Best Albums of 2011: #11

Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
It should be simple enough to say that Colin Stetson made saxophones cool again, but it turns out there were plenty of instances of that in 2011. Even still, I love giving a top spot on my list to a musician has so perfectly crafted a sound that emphasizes his expertise as a performer. Creating every sound on the album himself in one take, the songs are recorded live with an array of well-placed microphones, capturing every rhythmic fluctuation and noise of Stetson's deliberate performance.

As far as the actual music goes, Judges never lets Stetson's performance overwhelm the songs themselves. Firmly rooted in minimalism and free jazz, Stetson is all kinds of postmodern. But instead of sounding apologetic or high-brow, Judges presents us with a dirty and grimy side of classical/pop crossover. More than that, though, Stetson manages to be legitimately mind-blowing at his instrument without relying on gimmicks or irony. Its a rare thing to find in the indie pop world, but Stetson never really fit into that niche anyway.

Best Tracks: "Judges", "From No Part Of Me Could I Summon A Voice"

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