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Timmy Awards- The Best Albums of 2011

Holy cow. It's 2016 and not only are the Timmys back, they are ON TIME. You can get videos for them all in this YouTube playlist. If you click "play all," it will play them from 50 right on down to #1, with two videos each for albums in the top 5.

The Suffers

50. The Suffers - The Suffers: A ten-piece band from Houston updating Old School soul with plenty of horns.

Mrs. Magician

49. Mrs. Magician - Bermuda: Catchy garage rock influenced power pop from San Diego. "Eyes All Over Town" is one of the catchiest songs I've heard all year.

Weyes Blood

48. Weyes Blood - Front Row Seat To Earth: So there's definitely a Karen Carpenter vibe here, but not in a really retro way like Rumer does. Really interesting soft-rock influenced pop with a little folk and psych thrown in. Kind of in a Joni Mitchell vein as well.


47. Honeyblood - Babes Never Die: These two women from Glasgow bring the punky pop hooks in a Throwing Muses/Veruca Salt way. And I have to thank them for wearing a hat for Pie & Vinyl in one of their promo pics, a UK meat pie shop/record store which I think I need to add to my bucket list...

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

46. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Nonagon Infinity: If the band name and album title didn't give it away, these Australians deal in trippy psychedelia that sometimes feels like it's just going to fly off the rails into chaos.

Robert Ellis

45. Robert Ellis - Robert Ellis: He's a little bit country, he's a little bit...Jackson Browny? Paul Simonish? Randy Newmanesque? Houston singer-songwriter Ellis has Texas in his veins but there is much more going on here.


44. Deakin - Sleep Cycle: On-again, off-again Animal Collective member Deakin's solo debut which sounds like...well, Animal Collective. More of the folky, backwoods side of AC (there's nature sounds in the mix) and less of the hyperactive sound of recent AC work.

Bon Iver

43. Bon Iver - 22, A Million: So I'm still figuring this album out. This isn't just a guy in a cabin in the woods from his debut (ahem) forever ago. There are treated vocals, synths, everything. I may wind up liking this a lot more with repeated listens. It has a lot of the same spirit as his earlier work, but with more experimental tools at his disposal.

Heron Oblivion

42. Heron Oblivion - Heron Oblivion: A freak-psych-folk supergroup, with past Timmy honoree Meg Baird on vocals and drums joined by members of Comets on Fire, Six Organs of Admittance, and Howlin Rain. It sounds like the cover looks - twisted, natural roots giving way to wide open skies, where guitars take off...

Richmond Fontaine

41. Richmond Fontaine - You Can't Go Back If There's Nothing To Go Back To: On their 12th(!) album (and last for a while), leader Will Vlautin takes his lyrics and "Achin' To Be"-era Paul Westerberg vocals and paints a vivid picture (Vlautin has written a handful of novels, too) of Americana that's more Alt-Western than Alt-Country - these guys are twangy but thousands of miles from sounding like Nashville.


40. Matmos - Ultimate Care II: An electronic duo who has always taken unusual sources - surgical procedures, haircuts - as the basis for their intelligent electronica, Matmos found inspiration for their 13th(!) album at home - in the form of their washing machine. Clicks, whirs, beeps, rushes of water join synths to form songs that are both robotic and very human.

William Tyler

39. William Tyler - Modern Country: So the title kind of says it in a nutshell, but it doesn't let on that this an all-instrumental take on a new vision of Americana. It almost veers into soundtrack territory, but the strength of the compositions and playing keeps this from coming too hokey or formulaic.

Elephant Stone

38. Elephant Stone - Ship of Fools: Pop-psych with more than a hint of 90's Britpop - it's no coincidence their band shares a name with a Stone Roses song...

Animal Collective

37. Animal Collective - Painting With: It's no Merriweather Post Pavilion, but it's pretty darn good. Goofy, quirky, melodic, odd, humorous - not for everybody but a deep layered beautiful mess of music for those who dig such messes.

The Coral

36. The Coral - Distance Inbetween: I guess 2016 was a good year for psychedelia, or that's where my tastes leaned a lot this year. The Coral blend Britpop and psych nicely and can get caught in a really good groove when they want to...

Steve Gunn

35. Steve Gunn - Eyes On The Lines: Brooklyn-based Gunn's guitar goes all over the place on this album, sounding like the Grateful Dead at a lot of points, but in a very good way...

Leonard Cohen

34. Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker: Before this album was released, the 82-year old Cohen mentioned to the press that he was ready to die and OK with that; he later retracted that, and died shortly thereafter. His voice is more weathered than ever but is still clear and suits his lyrics, which as the title lets on, are darker than ever. May every artist's last act be this strong.


33. Pinegrove - Cardinal: A little emo at points, Americana in others, this is indie rock that feels like an old t-shirt and jeans - both comfortable and down to earth.

Parquet Courts

32. Parquet Courts - Human Performance: This band is getting more focused with each album, and the songs are catchy, guitar-driven indie rock with some garage and punk influences.

Kanye West

31. Kanye West - The Life of Pablo: Much as I seemed to have more patience and tolerance for Bears QB Jay Cutler than most of the free world, I feel the same can be said about how I feel about Kanye West. I keep expecting his stupidity level to eclipse his musical talent and I could just write him off. I'm not there yet. This album is a good one if you can still listen to him, and I totally get it if you're just sick of his nonsense.


30. De La Soul - and the Anonymous Nobody: As I was figuring out the final rankings, I thought it appropriate to have De La Soul right above Kanye, in a "nice guys finish first" (er, 30th instead of 31st?) kind of way. De La has been quiet in recent years, but they are back strong with some impressive guests: Damon Albarn, David Byrne, Snoop Dogg, Jill Scott and even Justin Hawkins from The Darkness.

Thee Oh Sees

29. Thee Oh Sees - A Weird Exits: The year of psych continues as this California band's 16th album wiggled its way into my brain. Two drummers and splashes of metal and prog rock enhance the freak-outs.


28. Nails - You Will Never Be One Of Us: 22 minutes of the heaviest metal that should appeal to fans of hardcore as well. Not for everyday use perhaps, but if you need full-on assault of guitar driven fury, look no further.


27. Whores - Gold: So with Nails and Whores, I guess this kind of the palate cleanser in the middle of the Timmys - except it's more like a palate removal. While Nails bring their noise from a metal standpoint, Whores come from a metal-informed post punk angle, like Melvins and things the Amphetamine Reptile label used to crank out.

The Comet Is Coming

26. The Comet Is Coming - Channel The Spirits: A London-based jazz/electronic trio that takes influence from Sun Ra and Fela and mashes them up into tribal sci-fi grooves. And their drummer goes by the name Betamax Killer.

Janice Whaley

25. Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered.: If there is ever to be a 2015 Timmys list, Kendrick's To Pimp A Butterfly will be near the top.  These are essentially the outtakes from that album and it's a tribute to how on top of his game Kendrick is right now that these outtakes made my best of list and many others. The sky is the limit for this guy.

The Men

24. The Men - Devil Music: A repeat Timmys honoree, brash post-punk that almost veers out of control but stays in line under the weight of their guitars.

Bonnie Prince Billy

23. Bonnie Prince Billy and Bitchin' Bajas: Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties: Trance-inducing acoustic folk with Will Oldham's vocals reciting fortune cookie messages over the top. The soundtrack for a lazy afternoon in a hammock. Almost collapses by being too hippy-ish, but the music is too interesting to get bogged down by that.


22. Barbarisms - Browser: Imagine a world where Camper Van Beethoven broke up and Cracker was formed, but they never had any hits, and were content making simple slacker alt-counttry. Well. meet Barbarisms. Frontman Nicholas Faraone is from the U.S. and his voice is a dead ringer for David Lowery's, but he and the other two thirds of Barbarisms are based in Sweden.

Frankie Cosmos

21. Frankie Cosmos - Super hooky female-led bedroom pop with lyrics that add depth. When doing research for this write-up, I learned that Frankie Cosmos a.k.a. Greta Kline is the 22 year-old daughter of actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates.


20.Noname - Telefone: Chicago based rapper/poet Noname has worked with Chance the Rapper and a lot of his style can be found here, along with a hint of Lauryn Hill and even Digable Planets. A strong debut.

Beach Slang

19. Beach Slang - A Loud Bash Of Teenage Feelings: 30 minutes of loud indie rock that recalls the best moments of The Replacements, when they were just the right amount of sober but still a little sloppy.

Blood Orange

18. Blood Orange - Freetown Sound: Dev Hynes has had a number of projects (Test Icicles, Lightspeed Champion) with various styles, but I think he's hit pay dirt under the name Blood Orange. This is his third album under that moniker and it's a 17 track monster of  dense R&B with references to Trayvon Martin; it's political, personal and one that bears repeated listening.

Lucy Dacus

17. Lucy Dacus - No Burden: Reminds me a lot of Courtney Barnett's record from last year- female vocals, solid guitar and well-crafted songs.


16. White Denim - Stiff: I seem to like this band more than the critics do- Pitchfork didn't review this album, Consequence of Sound gave it a C+. Their southern boogie based soul-rock still tickles my fancy - kind of a post-punk Allman Brothers groove at times, Meat Puppets influences elsewhere.

15. Open Mike Eagle & Paul White: Hella Personal Film Festival: Often funny and always intelligent rap that owes a lot to early De La Soul and their contemporaries. Great tracks from Paul White bring in 70's soul and funk sounds.

14. Jeff Rosenstock - WORRY: Energetic power-pop-punk with hooks galore.

13. Kevin Morby - Singing Saw: L.A. based singer/songwriter with a sound that's reminiscent of The Band and Velvet Underground at times, but still fresh and original.

12. Katie Gately - Color: Very experimental but poppy at the same time. Gately is a "sound artist" more that a musician but this album is more suited for the headphones than a modern art museum. Katie doesn't sound like Bjork, but I could see the two of them getting along well, they seem to have that same sort of artistically adventurous spirit.

11. Angel Olsen - My Woman: Her previous album Burn Your Fire For No Witness was very good, and this one jumps from that folky base to an indie rock one. Recorded live to tape and it shows, the playing is tight which gives these well-crafted songs a lot of energy.

10. Solange - A Seat At The Table: The Knowles sisters are brilliant. Beyonce is...well, Beyonce and younger sister Solange has found her own niche- retro soul with a sense of exploration and a deep consciousness of racism in America today.  This one will grow on you if you let it. (Author's note - I was going to listen to Beyonce's Lemonade for comparison, but it wasn't on Spotify and I'm not going to buy it just to find out "It's OK". So Solange wins.)

9. The Avalanches- Wildflower: So it took over 15 years for The Avalanches to make album #2, and it would be hard to top their debut. They didn't. But what they did do was create something almost as good, a beautiful mish-mosh of sounds and styles and guests including Biz Markie and Father John Misty. Glad they are back and hope album #3 only takes a year or two.

8. Childish Gambino - Awaken My Love: So Donald Glover can act, write and as Childish Gambino, rap, but he took things to a new level here by turning back the clock. There's a lot of Sly Stone, Funkadelic and Prince in this soulful stew and some great singing (and no rapping.) He could ride this groove for a few more albums if he wanted to, but I doubt he will.

7. A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service:  Well, I was not expecting this, and once I heard it, I did not expect it to be this good. Guest spots from Busta Rhymes, Elton John, Jack White, Kanye West and others help add variety, but it's the original four members who shine the most. Q-Tip says the group will continue without the late Phife Dog - they've set the bar very high for themselves to top.

6. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam - I Had a Dream That You Were Mine: The singer from The Walkmen (Hamilton) and the multi-instrumentalist from Vampire Weekend collaborate on a collection of terrific songs. "I Had A Dream" begins the album title and the lyrics of the first song, and much of this album evokes a dreamlike state. Hamilton's voice goes from soft and deep to almost howling in most of these songs. A nice collaboration.

5. Car Seat Headrest: The first "real studio" album from Will Toledo who has released a ton on his own via Bandcamp. Guides By Voices meets Pavement is the short summary, but the songs are great and the performances heartfelt but just ramshackle enough to be endearing. Great catchy indie pop.

4. Sturgill Simpson - A Sailor's Guide To Earth: This album is a letter from Simpson to his newborn son and there are lessons in the lyrics throughout. The music is stellar, ranging from orchestral pop to outlaw country to Memphis soul, sometimes in the same song. A fantastic cover of Nirvana's "In Bloom" fits in perfectly. (And look at my YouTube playlist to see a cover of When In Rome's "The Promise" that Simpson makes his own.)

3. Mitski - Puberty 2: Brooklyn-based Mitski reminds me most of St. Vincent, which is pretty high praise from me. At points both her voice and lyrics remind me of Liz Phair's first album. And there's some P.J. Harvey in there as well. At a certain point, if you sound like a combination of a lot of others, it means you've found your own style. She also gets bonus points from me for calling her first album Bury Me At Makeout Creek, a fairly obscure Simpsons reference.

2. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book: No label and he doesn't need one, Chicago's very own Chance was everywhere this year and for good reason. He knows his way around a microphone and chooses his collaborators wisely. He's at the top of the rap world in my book (well, Kendrick is right there with him.)

David Bowie

1. David Bowie - Blackstar: Released days before he died, this is a great last album from an artist whose career will likely not be matched in terms of creative endurance. That at age 69 he was still releasing challenging, interesting music is as inspriring as it is unexpected. This is not an easy listen - it starts very challenging then relents towards the end - but it's a rewarding one. David Bowie will be missed but he left us with amazing music, right until the very, very end.



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