Listen Up: Rat’s Top Music Picks for 2011

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I was fortunate to have joined the Radio Free Athens family six years ago. I usually do a “best of the year” show every December (see my set list for December 10 here) but have never written about my top music picks, so here goes.

We have access to so much music in the studio, it can be overwhelming. I frequently try to listen to snippets of new songs while I’m on the air.

There have been great releases this year from old favorites such as Wilco, Ryan Adams, Death Cab for Cutie, My Morning Jacket, John Doe, The Twilight Singers, The Black Keys and Fountains of Wayne. I also enjoyed albums by newer bands like Vetiver and Beirut.

Then there is the “new to me” category: albums that didn’t come out this year, but that I really liked. The Black Angels’ Directions to See a Ghost is one example. Thanks to BC at Jackie O’s for turning me on to them.

There are a few new releases that I can’t seem to get out of my CD player. Tom Waits’ Bad as Me is one of them. Another is by local band Duke Junior and the Smokey Boots. Their self-titled release is one of the best local recordings that I’ve heard in a long time.

Next is my friend Tim Easton. He put out two releases this year; one solo acoustic (Since 1966, Volume 1) and one with a backing band called the Freelan Barons (Beat the Band). Both are amazing.

My favorite album of the year is Lydia Loveless’ Indestructible Machine. Powerful country RAWK from Columbus. If you missed her last year at The Nelsonville Music Festival, give this release a listen.

Speaking of the Nelsonville Fest, it’s on my “best of the year” list as well. The festival has grown each year and is bringing nationally-known acts and legends to our corner of the universe.

The great thing about it is that it’s still small and intimate. Some of my favorite festivals, such as Comfest in Columbus, have grown so large that it’s difficult to have a good time. Tim Peacock and the staff at Stuart’s Opera House have got a great thing going and 2012 promises to be just as good.

On a related note, I would like to thank all of you who came out to the 12th annual Lennon Fest this year. We raised over $1000 in the name of our friend Johnny B to help fund music lessons for young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get them. If you’re interested in scholarship information, please contact me at

I hope you all have a great 2012 and continue listening to Radio Free Athens wherever you are. We’ll keep bringing you the best new, and not so new, music on Saturdays. You stay sexy A-Camp!

Rat hosts Radio Free Athens on WOUB 1340 AM every Saturday from 3-6 p.m. This is the sixth 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