Top 5 Albums of 2011 So Far

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 Top 5 albums of 2011 So Far.

5. Cults – Cults

Cults: Oh My God

Cults are a band I was first introduced to because NPR was streaming their new self-titled album. They also happened to be playing The Ottobar in Baltimore that weekend so I made sure to check it out. Cults won me over in concert immediately and then the album got stuck under my skin for the next month. Their sound is accessible, fun, melodically driven, and tinged with a blend of 50's sensibility and 21st century indie aesthetics. This light-hearted album is a perfect fit for your summer listening. Don't be afraid to dance once the needle drops.

4. ChromaDuo – Hidden Waters

ChromaDuo: Hot

ChromaDuo is a tour de force of classical guitar duo performance. The ensemble is comprised of Tracy Anne Smith and Rob MacDonald and their new album Hidden Waters is an absolute gem on the guitar scene. The featured repertoire is unique to the duo because it was by and large written for them from some of the world's finest contemporary composers. I cannot stress enough the level of quality, craftsmanship, and love that is in this album. If this music isn't your typical scene and you're feeling a little reticent, then make sure to purchase the hard copy of the album because the liner notes contain personal writings from each composer about the presented work. Hidden Waters is a not to be missed kind of album from two of the most talented and hardest working classical guitarists on the scene today.

3. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & The Harvest

Gillian Welch: The Way It Goes

Gillian Welch is my favorite songbird and I've loved everything she has ever been involved with. Her 2011 release The Harrow & The Harvest features her alongside her long standing and uner appreciated duo partner David Rawlings – together their ability to craft melodies and harmonies is unmatched. This album is essentially a compilation of ballads but the duo does break into some new sounds and textures as the harmonica and body percussion are featured on some of the tracks. If you were already a fan of Gillian Welch then I do not need to sell you on this record; it is Welch remaining true to form and doing what she does best.

2. Dawes – Nothing is Wrong

Dawes: Coming Back to a Man

I have been having an absolute love affair with Dawes recently. I think what I enjoy most about them is that their songwriting is reminiscent of classic rock greats like Jackson Browne. Furthermore, the structure of their songs is built to unfold as the hook appears and their instrumentation allows for actual musical subtly and melodic elaboration around the vocal line. It is music making in the highest esteem for the word in a genre not typically praised for its subtlety or artfulness. This album has massive replay value and is one that I look forward to establishing a long relationship with.  

1. Chris Thile & Michael Daves – Sleep With One Eye Open

Chris Thile & Michael Daves: My Little Girl in Tennessee

Sleep With One Eye Open is a staggering display of raw talent steeped in an instinctive knowledge of the style. I cannot speak highly enough of these two remarkable musicians, and in addition, the album was cut in only four 'feverish' days! This album is a collection of bluegrass standards through the lens of two contemporary champions of the genre. Their vocal and instrumental styles are both distinctive and previously established, but they blend flawlessly and beautifully on this record. Honestly I do not anticipate anything in the remainder of the year which I will enjoy more than this, but I look forward to the search. 

So there you have it. If this is five is any indication of the rest of the year to come, then it's going to be a great second half. Don't forget to Holler Back! with some feedback and let me know what you think of my picks and what yours are for the year in progress. You dig?