Top Ten Albums of 2011: 10, 9, 8

10. Tune-Yards, “Whokill”

In theory, Merrill Garbus should sound insufferable: her grab-bag, mutli-genre fusions, vocal affectations and “experimental” aesthetic paint her as a one-woman distaff Animal Collective–not exactly what the world needs. Thank god she’s smarter than that; if her lyrics occasionally read too blank or obscure, the music, crafted out of tape loops and live bass always gels, whether she’s abrasive and daunting (“Gangsta”) or hushed and discreet (“Wooly Woolly Gong”).

Favorites: “Bizness”, “Gangsta”, “Powa”

9. Laura Marling, “A Creature I Don’t Know”

Not an advance on the scale of I Speak Because I Can, Marling’s third set nonetheless exhibits some growth. “The Muse” and “Sophia” may lean more towards pop than folk but avoid slickness, and slow waltz  “Night After Night” refines the previous LP’s lovely Leonard Cohen-isms. “The Beast”, however, is an impressive epic that gradually builds to a menacing, electric guitar shredding roar–play it for anyone and you may have trouble convincing them Marling’s only 21.

Favorites: “The Beast”, “Sophia”, “Night After Night”

8. PJ Harvey, “Let England Shake”

You have to admire Harvey for never making the same record twice. Lyrically, it’s her most thematically cohesive effort to date, fixating on war and its consequences. Musically, it’s a little weird: the autoharp is her axe of choice and she employs more saxophone than electric guitar. Weirder still, despite the often morbid subject matter, the tempo’s positively jaunty in most spots. She’s created a unique, gripping synthesis and I’d rate this even higher if I could make a lick of sense out of it.

Favorites: “The Words That Maketh Murder”, “In the Dark Places”, “On Battleship Hill”

2 Responses to Top Ten Albums of 2011: 10, 9, 8

  1. Howard says:

    I wanted so bad to get into the Harvey, but it just never caught fire with me.

    • ckriofske says:

      It’s an odd one… I’ve been hot and cold on it throughout the year, but it’s better than another “White Chalk”, which I couldn’t get into at all.

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