Listen Up: John McVicker’s Music Picks for 2011

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10. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean (Warner Bros): Iron & Wine with horns? Yep. Lots of big arrangements and amplification too, and it works pretty well.

9. Garland Jeffreys – The King of In Between (Luna Park): Lou Reed's college roommate brings to the table a good mix of Reed, Rolling Stones, and Dylan. This is his first U.S. release in more than 20 years and you should buy it. I'm happy to note that Jeffrey's 1977 masterpiece, Ghost Writer, has been reissued this year as a single CD bundled with two other albums.

8. Camille – Ilo Veyou (EMI): Complete with squeaks, hoots, beatbox pops and clicks, strange rude noises, and lyrics in French. Camille's voice is a treasure.

7. Various Artists – The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams (CBS): a surprisingly good project drawing from Hank's notebooks of unfinished songs. The artists represented are often connected in some way with Bob Dylan (his contribution is fine, but so are many of the others).

6. Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow (Epitaph): Yes there are 50 words for snow in the title track (#49 is "mistraldespair"). The album is full of beauty and fun from start to finish.

5. Gillian Welch – The Harrow & the Harvest (Acony): Her first album in almost 10 years. A good one.

4. Dawda Jobarteh – Northern Light Gambian Night (Sterns Africa import): Kora heaven (he kora is something like a lute crossed with a harp)! Together with some friends, Jobarteh and his four-piece group rock like crazy.

3. Various Artists – Holding Up Half the Sky: Voices of African Women (Shanachie) This 1997 compilation features way-cool hits from some of Africa's best women singers. Styles are all over the place, as the music is from all over the continent, but it works well.

2. Adam Torres – Demos: Home Recordings ( More from the Nostra Nova guy. Sound quality is a mixed bag, but wonderfulness abounds. This is available as a free download at

1. SMOD – SMOD (Nacional): The main voice in this west African pop/hip-hop band's third album obviously benefits from Manu Chao's production, and perhaps less obviously from the fact that lead singer Sam Bagayoko is the son of Afropop stars Amadou and Miriam.

John McVicker has been a big music fan since he was an toddler. Early influences were Danny Kaye and Spike Jones. When he's not spending too much time listening to music, John teaches English as a Second Language at Ohio University and paints pictures.

This is the second in a series of year-end blog posts by WOUB staff, volunteers and contributors, as well as area musicians, music retailers and plain old music fanatics. Think we missed something? Let us know at