And now, in a proper closing to the year, I present to you my Top 5 albums and books from my 2011. Note, I said my 2011. These selections weren’t specifically released in 2011; they are just discoveries I made over the course of the year that really stuck with me and made an impact.
So, without further ado..
5. The Keeper by Sara Langan
One would think that in the realm of horror, Maine has basically been given dibs to Stephen King. But Langan’s The Keeper puts a whole new twist of horror to the apparently wretched state. Easily the best horror novel I read all year, with a unique sort of twist on how ghosts can haunt people.
4. The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave
I’m not going to lie here: Nick Cave is a much better musician and songwriter than he is an author. Still, like with his music, he manages to capture beauty, despair, and a wrought sense of ironic humor with this novel…and often manages to blend them all in just a few sentences. Brimming with murder, sex addiction, and a tilted father/son relationship, this is one you’ll remember for a while.
3. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach
With her previous books, particularly Stiff and Spook, Roach solidified herself as my go-to nonfiction author. Given that, it was almost as if this book was tailor made for my interests. Entertaining, educational, and funny as hell, I devoured this book in 3 sittings.
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Having learned my lesson about avoiding YA (it wasn’t until 2010 that I finally gave Harry Potter a chance), I bought in to the hype over this series. I read all three books within the span of a month. The first book of the series, The Hunger Games, is, in my opinion, the best of the trio. I keep referring people to this series and have no shame in stating that I am geeked out over the movie due in 3 short months.
1. The Passage by Justin Cronin
A confession: with the exception of ‘Salems Lot, I have never really liked the vampire genre (I also include the original Fright Night and From Dusk to Dawn here, but those were movies, so…). So I paid no attention to The Passage at first…not until Mr. King professed his love for it.
I started reading The Passage and fell in love with it right away. The first 200 pages are some of the best writing I have read in a very long time. And then the book throws a curve ball…or two…or five. There was a point where, due to these curve balls, I almost stopped reading it. But I stuck with it because I just LOVE knocking out big books, to be honest. And man oh man, am I glad I did. Not only does The Passage give the vampire genre the swift kick in the nuts it needed in a post-Twilight world, but it also take the post-apocalyptic genre and makes it its own.
5. From the Stairwell – The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble
I discovered this group last year and instantly fell in love with their self titled album. It’s great writing music…a blend of dark and gloomy ambient music with noir-infused jazz. Whenever I try to describe TKDE to anyone, they sneer at the mention of jazz. But at its heart, that’s what it is…but so much more. From the Stairwell is not for those used to instant gratification in their music. Both serene and spooky, this album is one that creeps up on you, building only to let you fall, then doing it all over again. Like this:
4. Yes and Also Yes – Mike Doughty
As an enormous fan of Soul Coughing, I have listened to everything Mike Doughty has released as a solo act. While I’ll admit some of it sounds a bit frat-boy acoustic, there is also a bit of it that is just catchy as hell and, while borrowing from popular trends, manages to be it’s own. I give you this example from the album:
3. Kinetik – Phutureprimitve
This is a tough one to describe. Part psybient, part ambient, part chill-out, part old school house, there’s a little something for all lovers of electronica here. Not only that, but the album sounds like someone asked for an album of what musical electronic sex might sound like. And this album was the product. I give you Exhibit A:
2. The Organ Hearts – Arms and Sleepers
Known primarily as a soft down tempo sort of group relying on piano, drum loops and synths, The Organ Hearts shows another side to Arms and Sleepers. At times electro-pop and at others nu-jazz (I hate that term but it fits), this album presents a sound that is not only new for Arms and Sleepers, but music as a whole. An example:
1. Interloper – Carbon Based Lifeforms
Surprise, surprise. This group has been my favorite for nearly two years now and I sadly just gave this album the chance it deserved earlier this year. The album was released in 2010 but I was still too caught up in their earlier releases to pay attention to this album. When I did, it sounded to different and somehow softer, so I disregarded it…a decision I regret.
When given the chance it deserved, this album turned out to be brilliant. I would go so far as to say that there is not a single weak track on the album. I fought hard with myself to include their 2011 album, Twentythree, on this list, but I haven’t spent enough time with it…I’ve been too busy listening to Interloper. Here’s an example of the blissful genius of this album: