Beach Boys “Smile Sessions” (box set) – because it would have been the best rock album of the ‘60s had it come out then. I’ve been waiting for the sessions to be released officially for over 15 years. I already had 10 -12 bootleg discs-worth of this material; but the sound on this (5 CD + 2 LP + 2 7-inch singles) release is superior.
Best Coast “Crazy for You” – because I love their sound and there are so many strong songs on this album. It’s one of the rare things I’ve first heard in a store (in this case, Rhino Records, Claremont CA , 2010) and actually asked the clerk what they were playing. Didn’t get around to purchasing it until late last year – but have never looked back!
Rumer “Seasons of my Soul” – because the singing is gorgeous and the songs are intriguing. Refreshingly free of the affectation of trying to sound “hip”. Waterloo finally got this in recently; I’d first asked them about it over a year ago, but it wasn’t released domestically until late last year.
Dum Dum Girls “Only in Dreams” – I love their sound, especially on this and the preceding EP. ‘60s girl-group meets psych-gaze: you can’t beat it! They look smashing, too. They were great last year at SXSW.
(box set) – a reissue of three little-known but classic albums plus a disc of bonus material. He’s a true original. Great songwriter, moving singer, way underrated by the incognoscenti. (No, that’s not a word.) This is beautiful, poignant music.
Throbbing Gristle and Jesus & Mary Chain: Deluxe reissues of all their original studio albums – Two of my all-time favorite groups. I’ve been wondering when these noisemaking combos would be getting the deluxe treatment, and these packages (do not dis)appoint.
Kevin Ayers – everything; but esp. his late ‘60s – early ‘70s material. Such a cool, eminently likable artiste. He reminds me of a mellower, nicer Julian Cope (one of whose teenage daughters, I read on JC’s Head Heritage website, has been going through Ayers-fanatic phase).
Kate Bush “50 Words for Snow” – perfect winter album. Not as glorious as her previous “Ariel”, but close. I’d probably give it album of the year for 2011.
Honorable mentions: Deerhunter, Serena-Maneesh, School of Seven Bells, and Pains of Being Pure at Heart.