AWM’s Favorite Albums of 2011



I think a part of the reason I like to make lists of my favorite albums of the year is selfishness. It helps me take stock of the art that was put out over the course of the year. It helps me remember shows I’ve seen, or moments I shared with new music. It helps me feel fonder about the year that has passed, and more hopeful for the year that is coming. It forces me to examine what this music meant to me, and why it meant that. I tend to favor albums whose tracks I loved, start to finish, that had meaningful lyrics or were soundtracks for important moments. Plus, I always favor risks. If I feel like a band played it safe and made a solid record, I’ll dig it, but for those who try to tackle huge topics through their art, I always admire it and end up loving it more.

For these reasons, I really could just jot down a list to myself, smile smugly, and move on. That said, I do think there is value in sharing lists, because it sparks conversations (or arguments, if you’re into that) and can potentially (and hopefully) help people discover new albums they may not have heard of before. This year, I found myself leaving off albums that contained a handful of unforgettable songs because the rest of the album was weak. I also found myself extending my list to a top-15 instead of top-10, including in my final 5 growers that I still need to spend more time with, but that were so striking in their own way that I had to include them. Without further ado: ┬ámy 2011 best-of list! Enjoy, be angered, argue and discuss. All is welcomed.

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Austin City Limits Festival 2011 – Who to See



I have been excited about this year”s Austin City Limits Festival for a while, but the giddiness just hit me on Sunday. It is indeed that time of year where Zilker Park closes to lazy weekends with your dog to make way for tall white tents, towering stages and tons and tons of your favorite bands. My all-time top two will both be performing this weekend, so I”m more than ready for it all. Mostly, I”m excited to stumble upon some new bands I”ve never heard before – there are quite a few that could fill some empty spaces in my schedule. For now, I will recommend the bands I feel secure in signing off on. Below, you”ll get a song and a snippet about who I think you should see. Drink tons of water, reapply that sunscreen, and rock out with abandon.

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Free Press Summer Fest – a rain-or-shine good time



I’ve only run a few races in my life, but I can say from both personal and second-hand experience, there are moments during a run in which you want to quit. Your legs are sore, your whole body is exhausted, you’re afraid your lungs might collapse, the heat is bearing down on you and your brain feels like it may melt out of your ears. Then you’ll see a water station off in the distance, or a heavy, quick-paced song will pop on your iPod, or a cool breeze will blow in your face just for a moment, and despite wanting to sit on a curb with every fiber of your being, you’ll continue on until you reach the finish line.

Attending a music festival is a very similar experience to this, and Free Press Summer Fest may have been the most parallel example of any festival I have ever attended. There were moment in the 100-degree blazing heat of the afternoon where I wanted to limp to the shade, licking my wounds, and dip my head in a bucket of ice water. Houston, Texas in the summertime is no joke, particularly when you host a festival along a blacktop street. However, the Free Press Summer Fest crew are fantastic about booking the kinds of bands and providing the kinds of accessories that will urge you on at the last moment, turning the tide and keeping you rocking for just one more song and one more song until you realize the sun’s gone down and it’s time to go home.

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Free Press Preview – Who to see in Houston



It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed the sweat, blood and tears of a music festival, but luckily that is all about to change. Houston is offering up a smattering of awesome local, state-wide and national acts this weekend at the Free Press Summer Fest, and I scoured every single slot to give you my recommendations for best of the fest. Read on to get a short synopsis of who you should check out, as well as a song to peak your interest. See you in Houston!

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