2011's Tops in Pops 

click to enlarge The Vaccines evoke Lennon and McCartney with its  joyous take on rock ‘n’ roll. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • The Vaccines evoke Lennon and McCartney with its joyous take on rock ‘n’ roll.

When The SF Examiner spoke to young British belter Adele last January, she was laughing about crazy promotions she was doing for her then-upcoming sophomore recording  “21” — like flying on a snowstorm-buffeted puddle jumper into the Midwest to perform for executives of Target and Best Buy, chains that supported her debut, “19.”

The legwork paid off, because 2011 would soon belong to Adele; “21,” courtesy of its single “Rolling in the Deep,” sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. (Lady Gaga’s overhyped “Born This Way” was a fizzled-out dud by comparison.)     

The summer, however, belonged to one song — Foster The People’s happy but lyrically homicidal smash hit “Pumped Up Kicks.”

And the White Stripes-initiated trend of guy-girl duos continued unabated with new entries such as The Slow Club, Data Romance and the buzzed-about new Exitmusic from “Boardwalk Empire” actress Aleksa Palladino and her husband, Devon Church.

But, as usual, my Top 10 isn’t about trends. These are simply the records this writer spun the most over 2011. In reverse order:

10. Cults, ‘Cults’

Guitarist Brian Oblivion and vocalist Madeline Follin conjure up a ghostly, gargantuan Phil Spector sound on this chiming debut. (ITNO/Columbia)

9. Iceage, ‘New Brigade’

These Copenhagen teens are a blast of circa-’77 proto-punk adrenaline on this battering ram of one-to-two-minute skull-splitters. (What’s Your Rupture?)

8. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, ‘High Flying Birds’

Who knew that the breakup of U.K. supergroup Oasis could be a good thing? Here, its ex-anchor soars to new creative heights, post-split. (Sour Mash/Island)

7. Gillian Welch, ‘The Harrow & The Harvest’

After eight long years away, Welch and her musical partner David Rawlings return with a Stephen Foster-stark, Southern gothic stunner.  (Acony)

6. James Blake, ‘James Blake’

This cryptic U.K. keyboardist  deconstructs pop songs down to their most minimal exoskeletons; you don’t listen to this dramatic debut — you study it. (Universal Republic)

5. The Dirt Drifters, ‘This Is My Blood’

Finally, here’s a Nashville combo that gets the outlaw/alt-country aesthetic right, on a bow every bit as stellar as Steve Earle’s “Guitar Town” masterpiece. (Warner Bros.)

4. Florence and the Machine, ‘Ceremonials’

It’s no sophomore jinx for Florence Welch, who deftly tops her elegiac “Lungs” debut with this truly majestic follow-up. (Universal Republic)

3. Lykke Li, ‘Wounded Rhymes’

When this shrewd Swede teams with her producer-partner,  Peter Bjorn and John’s brilliant Bjorn Yttling, nothing but combustible skewed-pop results. (LL/Atlantic)

 

2. Lindi Ortega, ‘Little Red Boots’

She just moved from Toronto to Nashville. It’s exactly where this punk-fueled Dolly Parton belongs. She’ll soon show Music Row how classic country is done. (Last Gang)

1. The Vaccines, ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’

When ex-U.K. folkie Justin Young met Strokes-scrappy guitarist Freddie Cowan, an almost Lennon-McCartney fire sparked. This is everything you ever loved about rock ’n’ roll, in one joyous, rapid-fire salvo. (Columbia)

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Tom Lanham

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