Happy New Year! – Albums I Loved in 2011

Hi, Everyone!  Well, it’s that time of year again!  The time when I get to pontificate about the top releases of the year.  However, as usual, I have a really difficult time ranking things.  This is something that carries over from my work as a professor.  After all, what is the difference between a 93 and a 94?  I know it when I see it, but just how to explain?  So, I’m just going to wimp out present some of the albums I loved in no particular order.  For those of you looking for a more ordered (and possibly comprehensive) list, I would recommend checking in with Pitchfork, Slowcoustic, or NPR Music.  All right, let’s get on with the show!

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The Decemberists Cover R.E.M. on KCRW

The Decemberists stopped by KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic to do some songs yesterday, and one of those songs was “Cuyahoga” from R.E.M.’s Life’s Rich Pageant. The original is positively stunning, and one of my all-time favorite songs…so, naturally, I feel somewhat protective of it.  Happily, despite this cover’s looser, more casual feel, it definitely sounds at home with The Decemberists.

Here, have a listen and judge for yourself.  (Thanks to Stereogum!)

[audio:https://www.shh-listen.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/The-Decemberists-Cuyahoga-REM-Cover.mp3|titles=The Decemberists – Cuyahoga (REM Cover)]  Download

First Listen: The Decemberists – The King is Dead

One of the albums I’m most looking forward to in 2011 – The Decemberists’ The King is Dead – comes out on January 18th.  But thanks to NPR’s First Listen series, you can now hear the whole thing in its entirety for free on their site.  The album will be available until Jan. 18th, and I heartily recommend you check it out.

Go here to hear The King is Dead, now!

Happy New Year! — A 2010 “Retropackle.”

Hey, everyone!  Happy New Year!  I hope that you have a good one, and that you’re surrounded by good food, friends, and music.  It’s been a long year over here (the epic dissertation struggle continues), and I haven’t always been the most attentive (you’re top of the list of New Year’s Resolutions!)… but I wanted to thank everyone for all their love and support.  I’ve been positively blown away by the amount of excellent music that has been sent my way, and the… well, legitimacy, I seem to have stumbled into.

So, in 2011, I’ll be stepping up to keep things rolling around here.  And I hope that you’ll be there, too!  And since it’s customary, follow me for some things I’ve loved this year, as well as some things I’m looking forward to in the New Year!

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Recommended: Black Prairie

Admittedly, I’m a little late to the party on Black Prairie.  But boy, what a party!  The band, which is comprised of 3/5 of the Decemberists, as well as two other folk musicians from Portland, OR, works with an amazing combination of musical styles (string band, folk, bluegrass, etc.) to produce something that just gushes out atmosphere.  What becomes clear, right away, is that the band’s songs (which are heavily weighted towards the instrumental) are born out of a love of genre, authenticity, and antiquity.  Watching them perform on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic (which you can see below), you see a seriousness and a joyfulness that makes for some excellent music.

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