There were refreshing new albums from veteran acts. Debut records from up and coming rock and rollers. An impressive effort from hip-hop legends turned TV stars. And a self released single that millions flocked to hear online. Yes, 2011 was chock-full of great music. We hear about the best new music of the year - according to our two favorite Steve’s - former music critic and author of Rock n Roll Will Save Your Life Steve Almond and NPR Music’s Stephen Thompson.
The Barr Brothers – The Barr Brothers
Sonia Leigh – December 1978
The Wealthy West - The Wealthy West
Gordon Vincent – Mechanical Breakdown
Butch Walker and the Black Widows – Spade
Mt Peru - Mt Peru
Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside - Dirty Radio
Joe Henry - Reverie
Tom Waits - Bad As Me
Gillian Welch - The Harrow & the Harvest
Eef Berzalay - Fan Chosen Covers
Occupy Santa – Alastair Moock
Julianna Barwick - The Magic Place
One woman behind a keyboard shouldn't be able to produce a sound as grandiose and full-blooded as Julianna Barwick does on The Magic Place, a mesmerizing collection of ambient quasi-choral music.
Real Estate - Days
Real Estate melds generations' worth of bygone sounds, mixing the garage-based pop of the '60s with the dorm-based rock of the '90s without losing its grip on modern-day disillusionment.
Blind Pilot - We Are The Tide
The duo-turned-sextet's We Are the Tide, is the sound of gorgeously produced consistency -- of a confident, fleshed-out band making sturdy folk-orchestral pop that practically shimmers with hooky sweetness.
Rihanna - Talk That Talk
You don't often get to be a pop star of Rihanna's magnitude and staying power without indulging in a bit of thorny provocation
The Roots - undun
Given how much time The Roots' members spend working as the house band for Jimmy Fallon's late-night talk show, you wouldn't expect the group to keep making records as provocative and vital as undun, a song cycle about a doomed inner-city kid The Roots named for a Sufjan Stevens song, of all things.
Wilco - The Whole Love
The Whole Love is speckled with highlights, but it's never better than during its amazing bookends
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Diamond Mine
There's not a false, unsteady or otherwise wasted moment here. In short, it's perfect.
Bon Iver - Bon Iver
No record in 2011 demanded (and rewarded) as much curiosity and study as this one did.
Wye Oak - Civilian
Civilian enshrouds its own seething, moody weirdness in alternately raging and brooding beauty.
Release The Sunbird -Come Back To Us
A sun-dappled headache remedy for every season, Come Back to Us is the work of Zach Rogue, who made a few enjoyably fizzy pop records as leader of the band Rogue Wave.
The kerfuffle over Lana Del Rey's "Video Games."
Smile of Rachel Ray – David Mead