Favorite Albums of 2011

Here’s my annual list of my favorite albums.

  1. Wilco – The Whole Love
    This is their best album since “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”.

  2. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
    Much more sophisticated than their first album, yet it still keeps their wonderful folk rock sound and beautiful vocal harmonies.

  3. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
    Just plain beautiful.

  4. The Decemberists – The King is Dead
  5. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
  6. Adele – 21
  7. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
  8. Foster the People – Torches
    Some of the catchiest songs of the year.

  9. Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing
  10. Tinariwen – Tassili
    I’m addicted to their music, which has an almost hypnotic trance-inducing effect. Their latest album enhances their Desert Blues sounds with some English lyrics and guest artists like Nels Cline, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and members of TV On The Radio.

Here’s a Spotify playlist with some of my favorite songs.

Worth a listen – The Jugtown Pirates

If you spend any time in San Francisco, you may have heard the Jugtown Pirates playing their unique brand of bluegrass around the ferry building. They now have a new album, Darda, which they funded with a Kickstarter project. It’s now available in iTunes and it’s fun & enjoyable, even if you’re not into bluegrass. It has a more polished sound with styles raging from rock, alt-country, and blues.

Jugtown Pirates

"Graceland" turns 25

One of my all-time favorite albums, Paul Simon’s “Graceland“, will turn 25 this year.

This is the one album that changed my life. At the time it was released, I had pretty much lost all interest in music, but when I heard it for the first time, it was like what I’ve been waiting my entire life to hear. I wasn’t a big Paul Simon fan, and before “Graceland”, I never knowingly heard African music.

“Graceland” got me interested in African music and inspired me to seek out more of it. After listening to it for a few months, I took the huge step of going to the “International” aisle at the record store and buying a cassette by Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I found that I loved the music and started looking for even more exotic sounds.

Around the same time, Peter Gabriel started collaborating with Youssou N’dour, so I took another big step and bought Youssou’s album “Nelson Mandela”, and by that time I was totally hooked.

If it wasn’t for “Graceland” I might have never discovered African music and reignited my love of all music.

Minor iDjembe Update

I just submitted a minor update to iDjembe that adds Retina display graphics, a new icon, and a new app info screen. For some bizarre reason it’s selling fairly well, so using it to cross-promote Removr and my upcoming game, Sugar Rush, may help the sales of my other apps.

Speaking of Sugar Rush, the first beta went out yesterday. I’m still waiting for some of the final graphics & sounds. The release is scheduled for Apr. 28.

Big Grammy Win

I’m thrilled about Arcade Fire winning Album Of The Year last night, not only because I’m a big fan, but because it’s also a great big “up yours” to the major record labels.

While the other nominees are represented by major labels with huge promotion budgets, Arcade Fire is represented by tiny Merge Records and spends very little on promotion. The other nominees sold over a million records, but The Suburbs only sold less than 500,000. This is one of the few times quality and actual talent beat style & mainstream marketing. Arcade Fire’s success proves that you don’t need to have a manager to promote a carefully crafted image, lots of marketing muscle, and a huge record company behind you. I hope this trend continues.

Favorite albums of 2010

It’s that time of the year agin, so here are my picks for my favorite albums of 2010:

  1. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
  2. Contra – Vampire Weekend
  3. Transference – Spoon
  4. This is Happening – LCD Soundsystem
  5. Odd Blood – Yeasayer
  6. Congratulations – MGMT
  7. Plastic Beach – Gorollaz
  8. High Violet – The National
  9. You Are Not Alone – Mavis Staples
  10. The Age of Adz – Sufjan Stevens

For next year, I’m really looking forward to The King is Dead by The Decemberists.

The Suburbs

I couldn’t leave without a post about Arcade Fire’s new album, The Suburbs. I’ve been looking forward to this album all year, and it lived up to my expectations. The album is closer to Funeral than Neon Bible, with most of the songs following a common theme of living in the suburbs. It feels a lot more intimate than their earlier albums, and there are no big, powerful songs like “Wake Up” or “No Cars Go”, although “Month of May” is becoming one of my favorite songs. I’ve listened to the full album at least once a day since it was released, and I really love it.

I’m thrilled that this album reached #1 on Billboard’s album charts, for the first time. Usually I hate most of the top albums on the charts.

Members of Tinariwen detained in Denver

Members of the group Tinariwen have posted a message on their Facebook page saying that they were stopped at Denver airport on their way to DC and arrested by TSA. Unfortunately this is an all-too-common situation for artists visiting the US.

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If you haven’t heard of Tinariwen, they’re a west African group of Toureg nomads who play some of the most hypnotic, intoxicating music.