Guitar World Staff Picks: Damian Fanelli's Top 10 Albums of 2011
As an editor at GuitarWorld.com, I listen to tons of music -- all sorts of weird stuff. One day in the summer, I even found myself listening to an album recorded by a bunch of nuns chanting in Latin. I'm still not sure why that happened.
Anyway, my point is, amid the beatings my poor ear drums withstand on a daily basis, it's still pretty easy for me to choose my favorite albums of the year; they're the ones I found myself listening to over and over again in 2011.
A few of these choices sort of flew under the radar this year -- such as the long-awaited comeback album (reunion album, actually) by The Jayhawks (Hey, I sure as hell was waiting for it) and even the latest by the former Pavement frontman, Stephen Malkmus; it's probably his best solo album since his self-titled 2001 solo debut (which is freakin' awesome).
And then there's No. 10 on my list -- Le Tour Du Chapeau ("hat trick") by Les Dales Hawerchuk, a heavy, hockey lovin', French singin', French screamin' band from Quebec, Canada. What can I say? I'm seriously into the whole Keb rock scene -- and Montreal is a mere 6.7777777 hours away by car! Anyway, if you haven't heard it yet, it's worth checking out -- as are the other nine albums in the photo gallery below.
Thanks for reading, Happy Holidays, Joyeux Noël, etc. -- and here's to an awesome 2012! A new Jeff Beck studio album, please!
Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World.
07. Wilco - The Whole Love
Wilco was treading in "brilliant" territory back when they were putting out Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born. Then Sky Blue Sky happened (no comment), followed by the fun but too easily accessible Wilco (The Album). But The Whole Love finds them heading back to the land of meaningful releases, a land where listeners often tilt their heads like intrigued dogs. Let's hope they stay there.
06. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
In the wake of Oasis, Noel -- not Liam -- is clearly the Gallagher brother with more goin' on, the one who can -- and did -- put out an album that sounds like the next level in the evolution of his old band. "The Death of You and Me" is right up there with anything else Noel has ever written.
05. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Here's a line from “Montezuma”: “So now I am older than my mother and father, when they had their daughter; now what does that say about me?” Ouch! Tell me about it! There's a lot of this sorta eye-opening stuff on this brilliant, perfect-for-a-slightly-depressing-Sunday-morning album by them sneaky foxes.
04. Andy Timmons Band - Plays Sgt. Pepper
If Jeff Beck's high-profile version of "A Day in the Life" makes you clamor for more instrumental covers of classic Beatles tunes as performed by upper-echelon rock guitarists, you're freakin' in luck. That's not to say Timmons plays or sounds anything like Beck; his arrangements, all done from memory, are spot on and brilliant, making the listener appreciate the original songs on several new levels.
03. Jimmie Vaughan (featuring Lou Ann Barton) - Plays More Blues, Ballads & Favorites
I've gotta say, this album is a lot like Vaughan's last album, Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites, which was probably the best trad blues album of 2010. Vaughan takes the vintage approach, recording his solos live with no effects, leaving in the mistakes, should they occur. It's a fun and refreshing concept in 2011.
08. Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks - Mirror Traffic
As someone -- possibly me -- wrote in the intro to this story, Mirror Traffic is Stephen Malkmus' finest solo album since his 2001 self-titled solo debut. It even sounds like a fresh start for the 45-year-old former Pavement frontman. Speculation, all of it; but one thing is for certain: This is Malkmus' "guitar" album. His playing has been improving every year since the ol' Pavement days, and it shows here.
02. The Black Keys - El Camino
Is 2011's El Camino a more complete, more consistent, more rocking album than 2010's Brothers? Hell yeah! Now The Black Keys need to go for the hat trick and release their masterpiece in 2012. And how about a live album in 2013?
01. Jeff Beck - Rock 'n' Roll Party Honoring Les Paul
OK, I was at this event at the Iridium in New York City in June 2010, so maybe my POV is a little skewed. But this disc combines a lot of the stuff I like: Jeff Beck, Gene Vincent, Cliff Gallup, Sun-era Elvis, vintage guitars, Brian Setzer, Imelda May ... . So, my apologies to everything else that came out this year, but you really didn't stand a chance.
09. The Jayhawks - Mockingbird Time
Much like The Cars' 2011 reunion album, The Jayhawks' Mockingbird Time fits comfortably alongside the band's back catalog. With its extra-engaging melodies and harmonies, this album is a reward to fans who have been waiting for this sorta thing since 1995's Tomorrow the Green Grass.
10. Les Dales Hawerchuk - Le Tour Du Chapeau
The third album by Quebec's Les Dales Hawerchuk (the album title means "hat trick") is, by far, their best, not to mention their least-heavy -- although it still packs a punch ("Rhum & Coke," "Fou n'importe ou"). This is just one 2011 highlight of Quebec's burgeoning francophone rock scene. Check out other new stuff by Galaxie, Les Breastfeeders and Les Cowboys Fringants.