As I had hinted elsewhere, I'm doing something different this year at the top of the list. Because I didn't have a clear-cut, slam-dunk #1 disc of the year, I've decided not to arbitrarily designate one. So instead I'm presenting my top 10 in alphabetical order. They could each be #1, or they could each be #10. Either way I highly recommend them all and hope you already have all or most of them in your collection.
Phil Angotti-People and Places. Sweet, McCartney-esque pop from a veteran musician whom I belatedly came around to. "Me and Donnie Vie" was one of my favorite tracks of 2011.
Cirrone-Uplands Park Road. An audacious debut for this Italian band, who draw as much from Big Star and Badfinger as they do contemporary power poppers. Perhaps 2011's best "traditional" power pop album.
Marco Joachim-Hidden Symphonies. Joachim's previous rootsy, Wilbury-ish release in no way prepared me for this tour de force which I originally only mentioned on the site in passing. A bright ELO/Beatles melange, it really grew on me.
Steve LaBate-The Dead Art of Letter Writing. LaBate's Replacements-meet-The-Clash solo debut was an impressive achievement for a guy better known as a Paste Magazine writer/editor and a member of a rock-comedy act.
David Mead-Dudes. Reuniting with Adam Schlesinger, Mead got his mojo back and came up with the singer/songwwriter album of the year. "The Smile of Rachael Ray" was named NPR's Song of the Day last week and deservedly so as it might have been the most poignant thing he's written.
Meyerman-Who Do You Think You Are? A rare achievement for this New Jersey band - not only did they craft a power pop album with killer hooks and riffs, they also crafted a power pop album that's a meta-commentary on the state of power pop and being in a rock band. On whichever level you enjoy it, it's definitely a revelation.
Michael Oliver & The Sacred Band-Yin & Yanxiety. Since Cliff Hillis decided not to release an album in 2011, Michael Oliver did it for him. Like the former Ike/Starbelly pop wizard, Oliver has an effortless way with a melody and a hook, and he writes intelligent lyrics to boot. What more can you ask for?
The Red Button-As Far as Yesterday Goes. So they'll probably never top 2007's album-of-the-year-on-this-site She's About to Cross My Mind. So what? If Swirsky & Ruekberg can keep releasing discs as pop-perfect as this folowup, I won't complain. Instead of making Cross My Mind 2, they took a chance and decided to tackle the 70s singer-songwriter milieu. I'm thinking that 80s synth-pop will be a tougher nut to crack, though, should they decide to advance another decade next time.
Brandon Wilde-Hearts in Stereo. And here's the David Grahame/Emmit Rhodes/early solo McCartney album of the year. "Candy Apples" and "Ooh La" would be the near the top of my favorite tracks of 2011 list, were I to make one this year.
Miles Zuniga-These Ghosts Have Bones. At long last my favorite half of the Fastball singing/songwriting team released a proper solo album, and it's a gem. Mature, lyrical, hooky and assured, it's a nice blend of pop styles that reveals Zuniga as the songwriting pro he is.