ETB’s Favorite Music of 2011

I have mixed feelings about end-of-the-year lists: I enjoy reading them, mostly because I’m curious about what records friends and other critics enjoyed throughout the year, and I love that they help me catch up on music I missed or didn’t spend enough time with (because I obviously have listened to every single record that was released in 2011…).

What I have a hard time with is the argument of who made the “best” record. That’s not to say I refuse to participate in the list-making at work — I certainly suggested certain albums should be higher or lower on our list — but it can get a little ridiculous. When I make my own year-end list, it’s just my personal favorites: I don’t mean it to say that one album is definitively better than another in terms of music, lyrics, whatever, or that my picks are better than everything else that came out during the year, but this was the music I connected with, what I listened to the most and what had the biggest effect on me.

Also, because I do use other people’s lists to catch up on what I’ve missed, that means there might be music that came out this year that I’m just now starting to fall in love with (see: Kurt Vile). And if we’re talking about my favorite musical discoveries of the year, there are quite a few artists whose music I heard for the first time in 2011, but they haven’t released anything recently (Patty Griffin, everything Mark Kozelek, Kathleen Edwards — the latter has already made one of my favorites of 2012). And if you ask me in a few months what my favorite 2011 records were, my response might be a little different than the following list. But for now, these were my favorites; my top 10 are in an order that could easy change over and over again, and then a bunch of others I loved listed alphabetically.

ALSO: Here is a mix of 27 songs I really liked this year — from many of these bands — for your downloading pleasure. Enjoy!

Top albums below…

Maple-Mustard Roasted Veggies + a post-Thanksgiving playlist

THE DISH
Maple roasted carrots, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts

THE INSPIRATION
I’ve said this before, but it certainly bears repeating: I am obsessed with the circle of friends I’ve found myself in in New York. And I was thrilled to learn that most of them — all of us transplants to the city, mostly from Michigan — would also be in town for Thanksgiving weekend, because obviously that meant it was yet another excuse to spend time together, making tons of food and eating (and drinking) ourselves silly. I’ll save my ramblings about how much I love them for a post I have coming up in a couple weeks, and instead I’ll share my contribution to our Thanksgiving feast: a simple mix of roasted veggies that, of course, I made way too much of. It has absolutely nothing to do with music, but I’m giving it to you anyway, along with a playlist of some songs I’m thankful for this year — not a best of 2011, as a few of them aren’t from the past 11 months, but songs that, for various reasons, have made my life just a little bit better this year.

THE PLAYLIST
Listen on Spotify here; tracklisting (and recipe) below!

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Pear Spice Bread (Inspired by The Weather Station + Hurricane Irene)

THE DISH
Pear spice bread (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
I listen to a lot of new music (considering my day job, I kinda have to), but it’s not so often that I stumble upon and fall utterly in love with a virtually unknown artist I’ve never heard of. When it happens, though, I get really excited and immediately tell everyone I know about it. These moments are some of my favorite reminders of why I love music and working in this industry. On Thursday I was browsing new releases on eMusic and the ’70s-looking cover of All Of It Was Mine, an album by The Weather Station, caught my eye, so I downloaded it and got sucked in for the rest of my workday. The Weather Station is the project of singer/songwriter Tamara Lindeman, who writes gorgeous acoustic folksongs that remind me of some of my favorite singer/songwriters, old and new; Joni Mitchell, Judee Sill, Laura Marling, Sharon Van Etten. Her music is warm and soothing, and it was the perfect soundtrack to the weekend I spent cooped up in my apartment, baking my Saturday morning away while I waited for Hurricane Irene to pass through Brooklyn.

I tried to use up produce and perishables like eggs, butter and milk that’d go bad in the fridge when we lost power, and make food that’d be OK to sit at room temperature. (Even though my neighborhood, Bushwick, wasn’t in an evacuation zone, I was still pretty positive there’d at least have a power outage — which, thankfully, there wasn’t). My roommate’s boss sent her home with his entire CSA share earlier this week, which included a bunch of pears, so I used those to make this amazing pear spice bread. I think this is the most delicious quick bread I’ve made, and it was as comforting as The Weather Station (not to be confused with the actual weather station — or, more accurately in my case, NYTimes.com hurricane updates — because none of that was really comforting). There’s also a reference to making homemade bread in opening track “Everything I Saw.” And to top it off, all of this paired (pear-ed? ha ha ha) together nicely with some other recent developments that have left me as warm and fuzzy as the warm richness of cinnamon, ginger and cloves in the pear bread. Hitting particularly close to home is a line from the song “Came So Easy”: “Your kind words came so easy, and I have winced at sugar sweetness/ You made me feel so wealthy, so I got tongue-tied, I got restless.” I love when the right music shows up at just the right time.

Anyway, you can stream the entire Weather Station album below; you can also buy it on her Bandcamp page or on eMusic.

Recipe below!