Here, in no particular order, are my choices for the 2011 releases that I keep coming back to.
tUnE-yArDs – WHOKILL
Merril Garbus weaves her African influence, her loop boxes, and her DIY spirit into something totally new and compelling. A big, bold voice with something to say.
Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest
I didn’t see a lot of live music in 2011, but Gillian Welch and David Rawlings in Chicago was a real highlight. This album is full of great songs that sound as if they could have been written any time in the last 75 years.
Deep Blue Organ Trio – Wonderful!
Soulful groovin’ organ trio from Chicago, playing Stevie Wonder tunes with fresh new interpretations. Jazz comfort food!
Fountains of Wayne – Sky Full of Holes
I’m a sucker for intelligent, literate pop music, and this filled the bill this year. Raymond Carver meets the Ray-Beats. Recommended for fans of Squeeze.
A terrific new quartet with rising stars Joshua Redman on sax and Seattle native Aaron Parks on piano. Great compositions and thoughtful improvisation. Take a listen even if you think you don’t like jazz.
Larry Goldings – In My Room
A lovely, contemplative, (mostly) solo piano set from Larry Goldings.
Miles Davis Quintet – Live in Europe 1967
Miles’ great quintet captured at the height of their power – 3 CDs and a DVD. One of the high water marks in all of jazz.
Bernstein Goldings Stewart – Live At Small’s
Another fine example of the modern organ trio. This long-standing grouping plays empathically together.
Ry Cooder – Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down
Who better than Ryland P. Cooder to take on the role of Woody Guthrie for the 99%?
Sunna Gunnlaugs – Long Pair Bond
Two years in a row for Icelandic pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs on my list. This record rewards repeated listening!
Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’
The best of new soul, where Raphael transcends the retro act to produce a new and joyous sound.
The Decembrists – The King Is Dead
In which Colin Malloy and company leave the pretension behind and make great rock tunes.
Just getting into: