Music authority comes from those who have expertised in criticism, have written serious music journalism and have stood for years in the industry. We base our taste from them, or at least compare theirs on our own, and in a way improve our playlist due to their influence. A small blog like mine has nothing to boast but the passion it has for music itself, closely knitted with the love of words. While I was tempted to make my quintessential Best of the Year list, I had thought of letting a group of people share their own instead. The project of asking musicians, directors, artists and writers (from the US, Canada, Russia, Sweden, France, Switzerland, the Philippines, Australia, Iceland and Norway) for this yearender project has been a great experience, and I feel deeply honored that they took the time to work on their submissions. Who can give better insight of what a year it has been for music than the people who closely or relatively worked, in one way or another, with music for production, employment and inspiration. While it can be an almighty task to dish out a list on my behalf, it is more remarkable to know what these people have listened to instead.
Now with this humbling experience, here is the 2011 Best Album Picks.
INSPIRATION. One thing that Tom Auty does not lack of is inspiration. Spanning four mini-releases this year, it is only due that I offer my last interview of 2011 to the guy who has made his music relevant to the true fans of independent music in and out of his native Ann Arbor— highlighted when Apeiron was picked up by the Japanese label Nature Bliss for a CD release in February next year and when he was featured as one of the city’s pride on Soundcloud’s Local.
Sad Souls, Auty’s moniker, is not exclusive to the forlorn. In fact, most of his songs are like musical haiku weaving every tune and mood to honor the nocturnals and the dreamers. Sifting through the stillness of the night, his acoustic, ambient efforts tiptoe on the delicate, translucent paths that rays of light diffract before hitting our eyes.
It is not that Sad Souls sounds like nobody before him or is incomparable to other members of indie rock class of 2011 especially in this genre-bending stage in music. But it is that Sad Souls’ music captures the essence of how technology and talent come together, reaching out to people with the absence of hype and gimmickry but with a chanced discovery and revelry of that fated encounter. An encounter to a known feeling represented in beautiful harmonies and calm, in deep wallow of melancholia or independence. Much like how it was for me. And this fact ranks his music important to many, to us, who brave to hear what it feels like to be awashed in a reverie of being in a forest with leaves in our hair.
TV Girl’s Benny and the Jets is a wonderful affair that features soft ’60s pop with a palm full of soul colors that not only lo-fi fans love but also our grandmothers. Since listening to that EP, I had always wanted to write about the band but did not have the chance to do so. Only this time when I saw TV Girl do a new song from their formal debut next year that inspiration sparked once more.
For Knocksteady, the band performed “I Wonder Who She’s Kissing Now,” a seemingly wordplay of a Ray Charles classic “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” if you would consider TV Girl’s love of sampling soul jams. As always, TV Girl delivers a party of a track backed up luscious bass teasing Trung Ngo’s vocals. “So take me up the mountain/ bring me to the temple/ stole my guts into the sacrificial vessel,” the band charms, promising their debut out on February 16th as exciting as their past EPs.
Listen to “I Wonder Who She’s Kissing Now (LIVE)” below.
Bennett Miller’s Oscar front-runner Moneyball shows off most of this year’s finest performances as well as an astonishing score by Mychael Dana. The film features Texas post-rockers This Will Destroy’s 11-minute opus “The Mighty Rio Grande” in its trailer as well as in its soundtrack. Now it seems that the band’s foray into movies does not stop from there. Rui Cavender’s latest project The Deep Field is scored by the band as well.
Cavender who is also working on another documentary This Will Destroy You about the band of the same name is recently pushing the work for his deeply personal project The Deep Field about his grandmother’s death in January 2010. Filmed during the period of his 102-year old grandmother last moments, Cavender explores the heartbreaking truths of seeing a loved one succumb to her death-bed as the rest of the family becomes more vulnerable and more human to his eyes. In the trailer, images that magnify life as well as moving shots of his grandmother (“Mimi, I’m dying,” “You’re little heart is giving up, you know that, don’t you?”) are shown.
“Why are we here? Did we live our lives to its full potential? Do we have regrets? What comes after death? While there is an un-negotiable sadness in death, I discovered that there is also a terrible beauty that paradoxically goes along with it,” explains Cavender about the experience.
Filmed in Canon HDSLR, a gift from his grandmother, Cavender has taken the project as a celebration of her memory as well as his own coming to terms in fulfilling what he has always wanted to do ever since— filmmaking. Now in its post-production stage, the Portuguese-American filmmaker has appealed inKickstarter for the completion of The Deep Field. With 49 more days to go, a goal of $20, 000 is needed to do the essential editing, sound scoring and color-correction. More details about The Deep Field is available on his Kickstarter page.
Impassioned and in debt, Anthony Ruptak’s “Red Mark” is a tale of corporate catch trap tugging each and everyone of us. Understanding what Ruptak is trying to say is not as hard as escaping his reminder of what sort of mess we are in; delayed bills, hitting rock bottom and dreaming of your parents’ home are only few of images he invokes to fully realize this plight.
Inspired by male singer/songwriters (Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, Fionn Regan), Colorado-based Ruptak is like a less spastic Connor Oberst with the musical ambiguity of Bird (banjo, harmonica, guitar). Clearly, his influences are framed in the music he has created which spans of a five-track self-titled EP released last February and this new single I stumble upon on his Bandcamp.
In four minutes, “Red Marks” synthesizes emotional disparity to the physical world, a travelling man’s divided vision of his abstract responsibilities to the logistics of his itinerary, “And should the cold air blow the smoke back to my eyes, I will not weep now for the sake of anything,” Ruptak sings in the chorus. With only a couple of releases, Ruptak is someone I am excited to hear more from in the coming year.