FAQ | Guest Book | Mission Statement | Minions | What's Coming | What's New | What's Happened


2011 Year End Best Of

Minion Name:
  Inspector Jason  

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. I had more fun in 2011 than I have in recent memory, but I also found it difficult to get excited about new music. I did not feel like making that special trip to the record stores in Little Five Points quite as often, and my eyes glazed over the music review websites. Good music is still out there, but nothing really jumped out and grabbed me by the throat.

When I got to that point where I felt as though I was attending concerts out of a sense of duty more than anything else, I bowed out and took a break from it all.

I'd like to think that I'm still a long way away from being glued to Home Improvement reruns and staying up late in a La-Z-Boy chair wondering why the Braves can't hit a home run, but the act of going out of my way to discover cool new music has fallen from the priority list.

Maybe it's because most of my disposable income these days goes to running ultramarathons out in woods.

Maybe it's because access to Spotify and YouTube are beginning to shake me from that desire to own music in physical, tangible terms.

Maybe it's because I'm starting to take Dave Ramsey's financial advice to heart at long last.

I cannot quite pin the reason down, but I can count my purchases of new 2011 music with just two hands. Fortunately, my pulse was quickened a few times by a few precious bands and artists listed below.

Favorite Songs:
  1. Midnight City by M83
    Anthony Gonzalez of M83 aimed for the bleachers with this single and scored a direct hit. From the insanely ridiculous animal-like opening sounds to the sweeping sax solo that concludes the song, Midnight City manages to be a grandiose anthem and a hypnotic meditation all at once. My choice is hardly original, since this song happens to be Pitchforkmedia's best single of 2011 as well. Sometimes, though, the cool masses are right.

  2. Ignite by The Raveonettes
    Shoegaze, Goth, and 60s surf music come together seamlessly in this deep cut from The Raveonettes. This band's ongoing themes of teenage lust for life meeting teenage mortality weave nuanced twists and turns here to conjure images of joy rides through darkened neighborhoods and abandoned buildings.

  3. Confetti by Cold Cave
    One listen to the line "I feel guilty being alive when so many beautiful people have died" was proof enough that the suburban mall goth scene was alive and well in 2011. This song effectively captures that manufactured, yet glorious sheen of Clan Of Xymox, The Sisters Of Mercy, and other second-tier 1980's synth-goth acts.

  4. Girl Panic by Duran Duran
    If I had not known differently, I could have believed that this song was an outtake from the Rio sessions. This one does not break new ground, but Duran Duran excels at not fixing something that was never broken.

  5. Blink And You'll Miss A Revolution by Cut Copy
    This song reminds me of that 1980s band, China Crisis, and that is a sincere compliment. All of my favorite 2011 songs sound like the 1980s, but Cut Copy captures the fun of that decade like no other band today.

  6. Cut Me Out by MNDR
    This one is pure synth-pop brilliance. Cut Me Out is the best Deborah Harry song that Deborah Harry never recorded. It's too bad that we did not see a full-length LP from MNDR this year.
Favorite LPs:
  1. M83 – Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
    Like Tears For Fears' Songs From The Big Chair and Peter Gabriel's So, this latest M83 album straddles the fence between that point when a band achieves complete mastery in the art of a perfect song and that point when a band starts to overextend themselves in artistic terms. This sprawling double-album may stray too far into the outer zones of ambition, and I still skip over the track where a child talks about frogs, but the moments where M83 gets it right are enough to seal this one as my top album of the year.

  2. Cut Copy - Zonoscope
    Zonoscope kicks off with danceable and infectious nods to early Depeche Mode, while throwing a bone to the 80s Fleetwood Mac, but gradually transitions to 1990s acid house and techno. It's an irresistible trip.

  3. Duran Duran – All You Need Is Now
    Producer Mark Ronson is the quintessential Duran Duran fan, and he wanted the band to make an album that could have started where Rio left off. It may be a contrived affair, but it works. File under: My brain tells me that this is a bad album, but my ears tell me that this is a great album.

  4. Junior Boys – It's All True
    It's all good. Junior Boys have managed yet again to blend New Order with Hall & Oates and Michael McDonald. God bless 'em. Soulful electronic is abound here.

  5. The Raveonettes – Raven In The Grave
    The Raveonettes have the endearing blankness of a pretty girl who daydreams too much and is not quite there. As such, I never really know how to categorize this band. This time around, The Raveonettes still have that odd displaced effect, but they do it better here than they ever have. Forget That You're Young sort of sounds like Bruce Springsteen's Dancing In The Dark, and that somehow sort of proves my point.
  1. Echo And The Bunnymen at the Masquerade on May 5, 2011
    Ian McCulloch, Will Sergeant, and company blazed through their first two albums, Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here, in their entirety. I was floored at this band's relentless intensity, and could have easily stood through a performance of their complete catalogue.

  2. Duran Duran at Center Stage on April 4, 2011
    It was a rare treat to see Duran Duran in such a small venue, and I loved watching their early songs blend well with the tracks from the new album. The many attractive soccer moms at the show were just icing on the cake.

  3. The Rosebuds at The Earl on June 16, 2011
    The new Rosebuds album is beautiful and delicately-nuanced, but it's also too somber for my tastes. Fortunately, I got my fix of the old pop sensibilities from this fun band this summer. A newcomer to the show would have never known that this was Ivan and Kelly's post-divorce tour, since the entire band was in buoyant spirits and joking with the crowd and with one another throughout the night.

  4. The Church at Variety Playhouse on February 22, 2011
    The Church's spirited jaunt through three albums covering specific phases of their 30-year career was a show for the ages. I played Starfish nonstop in my truck for a month after the concert.

  5. The Psychedelic Furs at the Masquerade on July 6, 2011
    The Furs went through their Talk Talk Talk album in its entirety, then launched into several other favorites. I never tire of seeing this band, and Richard Butler never seems to tire of putting on an active show for the audience.

  6. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark At the Loft on March 14, 2011
    It's always a pain in the neck to spell the band name, but I must pay gleeful tribute to OMD, because this show was a blast. The John Hughes movie songs came through flawlessly, but the crowd of rabid fans seemed to react best to the band's early material. This was a great night.

  7. Ladytron at the Masquerade on October 13, 2011
    I cannot decide whether Ladytron's new album is their best or their worst. It's the most consistent album of their career, and the ethereal electronic numbers shine through, but no one song really stands out. Everything stood out well on this night, though, and Ladytron gave the Atlanta fans another epic experience.

  8. Bon Iver with The Rosebuds at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center on July 28, 2011
    I attended this concert just to see The Rosebuds again, and to take in the wonder of Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center for the first time. Bon Iver is basically Peter Cetera and Phil Collins for kids who are too young to remember Peter Cetera and Phil Collins, or for hipsters who fancy themselves too cool to listen to Peter Cetera and Phil Collins. As such was the night, which blended Bon Iver's cabin-in-the-woods songs from the first album with the Miami-Vice-music-that-does-not-want-to-admit-that-it's-Miami-Vice music from the second album. I will say that I enjoyed seeing the sparkle in the eyes of the younger crowd, all of whom were truly overjoyed to be at the show. It's been a long time since I've sensed that sort of earnest excitement from a crowd.
Favorite Movies:
  1. The Tree of Life
    Terrence Malick combines a 1950s small-town childhood with grand scale depictions of universal creation to illustrate how our thoughts and dreams are so small in the big universal picture, but, in a way, our thoughts and our dreams are the universe itself. “May I be excused, Professor? My brain is full.” Maybe so, but I enjoyed seeing a director dream big and attempt to encompass everything, 2001: A Space Odyssey-style, into one experience.

  2. Drive
    The trailers make Drive look like an action-packed car chase movie, but the truth is that Drive goes deeper with an initially slow story where sudden violence erupts from low-key interactions in a shocking way. It's an amazing movie with a foreign flick sensibility.

  3. Take Shelter
    This slow-boiler of a story, about a family man's terrifying premonitions about a deadly storm, cuts all the way through to the center nerve of the current national apprehension of bad times on the way. Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain both deserve awards for their roles here.

  4. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
    I own the box set with all five of the original Planet of the Apes movies, and I even own the DVD box set of the old 1970s television show. As a total nerd for this franchise who wishes that the abysmal Tim Burton movie from a few years ago never existed, I expected the worst from this new movie. Surprisingly, this movie offers the best. This movie throws several bones to true fans like me, and there is nothing quite as exhilarating as watching Caesar finally rebel against his masters.

  5. X-Men: First Class
    This is quite possibly my favorite comic book hero adaptation to date. The combination of 1960s Cuban Missile Crisis espionage and origin stories is an outrageous blast that stands through multiple viewings.
Favorite Books:
  1. Donald Ray Pollock - The Devil All The Time
    This one is depraved, violent, insane, and bleak, but I loved every minute of it. Pollock's skewed take on Americana is a true literary masterpiece. Imagine watching Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth direct an episode of The Andy Griffith Show.

  2. Graham Joyce - The Silent Land
    This is a story of eerie spooks and ghostly revelations in the way that the old episodes of The Twilight Zone captured so wonderfully. A married couple on a ski trip emerges from an accident to find themselves the only remaining people in the ski village. Read the rest to find out more.

  3. Stephen King - 11/22/63
    Just when you think that America's best-selling novelist has nothing more to say, he shows up with a massive 900-page masterpiece like this one.

  4. Daniel Wilson – Robopocalypse
    The inevitable movie adaptation of this takeover by robots and computers will be amazing. How can it not be?

  5. Marshall Ulrich - Running on Empty
    If you want to find out why ultrarunners like me enjoy running the crazy distances that we run, this intimate look into Marshall Ulrich's mind during his trans-America run is worth your while.

  6. Robert McCammon - The Five
    A young rock band in the midst of management problems and break-up tensions during their final tour finds a new problem when they are pursued by a delusional shell-shocked Iraq veteran. This is pulp novel stuff in Robert McCammon's classic style, but it's also essential reading for anyone who loves music and live bands.
Related Links:
  Return to the End Of Year Lists menu.
Inspector Jason's 2007 year-end lists.
Inspector Jason's 2008 year-end lists.
Inspector Jason's 2009 year-end lists.
Inspector Jason's 2010 year-end lists.

Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Minion Roster. |Return to the End Of Year Lists menu.