2011 releases

Burgo’s Top 10 Albums of 2011

You know, I’m just going to jump straight into it this year. The usual caveat emptors – as always, with these lists – exist, and I’m trusting you lot to be smart enough to know that by now. So, without further ado, here we go…

10. REM – Collapse Into Now

Although “Collapse Into Now” seemed to fly largely under the “hype radar”, it’s a completely worthy final album for a band of REM’s stature. Tunes like “Uberlin” and “Oh My Heart” stand up as some of the best in their catalogue, and reminded you of why REM matter so damn much. A band that absolutely poleaxe you with emotion, I’ll always bear fond memories of REM. And this was a great way to go out.

Standout track: Uberlin

9. Gotye – Making Mirrors

There’s this strange dichotomy going on in this record. Gotye manages to keep the album slightly off-kilter – ever so slightly “weird”, for lack of a better word – but at the same time, it remains an instantly accessible album too. I have no idea how Wally De Backer manages to walk that tightrope so skilfully, but he pulls it off with aplomb – as evidenced by the fact that he absolutely owned the ARIAs this year.  Although this release was sold largely on the strength of singles “Someone I Used to Know” and “Eyes Wide Open”, it really is an album that you need to listen to in its entirety to understand De Backer’s talent.

Standout track: Eyes Wide Open

8. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Here We Rest

Dudes, it’s country and I dig it. Not a complicated record by any means, but no less a profound one. Jason Isbell seems to have hit back into his stride here, and following some forgettable tracks in his past solo efforts, “Here We Rest” hints that there’s still some greatness in the ex-Drive By Trucker yet. There’s still the occasional misstep in this album, but the highs – such as Alabama Pines and Codeine – make you forget all about that. Hell, this is the most honest record on this list. And I respect that.

Standout track: Alabama Pines

7. Ryan Adams – Fire & Ashes

A great album, but I can’t help feeling that this was Ryan and my break up record. It’s beautiful, polished, and undeniably Ryan… but just as I’m not the same person I was when I first heard Whiskeytown, Ryan’s grown and changed too. And while I find that a super-happy thing, I found listening to this album strangely tinged with this unshakeable feeling of sadness. A feeling like this is where DRA and I part ways. On good terms, don’t get me wrong… but parting ways, all the same.
Doesn’t change the fact that it’s a cracker album though.

Standout track: Kindness

6. Feist – Metals

So I doubt anything from Metals will be picked up for an iPod commercial, like “1234” was back in 2007. This is a far darker release, but it still allows Feist to intelligently play in that indie/mainstream stream that she so confidently straddles. It’s quite incredible how she’s managed to put together a release that will please both record execs and those who were hoping she wouldn’t shun her roots after the breakout hit of “1234”; not many artists could pull it off in such a stylish manner. But, you know the best part? I don’t think Feist gives a crap about any of that. I think she’s just doing what she’s always done… making music that matters to her. We need more like Leslie out there.

Standout track: Graveyard

5. The Antlers – Burst Apart

You know, I never quite understood the buzz about The Antlers’ Hospice, but man… did they turn me around with Burst Apart. There’s something absolutely haunting about this album. That floating, fragile voice from Peter Silberman filled with emotion, those ethereal chords, that reverence… the first time I heard this record, it was like the first time Radiohead woke me up. “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” absolutely blew me away when I first heard it, and the album closer on this album, “Putting the Dog To Sleep”, is some of The Antlers’ best lyrical work to date; and, not for nothing,  is absolutely heartbreaking.

Standout track: Putting the Dog to Sleep.


4. Portugal. The Man – In the Mountain In the Cloud

There’s just so much going on here. Portugal. The Man somehow manage to sit in a life raft, floating on top of layer upon sonic layer, and pull it all together with killer licks and melody into a hook-filled album; all the while making it look easy. While John Gourley’s vocals aren’t for everybody, I can almost guarantee you’ll find yourself humming along to 90% of these tunes. With choruses that were made for sing-a-longs, I think this is my favourite release of theirs since I first heard “Church Mouth” back in 2007. The only reason this isn’t higher in this list is that the album feels frustratingly unfinished; but it hints at greatness.

Standout track: Sleep Forever

3. Charles Bradley – No Time for Dreaming

That voice! That voice. You listen to Charles Bradley sing, and from the first turn of phrase you can tell dude has paid his dues. After decades of chasing his dream, Charles Bradley has finally released his debut record with Daptone Records at 62 years of age, and has it ever been worth the wait. Backed by the incomparable Menahan Street Band, this is a soul album as it should be: a release filled with authenticity. Unlike some of his younger contemporaries, Bradley was actually around to see folks like Otis Redding and James Browne perform in their prime, live. So when he sings, you’re listening to the days when funk and soul meant something. They say you can’t sing the blues until you’ve lived a full life… well, ladies and gentlemen, Charles Bradley has 6 decades worth of emotions to pour into his songs. And he’s not going to waste a second.

Standout track: Why is it so hard?

2. The Roots – Undun

From what I can tell, I’m kind of in the minority with my admiration for that album which has me puzzled. A concept album that tells – in reverse – the tale of Redford Stephens’ rise and death in just 40 minutes, it’s a fleeting piece of brilliance from The Roots. Listening to this album is a completely different experience; and yes, I mean experience in the purest sense of the word. With The Roots’ skill with narrative, it’s near impossible to listen to this album without having a full-on movie playing in your head. And Black Thought is so clinical, so aggressive on this album it’s friggin’ scary.
Depressing, oppressive, slightly off… and brilliant.

Standout track: Make My

1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

You know, when I first heard Bon Iver‘s sophomore album, my initial reaction was: whooo boy, this is going to piss a lot of people off. The album was undeniably brilliant, but such a departure from For Emma, Forever Ago that I thought fans may have found it hard to adjust to. Sometimes I underestimate people, and it was a pleasant surprise to see this album praised by… well, pretty much everyone.
When I first wrote about this album, I said “This is one of those albums that takes a few spins before it’s the memory of your favourite girlfriend’s scent. That comfortable, warm smell of strawberry vanilla.”. And I still stand by that. It’s timeless.
Unapologetically leaving the “cabin in the woods” mythos behind them, Bon Iver is the most confident and complete sophomore release I have ever heard. I can’t wait to see where Justin and Co. go next.

Standout track: Towers


And there you have it, folks… agree or disagree, those were some of my favourite albums for 2011. For those of you who have Spotify, I have all the above albums (plus one or two that didn’t quite make it onto the list, but who were in the running) available for listening here. Oh… and Merry Christmas, everyone!

2011 releases

Ryan Adams, ‘Ashes & Fire’ [FULL ALBUM STREAM]

You’d be forgiven for thinking this is a Ryan Adams blog, given the last few posts here… but c’mon, we all know I have major love for the guy. So, it is with much joy that I present to you (courtesy of NPR), the full stream of Ryan’s new album, Ashes & Fire.

A full review will be up sometime in the next week (I’ve got a few things on, weddings and the like to plan… so I want to take my time with this one); but I will say that, on first listen, this is definitely one of Ryan’s most relaxed albums I’ve ever heard. I don’t want to say “grown up”, but… well… the guy’s all grown up. Standouts are immediately the previously mentioned “Lucky Now“, “Come Home”, “Save Me”, and the simply sublime “Kindness”.

Dive in head-first below.

live songs

Ryan Adams talks about (and performs) “New York, New York”

So this is a few days late, but Ryan Adams recently appeared on WNYC to talk about (and perform an absolutely killer version of) his tune, “New York, New York”. As WNYC says:

In the wake of 9/11, certain music that was recorded well before the attacks suddenly took on new meaning. Alt-country singer-songwriter Ryan Adams joins us to explain how “New York, New York,” his country-pop rave-up about heartbreak in the East Village, was transformed by tragedy and triumph. Plus: Adams performs a stunning arrangement of the song at our piano.

Listen to Ryan’s thoughts on how “New York, New York” was changed by the events of 9/11… and watch the song video – which was shot on location just 4 days before the towers fell – below that.

2011 releases

New Ryan Adams – Lucky Now [STREAM]

Today Ryan Adams released the first single off his forthcoming Glyn Johns-produced LP, Ashes & Fire, on his Facebook page, titled “Lucky Now”.

I’ve been listening to the thing for about 6 hours now, and – despite the lyrics – each time I hear it, this smile creeps across my face, and (as cliched as this sounds) across my heart. I don’t know how to explain it better than that, but this song has saved me multiple times today.

Ashes & Fire is out October 11th, with pre-orders available now here.

2011 releases

“New” Ryan Adams – Shine Through the Dark [STREAM]

My days don’t get much better than when I get to put out posts regarding new Ryan Adams tunes. According Under The Mag where this premiered, “Shine Through the Dark” was recorded by Adams post-meltdown, while lying in bed with the flu. Our favourite artist, Mr DRA calls it “The first track I wrote after my retirement”.

I call it simply heavenly.

Below, stream Adams’ brand new solo acoustic tune. Shine Through the Dark will appear on benefit compilation Live From Nowhere Near You which you can preorder here.

2010 releases

Stream Ryan Adams and the Cardinals III/IV

So last month, I posted about Ryan Adams and The Cardinals’ upcoming double archival album, “III/IV”. Suffice to say, the post was… excited, to say the least.

Pre-orders of the release have already begun shipping, but for those of us who can’t wait, you can stream the album over at Myspace, or down below.

Early impressions so far, but I’m definitely enjoying it. Personal faves?
“Breakdown into the Resolve”, “Sewers at the Bottom of Wishing Wells”, “Typecast” with Norah Jones (strangely mislabeled as “Death and Rats”), and “Gracie” (also mislabeled… as Numbers. Guess Myspace music players are a bit confusing).

2010 releases

Ryan Adams Double Album – III/IV

If you’ve read this blog before, chances are you already know of my love for Ryan Adams. The dude is arguably my most important musical influence of all time, and has soundtracked… well, a lot of my life. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise just how freakin’ excited I am about the latest post on his PAX•AM Records site.

“In 2007 Ryan Adams and the Cardinals entered Electric LandLady studios on 8th street in NYC and went in for a session intended to last two weeks. Six months and over 60 tracks later, they emerged with the album Easy Tiger. But it was only glimpse into the depth of the work the band had undertaken and the vast amount of material that was recorded.

As the sessions wound around into the deep winter months a double album emerged, a rock record that felt more like a hybrid of all the records that the band had mutually consumed as kids… from influences as wide as KISS and The Cars.

Originally hidden away in the vault while the band hit the road to support Easy Tiger, and now for the first time here in its entirety is the Cardinals second double-album concept rock opera about the 80′s, ninjas, cigarettes, sex, and pizza.

Enjoy Volume III/IV. by Ryan Adams and The Cardinals, from the turning point in the classic line up of the band featuring…. Catherine Popper on bass (her last with the band), Neal Casal on guitar and vocals ( his first with the band) Brad Pemberton on the drums, Jon Graboff on the Steel Guitar ( as well as a few other things ) and Jamie “The candyman” Candiloro on piano and synths, here producing again as well.

First off, Easy Tiger is, I think, my favourite Ryan Adams album (it made #3 in my “Albums of the Decade” list). So the fact that these tracks come from that same session absolutely makes me giddy. Secondly… Catherine freakin’ Popper?! Hell yeah.

Finally, this (long) excerpt from Jamie Candiloro sums up everything that I’m excited about. This release could be everything we all know Ryan can be…

“In the summer of 2006 I was watching some of my favorite PBS afternoon programming when I got a call on my cell phone from electric lady studios. “We’re down here and I think we might need your help.” It was Ryan calling after a somewhat fiery end to a session we had completed a couple months ago and left us with zero tracks accepted by lost highway again. The great moments of these sessions always out numbered the hard times, which kept me interested in making music with him. This session was different from the start though. He had just gotten sober for the first time since he was 15 years old.

We would spend the next six months in the studio. It was almost like this floodgate had opened. New songs were coming quickly and the quality and diversity was pretty amazing. We were doing demos, cutting live versions, finishing overdubs. There was a level of completion that was not possible with the “fucked up ryan”. All this talent was there and able to shine thru in a way I had always imagined.


Probably the thing I remember most about these session was a chart system that we used on the back wall of electric lady to keep track of things. It had album titles and song names with the song’s progress. I think at one point we had four albums and even a b-sides list! We were constantly moving songs around to find the perfect sequence. One album that started to form seemed like a bit of a folk record to me. It was around thanksgiving that I presented a cd that was essentially the cuts that would become “easy tiger”. My version had sixteen songs though! Another record that was at the front of our attention was something Ryan called vol. 3 & 4. The idea being that “cold roses” was vol 1 & 2 and this was a logical step that the cardinals had taken forward as a band effort. The tracks shared the democratic process of a band, which always gives a record more depth to me. The personalities really shine thru.


There was always the idea that these recordings would come out at some point. When this became a reality in 2010, my first instinct was to use the mixes from the sessions. They were flawed but the were done in the heat of the moment. The mixes were a “performance” to get the band excited at that moment. But Ryan felt they could really be “mixed”. Seeing as we had the originals to compare, I figured we were safe to give a couple a try and see how they were coming out. I was really happy when we did listen back to new mixes we were shocked how timeless they sounded. For me it had a lot to do with the performances. Everything was so raw but captured pretty well so a tight mix just sounded out of this world. There were no click tracks and the material was arranged meticulously. The final result was something that fans will really enjoy. Vol 3 & 4 is like a huge billboard rising above the château marmont. Bigger than life and glossy, with a spotlight cutting thru the haze. I never got sick of working on these tracks and I know the fans will not get tired of hearing them…”

This is me, just freakin’ excited out of my mind. Listen to some teasers of the tracks here, and if you’re looking to read a few more of my thoughts on Ryan, I’d suggest you start by clicking on a few of those “Related Posts” down below.

music videos

Ryan Adams and Mandy Moore – Oh My Sweet Carolina [VIDEO]

So for those of you who don’t know, Ryan Adams recently played at Judd Apatow’s “I Found This Funny” benefit gig. It was Ryan’s first live performance in over a year and a half… and man, I’ve missed him.

Which is why I was unbelievably stoked when this footage of Ryan in pre-show rehearsals performing “Oh My Sweet Carolina” – aided by the oh-so-sweet tones of wife, Mandy Moore – surfaced on the internet.

It’s a beautiful thing.