(Lynn Kestenbaum con't)
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Mirror Traffic: this was exactly what I wanted to hear from him. It felt like he was stripping down his style again and getting back to the roots of his artistry. I think touring with Pavement in 2010 was a great influence. Less wank‚ more focus. Pretty stuff while being simultaneously badass in that awesome SM way.
The Foo Fighters - Wasting Light: recorded on analog tape in Dave Grohl's garage (yes‚ I realize Dave Grohl's garage is probably pretty nice)‚ revisited the noisy lo-fi sound of 80's rock 'n' roll cassettes and with it‚ a feeling of youthful energy and rage (and the satisfaction of decorating a denim covered binder with white-out and leaking ballpoint pen). And BALLS. Tons of balls. And‚ like‚ fuck Courtney Love. Seriously‚. TEAM DAVE!
Primus came back out‚ swinging‚ with Green Naughahyde. An album dedicated to American ingenuity‚ failure‚ and fishin' (duh)‚ brought to you by the beautiful spirit of all things Primus. It's a freakin' Primus album! Who doesn't love Primus albums?
Todd Snider Live - The Storyteller which captures the barefoot madness that is a Todd Snider show‚ and allows you to share it with your friends in a convenient 2 CD package so you can eventually drag their asses to see him in person. Storyteller includes such tales as: the time he ate mushrooms and quit his High School football team to hang with the burnouts instead. We've all been there. Is Todd Snider too young to be considered a living legend?
My Morning Jacket - Circuital. It's on here because I very recently got into these guys and this album is fucking groovy as hell. There's something special about a man who's perfected the art of Effective Howling and can dance like James Brown. Shiiiiit. What can I say? "Uncle." Jim James WINS.
Lastly‚ if 2011 leaves any sort of musical impression on you‚ it should definitely include this spectacular music video by Ke$ha‚ for her chart topping electro-pop hit‚ "Blow." See you in 2012!

J Hunter

HUNTER'S TOP 5 (and a bit of bloviating about live music)
2. DELFEAYO MARSALIS -- Sweet Thunder
3. MARCUS STRICKLAND -- Triumph of the Heavy
5. JULIAN LAGE GROUP -- Gladwell
It's the little shows that knock out the big shows: LA-based singer/songwriter Sunny War's solo-acoustic set did more for me in half an hour then anything served up by headliner Keb Mo (now without those confusing apostrophes). Marco Beneveneto's gig at Red Square literally put me in physical therapy for a month‚ but damn it‚ it was worth it! Vibes master Joe Locke's blistering trio show at Athens Cultural Center was only superseded by the free-wheeling Q&A that came before it‚ and the Jeff Coffin Mu'Tet (featuring Kofi Burbridge and Felix Pastorius) positively nuked Massry Center for the Arts with a free show that's still ringing in my ears. On the festival front‚ Indian reed wizard Rudresh Mahanthappa teamed with Mingus alum Bunky Green to blow away "Jazz at the Lake" in Lake George -- a festival that had already given us John Ellis & Double-Wide leading a Second Line around Shepard Park‚ and Don Byron throwing jazz & gospel in a Cuisinart in order to make a deliciously spiritual evening. Last but not least‚ Wilco played the second night of a rain-drenched Solid Sound like… well‚ like a band that had played a long show the night before; no worries‚ though‚ because Liam Finn thrillingly channeled Iggy Pop‚ Dave Douglas Brass Ecstacy kicked Preservation Hall right in the nuts‚ and Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion played an amazing (and impromptu) acoustic set in the middle of one of MASS MoCA's mind-bending galleries. Solid Sound's a tradition now‚ campers‚ so keep watching the skies for Volume 3!
Evangelos Dimitriadis

1. Charles Bradley - No Time for Dreaming
2. Crystal Stilts - In Love with Oblivion
3. A Hawk and a Hacksaw - Cervantine
4. Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
5. Beirut - The Rip Tide
At the top of my list this year is Charles Bradley of Daptone Records. Currently in his sixties‚ these past few years he's seen a lifelong dream come true through his music. What a voice‚ what a songwriter‚ and what a backing he's found in the revolving Menahan Street Band. "Why Is It So Hard" was the song to first get its hooks in me.
Brooklyn's Crystal Stilts continues to impress me with every release. It seems that every time I play them I create a new fan‚ and all for different reasons. One listener equated their sound to a warped and updated version of The Doors. Funny‚ their new Radiant Door EP is out now‚ and it deserves much more attention than a common human can give.
Dark Dark Dark with A Hawk and a Hacksaw at Brooklyn's Bell House had to be my most enjoyable show. I did want more gypsy-like tunes from Dark Dark Dark‚ but to hear Nona Marie Invie sing is a very special occasion. A Hawk and a Hacksaw was formed by former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes‚ and in this group the man plays the accordion masterfully. Their sound is Turkish/Balkan swirled (at times) with Mariachi horns‚ they're a band with incomparable talents. Just you wait until you hear Heather Trost play the violin‚ she's Barnes' gifted counterpart.
Gang Gang Dance's Eye Contact is the danceable‚ chaotic slice of psychedelia that first drew me towards the group‚ repackaged in deep space and beamed back to Earth.
Beirut's release this year got me with the single "Santa Fe". It's a damn catchy song that's strewn with the strongest of lyrics. Zach Condon and his singing ability are at the forefront of this (also Balkan) Indie Folk group‚ and they are making timeless music with ease.
The soundtrack to "Drive" is another necessary topic‚ with such an incredible score by Cliff Martinez. His synth-y 80's-Pop backdrop launched the already catapulting film. Add to that some perfectly selected tracks by Kavinsky‚ The Chromatics‚ and Johnny Jewel‚ this is a must listen.