Hello, all… First a little housekeeping:
* We have an official, formal date for the transition on the beat. Jenifer Langosch will take over in nine days, on Feb. 3. I’ll start writing in my new capacity that day. This blog should continue to exist, as should my twitter feed, but as of Feb. 3, I will no longer be MLB.com’s beat writer. If this is all news to you, check this entry for the story. We will probably be moving in April.
* Tonight at 9 p.m. CT, MLB Network will run a special on MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. Spoiler alert: there are some Cardinals on the list. So come to Cardinals.com about that same time for more on them. My good friend and longtime colleague Jonathan Mayo does great work with the prospect stuff for us, and you should definitely check it all out.
And now, on with the music.
This post gets later and later every year, which I apologize for. But hey, maybe I win some sort of prize for the last top-10 of 2011 list of any kind, anywhere.
Anyway, first a disclaimer/explanation. Actually, I’ll just re-run what I wrote in the intro to this piece last year:
If you’re not interested, just stop reading now. Won’t hurt my feelings. Head over to Cardinals.com for the news on Jason Motte’s contract and all the other stuff we’ve had there in recent days and weeks. … I know this is a baseball blog, but as I’ve made clear over the years, I also always intended it to be a little more than that. So thank you for indulging me. And most of all, thanks for reading all of it — blog, stories, everything — and for taking the time to comment and keep me on my toes.
In past years, my wife and I have done two separate posts. This year, she has simply emailed her list, which is a top-11 (I DO WHAT I WANT, she notes). So here it is. I’m not sure we’ve ever had so little overlap in our favorite albums in a year:
1. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit–Here We Rest
2. TV on the Radio–Nine Kinds of Light
3. Gillian Welch–The Harrow and the Harvest
4. The Decemberists–The King is Dead
5. R.E.M.–Collapse Into Now
6. Ha Ha Tonka–Death of a Decade
7. Wild Flag–Wild Flag
8. Cut Copy–Zonoscope
9. Foo Fighters–Wasting Light
10.Cold War Kids–Mine is Yours
11. Childish Gambino–EP
And now mine. Like Erin, I had a very hard time narrowing down to 10. Unlike last year, there weren’t a lot of records that just FLOORED me. But there was an absolute ton of albums that I really enjoyed. I heard more than 20 albums this year that, in some years, could have cracked my top 10.
As it is, I went with 11 just as Erin did. Could EASILY have been 14.
11. Buffalo Tom, “Skins” – Much better than their last one, “Three Easy Pieces,” and it felt like something out of their 1990s heyday (in a good way, not in an overly retro way). Love this band, always have, and this fits right in with a fantastic catalog.
10. Frank Turner, “England Keep My Bones” – A first-listen grabber. I love his voice, love his sound.
9. Drive-By Truckers, “Go-Go Boots” – A bit of a disappointment at first listen, because I prefer rocker DBT to slow-and-quiet DBT. But it’s a great collection of Patterson Hood songs, and the high points are incredibly high (I think “Mercy Buckets” was my favorite song of the year).
8. Ha Ha Tonka, “Death of a Decade” – Big ups to a band from Springfield, Mo. They do the same things that a lot of other bands do, in broad strokes. But they do ’em SO well that I couldn’t stop listening to this album.
7. Jay-Z/Kanye West, “Watch the Throne” – Overhyped, and then there was a backlash. So what. Great record, one of two albums I listened to more than any other this year (the other one is No. 1).
6. Cold War Kids, “Mine Is Yours” – This year’s grower. First listen was meh. Second and third were meh. It was poorly received critically. And I kept giving it more listens and it kept growing on me. Lots of people really didn’t care for this album, including (especially?) CWK fans. I loved it.
5. Black Keys, “El Camino” – A late entry, but another that I had a really hard time taking out of my CD player.
4. Foo Fighters, “Wasting Light” – Maybe too low. Another grower, an album I really dug on the first few listens but then totally grabbed me in the past couple months. “These Days” was another of my 4-5 favorite songs of the year.
3. Wild Flag, “Wild Flag” – This took two listens. First one, I didn’t quite feel it. Second one, I was hooked. Loved Sleater-Kinney and I love this.
2. The Horrible Crowes, “Elsie” – It’s no secret that I don’t love the Gaslight Anthem as much as I feel like I ought to. If you’re a Springsteen fan, a Hold Steady fan, it’s just assumed that you’ll love tGA too. I like them. I don’t love them. But this album… wow. Grabbed me on first listen, I kept coming back to it. Just felt so much more relaxed, less just-so than how Gaslight feels to me. If there’s some of this feel on the next tGA album, color me VERY excited.
1. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, “Here We Rest” – In short, this is the record I’ll remember this year by. Probably listened to it more than any other two albums this year combined. One fantastic song after another. It grabbed me on first listen, and it stuck with me.