Chord (featuring Trevor de Brauw)

Like Bruce Lamont, Chicago's own Trevor Shelley-de Brauw of Pelican and Chord (who played with Bruce Lamont at Empty Bottle last week) told us about his favorite albums of 2011. Check out his whole detailed list below and catch him live on 12/28 at The Burlington with Head of Skulls and Planetsexploder.

Trevor's list below...

Top 10 Albums of 2011

by Trevor de Brauw

Looking over my list, in full below, I notice there's no debuts or newcomers (Horseback were new to me, but they've been around for awhile under my radar); for me the theme for the year was bands and musicians coming into their own and delivering on the promise of their earlier material. As excited as I get for new bands and sounds, I find nothing nearly as fulfilling as bands and artists developing over time and honing their talents into more cohesive, mature efforts. With that in mind I think this was a great year for music....

1. Young Widows "In And Out of Youth And Lightness" (Temporary Residence)
I've loved this band from day one, but even at the doomrock/pigfuck/hardcore hybrid pinnacles of their last effort, the masterful "Old Wounds", there was little to suggest that the band had a certifiable timeless masterpiece up their sleeves. Trading the heavy riff exercises of former albums for vast midnight-hued atmosphere, this album creates its own self-contained world that subsumes everything else for the duration of its playing length. Everything from imagery of the lyrics, the relaxed playing and arrangements, the in-the-pocket performances, the dynamic songwriting, the warm and rich recording, and beautiful album artwork exhibits a comprehensive thoughtfulness of approach and execution.

2. KEN Mode "Venerable" (Profound Lore)
What an utterly pulverizing record. Perfectly tempered aggression brilliantly executed. They also put on one of the most punishing heavy music shows I saw all year.

3. Grails "Deep Politics" (Temporary Residence)
This one is a bit of a left turn from the bombastic psych-rock of their last album, Doomsdayer's Holiday, with the band turning their collective focus to the production end of things. I tend to associate carefully constructed or meticulously produced music as belonging to the electronic realm, but Grails crafted an album that feels warm, human, and very much like an actual band mastering the art of aural architecture.

4. Radiohead "The King of Limbs" (TBD Records)
Speaking of "carefully constructed" or "meticulously produced" music belonging to the electronic realm. When I first heard this album I knew it was a grower; and though I didn't love it at first periodic spins revealed that buried within layer upon layer of sounds and rhythms there was a beautiful order and amazing songs (this effect was driven home by the excellent companion piece Live in the Basement). It's fantastic to see a band willing to take on risks despite their success and continue to effectively evolve and stay vital so deep into their career.

5. Various Artists "Those Shocking Shaking Days: Indonesian Hard, Psychedelic, Progressive Rock and Funk 1970-1978" (Now-Again Records)
I went in hard on Asian/Middle Eastern psych reissues this year; hearing familiar sounds through a regional veil can act as gateway into folk sounds and ideas from different cultures while also revealing what's vital at the core of the source of familiarity. While most of the records of this ilk that I got this year feature a ramshackle approach to performance and/or recording (which I chalk up to a presumed lack of resources); when I happened upon this 3xLP from Now-Again I was staggered by the professionalism and clarity of the songs and bands on the collection. This is an immense look into a fully developed and and vibrant rock scene that emerged from an island nation that most recently made music headlines for detaining and forcibly shaving off punks' mohawks. An amazing time capsule and fantastic collection of jams.

6. Tombs "Path of Totality" (Relapse)
When Pelican toured with Tombs in 2009, as they were beginning to work on the material that would comprise this album, it felt very much like they were on the cusp of an aesthetic breakthrough. What emerged on the other side is massive and immersive and easily one of the best metal records of the year.

7. Horseback live at Utech Fest
Although I loved the whole fest, by 1am I was beginning to feel a little burnt out, hours deep into a sonic diet of ambient and experimental sounds. I was instructed NOT to miss Horseback by several of my friends and man, am I glad I stuck around. They did a 180 on the vibe in the room, churning out a four song set that was energetic and heavy, but also charged with their trademark hypnotic repetition. They have a new one dropping next year, easily one of the records I'm anticipating most right now.

8. David Bazan "Strange Negotiations" (Barsuk)
I'm a longtime fan of Bazan's songwriting. His first solo album was good, but felt a bit self-obsessed lyrically. Here he returns to his strength of writing in parables. It's not my favorite record of his by any means, but some of the songs (see "Virginia", "Wolves at the Door", "Don't Change") are undeniable from a songwriting perspective.

9. Various Artists "Pakistan: Folk and Pop Instrumentals 1966-1976" (Sublime Frequencies)
Another from my bevy of psych reissues that I binged on. This one covers a ton of territory, but overall has a sense of fun that is irresistible.

10. Cave "Neverendless" (Drag City)
Wow. Chicago's masters of psychedelic/krautrock revision really came into their own on this one. Only five songs, but each of them featuring some of the best grooves laid to tape all year. Definitely one of the most exciting bands keeping psych alive right now.


Catch CAVE at Chicago Psych Fest 3 in January.

Listen to some Chord:

Chord - Gdim13+ by Trevor de Brauw