Guitar World Staff Picks: Tony Grassi's Top 10 Albums of 2011
As if all the crap I take from the other guys here at Guitar World headquarters wasn't bad enough, I am now displaying my unabashed pop interests for the entire guitar community to make fun of.
Having proclivities that spread a breadth of musical styles, I can't deny that half of my picks for the best albums of 2011 are not what one would consider "guitar" albums. But then again, a "guitar" album is a relative term. All the albums featured in my Top 10 contain guitar. Some of it is overt; some of it is light and textural. This is what's so great about the guitar; it can do almost anything and be almost anywhere.
Hey, I love the piano, but you can't bend the strings or create weird harmonics. And you're not carrying that thing anywhere.
On the other hand, a guitar can transport you from the lush richness of an Andres Segovia etude to the screaming wails of a Zakk Wylde solo. So why shouldn't a guitarist have a natural inclination for variety?
The answer: He doesn't want to get thread-burned for his love of pop albums.
But I know it's coming. Burn away.
And happy holidays.
06. Megadeth - TH1RT3EN
Dave Mustaine will probably never write another Rust In Peace, but even something half as good is still really good. TH1RT3EN is really good, but what gives it extra special punch is the return of founding bassist Dave Ellefson.
05. Gang of Four - Content
Punk bands don't age well. The ferocity and angst inherent to the genre have a short shelf life. Just don't tell that to Gang of Four. They didn't get the memo. Content is arguably the most energetic rock album of the year.
04. The Decemberists - The King is Dead
Think the melodies of Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska mixed with the timbre of Neil Young's Harvest. That's The King is Dead, in all its acoustic guitar/harmonica glory.
03. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
There are those moments when Gallagher's Beatles influence is a little heavy handed. And then there are moments of pure songwriting brilliance, even by the Fab Four's standards. And Noel's voice is better suited than his brother Liam's for these loftier compositions.
01. Duran Duran - All You Need Is Now
OK, so original guitarist Andy Taylor is still out of the band, along with his punchy, energetic riffing. But this is still a great album for Duranies who grew up on Seven and the Ragged Tiger and Rio. And with Mark Ronson at the production helm, it's a perfect blend of classic and modern pop-rock.
02. The Nightwatchman - World Wide Rebel Songs
Tom Morello's alter-ego had more than enough inspiration this year to fill an album's worth of political-protest songs. But regardless of the songs' message, the music is incredible, full of vigor, sincerity and - countering the album's rebellious edge - playfulness.
10. Florence + the Machine - Ceremonials
Everyone approaches the sophomore effort with dread, but here, Big Red knocks it out of the park -- or should I say "shakes it out"? OK, I'm really pushing it now, I know.
09. The Black Keys - El Camino
Confusing album cover notwithstanding, El Caminos's unapologetic foray into blues is refreshing. Most garage rock bands still shun blues. The Black Keys not only embrace it, they're actually good at it.
08. Wild Flag - Wild Flag
Former Sleater-Kinney frontwoman Carrie Brownstein forges a brasher, rawer vibe with her new quartet, Wild Flag. If you're looking for some good fuzzy, snotty garage rock, look no further.
07. Adele - 21
Anyone interested in production should listen to this album. In a market that focuses on digital singles, it's refreshing to see an entire album do so well. Credit this to its masterful craft and stellar arrangement ... and Adele Adkins is pretty good singer, too.