Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: For the Record

As this year is ticking quickly to a close, I felt it was time for me to put in my 2-cents about the music of 2011. I’ve seen many other best of lists, and wanted to throw my voice into the ring as well.

Anyone who knows me personally from time spent working together during my broadcasting career, or who serves side-by-side with me on the church worship team, or only knows me casually through Facebook posts, will know that I love music… but beyond that, I love to discover new music and introduce others to it. It’s like a second language for me. I monitor new releases every single Tuesday and utilize and Spotify to listen before I buy in my search of treasured projects. I love to be part of the smaller market share, on the cutting edge … U2 was my favorite college band while that’s all they were, four young college-age kids from Dublin with a couple of records out that had some great spiritual lyrics. I’m actually often saddened and ready to move on if and when my discovered artist wins the favor of the populace … not because I enjoy them less, but because I fear they will no longer be true to themselves enough to remain special and original and will instead make music that they’re told will sell to the masses. U2 has been the one exception. While the band has evolved and gone through musical seasons of style, this year they hold claim as the biggest touring success of 2011, and yes, I still follow them whole-heartedly as my favorite artist of all time.

Another artist whom I discovered two years ago when she was 19 and chasing pavements, added millions of fans this year with her release of 21. Adele’s 21 has become the biggest selling album of the last seven years and has enjoyed 43 straight weeks in the top five of the Billboard 200, setting a record for most weeks in the top five in the chart's 55-year history. Adele has a charm that’s undeniable; she offers no pretenses, other then displaying some occasional insecurity in her vulnerability to sing about her failed relationships at such a young age. That, I believe is why people love her so much. While this ability to relate gains the staying power of her fans, their original interest is in her voice, which alone is the instrument and in need of nothing else to make her music memorable. There was really nothing else like it on the radio in 2011. To make that case, "Someone Like You" is the first piano-and-vocal-only ballad to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Adele has nearly single-handedly turned around the music industry after 2010 saw album sales fall 13%, while sales averaged an 8% drop every year in the 2000s. In 2011, the industry experienced a 1% increase in album sales and more than a 3% increase in overall music sales. Michael Buble's holiday album sold almost two million records in the last several weeks to become the second biggest album of 2011 while Lady Gaga is expected to end up with the third highest seller. Gaga has only sold half of Adele’s sales even with the suspected inflation of sales during her album’s first week when Amazon sold digital copies for 99-cents.

So how does this have anything to do with my personal best of list? It lends clarification to why I have the top-selling record of the year, a popular artist and project, as my top record of the year as well. Otherwise, my selected Top 20 for 2011 list shares only 5 other records that generated enough sales to chart in Billboard’s Top 200 … and only 1 of those was in the top 100 (sales rank appears in parenthesis).

I won’t speak of each one individually, but having always felt that Charlie Peacock was underappreciated as a musical genius, I am very pleased that he garnered success with The Civil Wars. While Barton Hollow may not have charted high in sales, Jill Williams and John Paul White have gained tremendous attention and are ending up on many end-of-year best of lists. I find it ironic and disappointing that Charlie was not able to enjoy this success as producer within the Christian music industry. Congratulations to Charlie for his new success. Hopefully, he will experience even more.

My first 7 albums were extremely difficult to rank as all are amazing projects and deserve your ear. I would love to hear your thoughts, your disagreements, and your feedback on which of your favorite projects should have appeared on my list.

I can’t wait to discover even more great music in 2012!! Anyone care to join me?

1 Adele/21 (1)

2 The Civil Wars/Barton Hollow (153)

3 Gungor/Ghosts Upon The Earth

4 Fleet Foxes/Helplessness Blues (123)

5 Tedeschi Trucks Band/Revelator

6 The Black Keys/El Camino

7 Over The Rhine/The Long Surrender

8 Iron & Wine/Kiss Each Other Clean

9 Florence + The Machine/Ceremonials

10 Robbie Robertson/How To Become Clairvoyant

11 Coldplay/Mylo Xyloto (35)

12 Bon Iver/Bon Iver (100)

13 Death Cab For Cutie/Codes And Keys (143)

14 My Morning Jacket/Circuital

15 Steve Earle/I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive

16 Eisley/The Valley

17 Jamie Grace/One Song At A Time

18 Ben Harper/Give Till It's Gone

19 Bruce Cockburn/Small Source Of Comfort

20 Amos Lee/Mission Bell

(Honorable mention: Peter Bjorn and John/Gimme Some; Edwin McCain/Mercy Bound; Tom Waits/Bad As Me; Needtobreathe/The Reckoning; Ben Harper/Give Till It’s Gone; Owl City/All Things Bright and Beautiful; Cake/Showroom of Compassion; Eddie Vedder//Ukulele Songs; Gregg Allman/Low Country Blues; Sam Phillips/Long Play project)