As in many years past, I’ve compiled a list of what music really grabbed hold of me this year. 2011 saw me spending much time working on one musical project (company 7) to the exclusion of much else, but this is what I listened to the most.

Albums

Gungor: Ghosts upon the earth

An absolutely stunning record from start to finish; it is, by turns, melancholy, hopeful, dense, orchestrated, and deep. See also my notes (below) on their live performance.

Owl City: All Things Bright and Beautiful

A wonderful bit of synth-pop; this was the soundtrack to much of my summer.

Foreign Exchange: Leave it all behind

Thanks to the well-stocked collection of the Ypsilanti District Library and Spotify, I never actually bought this, but still managed to listen to it a ton. Such smooth and soulful stuff, almost perfect modern R&B.

Sara Groves: Invisible Empires

Sara Groves writes amazing songs, and this record is no exception.

Black Dub: Black Dub

A stellar piece of work from Daniel Lanois, Trixie Whitley, and the rest of the players Lanois assembled for this.

United Pursuit Band: Found

This is a more atmospheric, ambient release from United Pursuit (a favorite for several years). Excellent stuff.

Josh Garrels: Love & War & The Sea Inbetween 

I came across this thanks to Josh’s contribution to the Mason Jar Music Presents series of live videos performances and his album being released free on NoiseTrade. Highly recommended. (See also the whole Mason Jar Music Presents and Serialbox Presents series for a take on what the future of music looks like – independent bands, careful and artistic use of the revolutionary new HDDSLR filmmaking gear, and a DIY ethic and aesthetic. Inspiring).

Live Performances

I managed to see some amazing live performances this year, happily by some of the artists who made my favorite records this year as well!

Sara Groves (Muskegon, MI)

Sara Groves writes the songs of my married-with-kids life. She is a remarkable performer who invites you to become part of her family for a time while she’s on stage. My heart was filled with joy at the chance to see her again in the same small venue that my wife and I saw her at in 2005. Truly a special night of music and worship.

Gungor (Royal Oak, MI)

Even though Gungor was technically an opening act for David Crowder*Band (who put on a great show in their own right), Gungor really was what stood out for me from this show. Tremendous musicianship, and a masterful performance.

Vitek (Ypsilanti, MI)

My band, Company 7, had the opportunity to open for Vitek, and we were all blown away by what great performers they are. Amazing musicians.

Black Dub (Detroit, MI)  

This was truly a treat: a chance to see Daniel Lanois at the helm of his own live band in a small setting (Magic Stick in Detroit). Heart and soul music.