These are the albums that most closely characterized my 2011.  I was going to go through and write about an album for each month, but I fell behind and realized I just needed to post what I was able to write.  Though I enjoyed all of these albums on some level—otherwise I wouldn’t have listened to them—please don’t use this as any sort of definitive “best of.”

January: Beach House Teen Dream: Last January, as I began to read all of the 2010 blog posts about the best albums of 2010, an album that I kept seeing over and over was Beach House’s, Teen Dream.  And indeed, my first contact with the album took place sometime in 2010, but I didn’t really comb through it with my ears until January 2011.  I most connected with the album flying out to Chicago for a cold and snowy weekend.  The cold, yet dreamy sound of this album fit perfect with the barren expanse of an icy runway at O’Hare.

February: Bright Eyes The People’s Key: When I first heard Bright Eyes’ album, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning as a freshman in college in 2005, I was pulled in by their sound.  However, subsequent albums released by Conor Oberst and his friends left me turned off to Obersts’ heavy-handed cynicism.  However, when I saw The People’s Key on Amazon’s MP3 store, I thought I’d check back in with Mr. Oberst and company.  Though in some ways there are still touches of cynicism here and there, I feel Oberst displays more sensitivity, open-mindedness, searching, and ultimately vulnerability throughout the album.  Musically, the album covers a lot of ground, ranging from twangy backing-guitars to reggae breakdowns, and  thematically, the album explores a lot of spiritual themes, including Rastifarianism, Buddhism, sci-fi spiritual conspiracy, and Christianity.  In “Triple Spiral,” Oberst sings, “I loved you triple spiral/Father, Son, and Ghost/But you left me in my darkest hour when I needed you.” While he is honest in his disappointments with his experience with the Christian Godhead, the album concludes with the necessity of mercy in a world that is used to the symmetry of retaliation.

March: Radiohead The King of Limbs: Yes, I know this album came out in February, but it usually takes me a while to come to an appreciation for all the thought that this band puts into the work they release.  Honestly, I was initially disappointed with the length of the album, with only 8 songs, at under 38 minutes, but they soon released two more singles, “Separator” and “The Butcher.”  What the album may appear to lack in length of play, it makes up for in depth of sound and theme.  Along with the release of the album, the band released free newspapers (what some would call an outdated form of communication) at select record stores around the world.  A lot of the themes surrounding TKOL and its release seem to point to the ideas of preservation (of the environment, humanity, and music) in a modern, digital age.  If we care about something, we preserve it, even if it only exists in “perishable” form.

April: Peter Bjorn and John Gimme Some: The energy of this album went a long way for me.  For a three-piece band, they produce a powerful sound, while still remaining catchy and playful.  With very simplistic instrumentation, they’ve managed create an aggressively nuanced soundscape.  Leave it to the Swedes.

May: Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues:  When I think of spring 2011, I think of this album.  While I was out of the states for much of the initial Fleet Foxes craze that went along with the release of their first album, before this album came out, I still felt as though I had yet to connect with the band like everyone else around me.  In so many ways, for me, Helplessness Blues is spring 2011. I picture driving up interstate 5 to Vancounver, BC on a sunny morning, with the cascades to my right, and the sound to my left.  Or driving on the Alaskan Way Viaduct past the Seattle’s city center with Mt. Rainier on the horizon.  For myself, it was easy to connect with the first lines of this album, as Robin Pecknold sings, “So now I am older than my mother and father when they had their daughter. Now what does that say about me?” The album as a whole chases to describe what so many in this generation are experiencing in longing to be apart of something greater than ourselves.

And I was going to finish off the rest of the year, but I’ve obviously been putting this off too long.  2011 was definitely a frontloaded year in terms of me being enraptured by music.

I will add these tidbits:

St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy: It was the album that surprised me the most in the last year.  I know Annie Clark is all-around brilliant, but I didn’t expect to be quite so enveloped by such an pleasantly aggressive album.  She had me at “Cruel.”

Also, the entirety of Bjork’s vision for the Biophilia project was nothing short of intellectual and artistic invigoration.  A definite trip, as one would expect.

And of course, Wilco’s The Whole Love was great.  Perfect for an early morning drive through Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest, or an evening/night drive from Yellowstone to Bozeman, Montana.

I will post this without proof reading.


Somehow, a quick afternoon journey my home on the West side of Queen Anne hill to Magnolia Boulevard has embellished itself into an elaborate quest. One view across the sound from the orange glow of the bluffs re-calibrates my warping perspective. The Olympics Mountains, those dark and colossal behemoths, rest heavy and ominous, a distant outpost, straining for their own land beyond. Now they, not Interbay or a small residential hill, would seem the impenetrable barrier to whatever quest I would dream.

Here we sit—Alki Beach, Mount Rainier, the Seattle skyline, myself, and the Olympic Mountains out across the sound—competing for the best possible view of this single day, a concert repetitive and diverse. Sun-gilded Rainier, the wise one in the back, achieves its more advantageous view by moving further from the view. Golden wheat on the nearby bluffs rests like a crowd in an amphitheater, waiting for the cumulation of the show. The sailboats drift lonely on their wide-open expanse, positioned by whatever currents would care to move them. The Olympics, though near the sun, seem blocked by the cloudy shadows of their own realm. One glance above, and we all see instantly that the clouds have taken the best view of all. The glow they hold is just a hint of what they know. The sky is their palate, pastel and clean, a Navajo gradient—a warm façade removing memory of the ever-present chill of the lonely breeze. The clouds trail towards the glow of that giant orb, as a kite tied to a rock; the leaves behind its curtain.

Finally, the faraway Olympic peaks get their turn, a fleeting taste of the leaving glow. Here, close on Magnolia Boulevard, the glow appears to have subsided, bidding me its passive farewell. Without the glow, my attentions turn to the subtle but consistent patter of the waves, and the call of a solitary bird I can’t name.

Without expectation, the sun returns for an encore. It appears with its golden road on the water, speaking, “Child, you’re on the strait and narrow.” Soon though, it leaves again, running only to go and repeat the same performance elsewhere.


Lord, be the one to direct my heart; steer me true.  May my losses be gathered to You, and my victories Yours.  I am without if not for your hand to lead.


What will I ever grow into or become that is not ultimately derived from your providence?  No place I could go, no people I am with, no field I may plow will change my need.  What locality is distinct from the love You’ve given?  Keep me grounded in the soil of wherever it is you may lead.


with this we shan’t fear when we see the
markets diving,
kingdoms plummeting, and
rulers hoarding.
this world is yours,
everything held together by
a love that ran itself into the ground
only to sprout itself back into
a vine that sustains
everything in its path.
we won’t find life
apart from yours, and
we won’t find ruins beyond
hope of rebuilding.


You approach shimmering
Smiling kind
walking smooth;
and I’m stopped stunned
friendly words
staring absurd.

It’s hard to clear a mind
In a world so crowded
(hopes and cares;
wants and fears;
beautiful girls,
to call them dears…)

With each bat of those lashes
an unforgiving blade
glimmers sharply
and falls heavy,
your eyes the guillotine
to another admiring gaze.

I thought you would carry this load
like a lead sweater,
but it sounds like I’ll have to wait
and see or hear
the weatherman speak
a brighter forecast,
the soothsayer to create
a more comfortable spell.

In the meantime
I’ll sit here treating
the residual wounds of
pitchforks & daggers,
the strange residue of
your tender glance.


I need a filter.  Just trying to sleep last night, I was bombarded by residual noise.  Twitter feeds, news articles, blog posts, finances, environ(mental) atrocities (tar sands), convictions about overspending on corporate coffee chains.  It plugs my mind and blocks this soul from seeing the one that must flow through.  You.  Your peace.  Your face.  So maybe it is that You are not the filter, but the one thing, the water that must be salvaged from the clutter.  May you grant me discipline as the filter, allowing this mind to start with the most important.  All that is strained out can wait for its proper time in respect to the one who must remain Lord.