Traci’s Top Eight for 2011

Our second to last post about our favorites in music from 2011 brings up PlayNetwork Music Supervisor, Traci Stetzer, who serves us something new, some old magic, and something to spread the word about as her favorites from 2011.

Top Eight of The Year (in no particular order)

*Foster The People/Torches

This debut from the LA based trio is an amazing first showing; every track is superior. It’s my hope they don’t fall into the sophomore slump by placing all the best eggs into the first basket. But I have hope for them, they’re young, creative and even entrepreneurial, working alongside “The Do Good Bus” during their first US Tour.  “The Do Good Bus” is a Los Angeles-based volunteer organization designed to add an element of mystery and fun into volunteer work. The Do Good Bus has a simple premise, taking groups of do-gooders to sites around the city to perform services such as building houses and planting gardens. Where the fun factor comes in is that each day’s task and destination are unknown to the volunteers. You can find more information about them here:

This was difficult to choose what video to share, but I think you’ll enjoy this one.

“Call It What You Want”  [youtube]

*Mayer Hawthorne/How Do You Do

Mr. Blue Eyed Soul, Mayer hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan, not far from where American Soul/Motown was born, Detroit. “How Do You Do” is Mayer’s first Universal outing and follows his first on Stone’s Throw records, called “A Strange Arrangement”. Although not the strongest singer ever, Mayer’s voice is super smooth and possess a great falsetto to boot. “How Do You Do” will undoubtedly be joining the ranks of the classic albums it’s so clearly inspired by, the depth and range the album provides gives it an air of timelessness that will certainly outlast most of its contemporary peers. If you enjoy Soul or Neo-Soul, Mayer’s the man.

Mayer has a video for the “Dreaming”, but have to admit it’s on the cheesy side, so I’m posting this “Dreaming” video that showcases a live performance with just Mayer and his keyboard player, Benny Jay.

“Dreaming” [youtube]

*I’m From Barcelona/Forever Today’m_from_Barcelona

Forever Today, is an infectious, catchy-as-hell, big, breezy, summery statement that doesn’t boast a single bad apple across its expansive ten tracks.

“Always Spring” [youtube]

*Daniel Tashian/Arthur

Daniel possess a gift that not many people have. The ability to write strong songs with irresistible hooks that keep bouncing around in your cranium long after the song is over. Daniel is one of the founding members of the Nashville band, The Silver Seas and I can’t recommend these guys enough! They made a splash earlier this year in the UK with some live gigs and appearing on Later With Jools Holland, but I scratch my head all the time wondering why these guys aren’t huge everywhere, so I’m on my own little mission to spread the good word about how great they are. Daniel also had a lovely little song featured on “Our Idiot Brother” soundtrack called “Taking You With Me” with the awesome Mindy Smith sharing vocals . So, bottom line:  If you enjoy imperative pop/rock/adult alternative or whatever the kids are calling it today, please do your ears a favor and pick up Daniel’s solo project Arthur and/or one of The Silver Seas discs, Starry Gazey Pie, High Society or their latest effort Chateau Revenge. You’re welcome.

Couldn’t locate any video from his solo album, so I’m including the sweet song “Taking You With Me” featuring Daniel and Mindy (Our Idiot Brother soundtrack).

“Taking You With Me”[youtube]

*The New Mastersounds/Breaks From The Border

Unless you’re a connoisseur of modern-day funk and soul, you likely haven’t heard of the New Mastersounds. That’s a shame, because for more than a decade this Leeds England-based outfit has been churning out some of the tightest, most hip-shaking grooves around.

“Run The Gauntlet” [youtube]

*Nick Lowe/The Old Magic

Not many vocalists retain a great voice after 30 plus years in the business, but Nick Lowe is the exception here. The Old Magic doesn’t recapture the effortless rock and roll of Lowe’s youth, it does offer an appealing snapshot of an artist who clearly still has it all of these years later. The Old Magic is an album you have to take some time with, particularly if you’re only really familiar with Lowe’s classic material from the ‘70s, but the patience associated with watching an artist grow and mature gracefully after a 30-plus-year span does pay off in dividends. The Old Magic doesn’t really aspire to the great heights of Lowe’s past, but it is a portrait of an artist as an aging, graceful statesman of British rock. On this album, Lowe is not simply retreading ideas and sounds of his youth, but pushing his way forward toward being an active musician just a few years shy of collecting his pension. And while some things may change, The Old Magic shows that not only does Lowe possess an acidic pen, he still has the ability to craft memorable, hummable tunes.

“House For Sale”  [youtube]

*Gabe Dixon/One Spark

One Spark is intelligent, attractive music, nicely performed, with material that is head-and-shoulders above most commercial pop. On certain songs you almost feel as though he’s channeling Bill Joel. Piano Pop wonderfully done.

“Strike” [youtube]

*Tony Bennett/Duets II

Duets II has the warmth and feel of a genuine Bennett album due to his love, obviously still in the highest abundance, for the best songs ever written.

“The Lady is a Tramp (with Lady GaGa)” [youtube]

Traci Stetzer, Music Supervisor – PlayNetwork