After critically evaluating a few hundred albums in one year (for our best albums of 2011 selections), I found myself developing surprisingly precise, abstract ideas about how everything fit together and what that “means” about the state of all creative music. It was a long year but I finished the whole thing (with a little help from my Brasky frands).
Here is an accurate summary of what’s going on:
Right-brained thinkers should feel satisfied and can stop reading.
For the restless and curious, here are a few more thoughts on the past year in music.
#1: It seems increasingly difficult for artists to stay relevant and hyped. Venerated bands like the Decemberists, TV on the Radio, The Black Keys, The Dodos, Iron & Wine, and My Morning Jacket released well-reviewed albums that barely got the attention of an online audience that’s heavily seduced by the idea of “the next big thing”. Even recent heroes struggled to hold the spotlight (Fleet Foxes…).
#2: As somewhat of an exception to the preceding, veterans Destroyer and Cut Copy enjoyed huge resurgences this year, but I suspect the support came from an entirely new generation of listeners.
#3: Minimalism and dreariness characterized many of 2011′s most critically acclaimed albums. Themes include:
- Slow and vacant electronic arrangements from Tim Hecker, The Field, Oneohtrix
- Drone-enveloped hymns – Julianna Barwick, SLEEP OVER
- Cassette culture’s pitch-wavering psychedelic mumblecore – John Maus, Blouse
- Men singing very delicately with almost no accompaniment – How to Dress Well, Bon Iver, James Blake.
#4: We saw the return of songwriters taking back some turf from the no-name bedroom producers. Folk music remains strong, especially in Europe, and blues/heartland rock continues to attract a new generation of listeners.
#5: The year in pop, reviewed: “feat. Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne”
#6: Everyone now knows that dubstep exists. However, no one knows what it is.
#7: A branch of big-bumping house music called “Moombahton” earns the honor of buzz genre of the year. Not to say there aren’t some ace Moombahton tracks and producers popping up, but I observed a lot of producers leverage the marketing power of the term and adapt their style accordingly. So what are the style guidelines? As you may have feared, the name draws from reggaeton, inheriting the bass kick signature (thump, thump, thump on every beat) but flexible on the snare arrangements. Plus a bunch of “pew pew pew” laser synths. Easy to criticize, but its dance floor popularity is harder to refute (especially after watching Nadastrom get the crowd bouncing).