ON SPOTIFY: Guest lists 2011: Phoenix critics weigh in on the year in music

Listen to the jams, albums, and mixes that got our writers through 2011
By BOSTON PHOENIX MUSIC STAFF  |  December 28, 2011

NICK A. ZAINO III, Phoenix music writer

1. Wilco, The Whole Love (dBpm)
2. Withered Hand, Good News (Absolutely Kosher)
3. Wild Flag, Wild Flag (Merge)
4. John Wesley Harding, The Sound of His Own Voice (Yep Roc)
5. Eulogies, Tear the Fences Down (Dangerbird Records)
6. Emmylou Harris, Hard Bargain (Nonesuch)
7. Jason Isbell and 400 Unit, Here We Rest (Lightning Rod Records)
8. Lydia Loveless, Indestructible Machine (Bloodshot Records)
9. Tom Waits, Bad As Me (Anti)
10. Jayhawks, Mockingbird Time (Rounder Records)
11. Neil Young, Le Noise (Reprise)

LISTEN ON SPOTIFY: Best of 2011: Nick A. Zaino III's Picks | All Boston Phoenix Top Tracks of 2011

The only thing easy about making this list was the top three slots. But even that was difficult – three beautiful albums, who takes first? Wilco's is the most ambitious, and their best yet, making their wildest impulses accessible. "One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)" is a 12-minute epic that never drags. Scottish folk outfit Withered Hand finally made the leap to the States after kicking around the UK since 2009, and well worth the wait. And Wild Flag is pure rocking abandon (if only I weren't mortified of dancing). A lot of fine albums released this year, but those are the three that make me say, "God damn!" Some hard choices for the rest of the list. John Wesley Harding was at his most entertaining, Eulogies delivered an emotional stunner. Emmylou Harris was elegant, Jason Isbell hit his stride (check out "Codeine"), Lydia Loveless tore up the join. Tom Waits was himself, and that's enough. The Jayhawks got the band back together, and Neil Young delivered the ragged glory solo (with the help of producer Daniel Lanois). Even with 11 picks, I can only hope my cohorts pointed out some of the great work I missed.

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