it’s that little key on the upper left

My mix of tracks from my favorite albums of 2011 – this one’s called esc…and it accidentally even has a title track. The songs are ordered for musical purposes and bear no relation to the rank of their source albums.

I think it was a pretty good year musically. I had some tough decisions on what to cut just to get this down to 25 tracks, one from each of the top 25 albums. As I usually do, I’ve organized the albums in tiers that reflect, roughly, their rank; within each tier I’m just listing them alphabetically. Life’s too short to waste time on figuring out an exact rank – for me, at least, that changes every time I listen to something.

2011’s Top Ten

Richard Buckner Our Blood, The Bye Bye Blackbirds Fixed Hearts, The Caribbean Discontinued Perfume, Destroyer Kaputt, Robyn Hitchcock Trømso, Kaptein (unaccountably released only in Norway; fortunately, easy to get here by way of Hitchcock’s website), The Mountain Goats All Eternals Deck, Radiohead The King of Limbs, St. Vincent Strange Mercy, They Might Be Giants Join Us, (best album cover of the year, by a wide margin), Wild Flag s/t.

The Next Fifteen (rounding out the contents of the mix)

The Black Watch Led Zeppelin Five (album title of the year), Comet Gain Howl of the Lonely Crowd, The Decemberists The King Is Dead, Emperor X Western Teleport, PJ Harvey Let England Shake (nearly made the top ten), The Joy Formidable The Big Roar, Mars Classroom New Theory of Everything, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks Mirror Traffic, Mekons Ancient & Modern, Momus (with John Henriksson) Thunderclown, Thurston Moore Demolished Thoughts (I would not have thought he and Beck could make a fantastic acid chamber-pop album, but here it is), Okkervil River I Am Very Far, Trolley Things That Shine and Glow (Milwaukee content…but they earned it, baby), Tom Waits Bad as Me, Wilco The Whole Love (everyone loves to hate these guys now…and I underestimated this record at first, but it’s just really good from beginning to end (and a couple good “b-sides” as iTunes bonus tracks, too).

The ones that tempted me to make a 30-song mix

Damon & Naomi False Beats and True Hearts, Sloan The Double Cross (this was also the year I realized I’d neglected Sloan, one of the most consistently fine bands of the past 20 years: that title, renderable as “XX,” celebrates that tenure), Wire The Red Barked Tree, Robert Pollard Lord of the Birdcage, Lifeguards Waving at the Astronauts. (The Pollard Count: this year, I acquired five albums with Robert Pollard involvement (six if you count the free download of Let it Beard demos…which, uh, you probably shouldn’t). One of them (Mars Classroom, his collaboration with Gary Waleik from Big Dipper) is in the top 25, his solo album and the latest release from his Lifeguards project with Doug Gillard are in the next 5…while the supposedly final album from his Boston Spaceships project (the aforementioned Let it Beard) bubbles up a bit lower down. And there was also Space City Kicks. And yes: I already have the first item in his 2012 discography, the Guided by Voices reunion album (and associated singles). 2012 is the year it’s revealed there’s actually six Bob Pollards (the one we see drinks the beer for all of them) and that full-person duplication was perfected in Dayton, Ohio sometime in the late ’80s.)

Next batch

David Bazan Strange Negotiations, Dum Dum Girls Only in Dreams, The Fall Ersatz GB, Fountains of Wayne Sky Full of Holes, Fucked Up David Comes to Life (this one accomplished the rare feat of getting me to listen to near-metaloid bellowing croaks from Damian Abraham: I also found it just too long, in an almost overwhelming way. Five minutes of this sounds like a paradise of a thousand guitars in a wind tunnel; twenty minutes is still pretty damned brilliant…but eighty? Too much for me… Actually, I admire them for not breaking it up with a piece for recorder and harpsichord halfway through or something…), John Wesley Harding The Sound of His Own Voice, David Kilgour & the Heavy Eights Left by Soft (holy kippered herring but “Diamond Mine” is a fantastic song…not sure why NZ folks with guitars do these songs that sound as if they could just circle around a chord sequence for six hours…but it’s so good I kept hitting repeat, and the rest of the album probably suffered for me by comparison…), David Lowery The Palace Guards, Maritime Human Hearts, Peter Bjorn and John Gimme Some (dumbest-ass album cover of the year), Sam Phillips Cameras in the Sky, R.E.M. Collapse into Now (R.I.P.), TV on the Radio Nine Types of Light.

Some albums I either haven’t heard or haven’t heard enough of to judge

Mike Viola Electro de Perfecto (but so far, sounding like it might be one of the best power-pop albums of the year – coulda been a contenduh for the top 25 if I’d heard it before last week), Atlas Sound Parallax, Eleanor Friedberger Last Summer, Real Estate Days, Wye Oak Civilian. And I’ve decided to count the Anton Barbeau/Andy Metcalfe/Morris Windsor (Soft Boys) collaboration Three Minute Tease as a 2012 release, since its physical edition isn’t officially out till 2012 (or so sez I: I make the rules ’round here).

Some disappointments, too – if it’s not listed, either I haven’t heard it or it was indeed a bit of a disappointment.


  1. Trolley “The Calico Cat”
  2. Destroyer “Downtown”
  3. PJ Harvey “The Words That Maketh Murder”
  4. Richard Buckner “Escape”
  5. Comet Gain “Clang of the Concrete Swans”
  6. The Mekons “Space in Your Face”
  7. Wild Flag “Black Tiles”
  8. The Decemberists “This Is Why We Fight”
  9. They Might Be Giants “Canajoharie”
  10. The Bye Bye Blackbirds “Open a Light”
  11. Okkervil River “Wake and Be Fine”
  12. St. Vincent “Surgeon”
  13. Tom Waits “Bad as Me”
  14. The Mountain Goats “Estate Sale Sign”
  15. The Caribbean “Supply Lines”
  16. The Black Watch “The Maid’s Been Round”
  17. Wilco “Born Alone”
  18. Emperor X “Erica Western Teleport”
  19. Momus (with John Henriksson) “Futura Bold”
  20. Thurston Moore “Illuminine”
  21. Robyn Hitchcock “Light Blue Afternoon”
  22. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks “Stick Figures in Love”
  23. Mars Classroom “New Theory”
  24. Radiohead “Little by Little”
  25. The Joy Formidable “Whirring”

Comments please.



Filed under 2011, noise

5 responses to “it’s that little key on the upper left

  1. B

    I’m so flattered ot have made the top ten — you have no idea. Seriously. Thank you.

  2. No favors, Bradley – you totally earned it. I hope you guys are proud of that record – you should be.

  3. Flattered and abuzz with ego tripping. Thanks. I love the company we keep, too!

  4. Mike

    Hello there! Mike from Trolley here. I’m honored to be in good company amongst these great artists within this mix. Great work and thanks!!!

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