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Desiderata: 2011, Our Favorite Records

Continuing a weeklong trend of narcissism, we bring you our favorite records from 2011.

Tony Perez (Editor, Tin House Books): The Weekend-House of Balloons (Runner Up: Natural Child, 1971). If the most decadent nights of my life have belonged to R. Kelly (and they have), the soundtrack to my morning after—the shame, the heachaches, the self loathing, that terrible cat-shit taste in your mouth—now belongs to The Weeknd. His debut album, House of Balloons, sounds like a party that, only in retrospect, do you realize went on a little too long; the high has become a haze, and you should have been in bed hours ago (FULL DISCLOSURE: My nights of excess, regrettably, bare no resemblance to The Weeknd’s). The production is interesting but accessible, and Abel Tesfay’s songwriting is alternately playful and dark. And that voice? I just want to close my eyes until I feel steady enough for a hangover breakfast.

Elisabeth Pusack (Intern, Tin House Magazine): Yilo Jaam by Lewlewal de Podor (Missippi/Little Axe Records). A bit of folk, a bit of electric from a very groovy northern Senegalese band named for moonlight. This record sounds like moonlight and made me want to learn Pulaar! Demba Doka Barry, Tidiane Thiam, and roam the Futa Tooro playing on tourist boats and riverbanks. My roommate Christopher (Of Sahel Sounds) put out this record and a couple of other beautiful West African records on Mississippi/Little Axe this year! He’s always shouting to Africa in French over Skype at 6 o’clock in the morning!

Emma Komlos-Hrabsky (Editorial Assistant, Tin House Magazine): The Bridge School Concerts, 25th Anniversary Edition. As a serious rustie, attending one of Neil Young’s Bridge School benefit concerts is a longstanding dream. This anthology of favorite performances from the concerts is probably the closest I’ll get. Plus, I can listen to it while lying on the floor of my bedroom, lights off, the same way I listened to “Down By the River” on endless repeat in high school.

Lance Cleland (Associate Director, Writer’s Workshop): Yuck (Runners up: Real Estate, Girls, Widowspeak). There wasn’t a better moment musically this year than when I heard (for the first time) “The Wall” come over the cracked speakers of a bar during last call. Equal parts airy and urgent, Yuck’s debut is the perfect soundtrack for a summer road trip. It has enough punch for the drive there, with enough heart to get you back. Put it in your glove box, right next to your old Bats and Teenage Fanclub cassettes.

Desiree Andrews (Editorial Assistant, Tin House Magazine): Wye Oak’s album Civilian has been on repeat in the office since I saw them play at Pickathon this year. Strong vocals, rich lyrics and an overall anguished/longing tone makes this album number 1 for me. Peggy Sue’s Acrobats and St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy tie for a very close number 2.

Drew Swenhaugen (Small Press Beat, The Open Bar): Let England Shake by PJ Harvey. Eerie war songs that are pertinent to our eerie present times. Put on a Tarkovsky film, mute it, and play this album. I dare you not to create something. You’ll mind will go wild.

Rob Spillman (Editor, Tin House Magazine): NO recordings really stuck with me this year, but live shows did. It could be considered biased if I voted for the two bands I roadie for (the Claire’s Diary show a few weeks ago at Death By Audio really was killer), so I’ll have to say that best three live bands of the year were Titus Andronicus (3 times), Boris, and Arctic Monkeys.

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