December 4, 2011

Best of 2011: The MVPs

All weeklong Everybody Taste will be reflecting and ruminating on 2011 with a series of posts and lists dedicated to celebrating the best (read: our favorite) music of the year.

When you think of the particularly prolific artists of 2011, Cass McCombs and Thee Oh Sees—both of whom somehow released two stunning and critically-lauded full-lengths this year—might come to mind. Or maybe it's Taylor Goldsmith, the star of the Middle Brother supergroup's debut LP and whose own Dawes released their boldest record to date. Or the Orrall brothers, Jake and Jamin. Sure, they only released one album this year, but their label Infinity Cat, which, aside from getting picked up by Warner Brothers, released fistfuls of brilliantly scuzzy rock and punk this year by the likes of Natural Child, Diarrhea Planet, Denney and The Jets, and Peach Kelli Pop. But for me, when I think of the artists that have had the biggest impact on my year, I come up with two names: Shannon Shaw and Gerrit Welmers.

Shaw, who fronts the Oakland-based Shannon & The Clams, has a husky and deeply soulful voice that's a true wonder and easily one of my favorite discoveries of 2011. Shannon & The Clams 12-track LP Sleep Talk is a humour-filled ride through 50s-laced punk and rock gems that boasts two of the year's best tracks, the beach party foot-stomper of a title-track "Sleep Talk" and "The Cult Song"—quite possibly the funniest and most vivid track of 2011 (more on that later in our Best Songs post). Along with the Clams, Shaw was also one of Seth Bogart's Punx, co-writing several songs on Hunx and His Punx' Too You To Be In Love LP, as well as providing the much-welcome throaty thunder to Bogart's nasally pop-punk lightning. And that's not all. The multi-talented Shaw also painted the cover artwork for The Sandwitches' exquisite LP Mrs. Jones' Cookies, a dreamy portrait of the three band members with long flowing hair.

Shannon & The Clams - "Sleep Talk" (from Sleep Talk)
Shannon & The Clams - "The Cult Song" (from Sleep Talk)

As a member of Baltimore trio Future Islands and the sole creative force behind Moss of Aura, Gerrit Welmers had an equally impressive impact on 2011. While Samuel T. Herring's intensely bellowing melodramatic vocals may be the most distinctive and audible marker of Future Islands, it's Welmers' unique and creative synth-splattered atmospheric twists and turns that create the emotional foundation of each track, giving Herring's words the proper setting, tone, and context. While many folks will have Future Islands' superb On The Water LP in their top ten for the year, it's Welmers solo album Wading—released under his Moss of Aura moniker—that has me headed back to the turntable time and again. I'm not particularly drawn to instrumental music—especially not when its centralized around the synthesizer—but as Moss of Aura, Welmers has created his own truly stunning one-of-a-kind Carribean-soaked magnum opus. (Photo)

Moss of Aura - "Jaminal" (from Wading)
Moss of Aura - "Titan" (from Wading)

Nab Moss of Aura goodies from Friends Records and Shannon & The Clams LPs from 1-2-3-4 Go Records.

Shannon and The Clams

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