It's that time of year, folks. Time for people to tell you what you should have been paying attention to over the past twelve months. With that responsibility in mind, I present the Flashlights 2011 Top 20 Musicians/Albums of the Year. Do you have any idea how difficult this was to narrow down!?!
20. Counting Crows - August & Everything After: Live at Town Hall
When I first saw that this album was being released, I could not have been more excited -- my favorite Counting Crows album performed (almost) in its entirety and released as a live album. Truth be told, I was quite disappointed in this album as it was pretty much a regurgitation of every other live Counting Crows recording I've heard -- complete with the same old variations on the same old songs. Still, the concept alone warrants the #20 spot on my list.
19. Dan Reeder
I realize that Dan Reeder did not actually release anything new in 2011 but I am including him in my list because I had never given him a proper listen until this year. There are very few songs that I would describe as "beautiful" but his song "Maybe" off This New Century is one of the few.
18. Hayes Carll - KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories)
I'm not in agreement with the critics who say that this is the best offering yet from Hayes Carll -- that title is still reserved for Trouble in Mind. Overall, I'm not as impressed with this album as most people are; however, Stomp and Holler and the title track earn this album a spot on my list.
17. Gurf Morlix - Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream
I've always enjoyed the music of Gurf Morlix. There's not much better to sit back and sip some whiskey to. This album, a tribute to the late Blaze Foley, is packed with more of the usual toe-tappin' sounds of Gurf Morlix.
16. Limp Bizkit - Gold Cobra
I'm somewhat embarassed to include this album on this list. Call it a guilty pleasure, I suppose. Back in my college days I used to listen to these guys when they were at the height of their popularity. I still think Fred Durst is a gigantic idiot but this album is nothing short of a blast from the past -- juvenile lyrics set to a hardcore sound that you can't help but bob your head to.
15. Justin Townes Earle - Slippin' and Slidin' 7"
Of course, the main song on this release is great -- the whole album it comes from is top notch. But this being a second of two limited edition vinyl releases from JTE that came on Record Store Day #2 this year (Black Friday), it definitely deserves a spot on my list. Not only is Justin Townes Earle my favorite artist of the past few years, his cover of Randy Newman's Louisiana 1927 made this 7" worth every penny and every bit of the effort to track it down.
14. William Elliott Whitmore - Field Song
I picked up this album at my local library a few months ago. I popped it in my car's CD player as soon as I hit the parking lot and bought a copy of my own as soon as I got home. A five minute drive from the library to home is all it took to hook me on this one.
13. Zane Williams - Ride With Me
I've been listening to Zane Williams for a long time. While he comes very close to that type of country music that I can't stand, I've held on to him since his early days. He's just unique enough that he doesn't cross that line to the sounds of mainstream country. While I prefer his earlier work, Ride With Me is another decent effort from this humble musician.
12. Middle Brother - Middle Brother
Ironically, my brother turned me on to this album by giving it to over the summer as a birthday gift. Personally, I think it was a subtle effort to get me to listen to Deer Tick. Either way, it's great -- start to finish.
11. Tommy Womack - There I Said It
Yes, I realize this album came out more than four years ago. I've always enjoyed Tommy's music but had never given it a true listen until earlier this year. I would recommend every one of his albums without hesitation, but There I Said It is over the top. Had it come from 2011, this would be #1 on this list.
10. Justin Townes Earle - Move Over Mama 7"
Another limited edition release from my favorite musican over the past few years. Again, a bit of trouble tracking it down but the B-Side makes it worth all the effort -- a cover of Springsteen's Racing in the Streets.
9. I Love: Tom T. Hall's Songs of Fox Hollow
Eric Brace and Peter Cooper blew it out of the water on this one. I picked up a copy of the original version of Tom T. Hall's Songs of Fox Hollow at a record sale a few years back. This tribute coming from some of my favorite musicians was a welcomed surprise (Congrats on the Grammy nomination!).
8. Deer Tick - Divine Providence
I can admit when I'm wrong. Despite my brother's constant urging, I've held out on listening to Deer Tick for several years now. Until this year, that is. After the Middle Brother release, I was a little more apt to give this one a try and I'm glad I did. You win again, brother.
7. Will Hoge - Number Seven
A long-time favorite of mine, this one took a listen or two before I really latched on to it. Once I gave this album its deserved listen, I'd say it's one of Will Hoge's best yet.
6. Olds Sleeper/Jellyspine Jenkins
Olds Sleeper has been this year's Cinderella story for me. Initially recommended to me by a friend, I quickly took a liking to his rough and raw sound. If you've got a full bottle and a warm fire, I'd recommend putting on some Olds Sleeper and enjoying your evening. If you like what you hear, check out his side project, Jellyspine Jenkins.
5. Scroobius Pip - Distraction Pieces
British hip-hop with a message. I've been listening to Pip for a long time. His most recent solo offering is full of opinion and beats -- both of which I fully appreciate. I'd recommend saving a few bucks by picking up this album through Amazon.uk.
4. Andy D - Songs in the Key of Magic
I was first introduced to Andy D through a video link shared by my brother. Sure, his denim vest, cut-off shorts, and fanny pack are all part of his stage presence...but I'm telling you, this guy can rhyme! Two albums in with a third on the way this spring, it's time you got freaky with the D!
3. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committe Part 2
Probably the most anticipated album of my 2012. I'm happy to say that Mike D, MCA, and Ad Rock have stayed true to their roots and released another album packed with old school flavor. Forget modern trends...this is hip-hop.
2. Government Cheese - Anthology 1985-1995
Two discs packed with underrated late 80s/early 90s rock 'n' roll.
Buy. This. Now!
1. Mat Kearney - Young Love
I'm as shocked as you are that this album is my #1 of the year. Looking past the fact that this is your typical VH1-style album, I cannot get enough. Mat Kearney has come up with what I consider to be the perfect album. A little style. A little soul. A little head bobbin' baseline.
Well done, Mat Kearney. Well done.