ROUTES & BRANCHES
January 7, 2011
We bring to a close our series of backward glances at the year that was with an Episode focusing on my favorite songs of 2011. It's a much easier list for me to assemble than last week's albums list; either a song is worthy or it's not, whereas an album typically features a dozen or so cuts of varying appeal. I enjoyed Israel Nash Gripka's Barn Doors record enough, but it didn't appear on last week's list, even though the song "Drown" tops this year's collection of favorite songs. This, despite a curious video which depicts Gripka and co. tracking a yeti ... Look it up. For 2011, only 7 out of 20 of the CDs which spawned my favorite tunes were represented on my albums list.
Other interesting factoids: fully one-quarter of the artists below hail from Oregon, as opposed to one representative from Colorado. I find this more interesting than significant, owing perhaps to the fact that my musical ears were raised in The Beaver State.
Fortunately, nobody has developed a fool-proof formula that will predict which music will resonate with me from year to year. Is there a commonality to be found among the yeti-riffic mandolin of Gripka's "Drown", the soul-stirring southern R&B of Alabama Shakes, the driving take-no-prisoners "punkabilly" of the Von Ehrics, and Lindi Ortega's sweet and sultry country-leaning americana? Other than the fact that I exhausted my weekly allowance for hyphens in the previous sentence? File it all under the heading, "The Very Best Of Americana, Alt.country and Roots Music" as far as I'm concerned, but I'm proud of the diversity in this list.
Finally, my favorite lyric of the last 365 days stems from my second favorite song: Unfazed by pain, unfazed by love, unfazed by rain that won't let up / Unfazed by debts I'll never pay, unfazed by blonde hair turning grey / Unfazed by dreams we left behind, unfazed by jokes there's no punch line / Unfazed by death she's my blushing bride, unfazed by living until I die ... The bridge to a song that strikes me as one long sigh, a direct glance into the pleasures and pains of a middle-aged life. All of a sudden, many of us are nearer to 50 than to 40, with so much to celebrate, a fair amount to regret, and more hope than anything else. At the end of 2011, we're blessed by something as simple as music:
We can dance all night if we fill up the juke / Fill up the juke, fill up the juke, fill up the juke ...
My Favorite Songs of 2011
2) Dolorean, "Unfazed" The Unfazed (Partisan, 1/18)
3) Kasey Anderson & the Honkies, "Exit Ghost" Heart Of a Dog (Red River, 2/15)
4) Blitzen Trapper, "Love the Way You Walk Away" American Goldwing (Sub Pop, 9/13)
5) Alabama Shakes, "You Ain't Alone" Alabama Shakes EP (Self, 9/13)
6) Hayes Carll, "KMAG YOYO" KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories) (Lost Hwy, 2/15)
8) Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside, "Danger" Dirty Radio (Partisan, 5/23)
9) Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, "Codeine" Here We Rest (Lightning Rod, 4/12)
10) Duke & the King, "Shaky" Duke & the King (Silva Oak, 8/16)
11) Von Ehrics, "Last Of the Working Slobs" Two Foot Stomp (Lucky Buck, 4/12)
12) Frank Turner, "Peggy Sang the Blues" England Keep My Bones (Epitaph, 6/03)
13) Lydia Loveless, "Can't Change Me" Indestructible Machine (Bloodshot, 9/13)
14) Lindi Ortega, "When All the Stars Align" Little Red Boots (Last Gang, 6/07)
15) Blind Pilot, "Keep You Right" We Are the Tide (Expunged, 9/13)
16) Graham Wilkinson, "Two Days Today" Best Of Times (Sleeveless, 8/23)
18) Patti Fiasco, "Nobody's Girl" Patti Fiasco (Self, 6/22)
19) Austin Lucas, "Darkness Out Of Me" New Home In the Old World (Last Chance, 4/01)
20) JD Malone & the Experts, "Just Like New" Avalon (Self, 7/12)