For the best albums in 2011, SF Critic will highlight each of our staff’s picks, rather than an accumulative 25, 50, 1,000 best album list.
About William Clarke:
Will has written for SF Critic for just over a year now. We met at college. Will and I have always shared our tastes in music. Well, actually, I always asked Will what he was listening to, to which he replied “Some indie stuff you’ve probably never heard.” At that time, as has become the case more recently for me, I loved hip hop–more than Interpool or Radiohead–which Will would adamantly say “I don’t listen to hip hop Dave.” However he does enjoy the occasional Weezy, Yeezy, or Dap Jones, but has always had different taste than me (which is why we’re so happy he writes with us). These are William’s pick for best albums in 2011.
De Keefmen – De Keefmen
De Keefmen are a Dutch three piece rock band that have a snarling, low-fi sound that is one part Bad Brain, one part Mission of Burma and one-part the Sonics (of “Louie, Louie” fame). The fuzzy, jangly guitars whip back and forth over vocalist Henri’s sometimes howling and sometimes plaintive voice that occasionally reminds you of a less bombastic Glenn Danzig. So, basically, they’re great. They manage to meld upbeat tempos with melancholy lyrics throughout with their pop-inflected punk songs keep the rough edges without giving up on their rough and tumble rollicking through heartbreak and disappointment with a sneer. Stand out tracks include “I Told You Once, I Told You Twice,” and “Say Were Through.”
Download Mp3 – De Keefmen: “I Need Help”
Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx – We’re New Here
This was, in my opinion, the most underrated release of 2011. Before his death, Gil Scott-Heron was one of America’s most remarkable voices. In truly remarkable fashion, Jamie xx of the eponymous group The xx has essentially taken songs from I’m New Here, the last album Scott-Heron completed before his death this past May, and created something new and interesting. Scott-Heron’s album, was a dark, defiant and moody meditation on perseverence that was both nostalgic and hopeful. For a white British dude to remix the Dean of American Hip-Hop is ballsy and when I first heard about the project I was skeptical, but the anachronistic electronic music works in tandem with Scott-Heron’s distinct baritone, especially on songs like “Running.” Most impressive is that over tight snares and synth chords Jamie xx manages to bring out a new side of Scott-Heron and proves in the process what a true iconoclast Gil Scott-Heron was.
Download Mp3: Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx: “Running”
Charles Bradley – No Time For Dreaming
Like his Daptone records label mate Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley was criminally ignored by the music industry for most of his life. No Time For Dreaming is what a good friend of mine would call hot fire; and Bradley’s unreal pipes notwithstanding, equal credit must go to the Menahan Street Band, whose funky swagger will give any brass band from New Orleans to Memphis a run for their money. One of Bradley’s great triumphs is that he sounds every bit like some of his forebears without coming off as the least bit derivative. Perhaps its because funk and soul music hit a lull as hip-hop rose to prominence that people like Bradley and Sharon Jones were overlooked for so long, but the way Bradley sings it on No Time for Dreaming, you would think soul music never left. Stand-out tracks include: “Stay Away” and “How Long.”
Download Mp3 – Charles Bradley “Stay Away”