As I mentioned when I ran down my favorite new records of 2011, there were a handful of bands that I got into more so than just picking up an album of theirs this year. These are bands who I was either already diving into when a new record came out this year or just finally got around to listening to after years of neglect and ignorance on my part.
First off, I spent the beginning and much of the rest of 2011 listening to The White Stripes. I got most of the records I didn’t already have for Christmas 2010 and rocked out to them for a good part of the year. That band rocks my face off in such different and awesome ways, but I already wrote about Jack White extensively towards the end of 2010, so I’m just going to link to that post as it still sums up my thoughts. I also really got into the Foo Fighters this year picking up their records either digitally or at yard sales on the cheap, but I wrote about them already too. So, now on to the new stuff!
Much like the White Stripes, The Black Keys is a band I’ve been hearing about for years, but never listened to until this year. Unlike the Stripes, though, I didn’t have a problem with the Keys, I just didn’t get around to it. The closest I ever got was an actual tiny single CD that a friend who used to work at a record store passed me years ago that I still have somewhere. If I can dig it up, I’ll take a pic. Anyway, thanks to Amazon’s $5 MP3 record deals, I was able to pick up Thickfreakness and Rubber Factory at some point throughout the year. I very quickly gravitate to their awesome blues-based, down and dirty, soulful rock sound. Not to get too far into the Keys/Stripes comparisons, but in addition to being a guitar/drum duo, the Keys also share the Stripes’ penchant for great music that moves you around in various ways, both physically and emotionally. I got pretty jazzed when I heard that El Camino was being released last year and also got that one digitally for $5 on Amazon. I’ve only listened a few times, but it’s another excellent offering from a band that doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon. This is what rock and roll should be. On the complete opposite end of the specturm we have LMFAO the uncle-nephew hip hop squad that not only brought Shufflebot into the world, but also dance/hip-hop/pop tracks like “Shots,” “Party Rock Anthem,” “Sexy And I Know It” and the theme song to Jersey Shore. I very simply love these guys because they are having so much damn fun with their music that you can’t help but get sucked in. I noticed that their two records Party Rock and Sorry For Party Rocking records were in the $5 MP3 section of Amazon right before New York Comic-Con and listened to both records on the train ride down after a late night/early morning and I have to say that I was sufficiently pumped up by the time I pulled into the train station and made my way to the convention center. I think the theme of these bands is that they’re the best of the bunch in their particular area of focus. The Keys rock, LMFAO are pop/dance bamfs and The Roots are the best around when it comes to funk and soul (the Dap-Kings are up there too, but I don’t know if they’re as versatile). I had the opportunity to see them in college, but wound up getting a speeding ticket which drained my bank account and kept me away. After seeing how awesome they are on Jimmy Fallon, I picked up their 2002 record Phrenology which I just did not like. It seemed more like your basic boastful hip-hop record instead of the funk band I wanted to listen to. I was rejuvenated when it came to their records thanks to their album with John Legend called Wake Up! that came out in 2010. Man, not only can Legend sing with the best of them, but the band shows off their skills. Love this record. I felt similarly about their album with Betty Wright called Betty Wright: The Movie. I admit, I didn’t know about Wright before seeing this one pop up on Amazon, but it’s in the same vein as Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, so I’m in. Then, at the end of the year, their new record undun came out which again wound up being sold on the cheap on Amazon. Like a lot of the other newer albums I picked up towards the end of the year, I’ve only had the chance to listen to this one a few times, but I loved what I heard. There’s so, so much going on that this one will take several listens to really feel, but that’s a task I’m excited about. This is a grown up record that still knows how to be funky and soulful and smart.You might not have heard of this guy, he’s pretty obscure, but he goes by Bruce Springsteen and he sings some pretty powerful songs. The Rising and Magic are not my first Springsteen records. I’ve had Born In the U.S.A. since I was in high school, but it never really grabbed me. I think I might not have been as receptive as I am now, or maybe just not old enough to really get it. But, as I’m older now and hopefully more open to things, I was struck by these two albums from 2002 and 2007 respectively. I got both of these as physical CDs from the clearance section of a used record store and an indoor flea market respectively. I didn’t realize until doing some research for this post, but The Rising was actually written post 9/11 and you can really feel that on the record. It’s intense and emotional and raw and all of that comes through even if you don’t know why it’s that way. Meanwhile, Magic is a more rock-oriented album that keeps Springsteen’s signature sound and style. Unlike a lot of other well established artists that I’ve only recently come across, these records make me more excited to check out Springsteen’s more recent albums instead of his older stuff. Dude’s still got it.
When I started thinking about this post and the ones about my favorite records I realized something interesting: Amazon’s $5 MP3 section has become my new used record store. There’s so much music out there that I’ve just never gotten a chance to check out and these super cheap prices make it so much easier to give something a try. Plus, you don’t have to worry about getting a potentially damaged product for the lower price. I used to be all about the physical disc, but now that I’ve got very limited space, I’m cool with not having to deal with discs, cases and booklets as much. I’ll still keep my eye out for CDs at flea markets and garage sales, but I’ll probably check the Amazon MP3 page before I do. Who needs all the clutter, right?