Photo illustration from an advertisement for Sony/Superscope tape recorders, 1970
Here's the third part of my Best of 2011 list.
#20 As Far As Yesterday Goes by the Red Button (Grimble)
This is the first of only two releases in my Top 50 that I haven't already written about on my blog this year, and it's because I only just got my hands on a copy of As Far As Yesterday Goes. Like the first Red Button record, it's an impeccable collection of sweet power-pop tunes in a very Beatles-y vein. However, the songs branch out a bit as the album goes along, culminating with the album closer "Running Away", a Vanessa-Carlton-ready confection that I simultaneously love and cringe at - it's a reminder that one of the two songwriters in the Red Button had a song turn up on a Mariah Carey album once upon a time.
"Running Away" by the Red Button
#19 Last Summer by Eleanor Friedberger (Merge)
You're either on-board with Eleanor Friedberger's formula of music (known by most from her Fiery Furnaces records and now here as a solo artist) or you're not - it's a predictable but satisfying combination of simple melodies, chugging rhythms, conversational vocals, and wordy, travelogue lyrics. For me, it's a winning formula every time (except when her grandmother is a guest vocalist). (Original review here.)
"My Mistakes" by Eleanor Friedberger
#18 Cactuses by James Rabbit (Self-released)
I wrote a glowing review earlier this year of Splendor by Santa Cruz pop combo James Rabbit. But that one was the lesser of two full-length James Rabbit releases in 2011 - the clear winner is Cactuses. A kitchen-sink smorgasbord of musical influences and pop arrangements, this album hangs together on a "road trip into the desert" concept and has an infectious grin-inducingness to it.
"Summer in the Snow" by James Rabbit
#17 All Eternals Deck by the Mountain Goats (Merge)
John Darnielle's concept album about the struggle against fate is one of his darkest and most beautiful works. The shrill acoustic rage of his early albums is long gone, and you can't expect him to write another "Going to Georgia" at this point, but why would you want him to when haunting tracks like "High Hawk Season" are just as appealing in their own way. (Original review here.)
"High Hawk Season" by the Mountain Goats
#16 One Thousand Pictures by Pete & the Pirates (Stolen Recordings)
With a familiarly spiky, vintage college-rock sound that might make you think that you're listening to Pete & the Pixies, One Thousand Pictures is one of the few albums to come out of the UK's indie community this year that caught my ear with its off-kilter melodic anthems. A must for people who like their indie rock loudQUIETloud. (Original review here.)
"United" by Pete & the Pirates