The brightest spot of 2011′s music for me was that I could’ve happily watched handsomely crafted live videos and downloaded radio sessions and bootleg recordings all year and never reached for an actual record. It’s both a tribute to modern technology and a sign that we have a welcome surplus of quality videographers and engineers. Hopefully they keep it up. Here are six essentials.
2. Ryan Adams – Everything
My favorite working songwriter was everywhere this year, being bootlegged in Europe, covering Bob Mould, playing for KCRW, the works. As great as he’s always been, he’s performing on an incomparable level this year — anything you can track down is well worth your time. Here’s perhaps the most essential performance, his saddest-possible piano reworking of “New York, New York.” (Allegedly, Adams banned concert recordings on this tour so he could put together a live box for next year. It will be the best live album ever made.)
“New York, New York” (live in Denver, 9/15/11): MP3
3. St. Vincent – “Cruel” on KCRW
Annie is a golden god.
4. Little Scream – “The Heron and the Fox”
There were many fine performance videos of this song this year, but the first one to hit the web remains the best.
5. The Mountain Goats with Craig Finn – “This Year”
GUYS! TOUR TOGETHER! SPLIT A SINGLE! ANYTHING!
6. Jens Lekman – Tiny Desk Concert
Any performance of unreleased mega-jam (er, mega-ballad) “Cowboy Boots” this year was a catch, but here’s a nicely recorded one.
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