This week, my horoscope said: “You are likely to thrive to the degree that you precisely identify and vigorously harness your obsessions. Please note I’m not saying you should allow your obsessions to possess you like demons and toss you around like a rag doll. I’m not advising you to fall down in front of your obsessions and worship them like idols. Be wildly grateful for them; love them with your fiery heart fully unfurled; but keep them under the control of your fine mind.”
Some of my obsessions are books and music. I know that’s very broad, and I could say that more specifically, I am a bit obsessed with sexuality & gender books, with female singer-songwriters and queer artists, with people making art in this world that is “open and aware directly to the urges that motivate … Keep[ing] the channel open. … [A] queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive,” which is part of a Martha Graham quote I’ve had in my email signature most of this year.
In the spirit of being wildly greatful, of loving with my fiery heart fully unfurled and (at least somewhat) under the control of my find mind, here’s my favorite music from 2011 (books forthcoming!).
When my computer got kinda fucked up this past year and my buddy the genius fixed it for me, we spent a long time figuring out how to combine my external hard drives full of music and get it all onto a new internal hard drive, and one of the consequences was that, for a small period of time, I lost my play counts in iTunes. I use these constantly to gauge what tracks from an album are good, what I want to add to a mix, etc.
Thankfully, I love online services, like last.fm, which has been recording what I listen to since 2005, through three different laptops and three different itunes installations, and those stats are a bit more accurate than the makeshift restored best-possible-option version that I ended up with. So I went over my top artists of the year & top tracks of the year to figure out what I’ve been listening to in 2011.
Albums (somewhat in order):
Alexi Murdoch – Since Kristen & I watched the film “Away We Go,” I’ve been a little obsessed, and downloaded the soundtrack from 2009 and his album Time Without Consequences from 2006. Not a new release, but new to me.
Girlyman, Somewhere Different Now, the live recording, came out this year, which reintroduced me to Girlyman and I’ve been listening to their whole discography, really.
Melissa Ferrick, Still Right Here – Kristen wasn’t really a Ferrick fan, and my theory was that it was because she never saw her play live, and that her albums can’t quite capture her amazing performance ability. We went to see her this year, Kristen for the first time and me for the first time in more than six years, and my love for her music got a jolt. I looked up a few albums of hers I hadn’t heard yet and listened to them all. Freedom is still my favorite, but this new one has some great tracks.
Chris Pureka, How I Learned to See In the Dark – came out in 2010, but I listened to it a lot this year. I’ve never been a huge fan, though many people I know whose tastes are the same as mine in so many other respects love her, and I suspected it might be similar to Kristen’s Ferrick resistance—that I’ve never seen her live. So Kristen and I saw her perform in early 2011, and the show was okay. It did get me to spend much more time with her fine, fine guitar work, though, and to start looking up her lyrics more. She’s grown on me a lot.
Reid Jamieson, Staring Contest – I’m obsessed with his album of Elvis covers, the Presley Sessions, so I keep buying everything he comes out with, because his voice is so perfect.
Schuyler Fisk, Blue Ribbon Winner – I found her because of her duet with Joshua Radin, Paperweight, and this is her second solo album. It’s really beautiful.
Coyote Grace, Ear to the Ground – I love Joe’s voice and Ingrid’s bass. Saw them with Girlyman this year and that show was fantastic.
Wish “I’m On Fire” was on this new album. “I’m On Fire” is on their 2011 release Now Take Flight, which is apparently only available on CD Baby (not iTunes or Amazon yet), which is why I haven’t seen it. Downloaded today! (Thanks Ash, for telling me in a comment.)
Meshell Ndegeocello, Weather – I didn’t even know this existed until very recently, but I’ve been waiting for her to release another album like Bitter, and I think this is it. I’m pretty obsessed with Petite Mort—can you tell what she’s saying? “Who’s your daddy? You are. Who’s your daddy now?” Fucken love it.
kd lang and the Siss Boom Bang, Sing it Loud – I Confess was the first amazing thing, but then there was Sugar Buzz (and each time I type that my fingers automatically type “Sugarbutch,” that muscle memory, it’s weird, it can be ahead of my brain’s commands), and then there was kd live earlier this year, and I really love this album. If you haven’t heard “I Confess” yet, though you probably have because I’ve mentioned it here many times, she at one point sings, “I confess / I’ll be your Daddy” and I still. Just. Gahh.
Ellis, Right On Time – came out in 2010, and I downloaded it then, but I still can’t stop listening to it. It’s such a perfect album.
Tori Amos, Night of Hunters. I don’t really like to talk about how much I love Tori Amos. I make cryptic references to it on Sugarbutch sometimes, I put things on tumblr sometimes, but it’s funny, it feels too personal, too private, to write about here and expose. This is one of the most perfect albums I’ve ever heard, a return to her classical roots with a string quartet, and I saw her twice on the world tour, which was incredibly unique and featured many remakes with the quartet. I could say pages and pages more about this, but I’ll stop and be shy about it again now.
… Here’s a link to all of them in a playlist on YouTube if you’d like to put ’em on in the background and keep reading or working or jacking off or whatever you’re doing.
Other notable albums, because I can’t not mention them, that I listened to over & over this year: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More, Adele – 21, Florence & the Machine – Ceremonials, Brett Dennen – Loverboy, Monsters of Folk, Wild Flag, Lucas Silveira – Mockingbird, Zoe Keating – Into the Trees, & Balmorhea – Constellations.
Did I miss your very favorite? I’d love to know what you are listening to that you think I might like. Always looking for more good music.