‘These Go to Eleven’: Album Picks for 2011 and Hometown Accolades

Santafe.com - December 29, 2011

"This list would not be complete without looking within our own music community..."

I love reductive lists of any kind, so I enjoy the ritual of compiling my favorite albums into a tidy summary at the end of the year. And although the list rarely captures the breadth of my musical interests, which is a polite way of saying that I’m exposed to a lot of terrible music, it serves several purposes.

A reminder of how long and often difficult the journey is for a piece of music to realize itself upon the ears of listeners. In an era of democratized art, music making has never been easier and more likely to be epically ignored with the glut of delusional wannabes. True, the bands and musicians on this list have the label support, fame and established to semi-established careers to ensure some level of visibility. Nevertheless, with big careers there is often the absence of risk or, at the very least, neutered vitality and hunger, so it’s nice when big names do something out of the comfort zone.

Musicianship should be acknowledged. Don’t be fooled. When you have only five conglomerates owning all the major media outlets, the choices for quality within the mainstream are slim to non-existent. Musicians of the Justin Bieber ilk are little more than tools that leverage products: music, cologne/perfume, clothing, etc., through the corporate properties within. The younger the musician, the longer the shelf life zeroed squarely on tween spending power. When there is a true artist among the ranks, we shall salute. 

Moby once quipped that music festivals were ideal music venues (or something like that), because they offer expansive variety. “Nobody eats only one kind of food, why should they listen to one kind of music?” he mused, choking back the self-righteous hubris. If any value is to come from this list, it's the bibliographical sourcing for all of the musical styles represented here. Follow the breadcrumbs, understand the derivative connections and soon you’ll begin to realize the difference between bands like Nickleback and everyone else.

Resist the Playlist. This may seem counter-intuitive when you think about radio and the infancy of mainstream music released and promoted one 45 single at a time since the 1950s; Steve Jobs was merely preaching the iTunes hymnal to the choir. At their best, these albums resist non-sequitor ordering in exchange for a cohesive atmosphere. I’m not suggesting that these are concept albums, but they do create experiences much larger than individual songs, which shores up my admiration for each release and should be consumed Dark-Side-of-the-Moon style. 

It goes to 11. Why? When Tom Waits releases an album, it goes on the list.           

Ryan Adams
"Ashes and Fire"

Band of Horses
"Infinite Arms"

Black Keys
"El Camino"

Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi

Kanye West and Jay Z
"Watch the Throne"

TV on the Radio
"Nine Types of Light"

Theophilus London
"Timez Are Weird These Days"

Yo Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile
"The Goat Rodeo Sessions"

Betty Wright
"The Movie"

The Joy Formidable
"The Big Roar"

Tom Waits
"Bad as Me"

2011 A Year in Santa Fe Music

This list would not be complete without looking within our own music community. 

Most Valuable Player

Margaret Burke. An absolute gem and unsung hero in our music community.

Best Music You Haven’t Heard Yet, But Need To Immediately

Proxemics. Alex Neville is arguably one of Santa Fe’s most important musicians.

Biggest Pain in the Ass

Bill Palmer: We tolerate him because we know he is most often right and he makes great music.

Nicest Friggen Guy in the Scene

Sean Healen: Sean makes Santa Fe vastly more interesting by simply being himself…friggen guy.

Most Important Individual in Local Music

Tim Franke: Provided CPR to a lackluster music scene (again).

Best Room to Hear Music

Tin Star Saloon: A great bar without the hassle of being a “scene.”

Best Reason to Get off the Couch and Go Out on a Weekday

Broomdust Caravan at Tiny’s: Is there really anything else I need to say?

Best Unlikely Music Venue Where You Can Bring the Kids and Can Probably Get Away With Wearing a Snuggie

Real Food Nation: Locally sourced musicians with locally sourced foods.

Most Improved Band in 365 Days

The Bus Tapes. The Tanner Family has found their footing.

Best New Band That Will Make Every Other Band Want to Play Better

Pollo Frito: Let’s hope we see a lot more of these guys in 2012.

Best Performance

Joe West and the Santa Fe Revue (October 14). A brilliant idea matched only by brilliant musicians.

Best Local Song Released This Year That You Wish You Would Have Written

“She Loves Me” Anthony Leon and the Chain: Raw, Unrepentant, Dead-On Money.

Most Important Organization in Local Music

The Candyman Strings and Things Rock School: An unimaginable cool resource for aspiring musicians.

Most Misunderstood Musician

Gordon Free: Say what you will. This guy can write an unapologetic pop candy better than anyone else in Santa Fe and can fill a room because of it.

Best Thing to Look Forward to in 2012

The Sticky playing every Wednesday in January at the Rouge Cat: A Pete Williams’ Funk Joint…Word.