Music would steal the show, if only we let it

Of all the metaphysical backdrops to our day to day lives, music may well be the most ego-centric. With a persistent, unruly tendency toward reemergence, it is ever undulating between background and foreground, shifting from where we would like it to exist where it just does exist. Music has no “place”; its place is everywhere.

We attempt to control music, ascribing it particular conventions, environments and vessels through which it might move. But music is recalcitrant, its movement irrepressible. By manner of both the tangible and intangible spaces music inevitably comes to occupy, it is not particularly easy to pin down. In life, it seems, music would steal the show, if only we let it—its impact on our lives is like blood through veins… There. Pulsing. Vital.

Lists such as these are themselves an unfruitful attempt to bind music. On one hand I myself succumb to the marginalization of this art form by merely writing this. But, despite any efforts at restraint and quantification—some of which are willfully applied, others of which are inadvertent—music succeeds in living its own life, and, as such, inexplicably touches ours to the core. It remains ephemeral, boundless, free. This boundlessness puts music on the plane of souls, an eternal language to speak to our wordless core.

So, cutting to the chase, here is my favorite music from the year past. Why do we need yet another favorites list? Well, hopefully I’ve already answered that above. Additionally, though, I deem this worthwhile in that it offers what I hope to be an alternative (somewhat) to the offerings on mainstream lists elsewhere. While you will find a few of the standard fare—namely Bon Iver, Jay-Z and Kanye West—my selections are those albums that just stuck. They are the ones that found their way into many a rental car on road trips, my earbuds back and forth across the Manhattan bridge, my tinny, Rdio-fueled laptop speakers in my bedroom, all in all activating different parts of my brain and heart, to remain forever as the soundtrack to 2011. Hopefully you will find something new, artful and enjoyable yourself.

Happy listening.

01. Tonbruket, Dig it to the end
02. Nest, Retold (2010)
03. Washed Out, Within and Without
04. A.A. Bondy, Believers
05. The Kills, Blood Pressures
06. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
07. The Roots, Undun
08. Panda Bear, Tomboy
09. Kurt Vile, Smoke Ring for My Halo
10. Jay-Z & Kanye West, Watch the Throne

Honorable mention
The Field, Looping State of Mind
Zomby, Dedication
tUnE-yArDs, W H O K I L L
Burial, Street Halo
Active Child, You are all I see
Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts
Chet Baker & Bill Evans, The Complete Legendary Session