Hudson's Best of 2011, Pt. 3: Best Albums #21 - 40
21. British Sea Power, Valhalla Dancehall. Brighton's best band (are their others) backtrack a bit from the over-polished production of their last two or three albums in favor of the more straight-up sound of their debut, The Decline of British Sea Power.
22. Obits, Moody Standard & Poor. Sure, there's nothing on here that ranks with band member's best moments in Drive Like Jehu, Edsel, or Hot Snakes, but Obits' second album is still one of the best "rawk" albums of the year.
23. Matthew Ryan, I Recall Standing as Though Nothing Could Fall. After an album of introspective tunes (2009's Dear Lover), on this album Ryan expands not only his lyrical themes but his musical accompaniment.
24. Telekinesis, 12 Desperate Straight Lines. The second album by Michael Benjamin Lerner's one-man band is much darker than their debut but is no less catchy.
25. Middle Brother, S/T. The lead singers of Deer Tick, Dawes, and Delta Spirit come together for a one-off bar-band collaboration that clearly inspired the more raucous sound of the latest Deer Tick.
26. Bright Eyes, The People's Key. After a couple of albums under his own name (and the Monsters of Folk collaboration), Conor Oberst brought back the Bright Eyes moniker this year for possibly his most fully realized collection of songs.
27. Cloud Nothings, S/T. One year ago, 18 year-old Dylan Baldi was living at home making lo-fi EP's of catchy noise-pop. This year he made it into a real studio, and while the results may be missing the muddy hiss, the pure pop bliss remains the same.
28. Centro-matic, Dandidate Waltz. Will Johnson's 10th album under the Centro-matic name doesn't stray far from their earlier releases. One could say it's a bit more upbeat than the last couple of albums, but it's still guitar-centric Americana at its best.
29. The Dwarves, Are Born Again. After seven long years, one of punk rock's most notorious acts is back with a vengeance! Those easily offended need not apply!
30. Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring For My Halo. Every year there's a few albums that can be called "sleepers" - dismissed at first as "boring" but gradually pushing its way into your consciousness. This year's album of that sort is the fourth album by Kurt Vile, who has seen himself compared to almost everybody - Tom Petty, Psychic TV, Animal Collective, Neil Young, etc. What could possibly be the uniting element of those acts? Well, besides Vile, I guess.
31. R.E.M., Collapse Into Now. It was probably the right time for R.E.M. to call it quits (many would say it should have happened 20 years ago), but at least they went out on a high mark. No, this is no Murmur, Reckoning, or even Document, but it's still a pretty strong collection of primarily punchy pop-rock. Thanks for 30 years of musical service.
32. Bill Callahan, Apocalypse. Whether it's under his own name or the Smog moniker, Bill Callahan releases are always at the very least interesting. Recorded live in the studio, the songs are so full of surprises they even sound like they were created on the spot.
33. Black Lips, Arabia Mountain. Months after its release, I still don't quite get how this infamous Atlanta garage band hooked up with Amy Winehouse producer Mark Ronson. While many longtime fans are dismayed by their new (semi)-glossy sound, the tunes are as catchy and irreverent as before.
34. Portugal The Man, In the Mountain of the Cloud. Apparently, this Alaskan band has been around for quite some time. I didn't discover them until some of my favorite rock critic twitters went nuts on the day this album was released. How to describe them? Hmmm, that's tough. I hate to state the name "Coldplay" but imagine if they were somewhat psychedelic, energetic, and in no way pretentious? I guess they wouldn't be Coldplay then.
35. De Keefmen, S/T. Classic, traditional garage rock from the Netherlands. What more needs to be said?
36. Bare Wires, Cheap Perfume. Because the vinyl version is a 10" some would call this an EP. Not this kid, as ten songs makes a full album, even if only one crosses the three minute mark. Yes, this is another noisy, punk-ish, garage-y treat that I'll never tire of hearing.
37. Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts. Like the recent J Mascis solo album, this is pretty much a Sonic Youth album played primarily on acoustic guitars. Beck produces this project, but keeps the sound pretty organic.
38. The Horrible Crowes, Elsie. Gaslight Anthem leader Brian Fallon's side project appears to be a place to release the songs that don't fit that band's "Americana punk". He has called this his "night-time music" project, and many of these (primarily) piano-based tunes is definitely more soulful than the tunes he records for his day job.
39. The Ettes, Wicked Will. Southern-based noisy garage rock, sprinkled with retro elements from the 50's, 60's, and 70's.
40. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Mirror Traffic. Possibly inspired by the Pavement reunion, the latest Jicks album features some of the most playful and, dare I say it, fun songs since the heyday of THAT band.