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Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

Okkervil River’s new album proved to be a grower rather than an instant hit with me. Perhaps it suffered from a release date crowded by the likes of The Felice Brothers (whose 2011 recording Celebration, Florida proved a major disappointment after three solid gold previous efforts)  and Fleet Foxes. I Am Very Far plays out like an Alt Country-Dexys-Motown hybrid, and, despite loving all three of those influences, it took me a while to get where this was coming from, but when it clicked it clicked good and proper, reminding me exactly why I love Okkervil River. If you want such a reminder I direct you to the live version of album high point We Need A Myth below. Don’t worry if you don’t get it at first, play it a few times and let it work its wonder. This is the sound of greatness:

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three

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

The second album from Robin Pecknold’s band of sun-washed folk troubadours did not disappoint, despite being a while coming and the first bash at recording the tunes being scrapped when not up to snuff.   Helplessness Blues manages to make some imaginative leaps with their sound without throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Perhaps by scrapping the first sessions Pecknold managed to leapfrog the difficult second album and move straight to the third. Whatever the reason, Helplessness Blues manages to be that rarest of beast, a truly uplifting piece with each track producing a distinct emotion in the listener, each building on the last. It may not change you life, but listening to this will change the way you look at the world. The video below is an animation of The Shrine/An Argument by Robin Pecknold’s brother Sean. It’s rather lovely. Like the rest of Helplessness Blues.

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two

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

There’s not much I need to say about this. Follow-up to the best album of the last decade. Four Grammy nominations. Destined to appear on ever Best Album list of 2011. Bon Iver are the sort of artist/band that make the world a little easier to live in. They are that good.

The only surprise here is that they came to rest at number 2 in my list, in a year when I fully expected them to take the top slot. Check back tomorrow to see what pipped them to that particular post.