A Few of Our Favorite Things, 2011: Black Lips, Stephen Colbert, Sensitive Bros, Ambient Beats…

The good people over at Friends of Friends Music, in keeping with their founding each-one-teach-one ethos, asked their friends, and friends of friends, to contribute some sort of top ten (ish) music-related list of favorites from the past year. My contribution is below, but visit the FoF site to read entries by folks like Shlohmo, Ernest Gonzales (Mexicans With Guns), Lushlife, Clive Tanaka, Low Limit, TAKE, Garth Trinidad, Shaun Koplow and Jeff Weiss.

Like most folks that’ll contribute to this project, I could do this all day. To limit a “best of” list to ten entries is the cruelest of tortures to a real music geek, but the tradition exists for a reason: namely, to ensure we all get back to work. This isn’t definitive. These are the first ten wonderful music-related things that popped into my head, but considering the breakneck evolutionary pace and exponential expansion of our chosen medium, it seems fitting to shoot from the hip.

1) Destroyer goes Kaputt: There’s absolutely nothing I don’t love immensely about this album. Am I the only one who had an unrealized, unrecognized need to meet the lovechild of Steely Dan and Sade? Aside from Destroyer’s Dan Bejar, perhaps, but at least I know I’m not totally alone.

2) The Black Lips destroy a ballroom: Mere hours after watching Jared Swilley pinwheel a guitar body into the forehead of a grateful fan at Lollapalooza, I found myself thrashing in a chic hotel ballroom to “Bad Kids” while being pelted with TP rolls and complimentary vodka drinks. \\m//  

3) Odd Future’s ascendance: A handful of no-name kids from L.A. owned the world for a year while sideliners cheered or jeered, proselytized or pretended not to care. OF knocked the industry on its ass, freaked out a bunch of old people and, frankly, out-punked punk. They won.

4) Motherfucking Merril Garbus: It’d take essays to unpack the aural and cultural touchstones at work on the insanely exceptional latest tUnE-yArDs album, w h o k i l l, but at the end of the day it’s body music thanks as much to those deep, deep riddims as to Merril’s fearless, tribal yawp.

5) Kurt, Cass and Case: Three fellas who carry a flame for Leonard Cohen (to varying degrees) made some of this year’s most achingly beautiful records — Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring for My Halo; Cass McCombs’ Wit’s End and Humor Risk; and Case Studies The World is Just a Shape to Fill at Night.

6) The renaissance of Serengeti: After releasing a dozen albums and only catching real shine for the one that was kinda, sorta a gag (Dennehy), Chicago rapper Serengeti had a real breakthrough with his solo Anticon debut Family & Friends. Lucky for us, he’s got a dozen more in the holster.

7) Stephen Colbert, Brian Eno and Michael Stipe cover “Lean On Me”: On paper it smacks of vanity TV indulgence, but this unlikely trio flooded my ducts when they surprised The Colbert Report faithful with a heartfelt barbershop version of the Bill Withers classic. They did it good.

8) The evolution of TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light showcased a revolutionary band who’d discovered the quiet confidence to mellow for a minute. It’s a slow-grower brimming with reward, but the live show, perhaps in tribute to fallen member Gerard Smith, was a motherfucking steamroller.

9) Tape music making it into rap: When one of the country’s fastest rising young rappers (A$AP Rocky) makes casual references to ambient music in interviews, you know a sea change is afoot. Producers Clams Casino and araabMuzik could release cassettes on NNA Tapes; instead they’re tomorrow’s Bomb Squad.

10) Fol Chen’s crazy Tetrafol sound toy: These Angeleno funk-pop provocateurs teamed up with the geniuses at Monome and Machine Project to make a gorgeous little collectible wood-paneled pyramid that plays different samples (and manipulates their pitch and speed) depending on how you hold it. Drool.

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