We may one day look back on 2011 as the year that streaming music finally took hold and gained a large audience. While many services such as Rhapsody, Mog, Rdio and Grooveshark have existed for a while (especially Rhapsody) it took a European service called Spotify to get people excited about streaming audio. Well, that and Facebook. Yes, 2011 was also the year that Facebook integrated streaming audio within their borders by partnering with services such as Spotify, Mog, and Rdio. Suddenly millions of people could listen to pretty much any song they wanted to for free. There were also millions of us who eagerly dished out $10 a month for unlimited music anywhere. For those of us who consider their phone to be their musical hub, this just made sense. If you are prone to buying at least one album a month then it’s kind of a no-brainer. The hardest part is getting over the mentality that you must own all your music. Collections are nice but they take up space and CDs are just simply not as valuable as old vinyl. Rip your music and sell your CDs!
There is one album that I would have never gotten, or gotten into, if it weren’t for having a streaming service. That would be the self-titled album by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes. It’s just one of those albums that sneaks up on you and grabs you. This album came out in 2009. I had heard of it. I just never heard any of it. I knew two songs were used in commercials and they were catchy. But I had no reason to just go out and buy it. Turns out it’s a great album. To me, it has this peace and love commune thing going on. There are 10 members in this band, that might have something to do with it. “Home” will crawl into your ear and not leave for a few hours. You might find yourself whistling this tune for a while. The whole album is a pleasure. I look forward to their next offering.
What else was musically important in 2011? Well for Rock music, the Foo Fighters showed that it isn’t entirely dead yet. There may not be many Rock stations left on the radio, but Rock music is alive and well. Well, Rock is alive at least. But the Foos went old school and decided to make an analog album in Dave Grohl’s garage. “Wasting Light” is my favorite album in 2011. It rocks you, hard. It also is up for an “album of the year” Grammy.
My next favorite album of 2011 is Rome by Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi. Both of these guys channeled their love of classic Italian spaghetti western film music and created a very cool album that also features vocal performances by Jack White and Norah Jones. They even got some of the singers and players who worked on the original “The Good, the Bad, and the ugly” soundtrack. You would be a happier person if you jumped on Spotify and gave it a listen.
I’ve always been a Duran Duran fan. They’re great musicians and they write great pop songs. I’m not a huge pop fan but I’ll always have a soft spot for these guys. Given that, there’s no denying that “All You Need is Now” is a fantastic album. All 5 original members got back together a few years back and released “Astronaut”. It was good but not great. It just didn’t really feel like the original Duran Duran. Then Andy Taylor (guitar) left the band again. Enter Mark Ronson. Being a huge Duranie himself, he approached the band and said he wanted to produce their album. He approached the project as if it were a follow-up to the classic, Rio. It shows, too. You hear all kinds of sounds and riffs that take you back. This album feels and sounds like the Duran Duran of the eighties. They even convinced 5 of the original super models to portray the members in the “Girl Panic!” video. Check it out.
Another great thing that happened in 2011 was that The Cars got back together and made an album. The cool thing about this album is that it sounds like The Cars, not The Cars trying to sound new or modern. “Move Like This” turned out to be a great album that gave you what you expected from this band. Considering how modern these guys were in the eighties, their sound still sounds fresh! They respectfully choose not to replace Benjamin Orr on bass. Here’s hoping they don’t wait another 24 years before making another album.
Danger Mouse makes another appearance on my list with the latest from Broken Bells. His collaboration with James Mercer, of the Shins, continued with the release of the Meyrin Fields EP. These guys have put out 1 album and 1 EP and both are fantastic. Danger Mouse has become one of my favorite modern musicians. His tireless work ethic (he’s worked with Beck, The Black Keys, Gorillaz, Daniel Luppi, Sparlehorse, Broken Bells, Gnarls Barkley, and more all within the last few years.) and his admiration and knowledge of all types of music has made him a force of musical pleasure.
Eddie Vedder released “Ukulele Songs” and it was good. It’s just Eddie and a ukulele. It’s a great album that most people who I’ve played it for have enjoyed.
They Might Be Giants went back to basics and released “Join Us”. It sounds like old school TMBG. The two Johns dropped the backup band and made an album that is a lot of fun to listen to.
Jane’s Addiction released “The Great Escape Artist”. I liked it a lot but not everybody did. If you are a fan of “Ritual de lo Habitual” or “Nothing’s Shocking” then this might not be your favorite Jane’s album. However, if you really dug “Strays” then you will probably like “The Great Escape Artist”.
One More Thing
There is an album that came out in 2003 that I never knew about and never heard. It was the final album by a punk icon who died before completing it. The album is Streetcore by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. I found out about the album this year from watching Julien Temple’s “Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten” and pulled it up on Spotify the next day. What a great album it is. Go check it out.
What were some of your favorites this year?