This is every album I listened to, beginning to end, week by week in the first twelve weeks of 2011. In that time I listened to 99 unique albums. Those albums broken down by year or decade:
The most noteworthy thing here is, given that I spent the last two years reliving the late-80s and 90s for my book, is how small the numbers are next to those decades. This ratio feels like a more natural depiction of my tastes circa 2011—ie, there isn't an assignment skewing my listening habits.
The same albums broken down by genre:
Indie Rock: 37
60s Rock, Krautrock: 8 each
Alternative, Electronic, Folk: 7 each
Classic Indie: 5
70s Rock: 4
Country, Oldies: 3 each
Brasilia, Calypso, Jazz, Reggae: 1 each
Indie rock, my comfort food, naturally dominates. It's my default position. But it's all those albums in the 6–8 range that I've been finding the most compelling. And, for the record, my favorite recent acquisition of them all is a calypso record!
Of all these albums, I only a handful overcame my short attention span/ravenous need for more. Of 99 albums, 7 made it into rotation in three weeks or more out of the last twelve:
Low: The Great Destroyer
Radiohead: The King of Limbs
Harry Belafonte: Calypso
Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972
Iron & Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean
Some albums I played the hell out of in a concentrated span of time, so here's another more way of looking at the list, by individual spins. The most-played albums of the last twelve weeks:
Radiohead, The King of Limbs: 15
Iron & Wine, Kiss Each Other Clean: 10
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972: 9
Tennis, Cape Dory: 8
Harry Belafonte, Calypso: 7
John Vanderslice, White Wilderness: 7
Low, The Great Destroyer: 7
Low, Trust: 5
Some of these albums aren't too surprising—Radiohead and Tim Hecker are among my favorites of the season. Both the Tennis and John Vanderslice albums are so short and pleasant, they're easy to play it three times in a row before wearing themselves out. And Low... well, I'm on a Low kick. Which brings me to the last way of looking at this stuff—individual spins by artist rather than by artist, which weights things toward those bands who have numerous albums I like listening to:
Iron & Wine: 13
Tim Hecker: 10
So now Low shoots almost to the top, which feels more correct. And let's talk about the one artist who has been at or near the top of all versions of these lists, no matter how I slice it: Iron & Wine! Surprising, since I think Kiss Each Other Clean is, for the most part, a failure. That's not quite the same as saying it's not good, but it's frustrating. Sam Beam is a great songwriter and Kiss Each Other Clean is no exception to that claim, but his production choices are questionable. He piles too much on, smooths his songs out where they'd be better served with rough edges. I don't mean to say he should stay in the box he made with The Creek Drank the Cradle, but he's gone too far in the other direction. Yet it's the quality of the songs themselves that has kept me returning to the album. "Tree By the River" worms into my head for days at a time—though that's also probably the best example of why this album irks at me. Compare this version, in which Beam plays the track unaccompanied, to the overworked album version below.
- Iron & Wine: Tree by the River
Tomorrow, a rundown of my favorite albums of the last three months.