Favorite Albums of 2011: The Top 2

2. Fitz and the Tantrums – Pickin’ Up the Pieces

Pickin' Up the Pieces - Fitz & the Tantrums

Take some 50’s & 60’s R&B, throw in a sprinkling of 70’s psychedelica and plate with a 80’s hairdo and looks. Serves anyone who loves fun music. The origin story of Fitz is that Michael Fitzgerald bought a church organ after a breakup and wrote “Breakin’ the Chains of Love” a few hours later. The rest is an amazing album that is not only just blue-eyed soul, but really feels like it could very well have been released on the Motown label. Songs mostly revolve around break-up blues, but the band does veer into a little political statement with “Dear Mr. President.” This is not as left field as you may think as almost all the songs are demands and pleas of something better. A lot of the blues revolve around being ripped off (“Rich Girls” and the astounding “MoneyGrabber”) and being gone before being dumped (“News 4 U” and my personal favorite “Don’t Gotta Work It Out”), yet the album ends on beautifully regretful ballad, “Tighter.” This is simply a rich debut full of joyous songs of loss which finds Pickin’ Up the Pieces in that rare world of being complex yet utterly entertaining.

Favorite songs: “Breakin’ the Chains of Love,” “MoneyGrabber,” “Don’t Gotta Work It Out,” “Winds of Change”

1. Destroyer – Kaputt

Kaputt - Destroyer

Call it a New Romantic (Roxy Music, ABC, Spandau Ballet) revival. Call it pop jazz. Whatever label you put on Destroyer’s ninth album, it’s good. Very good. Founder Dan Bejar’s has hit upon a revisit to a formula somewhat forgotten in pop music’s past. The songs are strong and the arrangements are precise yet sound as if there were improvised with swirlings of a muted trumpet and saxophone. He even throws in a flute at one point for good measure. All this brings on a sense of nostalgia while remaining fresh. The breathy, etherial nature of Dan’s vocals (reminiscent of Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys) are complimented by Sibel Thraser’s strong, verbose voice which adds to these songs that thing Helen Terry did for Culture Club’s biggest hits. The entire sound is made even more surreal by Bejar’s seemingly disjointed yet poetic lyrics that reference drugs, suicide and sex which weigh down any sense of fluff. In other words, Destroyer has made a sparkling mid-80′s revival album that makes the sub-genre of pop music nearly relevant again.

Favorite songs: “Blue Eyes,” “Savage Night at the Opera,” “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker,” Kaputt,” “Downtown,”

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