both these bands to many friends and all of them have latched on to one band or the other. Finding these two groups made my summer. :-)

    Please feel free to let me know if you find something good, as well! Rock on.

  • At the risk of sounding old, there is a major creativity drought in the music business. mp3's, iPods, Guitar Hero, Pro-Tools..... Its all helped in making music very accessible, which I LOVE, but I think it's also made younger listeners, dare I say, lazy. "Finding" music used to involve some effort and was actually a bit of an adventure. If you heard a tune you liked, you often had to call a DJ at a radion station to ask who the artist was they just played. Then, you'd trek to your local record store and ask them if they carried the album you were looking for. While you were there, you might happen across some other albums that looked interesting. Perhaps the guy behind the counter would recommend something similar ("If you like that, you'll love this"). Sure, the internet provides that on a much larger scale via chat rooms and fan sites. I am a huge fan of community oriented music sites.

    Still, as one reader pointed out, there seems to be something lacking in today's music and I happen to agree that today's youth have no "movement" behind the culture. A movement doesn't have to be politically motivated, but it should belong to a certain generation. When anthems like "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journery are being recycled via Glee or any number of sports stadiums, I find myslef thinking, "That's great. I love Journey and hearing this brings back many memories. But why is this generation relying on my generation for their anthems rather than creating their own."

    About 10 years ago or so, it became very possible for an artist of any age to write, record, produce and distribute their own music with programs like Pro-Tools and sites like Myspace. Back then I was a tad more idealistic and thought, "That's great! Screw the labels, the artists should be able to do what they want." While I still believe that to a degree, I also think that we've witnessed a decline in truly original music that is also GOOD. A certain magic is created through the tension that occurs when a band and a producer live in a studio for six months or more trying to write and record an album.

    I'm not saying that all new music sucks. Would never say that. I remember growing up and certain albums were landmark albums that every kid owned and became a true sensation. Michael Jackson's Thriller, Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi, Hysteria by Def Leppard, Appetite For Destruction by Guns N Roses.... it seems now, kids speak in terms of tracks, rather than whole albums, and any excitement over a specific artist and or song seems to fade rather quickly. Lady Gaga is great and I am pleased that she writes her own tunes. But there just seems to be an over abundance of pre-packaged, market researched, bubble gum pop by "artists" who have all their music written by a team of song writers.

    Like most things, I think the pendulum will swing back the other way, and we may see a resurgence of artists who are writing and playing music that sounds fresh and exciting. My first child is due on February 2nd, so maybe I will be able to live this vicariously through him.

  • In reply to therealneiljohnson:

    (Looks like WordPress won't let me past the same comment/convo here. @therealneiljohnson , please see above (under @Ameriviking) for my response to your continued discussion. Thanks!)

  • i just really love 311...nice to find others that still do and yes I was also the girl in the 311 shirt for most of the 90s. i still have a few of those and will wear them around BEFORE a 311 day and then change to abide by the rule you don't wear the shirt of the band to the show.

    thanks for having good taste in music - i enjoy reading the blog

  • In reply to mauraheizer:

    Wow. Props for knowing "the rule." lol... I always wore Sublime shirts to 311 shows. Probably wishful thinking, because i never got to see Sublime live (RIP Bradley. Much love). Though i've seen 311 so many times, i'm sure i've broken down and worn a retro shirt of theirs to a more recent show, just to let the kids know i'm cool. :-)

    Thanks for reading the blog. It's way more fun to have a community to chat with, as opposed to sitting here, ranting into the air (which i've done plenty). Rock.

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