by admin on December 23, 2011
Top Albums of 2011 – Brian Doerksen’s Top 10
James Morrison The Awakening
I’m very grateful for Thomas Sekinger, who popped James Morrison’s previous CD into the car while driving me around Winterthur, Switzerland on the Europe leg of my tour in October. I believe I had heard his voice before (likely the gorgeous song ‘Broken Strings’ with Nelly Furtado from his ‘Songs for you Truths for me’ album) Within seconds I said something that all us artists hate but can’t avoid; a ‘sounds like’ reference. “He sounds like the male Adele – old school music with a soulful voice!”
‘I won’t let you go’ could very well be the most beautiful love song of year – even my wife loves it (Joyce is not as taken by music as I am!) She says almost every time she hears this song . . . ‘I love this song!’ For indeed ‘this is no time to be alone!’
I bought this one on a whim within weeks of its release at a Starbucks while traveling on Vancouver Island. Her voice has something very special – it’s just real in every sense of the word. ‘Don’t you remember’ has a perfect build to it with such minimum fuss . . . and the subtle change at the half mark of the chorus with the accents and the change of time signature for a bar . . . is it deliberate or accidental genius at work? This is one of the rare times when an album is at the top of every pop music critic’s lists – and it’s also on mine! Maybe there is some hope for real music in the world of pop music after all!
The Civil Wars Barton Hollow
One of my favourite local singer-songwriters Joshua Hyslop (who was on my top list last year with his Cold Wind EP) was the first person that I heard mention this new folk duo back in the spring . . . and after previewing a couple of tracks on iTunes I had no problem pressing the ‘purchase now’ button. I could just tell this was the real thing!
I just love the way the phrase ‘Just don’t go without me’ pulls you in in ‘C’est la mort’ and their voices are so perfectly suited for each other and the harmonies so compelling, I don’t for a moment miss the band! Seeing them perform ‘Billie Jean’ on ‘Later with Jools Holland’ (via YOUTUBE) is an illustration of the power of arranging and simplicity and two human beings playing off of each other. Sometimes music should be just fun . . . and this is jawdroppingly so! (is that a word?)
Hayley Westenra Paradisio
I bought the physical CD of this project in Hong Kong on my November Asian tour (which apparently is still the main option there because there is no iTunes store or equal in most of Asia). I bought it for 2 reasons – her voice has such purity (my very first Hayley project I also bought as a physical CD while on tour – that time was in Ottawa about 8 years ago). The 2nd reason is that Ennio Morricone’s film scoring is stunning – and ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ is one of the most beautiful pieces of melody ever written so I was so curious as to what would happen when you put this beautiful young woman and wrinkled old man together . . . and it turns out what you get is beautiful music!
Sara Groves Invisible Empires
For the last few years, I would have to say that Sara has been one of the only CCM (that’s Contemporary Christian Music in case you don’t know!) artists that I can listen to repeatedly. So I was looking forward to her new project and bought it immediately off of her website before it hit the stores. I’m not sure I would list it as my favourite project of hers . . . but anything she does is good and this one is solidly in rotation on my iPod along with her previous albums. Her words are full of insight into the human condition . . . like these from ‘I’ll wait’:
I can take my own vengeance
Make a war of all my pain
I can get my own insurance
Find a way to lay the blame
I can win the whole world
And lose my own soul
Holding on for dear life
Spinning out of control
How many wars . . . or just relational conflicts are birthed out of not knowing what to do with our pain . . . another reason we need to make room for lament. (But I digress!)
Owl City All things bright and beautiful
I took my teenage daughter to Adam’s concert in Vancouver . . . it was great! ‘Deer in the headlights’ is just plain fun . . . and the cameo by ‘Lights’ in the video makes me smile.
Mat Kearney Young Love
For me – Mat Kearney provided the soundtrack of summer 2011. As I said, I took my daughter to Owl City . . . who was is a great artist and so much fun . . . but the highlight of that evening for me personally was Mat’s opening set. I went home and bought the 2 albums of his I didn’t have including this one . . . and just loved it. ‘Ships in the night’ is such an amazing clever song, as is ‘Sooner or later’ – this album begs to played at 10 . . . but if you are driving be warned . . . you just may go over the speed limit! (no personal experience was used in making this comment!)
Love Shines Cathy Hardy
Cathy is a local Fraser Valley BC artist (and a friend) who has gone through some soul shaking suffering and continues to sing of the power of love. The song ‘Breathing Together’ is one of the deepest most profound songs. Very beautiful album – love that she writes some of her songs based on the pentatonic scale. http://cathyajhardy.com/
Muppets The Green Album
My kids (including my 12 year old special needs son Isaiah) love the Muppets . . . but maybe not as much as I do! I remember when I was a boy and we didn’t have a TV at home – I would walk up to my Grandma’s place through the forest half a mile away . . . just for another 30 minutes with my favourite puppets. On this album I love ‘Rainbow Connection’ and of the version of ‘Mahna Mahna’ by The Fray is hilarious (who would have thought that The Fray guys had that kind of humour in them?)
Spider-Man Turn off the dark
As someone who is currently developing a musical (Prodigal God) I’m always curious what is happening in the world of musicals. And of course, being a long time U2 fan meant the curiosity was unstoppable – I just had to hear the music. Some of it has to be seen, to be appreciated I’m sure . . . but a few of the songs are excellent just as they are. The last 2 songs ‘Rise Above 2’ and ‘Turn off the dark’ that close the album are stunning!