The Songs of the Year 2011

The other day, a friend pointed out that this past year the usual high output of songs that got put up on The List was decidedly less than past years, to which I replied, yes…the necessity to work from time to time had certainly put a crimp in my ability to give away my usual amount of free music, but what did get tossed up was of such high quality as they more than made up for the diminished quantity. And with that in mind, here are the best of the best…the Songs of the Year…

#1. LOW ROAR
Give Up


DOWNLOAD: Give Up

Ryan Karazija didn’t just come up with the best song this past year, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t also have the best album, too. I could have put any one of the twelve tracks from the album on the annual list…they are all that good…and it’s only a coincidence that ‘Give Up’ is the first track on the album. I’ve already yelled at you guys enough to BUY THIS RECORD, but if you haven’t, do it now! And mark your calenders kids, cuz Ryan’s gonna be taking a flight from Iceland over to New York to play a gig at Piano’s January 19 and MilkBoy in Philly on January 22nd.

#2. CAMERAS
Polarise


DOWNLOAD: Polarise

If not for Low Roar, Cameras would have certainly been sitting on the top of the heap this year. I’ve played ‘Polarise’ so often, I’m pretty sure even Camille is getting sick of it! Nothing like a wall of hard-to-understand, harmonic, atmospheric, shoegazey melodies to win my heart.

#3. WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS
Act On Impulse


DOWNLOAD: Act On Impulse

We all should have a dose of sweaty, angst-ridden rock to wake us up from time to time. They’re almost unheard of over here, but these four Scottish lads are burning up the clubs in Great Britain. Powerful, lotsa fun and yes…very sweaty!

#4. BIRD CALL
The Ballad Of New York


DOWNLOAD: The Ballad Of New York
I swear Chiara Angelicola may have been plucked out of a Jazz Club from the 50’s and transported to the Here & Now to remind us what real music is like. She’s got a voice that can drop so low it will rattle your bones…and then outta nowhere she’ll crack a high note that will give you goosebumps. The Ballad Of New York is going to be on her next album, but in the meantime she’s got a lot more sitting over at iTunes just waiting for you to enjoy.

#5. CASS McCOMBS
The Same Thing


DOWNLOAD: The Same Thing

There’s just something so comfortably reassuring about the way Cass McCombs sings. From the very first time I heard ‘The Same Thing’ I was won over. The melody, the slightly syncopated vocal style, the sad/lazy way it made me feel…it all works.

#6. WYE OAK
Civilian


DOWNLOAD: Civilian

Another strong contender for my favorite album this year was Civilian by the Baltimore duo, Wye Oak. It’s a noisy mashup filled with masterful guitar work, shoegazey distortion, wonderful storytelling and Jenn Wasner’s languid voice holding it all together. It’s another record that you should seriously consider buying!

#7. GABRIELLE AIMEE
Have You Ever


DOWNLOAD: Have You Ever

We’ve been friends for quite a while and I even shot her album cover earlier this year, but when Gabrielle Aimée sent me ‘Have You Ever’ I was knocked out. I had never heard her slide into such a bluesy place and be so damned sexy on a song before, and the vibrato from the Farfisa-like organ transported me back in time.

#8. K+NIKKU
The Search


DOWNLOAD: The Search

Kate Tucker has been a staple on The List from the moment we first heard her with the Sons of Sweden and since then we’ve followed her from Seattle to Ohio to New York and now to Nashville, so when she recorded an EP with Nic Danielson as K+Nikku we were on board. I’ve been goofin’ on her…calling her Katemau5…because of the slightly electronic edge to the EP, but she knows I love her…

#9. THE PACK A.D.
Sirens


DOWNLOAD: Sirens

The Pack A.D. is Becky Black & Maya Miller and they’re a hard-hitting garage duo outta Vancouver B.C. that has released four albums of stripped-down, pissed-off, dirty punk rock…and they’re bloody great! ‘Sirens’ is off of their latest release, Unpersons.

#10. SHERLOCK’S DAUGHTER
Reprise


DOWNLOAD: Reprise

Going from the grungy goodness of The Pack A.D. to Sherlock’s Daughter shoegazing their way through ‘Reprise’ might be a bit jarring, but I’ve had their EP near the top of my iTunes folder all year and there was no chance it wasn’t making it on this list. Call it nonsensical aural wallpaper if you must, but Tanya Horo’s voice always has a calming effect on me…like a neural tranquilizer…I can feel any tension I’m feeling fall away as soon as she whispers in my ear…

#11. THE BOOZE
Hit Me Where It Hurts


DOWNLOAD: Hit Me Where It Hurts

We’ve come to the end, but I’ve turned it up to “11” and hearing Chaz Tolliver channel Mick Jagger one more time seems like a perfect way to close out this years Best Of List. The Booze play boogie-rock that can’t help but make you think of the early Stones and The Kinks, and Tolliver seems to have mastered the fine art of Jagger-esque posing…in a good way!

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Last-Minute Xmas Gift Suggestion & the Song of the Day


GABRIELLE AIMEE
Have You Ever


DOWNLOAD: Have You Ever

I know it’s only been a month since I told you guys about Gabrielle Aimée, but since then her self-titled debut album has been released and if you’re looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer, I can’t think of a better way to spend eight bucks! That’s right…it’s on Amazon as an mp3 download for only eight bucks (or $9.99 if you wanna get it from iTunes) and there is even an option that allows you to send the album directly to that special someone as a gift. The eleven tracks are so smart, so sexy, so tight and just so damn much fun, they had me movin’ my ass from the minute I put the record on. BUY THIS ALBUM !!! Then head over to her facebook Band Page and show Gibbles some love by clickin’ the ‘LIKE’ button.

Song of the Day



GABRIELLE AIMEE
I Know Better


DOWNLOAD: I Know Better

Maybe you’ve read about our album cover shoot, but now you can hear what all the fuss is about. Gabrielle Aimée has a new album coming out and stylistically it’s a huge departure from her earlier work. Some of that might have to do with teaming up with Leo Sidran who produced, arranged and played all the instruments, and Hector Coulon handling the recording and mixing, but from the first few chords on ‘I Know Better’, her vocals slide into a warm, comfortable place that instantly draw you into the song. Check out her new facebook Band Page, and make sure you listen to the bluesy ‘Have You Ever’, a song she penned with Song of the Day favorite Nadia Ackerman. And for you New Yorkers looking for something to do over the Thanksgiving weekend, Gabrielle will be playing at Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 1 on Saturday November 26 at 5:00PM

Keeping It Simple With Gabrielle Aimée

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When my friend Gabrielle Aimée asked me to shoot her new CD cover, she was very specific. She wanted to keep it very simple, but very direct. She wanted an intimate connection with the viewer, with minimal styling…maybe just a white t-shirt. Oh yeah…and we had to keep it dirt cheap, ‘cuz in case you forgot, my indie friends aren’t exactly rolling in GaGa Money to throw at their self promotion!

Now one of the things that always impresses people when they first arrive at Damn Ugly Photography is the giant 17 foot by 9 foot high South-facing window that greets them, and on the day Gibbles came up to my place to go over a few ideas, I had her stand up against the wall next to that window and popped off a few quick frames, just to see how she looked on camera with no styling and just a big wash of soft light…I was kinda blown away with the results…

So blown away, in fact, that I told her maybe we should just shoot here, and use the same big, soft lighting. I had an idea to include some rough hewn wood planks and maybe a painters canvas drop as backgrounds, but the real focus had to be her expressions. With that in mind, here’s a bit of what we did…

We started with a few seated poses on my new plank floor…

After a quick wardrobe change we did a few close-ups, but amped-up the window lighting to brighten things up a bit…

Then I turned our plank floor into a wall and we moved in this direction…

And even though we were diggin’ the window light, I figured I would fire up a couple of lights and do a few moodier variations…

And then, just when we thought we might be done, I messed her hair up, cranked up the ringlight, and things took on a totally different look…

Finally, Gibbles told me she wanted to do something fun for her boyfriend, Brendan Brown, the driving force behind the cult alt-rock group, Wheatus. That ‘something’ involved her brand new guitar…and not much else

Gabrielle is set to release ‘I Know Better’…the first single off the album…and all you have to do is go to today’s Song of the Day to download it.