Music in 2011 has been brilliant

Somehow – and I really don’t know how – it’s almost Christmas, which means it’s almost 2012, which means it’s time to reflect on the past 12 months. But don’t worry – I’m not going to bore you with the highs and lows of my personal life. Rather, here are some of the musical moments that shaped my 2011.

Tom Waits

It’s been some seven years since the enigmatic, eccentric entertainer released his last album, but his 2011 record, Bad As Me – the 17th of his career – was well worth the wait. Flitting between the two distinct personalities that Waits has inhabited since the start of his career – the drunken romantic barfly of his early years and the boisterous, foot-stomping, growling oddity of his later years – means that it’s a constantly surprising affair that’s part beauty, part beast, but all genius.

CMJ 2011

I love New York. I want to move here. In fact, I’m here right now, in my friend’s apartment in Brooklyn, writing this. But I was also at CMJ – the city’s version of SXSW – back in mid-October, and it was utterly glorious. A couple weeks prior to the event, the organisers announced 900 new acts who had been added to the bill. That’s extra bands! At the best of times, NY is full of enough music to please anyone and everyone, but CMJ multiplies that by – well, 900 or so!. Pretty much my favourite 10 days this year.

Copenhagen Jazz Festival

Denmark’s capital is famed for its jazz festival – and rightly so. While this year’s was bookended by sadness – a family funeral at the start of it and being dumped by my girlfriend at the end of it – the festival itself was phenomenal. Charles Lloyd and Keith Jarrett were two of my personal highlights, but what’s great about it – apart from the fact it’s in Copenhagen – is that there are scores of free concerts, so that you can listen to some wonderful sounds – in the sun – absolutely free!

Josh T. Pearson

Formerly found heading up Texas alt-rockers Lift To Experience, Josh T. Pearson didn’t record any music for a decade until he returned with this stunningly sad seven song solo album of forlorn, country-tinged hymnals. Words can’t really do it justice – it’s one of the most sad records I’ve ever heard in my life, but one of the most beautiful. It was released right at the start of 2011, but I can still feel it my bones almost a year later.

Clarence Clemons

Not a highlight, and nothing to be celebrated, but as a huge Bruce Springsteen fan of almost two decades now, the death of his right hand man (both metaphorically and literally – just look at the cover of ‘Born To Run’) had a profound impact on me – not least when I saw Gaslight Anthem play at Glastobury and they arrived onstage to Clemons’ wonderful saxophone solo from Jungleland. Springsteen’s just announced dates for next year, but I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like without The Big Man. RIP.

Mischa Calling

Mischa Pearlman is a music journalist living in London, who writes for a bunch of music magazines such as The Fly, Kerrang!, Clash, Record Collector and Alternative Press. He does this purely for the love and less frequently for the money, and is always hoping to fall in love with his next favourite band so he can tell you about it.

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