You may remember the Harlem Shakes (the band, not the meme) from the top of a little list we compiled back in 2009.

Well, a lot of people are just now starting to pay attention to this fantastic (though, sadly, defunct) band’s twitter account… that is, if “paying attention” means “mistaking it for the official account of some recent internet dance craze”. So crazy, these kids!

You can read Buzzfeed’s rather perfect breakdown of the whole thing RIGHT HERE.

If only more people had been reading WiAC back in 2009, we wouldn’t keep having problems like these.

mp3: Harlem Shakes – Nothing But Change Part II

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There’s that old adage: if a tree falls on the internet and no one’s around to hear it, will anyone read its year-end list? Well, let’s find out! Even though we haven’t written a single post all year, rest assured that we’ve been listening to all kinds of great music, and some of it was even released this very year! And even though we’re a bit rusty, we’ve got some records we want you to know about.

This list is shorter than in years past, but we also feel stronger about each individual record than we have on any previous list, making it that much more fun to compile this thing. Also, this is the first time in 5 years that we both had the exact same record at #1 – so that’s pretty neat.

As always, we don’t pretend to be some great arbiters of fine musical taste. We don’t proclaim that these are the absolute best records released all year. These are just the records we absolutely loved the most. They’re the ones we kept coming back to, the ones that really moved us. They’re the ones we’ll remember when we look back on the last year of human civilization.

 

13. My Head Is An Animal

by Of Monsters And Men

[Universal Republic]

Sometimes it’s enough to just say that I like an album. The ‘why’ hasn’t been very important to me this year. Who’s to say what I find so enjoyable about My Head is an Animal? Male and female lead vocals? The la-la-las of “From Finner”? The hey-heys of “From Finner”? Just the simple fact that they’re Icelandic? Probably all-of-the-above, but I’m not thinking about that. What has mattered to me this year is the staying power of the songs and Of Monsters and Men has been my companion through countless hours of work, driving, cleaning the bathroom, lying aimlessly on the couch, etc. etc. -Logan

mp3: Of Monsters And Men – From Finner

12. The Only Place

by Best Coast

[Mexican Summer]

The Only Place takes all the things I enjoyed about BC’s debut, and improved on them just a bit – making an overall cleaner and crisper record. Not too clean or crisp, mind. That would ruin her… but it’s just enough to make this one a little less niche, while keeping all the hooks and humor that reeled me in to begin with. Per the (adorable) album art, she spends a fair amount of time lauding the Golden State – and being a California ex-patriot myself, I’m pretty much doomed to love her stuff no matter what (most of her rhapsodizing about her home state lines up so seamlessly with my own high-school nostalgia, right down to her covering Blink-182’s “Dammit” in concert – I mean, you can’t get any closer to my 1998 SoCal self than that song). And while the record is ostensibly a love letter to the Golden State, it comes wrapped in the kind of wide-eyed and sincere love of place that can be applied to anywhere you happen to call home, wherever it might be. –Chris

mp3: Best Coast – The Only Place

11. America

by Dan Deacon

[Domino]

Back in August Dan Deacon guest DJ’d on NPR’s All Songs Considered, and I’ll be honest: after listening to that show I was going to love America no matter what it sounded like. The guy is just so infinitely likeable, and for someone who graduated in ‘Electro-acoustic and Computer Music Composition’, he’s remarkably earnest, and refreshingly UN-pretentious. Deacon makes artsy electronic music but with a populace appeal – it’s complex and dense and referential, but it’s also insanely danceable and sometimes arrestingly beautiful (for proof watch THIS). By Deacon’s own admission, America is meant to be listened to in the LP format, with two distinct sides: Side-A contains the kind of noisy/cathartic electro-jams that are Deacon’s bread and butter, while Side B unfolds into a 20-minute symphonic suite employing electronic tools alongside a full orchestras-worth of wood, wind ‘n brass to bring to life Deacon’s expansive panorama of the American landscape. It’s evocative and gorgeous and challenging and it puts Dan Deacon solidly on the short list of artists who are meaningfully fuzzing the line between electronic pop-music and fine art. -Chris

mp3: Dan Deacon – True Thrush

10. Babel

by Mumford & Sons

[Glass Note]

Continuing my list of albums that you can purchase at Target is Mumford & Sons’ Babel. If I had to sum up my love of this album it would be in two hyphenated words: scream-sing. 2012 has been the year of the scream-sing for me. (Need proof? You’ll see those conjoined words again in just a few posts!) My favorite tracks from Babel are also the tracks that, when you sing along, you find the veins in your neck popping out: “Hopeless Wanderer”, “Below My Feet”, and the unbeatable “Ghosts That We Knew.” -Logan

mp3: Mumford & Sons – Hopeless Wanderer

9. Be The Void

by Dr. Dog

[ANTI-]

Right from the foot-stomping sing-a-long of the opening track, it’s clear that on Be The Void, Dr. Dog’s moved back to a more homespun sound than their last few albums, and the result is their most garage-sounding record ever. Be The Void sounds like a bunch of friends who love bands like Pavement and Three Dog Night equally, who got together for a weekend and banged out 11 of the absolute funnest songs they could come up with. These songs have that breathless live quality that make you want to sing loud and hard right along with them, especially on tracks like “Lonesome”, “Heavy Light”, and “Get Away”. I’ve said over and over if I could be in any rock band, it would be Dr. Dog. These guys just make the kind of music that makes the music-maker happy! Say that ten times fast. Then go listen to Be The Void. -Chris

mp3: Dr. Dog – Lonesome

8. There’s No Leaving Now

by The Tallest Man On Earth

[Dead Oceans]

Kristian Matsson’s latest record as The Tallest Man On Earth is my September record – it’s warm and cozy and it’s my relief from the long, hot summer. It sounds like autumn, with its clear, colorful days and crisp, cozy nights. It makes me think of riding bikes on leaf-littered trails and sitting out on high-school bleachers in sweatshirts. It’s not quite as wild and blustery as October yet, or as somber as November will be, but it’s also not without its own kind of tension – Matsson’s reedy voice has always had an inherent drama built into it, like the first harbinger that things are winding down, that this is the beginning of the end. The songs are gorgeous and flighty, and filled with the kind of evocative turns of phrase that made me first fall in love with this man. This is my September record, but I’ll be listening to it all year. -Chris

mp3: The Tallest Man On Earth – Revelation Blues

7. Gossamer

by Passion Pit

[Columbia]

Gossamer is just the most fun you will have listening to an album… until you actually start paying attention to the lyrics. That moment hit me sometime during my umpteenth time listening to “Constant Conversations”. That song is DEVASTATING! However, you know how I love a devastating song (See: The Antlers; entire discography of…). That said, some moments made me laugh. The reference in “Carried Away” to all of the subject’s money being in copper, I don’t think we’re dealing with a commodity trader, we’re dealing with a poor sad-sack graduate student who had to use pennies to buy a can of refried beans. (I may be filling in some of the specifics from personal experience.) -Logan

mp3: Passion Pit – Carried Away

6. Transcendental Youth

by The Mountain Goats

[Merge]

John Darnielle has few peers in the world of music-making – in terms of both talent and sheer volume (that’s volume as in quantity of work, not necessarily decibels) – he is in a league all his own. He explores characters and place with a thoroughness and compassion usually reserved for the world of literature, but then somehow packages them into little 3-4 minute songs with desperately strummed guitar chords and heart-swelling choruses that demand to be listened to over and over again. In Transcendental Youth Darnielle returns to the world he inhabited in 2004’s We Shall All Be Healed, this time populated by a semi-fictionalized cast of characters all tied together by their various struggles with mental illness – and through his empathetic exploration of their demons he proceeds to exorcise some of our own. Woven through the record is Matthew E. White’s gorgeous horn arrangements, acting as the perfect counterpoint to Darnielle’s raggedy voice, possibly providing the transcendence referred to in the record’s title for the fallen youth of these songs. I can’t adequately express how much I’ve loved this record this year – “Cry For Judas” is as triumphant as anything Darnielle’s ever produced, “White Cedar” may be the most beautiful Mountain Goats song ever, etc. etc. – the only thing I can do is tell you to go listen to it – over and over and over until you feel the same way I do. That is, that John Darnielle is a national treasure. -Chris

mp3: The Mountain Goats – Cry for Judas

5. From The Top of Willamette Mountain

by Joshua James

[Intelligent Noise]

What would WiAC be without our usual fanboy enthusiasm for Joshua James? Well guys he’s back and better than ever. It almost seems unfair. The velvety smooth “Ghost in the Town” and “Sister” which just demands you clench your fists and scream-sing along with Joshua… it doesn’t seem fair to so many other musicians. Sorry guys, you want to write a thematic album that explores a man’s sincere search for spirituality? You can’t, it’s already been done. (Go ahead, count the ‘hallelujahs’ in From the Top… only the best can pull that off without me feeling like I’ve strayed uncomfortably into contemporary Christian music.) In the track “Willamette Mountain” Joshua sings, “I got a million more stories.” Let’s hope so. -Logan

mp3: Joshua James – Mystic

4. Tramp

by Sharon Van Etten

[Jagjaguwar]

This record has absolutely ruled my world all year. Since February it’s been on near constant rotation at our house, and its relatively low position on this list is simply a testament to how much great music we’ve listened to this year. Tramp profoundly delivers on the promise of Van Etten’s 2010 album, Epic, helped in no small part by Bryce Dessner’s brilliant production – expertly fleshing out the songs while never distracting from their real treasure: Van Etten’s way with words. The word “poet” is thrown around way too often when discussing songwriters, but in this case I can’t think of a better descriptor –her economy of word is breathtaking, somehow packing so much into so little, like the couplet from “Give Out” – “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city / or why I’ll need to leave”. Tramp is full of moments like that: simple, straight-forward gut-checks that are at once profoundly personal, while also heartbreakingly relatable. -Chris

mp3: Sharon Van Etten – Give Out

3. I Know What Love Isn’t

by Jens Lekman

[Secretly Canadian]

“You don’t get over a broken heart / you just learn to carry it gracefully” sings Jens on “The World Moves On”, and in that simple phrase, Jens sums up the whole gist of this, his third album. It’s the break-up album that only Jens Lekman could have written – sad and beautiful and poignant, delivered with his wry sense of humor and acute self-awareness – never willing to give in to its own sadness or self-pity. It’s the kind of break-up album that acknowledges and affirms the heartbreak but is far more interested in trying to teach that heart how to “carry it gracefully”. In the song that bookends the record Jens searches for what that means in practical terms: “I started working out when we broke up / I can do one hundred push-ups / I could probably do two if I was bored” before he admits that “every little hair (still) knows your name”. But talking only about Jens’ lyrics is missing the whole point – because what makes Jens Lekman Jens Lekman is his ability to take sad songs and make them into something so ridiculous and beautiful that you can’t help but smile. In the past he’s done this masterfully for single songs at a time – probably the best example being “The Opposite of Hallelujah” from 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala, where Jens turns a conversation about debilitating depression into a heaven-reaching sing-a-long disco-anthem. Now take that and spread it over an entire album’s worth of heartbreak, and you’ll begin to understand how amazing this record is, and what it means to Jens Lekman to “carry it gracefully.” -Chris

mp3: Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

2. 151a

by Kishi Bashi

[Joyful Noise]

I’ve been a Kishi Bashi missionary for the better part of the year now. As much as (SPOILER ALERT) Japandroids deserve the top spot, and for me it was perhaps the clearest choice for number one ever, Kishi Bashi was my go-to when someone asked about new music.  Share, share, share. “Manchester” this and “I Am the Antichrist to You” that. I never stopped talking about him (‘Him’ being Kaoru Ishibashi, aka Kishi Bashi). Did I feel betrayed when I heard “Bright Whites” on a commercial? Did I bemoan yet another gem of an artist having their beautiful work reduced to a ten second sound bite to sell HP printers? Heck no, just thrilled that perhaps Kishi Bashi is reaching more and more hearts.  So here I am again, sharing the most beautiful music of the year from a platform that reaches literally tens of people. -Logan

mp3: Kishi Bashi – Manchester

1. Celebration Rock

by Japandroids

[Polyvinyl]

Celebration Rock is an unbearably nostalgic record. Each track has a story and each story feels like it contains splinters of my own life. To explain, listening to “Younger Us” I had one story continually pop into my mind: It was 1 AM and it had been snowing all evening. I opened my sleeping roommate’s door and said, “Klompers, we’re all going sledding. Wanna come?” He sat up and still half-asleep said, “Let me get my coat and boots. I can dress in the car.” Hell ya Klompers, hell ya. Every track brings something back for me. They range from breakups to car rides to past introspective solitary moments (“Continuous Thunder”, “For the Love of Ivy”, and “Evil’s Sway” respectively) but each song resonates with me on a very individual level. I was reluctant to do this write up for that reason. My love of this album is very personal and I don’t think anything I’ve said translates to any of you. However, if you’re anything like me, you read the first sentence and the last sentence of these write ups and move on, so here goes. Hell ya Japandroids, hell ya. -Logan

mp3: Japandroids – Continuous Thunder

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It’s been pretty quiet around here for awhile (so quiet that we’re pretty sure just our mom’s are checking this thing at this point) (hi moms!), but even though we haven’t been writing all that much, we promise we’ve still been listening to loads of good music. So putting this list together has been a good chance for us to finally put down how we feel about some of the great stuff we’ve heard this year. We just hope it’s as fun for you to browse through as it was for us to pull together!

Before reading on, just a quick note about a record that’s not on this list: The Head & The Heart’s debut record saw a major label release this year (on Sub Pop), and although we’ve probably listened to that absolute gem of a record more than just about any other this year, we didn’t include it on account of it being on our year-end list for 2010, since they self-released it that year. But just know this: under different circumstances, The Head & The Heart would most certainly top this list. So if you haven’t heard them yet, let that be your invitation! Because they are so great!

So with that out of the way, we’re ready to unveil our Top 21 Albums of 2011. Just remember that this list represents our favorite albums of the year, and not necessarily the best albums of the year. If we had to pick what we thought were the very best albums critically, this list might look a little different. But we’re not critics, so we’re not going to worry about who made the greatest artistic strides or whatever this year. These are simply our very favorite albums of the year: the ones that made us laugh, cry, dance, smile, press repeat, wet our pants, etc. Basically, this is what we’ll remember when we look back on 2011.

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NEWS: R.I.P. R.E.M.

LINK: R.E.M. Breaks Up

Monster by R.E.M. was one of the first albums I ever listened to start to finish. Out of Time was one of the first CDs I ever owned. (And probably the only one I purchased in Jr. High school that I’m not now ashamed of.)

Good thing R.E.M. provided us with the perfect anthem to deal with the emotions we’re all dealing with right now.

Thanks guys.

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FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m good friends with everyone in Mad Diving Barons. In fact we used to play in sundry bands together in college, and I’ve even covered bass for them once in recent years. Because of all that I’ve never written about them here, even though they’re making some pretty great music. Maybe it’s because it feels like some kind of music-blogging nepotism or something. I don’t know.

But you know what? These two songs they just posted as impromptu music videos to promote a local show are too good not to post. Friends or no, you should be listening to the Mad Diving Barons. And if you live in Provo, UT, you should go to their show this Thursday at the Velour. Because watch:

So good right? I know. So here are some more MDB jams for you to chew on:

mp3: Mad Diving Barons – Tubularadical

mp3: Mad Diving Barons – You’re Not Around

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ARTIST: Reptar

Reptar is a band you need to be listening to. That’s it. That’s all you need to know. They’re bouncy brand of synth-pop has been bringing the good summer vibes to my Blazer all month – and I don’t expect to be tiring of their big hooks and booty-shakin’ breakdowns anytime soon. They sound like some sort of cross between Talking Heads and Passion Pit, with a little Isaac Brock and MGMT thrown in, all delivered with a wink and a cockeyed grin. They’re debut EP, Oblangle Fizz Y’all, is out now, and should be listened to by everyone.

mp3: Reptar – Stuck in My Id
from the EP Oblangle Fizz Y’all (buy it here)

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Well that was a fantastic summer. I don’t know about you, but I feel refreshed and ready to blog again! And to prove it, we’re giving away 2 tickets to see Matt & Kim open for Blink-182 this Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Noblesville, Indiana. So if you feel like watching the soundtrack to Community’s commercials open for the soundtrack to my junior high years, then this is definitely for you!

To enter to win, leave us a comment below with the following: a) your email address, and b) your favorite band from junior high. The more embarrassing the better.

The winner should expect an email from us by 7pm tonight! Remember, Matt & Kim go on tomorrow at 7pm sharp and the guest tickets will be pulled promptly at 7, so be sure to get there early!

Also, here’s Matt & Kim on Jimmy Fallon.

And here’s a link to download a brand new Echoes remix of “Block After Block”. Enjoy!

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MOKB Presents recently brought Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. to Indy’s White Rabbit Cabaret, and it was hands-down one of the funnest shows we’ve been to in recent memory – so much love from the band, so much love from the crowd, so much “Higher Love” from Steve Winwood. I’ve been meaning to write a summary of the show, but this video sums it up much better than I could ever hope to, so here you go: (thanks MOKB!)

Did you see me and Kristin in there anywhere? Because we were so there. And we were so loving it. You can also check out Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s performance of “Vocal Chords” over at MOKB.

mp3: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Morning Thought
from the album It’s A Corporate World (buy it here)

mp3: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Nothing But Our Love
from the album It’s A Corporate World (buy it here)

PS: D.E.Jr.Jr.’s new record is kind of great and you should be listening to it. Just FYI. Also, I’ve included the setlist from their Indy show after the jump. Just for kicks.

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You’ll find some pretty great reviews of Bon Iver’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver online. I just don’t think I’m up to throwing my hat into the ring by giving you a full blown review of Justin Vernon’s latest. Instead I thought I’d float something a little more creative and outside the box to tell you what I think of Bon Iver, Bon Iver.

This little graph shows the play counts for each individual track off of Bon Iver. Now I’ll let you analyze how I feel about this album. (Although keeping in mind that I have, at the very least, listened to the whole album start to finish a half dozen times.)(A true feat as I am currently on summer break.)

mp3: Bon Iver – Perth
from the album Bon Iver, Bon Iver (buy it here)

mp3: Bon Iver – Calgary
from the album Bon Iver, Bon Iver (buy it here)

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Last Saturday night we had the great pleasure of finally seeing The Head & the Heart perform live at the Madison Theater in Covington, KY. I say “great pleasure” because there’s really no better two words to describe it than GREAT (def: remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness) and PLEASURE (def: a source of delight or joy). We drove all the way down to Covington to see them open for Iron & Wine, since the show here in Indianapolis sold out quicker than I’d anticipated, and we weren’t about to let these guys make it through the Midwest without a visit from us…

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I’m actually really looking forward to this little compilation of Buddy Holly covers due out June 28th. Look at that lineup. The Black Keys, Sir Paul McCartney, Modest Mouse, and yes, Kid Rock (!!!)

Buddy Holly was one of the artists I knew as a child. I’m not talking teenage years or even my tweenage years, Buddy Holly goes back to those endless car rides to northern Wyoming to visit my mother’s family. Crammed into a mini-van along with my four other siblings while my parents listened to a steady stream of Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline, and The Beach Boys. (All of these artists can make me feel carsick no matter where I am when I hear them.)

But lets get back into the present and talk about the fantastic cover of Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy” by She & Him. Zooey Deschanel’s voice and M. Ward’s guitar have always felt  like they were plucked right out of the fifties, so this cover is just perfect.

mp3: She & Him – Oh Boy
from the compilation Rave on Buddy Holly (pre-order it here)

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So I’m still not quite out of my forced finals isolation. Soon though, so very soon.

But until then, check out this video by Yellowbirds.
They’ll be touring with Josh Ritter in late July. So if you like this video and Josh Ritter, well I think I’ve just planned a fun summertime activity for you.

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