Cover illustration by Gerald Gregg for Phoebe Atwood Taylor's Banbury Bog, 1948
#1 The Double Cross by Sloan (Yep Roc)
As is usually the case, I still stand by my original assessment of Sloan's The Double Cross (found here), but here's why I think it's the best record of the year.
By the way, does it mean that I am now officially an "oldster" because my favorite record comes from a band celebrating twenty years together? Possibly, but I can't get past the fact that Sloan is one of my absolutely favorite bands, and they put out an album this year that pushes its way into my Top 3 EVER Sloan abums (along with Navy Blues and Never Hear the End of It). That's right - I'm saying that this album is clearly better than One Chord to Another, something that most hardcore Sloan fans would find blasphemous.
Here's the deal, though - The Double Cross is the album that best shows Sloan as a collaborative team of talented songwriters. While the high points of earlier albums may have better individual contributions, this one blends the elements together perfectly, which must be a challenge when you have four distinct songwriters in the band (even when they've worked together for two decades). Each one does what they do best here - Chris Murphy chirps McCartney-esquely, Patrick Pentland sneers double-trackedly, Jay Ferguson coos over calliopes, and Andrew Scott drawls and meanders charmingly. And it just flows together end to end with a string of top-drawer singalong choruses and crunchy power-pop guitars. I know The Double Cross isn't an exciting choice for "Best Album of 2011", but, being completely honest, I can't put forward another album I liked better or listened to more consistently this year.
"Unkind" by Sloan