I listen to a lot of music (though not when I'm writing, funnily enough), and I think a comprehensive list is beyond me, so here's a look at my two favourite bands of the year.
Note: I chose not to embed videos in this post because it slows down loading time so much - but there are copious links to YouTube videos below.
At the top of the corresponding list of my 2010 listening, I put Warpaint. I'd only just started listening to them then, and I have listened to a lot more of their music in 2011, including their first release, the 2009 EP Exquisite Corpse. Here is a clip of them playing one of the songs from that EP, Krimson, in Auckland at the start of 2011 - a show I wish I'd seen live.
One of the many things I like about Warpaint is their willingness to reinvent their songs in live performance: here are links to extended live performances of the two songs they use as the basis for improvisation, Elephants and Beetles. (One of the things these live performances showcase is what a wonderful rhythm section they have in drummer Stella Mozgawa and bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg - check out Elephants in particular to see this in action.)
Wild Flag and its forerunners
In September, a new band called Wild Flag released its self-titled debut album. The band was new, but the members came from such prominent '90s bands as Sleater-Kinney, Helium and the lesser-known (to me anyway) Minders. While Warpaint, at least in their recorded incarnation, is music for thinking and dreaming, Wild Flag makes me want to get up and jump around the room. Sometimes, imperilling the cat and the furniture, I do.
Here are Wild Flag's entertaining videos for Romance and Electric Band, plus a live-in-the-studio version of my favourite song of theirs, Black Tiles, and an extended live workout of Racehorse.
My enjoyment of Wild Flag led me to check out Sleater-Kinney and Helium. 2/3 of Sleater-Kinney, Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, now form half of Wild Flag, while Mary Timony, the prime mover of Helium, is now co-frontwoman of Wild Flag with Carrie Brownstein. (The fourth member of Wild Flag is Rebecca Cole, whose keyboards keep the band sounding as harsh as Sleater-Kinney often do.)
I'm finding Sleater-Kinney to be an acquired taste that I haven't fully acquired yet, but I do like this live performance of the epic Zeppelinesque song from their final album The Woods, Let's Call It Love, which segues into Entertain.
But Helium are great! I now have their 1995 album The Dirt of Luck (I don't have any idea what that means, either), and here are a couple of my favourite tracks from it, Skeleton and Honeycomb.
Here are a few other songs and pieces of music, old and new, that have been particular favourites of mine this year.
Kylesa, Don't Look Back (album version - I can't find a live version with good enough sound) - and here is a live performance: Kylesa covering Pink Floyd's Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun
Arcade Fire, Intervention
Motorhead, We Are The Roadcrew (studio version)
The Real Thing, You To Me Are Everything
Smokey Robinson, Cruisin'
Gustav Mahler, Symphony #5 In C Sharp Minor - 4. Adagietto (the "Death in Venice" theme)
Frederick Delius, Walk To The Paradise Garden
Dmitri Shostakovich, Festive Overture