2011 Chris List - Recordings Both Naughty and Nice

- December 23, 2011

Chris-in-the-Morning made a list, and checked it twice...

Editor's Note: We want to hear your reaction to Chris' picks. Beirut on the "naughty" list? Mumford & Sons topping the "nice"? What do you think were the musical highlights of the year? Post on our comment feed below this article.


1 – MUMFORD & SONS – The Cave
Yes, technically a 2010 single release, but got most of its Project spins in 2011.  Beautiful three-minute, 38-second crescendo.  Still not sure how a folk band gets love from alternative radio, but it works for me.
2 – FOSTER the PEOPLE – Pumped Up Kicks
I predict this will be the template that all ensuing alterna-pop songs attempt to mimic for the next decade.  The album’s pretty good, too.
3 – DECEMBERISTS – Down by the Water
I actively loathed this band until this album came out.  Now they’re one of my favorite bands of the year.
A churning, formidable assault on your eardrums.  Heavy rock and melody beautifully reconciled.
5 – BEN HARPER – Rock N’ Roll Is Free
A nearly perfect rock n’roll song, plain and simple.
6 – TV on the Radio – Will Do
This one haunted me for weeks.  Several versions to choose from on the disc, all catchy.  A great disc nearly all the way through, somehow both earthy and ethereal.
7 – CARS – Sad Song
Have they just been sitting on these recordings for a quarter century?  Now that an actual '80s band – yes, the late '70s count as '80s – has shown the kids how it’s done, I’ve noticed there aren’t as many feeble attempts at reviving that style.  Saweet.
8 – CIVIL WARS – Barton Hollow
Another recording that just plain haunted me from the get go.  Another folk band mysteriously making their way onto alternative playlists.
9 – IMELDA MAY – Mayhem
This lady just knocks me out.  Rockabilly swagger done right for the first time in years.  Check out her collaboration with Jeff Beck at the Les Paul tribute concert in New York, too.
10 – HEAD and the HEART – Lost in My Mind
Took a few listens for this one to grow on me, but one of the catchiest ditties of the year.  And what the --- ?  Another folk band.  Guess that was the flavor of the year.


1 – GUSTER – Do You Love Me
Everything I’ve heard from them over the years has been tedious at best, schmaltzy at worst.  Incredibly, they managed to outdo themselves on both fronts with this one.
2 – BEIRUT – Santa Fe
I know I’m supposed to love these guys, and I really want to.  But if I had to choose between another listen to this plinky dirge and another root canal, I’d have to seriously consider the latter.
3 – BoDEANS – Blowin’ My Mind
Not that they’ve managed to impress me much in the last 25 years, but now they’re not even trying.  Maybe they should start selling rock-by-numbers kits at Hobby Lobby.
Having trouble sleeping?  Put this on repeat.  Is the Adult Contemporary radio market really that lucrative?  Can we get a comeback from Michael Bolton instead?
5 – BRETT DENNEN – Sydney and Comeback Kid (tie)
I’d think he went with the same producer as Donavon Frankenreiter this time around, except these don’t put me to sleep so much as make me want to bash my stereo against the wall until it’s good and dead.


SUPERHEAVY – Superheavy
I know the decade’s barely begun, but I feel pretty safe in calling this one early.  So many singers.  So little songwriting.