DJ Fundi's favorites of 2011

It was a great year for music, one of the best I can remember in a long time, and so making this list was easy this year. The Top 10 were no-brainers to me. I’ve collected them here alongside cool videos that may have escaped your attention -- live footage, TV appearances, animation, general weirdness. You can hear a mix of music from nearly all of these artists in the episode “11-11-11” on our main Podcast Cafe channel. You can listen/watch a playlist of all these videos back-to-back by visiting and clicking on “Play All.” Enjoy!

Bon Iver "Bon Iver" -- expectations were sky high for the next utterances from Justin Vernon, and the troubadour from Wisconsin delivered a debut album that both stayed true to the emotional impact of his debut as well as charted new sonic territory. Highlights: Towers, Holocene, Wash., Perth. Here are my favorite albums and artists of the past year. It was hard to pick only 20 in what felt like an incredible year for music. I like the way electronic music is seeping its way in to nearly every existing form and genre of music, from folk to jazz to rock n roll. I guess this year’s list leans pretty heavily towards acoustic freak-folk Americana bands, not surprisingly.

Fleet Foxes "Helplessness Blues" -- another sophomore album burdened by expectations after a stunning out-of-nowhere debut, this release experimented with arrangements and instrumentation while deepening the lyrical content and crafting a lovely song suite about wrestling with one's (in)significance in the world. Highlights: Bedouin Dress, Sim Sala Bim, The Shrine/An Argument

The Decemberists "The King is Dead" -- this album probably got more play than any other in DJ Fundi's domain, and not only because it was dropped way back in January. the first great album of the year, it sounds especially rich and rocking on vinyl. excellent vocal harmony contributions from another rootsy band on the list, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings. Highlight: Down by the Water, June Hymn, Dear Avery

St. Vincent "Strange Mercy" -- I still haven't pinned down why, to my senses, Annie Clark is by far the sexiest rock n roll star on the scene. on this album, she finds the precarious balance between sweet and dangerous, innocent and wrathful, and she and her eruptive guitar ride that edge from first song to last. Highlights: Cheerleader, Strange Mercy, Year of the Tiger.

Tom Waits "Bad as Me" -- the growling, yelping carnival barker cum whiskey-soaked balladeer returns with his first proper album in 7 years and delivers an incredible collection of diverse, well-honed songs from Weird America. Highlights: all of it.

Wye Oak "Civilian" -- I never tired of rocking out the title track alone and at high volume, the scorching, corroded guitar solo giving me the goosebumps every time.

Radiohead "King of Limbs" -- we purchased this album on vinyl, like Radiohead records before it, and have marveled in the complex, overlayered, dense, shifting intricacies of the music, which clearly favors the drums and bass for creating their most rhythmic yet abstract sound yet. Highlights: Lotus Flower, Codex, Give up the Ghost, Separator.

James Blake self-titled -- this album and artist were one of the more overhyped musical stories of the year, but this record, as it invents a new melodic post-dubstep sound with each track, carried great emotional impact and incredible bass drops. Highlight: Limit to Your Love, The Wilhelm Scream.

Wilco "The Whole Love" -- a return to the more edgy, experimental sounds of Americana fusion from albums of the late 1990s, and a solid collection of smart songs with deft musical playfulness and propulsion on every track. Highlights: opening and closing tracks

Gillian Welch “Harrow and the Harvest" -- Gillian and David's musical formula hasn't changed much since their first album in 1996, but they do what they do so well that it suits us just fine. their slow morphine-drip pacing, the way their voices harmonize so naturally, the spiderweb picking solos, the wistful, sepia-toned lyrics….all of it blends together perfectly on this melancholic collection of plaintive dirges. Highlights: The Way it Will Be, Silver Dagger, How the Whole Thing Ends, Hard Times, The Way It Goes….all of it!

Here’s a YouTube playlist where you can stream all of the above videos and more favorites from 2011 -- click “play all” and enjoy!

Runners up--more great music!

Beastie Boys "Hot Sauce Committee"
Kate Bush "The Director's Cut" and "50 Words for Snow"
Nicholas Jaar "Space is only Noise"
Yo-Yo Ma "Goat Rodeo Sessions"
My Morning Jacket "Circuital"
Welder "Flourescence"
Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal “Chamber Music”
tUnE-yArDs “W H O K I L L”
Tinariwen "Tassilli"
Bill Frisell "All We Are Saying…”
Lost in the Trees "All Alone in an Empty House"
SBTRKT self-titled
The Head and the Heart self-titled
Little Dragon “Ritual Union”

Happy listening and we look forward to another year of discovering and sharing new music with you in 2012!

DJ Fundi's Favorite Music of 2010

Top 5

Tipper "Broken Soul Jamboree"

Bonobo "Black Sands"

Black Keys "Brothers"

The Tallest Man on Earth "The Wild Hunt/Sometimes the Blues…"

Beats Antique "Blind Threshold"

The Next 5

Janelle Monae "The ArchAndroid"

Sufjan Stevens "All Delighted People/The Age of Adz"

The Roots "How I Got Over"

Four Tet "There Is Love In You"

Spoon "Transference"

The next 10 -- honorable mentions

Josh Ritter "So Runs the World Away"

Bassekuo Kouyate "I Speak Fula"
Easy Star All-Stars "Dubber Side of the Moon"

Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs "God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise"

Erykah Badu "New Amerykah Part 2"
Quantic "Dog With a Rope"

Cowboy Junkies "Renmin Park"

The Broken Bells self-titled
Big Boi "Sir Luscious Left Foot"

Neil Young "Le Noise"

Awesomest songs of the year

Cee-Lo Green's "Fuck You"

The Tallest Man on Earth's "The Dreamer"

Janelle Monae's "Tightrope"

Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs "God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise"

Sade's "Soldier of Love"

Big Boi's "Shutterbug"

Awesomest videos of the year

Erykah Badu's "Jump Up in the Air & Stay There"

Flying Lotus' "MmmmmmmHmmmmmmm"

and here's all the videos in one long playlist where you can listem to them all in one long sesh without ever getting off the couch:


Pretty Lights * Vibesquad * PantyRaid * Live in the NW Nov 2010

Pretty Lights * Vibesquad * Panty Raid from moontroll on Vimeo.


The Cave Singers, live in Bellingham, WA 11/12/10

Six songs by The Cave Singers from moontroll on Vimeo.


RJD2 on stage, 4/10/10

RJD2 tore up the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham to a packed house on the 58th stop of his 59-city tour. Mixing new songs from his album "The Collossus" with older favorites from "Deadringer" and "The Horror," Rambling John played an array of turntables, mixing boards, computers, gadgets and guitar and sang too. A good time was had by all!

And here's a RJD2 on-air radio mix from 2004 for your funky enjoyments:


The Podcast Cafe's Favorite Music of 2009

Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2009
The xx, Phoenix, Iron & Wine, Miike Smith, Neko Case & the Japandroids receive valuable multiple vote-points in annual renowned world-famous poll of the SBWS tastemakers -- Nirvana roars back, P. Jam snoozes and Big Debate over Wilco (The Album)

DJ Fundi:

Fever Ray's "Fever Ray"
Welder's "Vines and Streams"
The xx's "xx"
Heyoka's "Gate Code"
Cymbals Eat Guitars' "Why There Are Mountains"
The Cave Singers' "Welcome Joy"
Built to Spill's "There is No Enemy"
Dirty Projectors' "Bitte Orca"
Tinariwen's "Imidiwan"
ill.gates' "Autopirate"

A mix of genres served in good proportion: electronica/whomp/dub (4), guitar rock (2), weird folk (1), avant-garde pop (2) and African (1). Very pleased with each one of these and expect to listen to them for the ages. Most of the artists are brand new to me, so maybe I'm still in the honeymoon phase? Built to Spill is the only oldie but goodie to me, and I was stoked to hear Doug & Co. roar back with a solid album full of beauty, heartache and soaring guitar solos.

Honorable mentions:

Sonic Youth's "The Eternal"
"5: 5 Years of Hyperdub" compilation
Andras Schiff's "Bach: Six Partitas"
Neko Case's "Middle Cyclone"
DJ/Rupture's "Solar Life Raft"
Nosaj Thing's "Drift"
The Mountain Goats' "The Life of the World to Come"
Iron & Wine's "Around the Well"
Yim Yames "Tribute To George Harrison"
Bon Iver "Blood Bank"
"Dark was the Night" compilation

Most Disappointing:

Pearl Jam's "Backspacer"
To my ears, the blandest and most predictable album they've ever made -- I tried very hard to like it. Still love the boys but most of this this just sounds limp and plodding and too predictable. Instead of Backspacer, check out the band playing ferociously in peak form in 1994 at Wolfgang's Vault -- one of the best, most energetic and passionate rock performances ever, methinks.
Wilco's "Wilco (The Album)"
Not a bad album per se, only that Wilco has set the bar so damn high for themselves and I was over this one after 2 or 3 listens.
Bob Dylan "Together Through Life"
Ditto Dylan -- the first average album after a decade of amazing late-period releases.

Listen to a free podcast featuring much of the music listed above on the
main Podcast Cafe episodes page.

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Dub Marcus "K-Pop" Keeney:

Top 15 in somewhat order -- (parenthese is a good track to check out)

The xx - The xx - (crystalized)
Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young (Out of the blue)
Japandroids - Post-Nothing (The boys are leaving town)
Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Lisztomania)
Bombay Bicycle Club - I had the blues but shook them loose (What If)
St. Vincent - Actor - (marrow)
Wilco - Wilco (wilco - the song)
Tegan and Sara - Sainthood  -(alligator)
The Avett Brothers -   I and Love and You- (I and Love and You)
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone   (this tornado loves you)
The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love (The Hazards of Love Pt1)
Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion  - (My Girls)
Miike Snow - Miike Snow   (animal)
U2 - No Line on the Horizon (Magnificent)
Vieux Farka Toure - Fondo    (sarama)
Honorable mention

The Big Pink, Atlas Sound, Amadou & Mariam, brakesbrakesbrakes, Robyn Hitchcock (Live in NY I often dream of trains)
Couple comments
Japandroids is just pure post-punk, there is just something about this album that makes we want to grab a smashing stick and go to work, but not with anger, rather pure joy and a smile on my face.
The Decemberists album deserves the full listen with headphones, not single tracks, for it is what I would dub Storybook Folk at its best. 
Animal Collective is somewhere between ...And you will know us by the trail of the dead...and pink floyd.  So many layers in their songs I get lost and love it.
The Avett Brothers - Many of you know my long standing obstinance to country (and hesh too but that is a different story) but this album is just great song writing, plus I am a sucker for a banjo (The January Wedding.)
Neko Case has now entered my pantheon of female singers that make me swoon.  She is a mix of Tracy Thorn and Margo Timmins.
Phoenix - admitedly I am a little tired of this album nowadays, but I couldn't get enough when this first came out early in the year. Great pop that makes my bouncing leg step it up a notch.
Bombay Bicycle Club - ditto - these guys have to be fantastic live. 
Miike Snow - where they hell did they come from? Some Nordic country that Dille will have to affirm but do give them a listen, I promise you will want to stand up and march.
U2 - I know Bono's crooning can be a bit much but there are a number of tracks on this album that harken back to the glory days (Joshua Tree) mostly due to the Edge.  Definitely my guilty pleasure of the year.
Vieux Farka Toure - just like his father, this reverb fender hypnotizes me and is pure brilliance in my opinion.

Don't take my word on any of this, listen for yourself:

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The Internationally Renowned Boaster:

This has been a tricky year to come up with a top 10. There are tons of really good new releases but none that I felt were far and away better than the rest. The most epic of all was the Nirvana live album. Even some that are in my top 10 I don't see being on my regular rotation like so many top 10's in the past.  As evidence to this point, in the KEXP top 90.3 albums of the decade only two were from 2009.  Some of my favorite '09 releases do not even qualify as new albums (one live, two  b-side comps and one EP).   I even went back through many of the "consensus" top albums to make sure I wasn't just in some strange socialistic music rut where everything is equal. I still don't get the fascination with Merriweather post pavilion.  Very few releases were completely solid from the first song to the last.  Too many had what I would call filler. Another example, Mos Def's "Ecstatic" has some great songs but also has some pure cheese. Anyway, before you call bullshit on my entire "2009 -the year of parody" theory, have a gander at what wheat I have separated from the chaff, in no specific order:
Japandroids - post nothing (I new it was special when 80% of the people I turned on to it hated it.)
Julian Plenti - Julian Plenti is....Skyscraper
The xx-xx
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Its Blitz
Nirvana - Live at Redding (this I will be listening to for the rest of my life)
Iron and Wine - Around the Well
Shabazz Palaces - Of Light
Staff Bebda Bilili - Tres Tres fort
Amadou and Miriam - Welcome to Mali
Miike Snow -Miike Snow
Modest Mouse - No One's First and You're Last
I am not going to give any honorable mentions as that could include countless credible albums. I will say that I do agree with K-Pop that the Decemberists latest is worthy, specifically the "Wanting Comes In Waves" track. 
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UPDATE: late entry by Mr. Kevin Koga
Steinski-What Does it All Mean
James Pants-Welcome
El Michels Affair-Enter the 37th Chamber
Major Lazer- Guns Don’t Kill People Lazers Do
Ben Sollee- Learning to Bend
K’Naan- album
Diplo- Decent Work for Decent Pay
Raphael Saadiq- The Way I See It
Common- Universal Mind Control
Tom Waits- Glitter and Doom

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Did we miss anything? Leave
your favorite albums of 2009 in the comments. Peace.