Ian Cunningham: Premature Ejamulation 2011

7 Jan

Introduction: Two of our band members – lead singer, Griffin Taylor, and drummer, Ian Cunningham – have each picked their 20 favorite albums of 2011.

As Griffin has already put out an exemplary list of albums, I didn’t want to just reorder his picks so instead I decided to only list albums that had previously gone unmentioned.

20. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain
19. Phantogram – Nightlife EP
18. Typhoon – A New Kind of House
17. The Belle Brigade – The Belle Brigade
16. Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears – Scandalous
15. The Cave Singers – No Witch
14. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse
13. The Kills – Blood Pressure
12. Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’
11. tUnE-YarDs – w h o k i l l
10. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing
09. Various Artists – Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
08. Little Hurricane – Homewrecker
07. Drew Grow & the Pastor’s Wives – Drew Grow & the Pastor’s Wives
06. Feist – Metals
05. Allen Stone – Allen Stone
04. Adele – 21
03. Charles Bradley – No Time for Dreaming
02. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
01. Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal 

20. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain

By their sixth album, The Black Lips now know their way around the block. For Arabia Mountain, the group cleaned up their sound and became a little less low-fi while still maintaining their garage-rock identity. In a fashion similar to The Ramones, only two of the 16 tracks on the album are longer than 3 minutes.


19. Phantogram – Nightlife EP 

Okay so it’s an EP and not actually an album, but if I made a list of my favorite singles of 2011 “Don’t Move” would be in the top five. In an attempt to live up to their first album, Phantogram accidentally surpasses it with this fantastic collection of trip-pop.


18. Typhoon – A New Kind of House

I saw Typhoon live last month and it lived up to all of my expectations. With 12 members in the band, Typhoon gives new meaning to the term “orchestral.”  Unlike bands such as Arcade Fire who seem to have a ton of people on stage just to throw drumsticks at each other and break shit, this massive lineup is a key piece of what makes the band so entertaining and so powerful.  However, as powerful as it is, the album is only 22 minutes long and seems to end before fully reaching it’s potential.


17. The Belle Brigade – The Belle Brigade

This is my pick for the best country album of 2011. I’ve listened to “Losers” more than almost any other song this year. The Belle Brigade reminds me a lot of the early work of The Avett Brothers. The vocal harmonies of Barbara and Ethan Gruska are so incredible; this is the sort of quality pop music you wish was still being played on the radio.


16. Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears – Scandalous 

I saw Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears in 2007 at the Crystal Ballroom when they opened for Spoon and it was by far the best part of the concert. With a strong rhythm & blues influence, Scandalous reminds me a cross between James Brown’s funk scene and Muddy Waters’ Electric Mud. Black Joe Lewis is about as funky as it gets.


15. The Cave Singers – No Witch

No Witch is one of those perfect travel albums. There’s nothing better than driving down the highway, staring out your window, and listening to these Seattle natives’ soothing indie folk.


14. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

Bill Callahan reminds me of The National. Yes they both have a deep voiced male vocalist, but beyond that, both artists write songs that have the ability to seem distant and hardened, yet warm and comfortable at the same time.


13. The Kills – Blood Pressure

The duo of garage rockers return with their fourth album and it is raw. With an obvious influence from lead singer Alison Mosshart’s recent stint with Jack White’s The Dead Weathers, this album is heavy hitting rock. It’s dirty, gritty and loud while still remaining creative and interesting – Everything I love in a rock group.


12. Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’

The 45 year-old who looks like he’s 20. Gaining R&B fame as a member of Tony! Toni! Toné!, Raphael Saadiq has been bringing Motown back into the mainstream for a few years now and Stone Rollin’ is one of his strongest productions yet. With Stone Rollin’, Saadiq reminds us why groups like The Temptations, The Jackson 5, and Martha Reeves are still relevant today.


11. tUnE-YarDs – w h o k i l l

Merrill Garbus is one of the least attractive people I have ever seen in my life. She also has one of the weirdest and most awesome voices I have ever heard.


10. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing

My dark horse album that I just discovered earlier this week. This album has hints of The Decemberists, Band of Horses, Wilco, and Telekinesis all rolled into one. This is one of the strongest indie rock albums I have heard in a long time.


9. Various Artists – Drive (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

This is the first soundtrack to make my top albums list and that’s because as a compilation, it holds up even without the film. This album sounds like an extension of M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming in all of it’s Depeche Mode-loving, synth-heavy, 80s pop glory.


8. Little Hurricane – Homewrecker

The Black Keys can go f#$% themselves. This SoCal duo knows how to shred and it’s not often that I can get behind a band with a female drummer – I’m not sexist, it’s just most female drummers seem extremely uncomfortable behind the drums and that in turn makes me feel uncomfortable (ex. Point Juncture, WA, Best Coast, Dum Dum Girls). Little Hurricane is everything I wish The White Stripes had been.


7. Drew Grow & the Pastor’s Wives – Drew Grow & the Pastor’s Wives

Portlandia natives, Drew Grow & the Pastors Wives are my favorite local band of the year. My friend Shawn describes them as “a bunch of 40 year-old wannabe hipsters” but who cares how they look if they’re busting out this insanely solid music. This album will make you want to pop open a PBR and go bike riding through a densely urban setting.


6. Feist – Metals

Leslie Feist is the greatest thing ever to come out of Canada! 2007’s The Reminder was great, Metals is even better. It has to have been good considering she got Beck to remix “How Come You Never Go There” and Beck doesn’t do that shit for just anybody.


5. Allen Stone – Allen Stone

Washington native Singer/Songwriter Allen Stone is no stranger to Seattle. He’s a frequent guest on KEXP and he’s playing a show at The Neptune next Saturday. He joins Merrill Garbus on the list of most awkward people I’ve ever seen in my life but who freaking cares when the guy has an incredible vocal ranges and frequently channels Stevie Wonder (one of my favorite artists ever). “Unaware (Live from His Mother’s Basement)” was the first time I heard Stone and it was all I needed to become hooked. His self-titled sophomore album was recorded in L.A. with a powerhouse of R&B musicians and is a fantastic collection of upbeat R&B. I also recommend his Full Performance (Live on KEXP) from December, which is available on YouTube.


4. Adele – 21

It was the #1 album of the year on pretty much every chart you can think of, the top grossing tour of the year, and had three singles at #1 for multiple weeks each (“Set Fire to the Rain” is currently still #2 on iTunes). You can complain all you want about the mainstream pop scene but there is a reason Adele was so successful this year and it’s because this album is so damn great. By now we’re all probably sick and tired of “Rolling in the Deep” but 21 has so much more to offer. “He Won’t Go” is my favorite song on the album – a great R&B groove with solid drumming and a bad-ass bass line. I also typically have a problem with people covering The Cure (Ben Folds, I’m looking at you) but Adele’s cover of “Lovesong” is fantastic. If you haven’t listened to it yet, climb out from under your rock – it’s been out since February. Adele is the next Aretha Franklin, I’m just sayin’.


3. Charles Bradley – No Time for Dreaming

If you watch the music video for “The World (Is Going Up in Flames),” I’m pretty sure Charles Bradley is actually that homeless guy Ted Williams with the golden voice. That being said, this album is absolutely incredible. If Bradley isn’t actually a homeless guy with crazy pipes, my next guess is that he’s the reincarnation of James Brown. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of obscure soul artists from the 70s (Billy Preston, Darondo, James Carr, Tyrone Davis) and Bradley holds up to the best of them. I love the scene of artists bringing back the sounds of early soul, Raphael Saadiq, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, and now Charles Bradley. He’s been nicknamed “The Screaming Eagle of Soul” and I can’t think of a more fitting title.


2. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Every hipster you know and their grandma has named Wounded Rhymes as one of their favorite albums of 2011 and they are definitely correct in doing so. One of the strongest sophomore albums of the year, Wounded Rhymes provides a perfect balance of dark synth with upbeat percussion and sexy vocals. While writing the album, Li spent a large portion of time alone in the desert. The result is a collection of enticing, heartache ballads. Li is Alice and Wounded Rhymes is her Wonderland. From “I Follow Rivers” to “Jerome”, you feel like you’re in an indie version of LOTR – Only this time, Frodo is a ridiculously attractive Swedish chick who knows how to wail.


1. Of Monsters and Men – My Head is an Animal

You wouldn’t guess it, but Iceland is the birthplace of some really great music (Emilíana Torrini, Björk, Jónsi, Sigur Rós). Most recently comes this six-piece indie folk group, which gives mainstream folkies like Mumford and Sons a serious run for their money. My Head is an Animal has a lot of the indie qualities similar to groups such as Local Natives but with strong choruses and harmonies that are comparable to Arcade Fire (Rolling Stone Magazine has actually labeled them the “New Arcade Fire”). I found Of Monsters and Men while browsing KEXP’s website last month ago it was definitely my favorite discovery of the year. They are currently one of the biggest bands in Iceland and I predict them venturing into our radio stations in the next few months. Not bad for a debut album.

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