1) Foo Fighters –Wasting Light

Record of the year.  If there is a better second half of the year release I’ll console myself with that hypothetically brain-punchingly excellent album.  Bands get sharper over time; few have hit the running peak of passion and musicianship the Foos are on right now.

2) Hayes Carll – KMAG YOYO 
Never heard of him.Saw two Carllsongs on my way out of another show.  Bought the album out of left field.  Alt-country, straight-up country, straight-up rock, and a bunch of overt Dylan influence. Reflections on the current state of everything interspersed with damn funny lyrics set to nice good tunes equal great (and fun) album. Favorite line, “I’m like James Brown, only white and taller”.

3) Jason Isbelland the 400 Unit – Here We Rest

Isbell’s enhanced comfort with the 400 unit on their 2nd album together and his ability to pen a pop tune coupled with his sharp story-telling style is a beautiful thing.  ‘Heart on a String’ is the only miss here.  It sounds like a lost 1980s car commercial, is omission would likely have bumped this above touring-mate, Carll, but I don’t have to skip any songs on Carrl’s album.

4) Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues

I’ve always been a casual fan because I am a HUGE Steve Earle fan.  This album made me a Justin Townes Earle fan.  He loses the not quite country/not quite folksy shtick and just plays some good modern rockabilly (WTF is that?).  You would think dropping the underachieving son of a legend into Brooklyn would only turn up the pretention, right? Well it did, but it still sounds awesome.  This is the lover letter to New York that Ryan Adam wishes Gold was (which is a great album, too). Harlem River Blues for song of the year.   AMA nominated for record of the year, too.

5) Dropkick Murphys – Going Out In Style

If you know these guys and don’t like ‘em then move along, nothing new here.There is no mass appealing ‘Shipping Up To Boston’, yet another raucous Dropkick effort GOIS is the parking lot soundtrack to every MLS stadium with an Irish crowd tailgating.  Bruce Springsteen pops up on Peg of My Heart, a real surprise if you didn’t know it was coming on the second to last song.

6) Old 97s – The Grand Theatre Volume 2

Again, if you don’t like them this is just more (very good) of the same.  It is made up by equal part Rhett Miller grandioso metaphors, hooks, guitar to drum percussion battles, and alternating New York City and Texas references. I am convinced Rhett Miller just penned A State of Texas just so he can have his way with a bunch of Texas sorority girls. And in the end, hey, I would if I could, and if sounds decent, more power to you.

7) Drive-By Truckers Go-Go Boots

Not my favorite Truckers album, but it has grown on me.  Everybody Needs Love crept into my favorite songs of the year.  Lead singer, Patterson Hood, recently described DBT as a Noir-Band.  I’m not sure if that’s a thing, but there should be more Noir-Bands.

8) Various Artists – Rave On Buddy Holly

Yes, a tribute album made my list.  Though it’ll likely get pushed out of my year end list this record has been dominating my walk to work listening. I am convinced Justin Townes Earle’s work on this record is what inspired his new direction and up beat, Harlem River Blues.

9)The Lonely Island/Beastie Boys

Both of these won’t make my year end lists.  BUT, for The Lonely Island this was an achievement of humor AND sound.  Weird Al was funny because he song a song about Amish that sounded like Coolio.  Lonely Island are funny because not only could you mistake some of these for non-parody tracks but they score the legitimizing cameos.  There are a few standout tracks on the BBoys album (thank God, the new version of the Nas track was infinitely better than the leaked verison), but mainly this makes it for not being a total disappointment.  They still get down.

10) The Strokes – Angles

The Strokes have a lot of influences and can pay for very good production. We get it.The best songs sound like vintage Strokes—Undercover of Darkness.  You’re So Right comes off as a wanna be Radiohead track, no good papi.  Gratisfaction is an attempt at a Billy Joel-ing, and surprisingly it works. A friend recently told me about the time Drew Barrymore gave him attitude while ordering drinks at a bar on Avenue B back when they were the NYC Strokes. “What the hell has she done lately?  I own a bar down the street now!” I want to hear Angles played loudly at his bar so I can decide for sure if they’ve done anything lately.

11) Steve Earle – I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive

Yes, I’m a huge Earle fan, so he makes my top 10 at number 11.  Glad he is still churning them out, nothing here like his past few albums (save the Townes Van Zandt inspired Transcendental Blues), but a solid effort from the elder and bearded Earle.  Also, can we just talk about how he is basically just playing an uncredited version of himself on HBO’s Treme?  Thanks.

* Kanye/Cee-Lo

2011 can’t be referenced without the albums by these two.  Sure, they were released in 2010 but it’s my list and they’ve dominated my iPod more than anything else, so, yeah.

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