blog image 1Every year there are a few records that, when you're putting together a list of your special favorites, just miss the cut by a little bit. Maybe a duff track, an ugly cover, a lack of a hit single or a general "almost" feeling....whatever the case may be, it just comes up short somehow. I gathered up five from 2011 that were quite close to reaching my Top 20 to share with you now, not because I think I'm some kind of brilliant dude or anything, I just want you to check these out and maybe hear something you like. That's all any of us here care about, really. Plus, someone asked for it and I'm willing to do anything for our gentle readers.....except listen to metal, of course.

Help Stamp Out Loneliness - Help Stamp Out Loneliness
Thanks to the deeply moving vocals of D. Lucille Campbell and the tough-but-jangling songs, the thoroughly adult take on C86 that HSOL deliver on their self-titled debut is impressive. "Record Shop" is a fairly heart-stopping ballad that I never got sick of, but the rest of the album is almost as good.

Terius Nash – 1977
You can't beat The-Dream for super-smooth, highly narcotic R&B that sounds like it was recorded between silk sheets. The guy behind The-Dream (Terius Nash) had kind of a rough year and instead of just letting it go, he made just about the meanest, most hardcore look at a break-up I've ever heard (and gave it away for free). Even though the music is mostly soft, slow, and slick (with Nash's vocals soaring all around in vapor trails The Weeknd and Drake will never quite catch up to), he doesn't pull a single punch lyrically or emotionally. Not one. It's as harrowing and catchy as any record you'll ever hear.

The Go! Team - Rolling Blackouts
If you're anything like me, you wrote off the Go! Team a while ago. After that first album they just seemed primed to decline and disappear, right? Imagine my surprise when I first heard Rolling Blackouts and quickly found that I was listening to the sound of giddy joy as squeezed through headphone speakers. Just about every track beams pure sunshine, so much so that I can barely stand to listen to it. "Ready to Go Steady" is a super catchy pop tune sung by Lispector. I'd never heard of her before and discovering her music was one of the nicest things about 2011 for me.

The Bats Free All the Monsters
The Bats have sounded almost exactly the same, which is to say nearly perfect, for almost 30 years. It's a little bit boring, really.

Ford & Lopatin - Channel Pressure
I really liked the sounds the duo made when they were called Games, super gauzy and low-key to the point of coma-inducing. I was hoping for more of that from this album and was put off by the peppy slickness and icy precision of Channel Pressure at first. After a spin or two the super hooky sound writing and mastery of synth pop convention kicked in and the record was all I wanted to listen to for a couple weeks. Shame about the ponytail though ...