Bloggerhythms' top five CDs for 2011 are more mainstream than in previous years. Two of them are by long time veterans (Shelby Lynne and The Jayhawks) and the other three are releases by relative newcomers even though Adele has already reached superstardom. In a year when recent online news stories wrote about the probable death of the CD all of the albums on this list should be purchased in their entirety, not just track by track on iTunes.
Overall it was a very good year for recorded music.
With only their second release these SoCal boys hit paydirt in a big way. Twenty-five year old songwriter Taylor Goldsmith offers a rare combination of pleasing vocals reminiscent of Jackson Browne, melodic songwriting with deep hooks ("Time Spent in Los Angeles"), and intelligent, moving lyrics ("A Little Bit of Everything"). If you're a fan of Hall of Famer Browne this CD is for you. It's the comeback album he never made. The 70s star even lends his background vocals to "Fire Away" and "Everything" features a guitar solo that is a dead ringer for David Lindley. Visit Dawes website.
The eponymous, mostly acoustic debut from this new Seattle sextet (who only formed in 2009) proves they are on a pace to become one of America's truly great bands of the future. As with Dawes their songs are both musical and intelligent and they have an outstanding piano player in Kenny Hensley. Seattle's City Arts Magazine named the group as Puget Sound’s best new band for 2011 and they've already been on Conan O’Brien's show. The best tracks are "Lost in My Mind" and "Down in the Valley" but everything here is worthy. You can find The Head and The Heart's website here.
Band founders, singers, and composers Gary Louris and Mark Olsen are finally together again with their vintage lineup for the first time in over a decade and a half. The surprisingly excellent Mockingbird Time proves how much these two veterans must have missed working together and how fans were shortchanged by their lost collaboration. "She Walks in So Many Ways" is vintage Jayhawks and it's only the tip of the iceberg on this top drawer comeback CD. The quintet is also great in concert as you can read here.
Is Shelby Lynne capable of making a mediocre CD? Apparently not. One of country music's most intelligent singer-songwriters is back with a sparsely produced set of songs on which she wrote, sang, and played every note. It's a very personal album that deals with the deep tragedies of her childhood. Her pain is felt by listeners on "Heaven’s Only Days Down the Road." Once again, Steve Earle's sister-in-law releases the music she wants to give to the world on her own label, Everso Records, so she never has to compromise with the major companies. Here is Shelby's official online home.
With only her second full length work, twenty-one year old British rocker, Adele Adkins, (hence the CD's title) released the blockbuster album of the year. With a deep, bluesy, alto voice she sounds much older than her age as she belts out terrific songs like the radio hits "Someone Like You," "Rumor Has It," and "Rolling In the Deep." She co-wrote most of the material so she's a double threat, not just a vocalist. Many year end "best of" lists rank 21 several notches higher than just fourth runner-up which is a testimony to how good the other CDs on this list are. So far, Adele's disc is the biggest seller of the 21st Century. Read more about the young singer at her website.