ETB’s Favorite Music of 2011

I have mixed feelings about end-of-the-year lists: I enjoy reading them, mostly because I’m curious about what records friends and other critics enjoyed throughout the year, and I love that they help me catch up on music I missed or didn’t spend enough time with (because I obviously have listened to every single record that was released in 2011…).

What I have a hard time with is the argument of who made the “best” record. That’s not to say I refuse to participate in the list-making at work — I certainly suggested certain albums should be higher or lower on our list — but it can get a little ridiculous. When I make my own year-end list, it’s just my personal favorites: I don’t mean it to say that one album is definitively better than another in terms of music, lyrics, whatever, or that my picks are better than everything else that came out during the year, but this was the music I connected with, what I listened to the most and what had the biggest effect on me.

Also, because I do use other people’s lists to catch up on what I’ve missed, that means there might be music that came out this year that I’m just now starting to fall in love with (see: Kurt Vile). And if we’re talking about my favorite musical discoveries of the year, there are quite a few artists whose music I heard for the first time in 2011, but they haven’t released anything recently (Patty Griffin, everything Mark Kozelek, Kathleen Edwards — the latter has already made one of my favorites of 2012). And if you ask me in a few months what my favorite 2011 records were, my response might be a little different than the following list. But for now, these were my favorites; my top 10 are in an order that could easy change over and over again, and then a bunch of others I loved listed alphabetically.

ALSO: Here is a mix of 27 songs I really liked this year — from many of these bands — for your downloading pleasure. Enjoy!

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Drinking Tunes: Summer Beer + Music

It’s summer! Which, for me, means free outdoor shows, the Brooklyn Flea, biking, watermelon lemonade, Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, outdoor markets, and drinking on rooftops. It also means crafting the perfect playlist for those rooftop outings; and I’m pretty sure there are more songs I associate with summer than any other season.

I wrote a few words about five songs, new and old, that are perfect for the sun and my friend Bret Stetka, who writes about food and drinks for Time Out New York, Metromix and MSN.com (he also has a doughnut blog), paired them each with a beer that complements the music and the mood, and explained why they work together. Cheers! (Also check out our spring beer edition.)


http://grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf
THE SONG: PJ Harvey, “You Said Something”
All of PJ Harvey’s 2000 album Stories From the City, Stories from the Sea makes me want to walk aimlessly around New York in the summer, but “You Said Something” pretty much sums up what I plan to be doing all season in the city — not so much the “you said something” part, but looking at the Manhattan skyline from my Brooklyn rooftop. Don’t even try to get me to go anywhere else on the 4th of July.
THE BEER: Sixpoint Tallboys (Sixpoint Craft Ales, Brooklyn, NY)
Not to take anything away from the next four pairings, but come summer, really all I want to do is listen to music and drink canned beer on a Brooklyn roof somewhere. Enter Sixpoint tallboys! Previously all-draft, Sixpoint’s May announcement that they’d started canning was big news for Brooklyn beer drinkers — the consistently great taste of one of the borough’s best breweries combined with the casual allure of cans. Plus aluminum is far more appropriate than glass in precarious rooftop situations [Especially ones, like mine, that involve climbing a ladder. — Laura]. Sixpoint is now distributing four of their beers in 16-ounce cans — Sweet Action, Righteous Ale, The Crisp and Bengali Tiger IPA — all of which are on the lighter side and ideal for summer.


http://grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf
THE SONG: The Breeders, “Cannonball”
A lyric from this song inspired the name of the album it’s on, The Breeders’ 1993 LP Last Splash. Even though the video follows around an actual cannonball (erm, likely a bowling ball in disguise), the energy and the underwater singing/whistling will always make me think of bratty kids doing cannonballs into a public pool, splashing everyone around them.
THE BEER: My Antonia (Dogfish Head, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware)
Agreed: “Cannonball” reminds me of the reckless side of summer, as does Dogfish Head’s bold take on a Pilsner. It’s bigger and brasher than the traditional Czech and German originals: more sweetness, more hoppiness, and — at 7.5% ABV — more alcohol. It’s all fun-loving bluster like the track’s prominent, awesomely-’90s bass line.


http://grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf
THE SONG: Yellow Ostrich, “WHALE”
Yellow Ostrich — aka guitarist/vocalist Alex Schaaf, multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez and drummer Michael Tapper — make music that’s bright and breezy; especially this track from their LP The Mistress (which was self-released online, then put out exclusively through eMusic Selects, and soon it’ll see a proper release through Barsuk). Schaaf uses vocal and guitar loops to tell a story about swimming “far into the blue” with a whale, and he has other animal-inspired tracks that are equally whimsical.
THE BEER: Field Mouse’s Farewell (Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, Cambridge, Mass.)
Yellow Ostrich builds complexity from simple components. Low-key vocal loops and minimalist percussion merge into an awesomely catchy summer trance; Pretty Things’ equally approachable yet intricately-crafted Field Mouse’s Farewell is the perfect pairing. This refreshing, rustic ale is brewed with rye, oats, wheat and barley and should please even casual beer drinkers — but beer geeks will appreciate the perfectly balanced spice, lemony tartness and touch of fruity banana. And like a song about swimming with a whale, the folks at Pretty Things don’t take themselves too seriously — the label features a field mouse hitting the road with an over-the-shoulder satchel, hobo style.


http://grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf
THE SONG: Architecture in Helsinki, “Escapee”
On their recent LP Moment Bends, Architecture in Helsinki shed some of their super-twee roots in favor of pure dance-pop — and it’s a great fit. “Escapee” is perfect for a summer party, with lyrics about looking at constellations on a rooftop, getting out the dark, and escaping.
THE BEER: Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier (Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan, Freising, Germany)
Hefeweizens — a German beer variety brewed with wheat in addition to barley — tend to be light, refreshing and nice and dry. Hence, they’re perfect for warm weather. Like AiH’s high-energy, bubbly dance pop, this classic take on the style is effervescent and bright with hints of banana and clove. Just don’t try to pronounce it.


http://grooveshark.com/songWidget.swf
THE SONG: Wild Nothing, “Summer Holiday”
“Summer Holiday,” from Wild Nothing’s excellent 2010 debut Gemini, is a reverb-soaked love song about vacationing to a lover’s parents’ house and having to sleep in their brother’s bedroom, during which frontman Jack Tatum sings, “Won’t you sneak into my room and climb under the covers, talk nonsense in your sleep?”
THE BEER: Sorachi Ace (Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY)
Virginia college music isn’t all Dave Matthews jammery: Wild Nothing founder and Virginia Tech alum Jack Tatum’s songwriting brings to mind Morrissey and doesn’t include a single 10-minute electric violin solo. It’s sophisticated and moody yet approachable and Sorachi Ace is a great match. This beer is seriously amazing — one of Brooklyn Brewery’s best. It’s super dry, spicy and complex with an earthy edge and a summery burst of intense carbonation.

Follow This Foodie: Carlye Wisel of Big Ugly Yellow Couch


(Photos by Donald Rasmussen)

When Carlye Wisel and Donald Rasmussen moved to New York from Chicago, they brought with them a seven-foot-long yellow couch, and it eventually became a place where bands came to play acoustic sets in their Brooklyn apartment, which are then filmed for their blog, Big Ugly Yellow Couch. Since then, the couch has gone through a horrendous building fire and a couple of apartments, but the site is still up and running, with videos of up-and-coming bands like Phantogram, Oh Land, and one of my faves, Yellow Ostrich.

It might not be obvious from looking at the site, but food actually plays a significant role in BUYC: When setting up the sessions, Carlye asks the bands for their favorite snacks, and does her best to have them ready when they get there. She’s also constantly blogging/Tweeting about food, and I’m constantly impressed by her eating abilities (and all of my friends’ eating abilities, for that matter!).

ON THE WEB
Big Ugly Yellow Couch
@biguglyyellow
Awkward City, Population 1
@drivemycarlye

Carlye chatted with me about cooking music, kitchen design, and gluten-free snacking.

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