2011 was a great year. Sure, I started it off by getting run over and breaking my foot, but maybe now I understand why they say “break a leg” for good luck. (har har)
From there my wife and I went through the fear and excitement of the first birth, and now we have our perfect son – Taylor. My beloved grandmother beat cancer. Snaganubbin released an insane single-track, 40-minute EP which I just love. I got to see some of my favorite musicians of all time play live. My all-time favorite band, Gas Huffer, reunited for the best 2 hours our radio station’s ever heard. My old punk band, The Scoobies, reunited after 8 years for a rehearsal that nearly brought tears of joy to my eyes. I joined an amazing instrumental band with marvelously talented musicians. And throughout this year, so much great music has accompanied me.
So without further ado, here are my Top Jekyll Songs/Albums for 2011:
10. Lana Del Rey – Video Games
True, there’s a lot of hype around this girl. But since the first listen I could hear she’s got something special. If the songs weren’t so great I’d probably be nauseated by the amount of exposure a singer with no album receives. For God sakes, she’ll even perform live on SNL before the album’s released! Nevertheless, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard a singer who’s worthy of such exposure, mainly due to her somewhat “classic” take on pop songs. There’s something about her voice that’s familiar and fresh at the same time, forcing the listener to sit through every song in its entirety.
9. John Zorn’s The Dreamers – Christmas Time is Here
Zorn releases so many albums and recordings that it’s hard to keep up. The varied styles and intensity of them makes every album’s first listen the equivalent of a Jack in the Box.
With the overflow of sticky cliché Christmas album releases from October through December, The Dreamers’ Christmas album was such a beautiful surprise. Apart from having so many musician favorites, the atmosphere this album creates is so pure and joyful that to me would personify what Christmas ought to be. (Yup, I’m Jewish) As a proud new father, I’d like to add that it’s one of the first things our son has ever heard and it’s completely hypnotic to him (as to us). This specific track brings back such a rush of nostalgia to the innocent days of Snoopy and Peanuts.
8. Elysian Fields – Sleepover
Jennifer and Oren’s Elysian Fields always sends chills up our spines. Last Night on Earth was a much darker record than previous releases, but the rare product the duo create is such a treat (even if somewhat a sweetly grim one). Rumor has it we might see them live sometime this year – I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
7. Woodkid – Baltimore’s Fireflies
This is a release I stumbled upon without any previous knowledge who Woodkid is. Before I found out he’s a respected video director, I simply pressed the play button and was unable to stop listening until the Iron EP was finished. I find “Baltimore’s Fireflies” the EP’s best piece and was kind of hoping it’d also get to have its own beautiful video, just as Iron did.
6. The Black Keys – Sister
What can I say about the Black Keys? I really hope they’re here to stay. Though this is not my favorite release by them, a weak Black Keys release will still be a great rock n roll record, and El Camino has many tracks that will (as Fluss would say) make you shake it. They’ve gained a lot of rightfully earned momentum in recent years (including a grammy win last year), and the addition of other members/instruments has certainly added another dimension and opportunities to expand their sound.
5. Mayer Hawthorne – Finally Falling
The way I started describing this guy to people when I first heard his songs was, “he is the new Jamie Lidell, minus the experimental loops and with pure 70’s soul.” If Lidell serves as the point of reference, Hawthorne takes the 70’s soul appreciation to his own level. While Lidell sounds like the cool kid with his range and borderline insane innovations, Hawthorne sounds like he just came from a time machine, preserving the 70’s best kept secret.
4. Zola Jesus – Vessel
I find myself arguing with Fluss and Natalie about Zola Jesus just about every show. They just don’t appear to get it. I believe Nikka’s one of the best unpretentious voices to come out of the (electro-dark wave) world. Our interview last year revealed she’s yet to be corrupted by the immense positive exposure she received.
I’d just like to note that a few other released from her label, Sacred Bones, almost made this show too. We’ve got a lot to expect from this label in the future.
3. Joey Cape – I Always Knew This Was Going To End Badly
We interviewed Joey just a month ago and discussed the story behind one of the most heartwarming videos a pet-owner will ever see. While I love Lagwagon, Cape’s latest solo effort really exposed a much more personal side – one that touched us all at Jekyll and Hyde. I love “I Always Knew…”, but there are so many other gems on this album that it was easy to pick as one of this year’s best.
2. Alain Johannes – Return To You
I let this one slip in because the Vinyl version was released this year. Johannes delivers one of the most emotional records to date with an entire album dedicated to the late great Natasha Schneider. Return To You is easily one of the most beautiful tracks ever written, encompassing warmth, passion, and sweetness all in one. Though the world has experienced Johannes through so many other musical acts, it’s amazing to me that only now we get to relish his solo effort. This album will undoubtedly be a great listen in 50 years as well.
1. Princess Chelsea – The Cigarette Duet
This group was completely new to me. I have to be honest – I don’t even remember what lead me to their youtube videos in the first place.
One thing’s for sure, though – as soon as I heard the music and vocals together I was hooked. Princess Chelsea is the brainchild project of Chelsea Nikkel. Her New Zealand group gets the first spot in my book for being the most unique pieces I’ve heard all year. Princess Chelsea take on common subject matters in a witty, humorous manner, while their sound is both playful and dark at the same time. Again, this is an artist I knew absolutely nothing about until stumbling upon their release, but I am sure their being somewhat anonymous to the world is purely a temporary setback.
10. Black Cobra – Corrosion Fields
Black Cobra’s Invernal is a powerhouse of a record. Southern Lord has brought us more hardcore than drone in recent years, but the Cobras combine all ‘Lord nuances by giving us menacing riffs, evil tone and a groove which have you quietly headbanging at your horrible 9-to-5 job.
9. Kepi Ghoulie – Nikki Lee
A well produced record by the nicest guy in punk. I Bleed Rock N Roll does Kepi more justice than any of his (great) previous releases. While I just loved his acoustic album, the Ghoulie in us all wanted Kepi to put out a record that would bring out the Kepi from the Groovie Ghoulie shell. And this record, ladies and gentlemen, does just that.
8. Sic Alps – Meter Man
I have to admit, I only found out about this album in December when Matt Wright (of Gas Huffer) recommended it to me. This album is so garage-dirty and catchy at the same time. Better late than never! As Matt said, their songs, as fuzz/feedback filled as they are, leave you humming the music long after they’re finished.
7. Mastodon – All The Heavy Lifting
Forget the fact that Mastodon’s musicians are masters of their craft. Ignore the fact that they have a hell of a sense of humor. Let’s put aside the fact that Mastodon is one of the most interesting things to happen to music, and to simply call them metal would be ridiculously ignorant. Just enjoy this superfluous record, and do it LOUD.
6. Earth – Old Black
To me, Dylan Carlson’s Earth will always be a favorite, so this pick was a no-brainer. Earth released the first of a two part album in 2011 – Angels of Darkness Demons of Light vol. 1. It was somewhat a departure in sound from what the initial Earth comeback was since Hex in the early 2000’s. The 2nd part of Angels will be released in 2012 – which you just know will be amazing as well.
5. Joe Lally – What Makes You
Sure, I’ve listened to Joe Lally’s Fugazi in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. However, Lally’s album Why Should I Get Used To It has such an amazing groove that’s worthy of heavy radioplay (which is what we did on Jekyll and Hyde). Very different to me from his musical “baggage”, Why Should I is one of 2011’s best gems.
4. Foo Fighters – Bridge Burning
I loved the Foo Fighters. Not loved. Rather – have loved and will always love. Sometime after In Your Honor I just kind of forgot how great they were. Sometime in early January I got an email enabling me to pre-order a Foo Fighters/Band of Horses show in Berlin. We ordered it right away, and got to see two of our favorite bands. I never thought I’d be able to see Foo Fighters – to me they’re my generation’s Queen or Led Zeppelin. Not just that, but Natalie and I got to share that experience with two of my best, oldest friends. Hearing the opening to “Bridge Burning” will always give me goose bumps. Music nerds would easily find out where we got the idea for our son’s name (Taylor) from.
3. Russian Circles – Atackla
Russian Circles’ Empros was yet another spectacular record. Sometimes, that’s all I can say about the music. It is just so fucking beautiful.
2. Retox – Thirty Cents Short of a Quarter
Like Fluss said, it’s hard to not love most of Pearson and co’s projects. The fact that this band actually has Gabe Serbian too is a special treat, along with one of 31g’s roster’s best guitarists – Michael Crain. The raw intensity of the seasoned musicians accompanies more political/anti religion lyrics by the 21st century’s punk icon – Justin Pearson.
1. Helms Alee – 8/16
Helms alee are undoubtedly one of the best bands to have appeared in recent years. While Their debut album, Night Terror, will always remain one of my favorite for its classic perfect fluidity as an album, the band’s 2nd effort Weatherhead seems to have many hits, though less fluidity. Nonetheless, 8/16, along with many other tracks on Weatherhead, is one of the most powerful tracks to come out in 2011. Can’t wait for the music video!
The last two tracks are honorable mentions at the end of the show, which may have not made it to the top 20, but are still a must listen:
Chilly Gonzales and The Necks (Thanks to Moshe Levy).