Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our Favorites of 2011

Kevin's album of the year:
Old School-Nils Lofgren
I read an interview about this album on Backstreets and decided to give it a try. I’ve been listening to Nils since his power pop, guitar slinging days of the early 70s, way before he joined the E Street Band. What intrigued me from the interview was that a lot of the album was recorded “live” without overdubs and post production.  Lay down the track and let ‘er rip.
I certainly wasn’t disappointed.  His guitar craft is better than ever and his voice has matured. The album is a great blend of rockers, ballads and  blues with some old school Nils ala the Grin days, the power pop of Love Stumbles On and Just Because You Love Me thrown in to tie it all together.  To top it all off, I can relate the titles: 'Old School', 'Sixty is the New Eighteen' (I can only hope!) and 'Ain’t Too Many of Us Left'.
My favorite song on the album is 'Miss You Ray', Lofgren’s tribute to Ray Charles.  

“I pound my nails, love my wife and kids
My gifts are not as grand as yours
Still this and every song you sing
Heals our troubled hearts
We miss you Ray, I miss you Ray”

Listen closely to all the lyrics on this album.  Nils not only has something to say, but at 60 he still can play.  -KJB

Scott's Album of the Year:
The Whole Love - Wilco

Big surprise.  What Wilco record have I not become obsessed with at some point? Perhaps I am not the most unbiased judge; in my opinion they  really can do no wrong at this point. Further, I always give them the time. I never dismiss a Wilco record out-of-hand as inferior output after a few listens the way I will with other bands.  Sometimes I have to work a little bit to get it, but I always get it.  Sometimes they just make it so damn easy.   
The Whole Love is a great mix of these two styles and proves that Jeff Tweedy and Co., with their best and longest tenured lineup, are at the height of their powers. Opening with yet another sonic opus, ‘Art of Almost’ (see ‘I am trying to break your heart’ and ‘At least that what you said’) and closing with the simply lovely ‘One Sunday Morning’ they cover everything that is best about them in between. Rockers ‘Dawned on Me’, ‘Born Alone’ and ‘Standing O’ are instant turn-it-up, pound-your-car-ceiling, hit-repeat-so-you-learn-the-words Wilco classics sure to be anticipated live for years to come. They do a great job of pacing around these with slower songs that really show off the versatility of the band.  These songs take a few more listens, but it’s worth it.  ‘Black Moon’ is beautifully paced and played; the lyrics of ‘Open Mind’ are fantastic, and ‘Capitol City’ is an interesting departure in style, akin to ‘Hate it Here’ from Sky Blue Sky. Jeff Tweedy is introspective as always, but accessible, even though you never get all of his metaphors. I love this record and really appreciate what this band continues to do. 
In September I was lucky enough to see the St Louis stop of this tour at the newly reopened Peabody Opera house…from the 9th row.  Fantastic as expected, the new material was great live and they are ridiculously tight  (see Impossible Germany, below).  I can never wait to hear what’s next from Wilco. I think this band has a lot more in them and hope they are just getting started.  


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