10 Favourite Records of 2011, Paired with 10 Favourite Tipples
An annual exercise for this Sommelier is to match beverages, not just to a several course meal, but also to music. I started Drink’N’Music in 2006 (go to my website www.frogspad.ca for previous years), matching each of my favourite albums of the year to a wine, beer, spirit or cocktail.
Music taste is personal, just as one’s tastes in food and drink, so I don’t expect readers to always like what I like, but you might give some a try if they sound appealing. Try it yourself with your own favourites. I’m not interested in top selling Billboard pop acts like Rhianna, Coldplay, Katy Perry, and certainly not Maroon 5, but that shouldn’t stop you from finding something good to drink with them.
Here are my top 10 albums of 2011, with drinks!
1. Ron Sexsmith – Long Player, Late Bloomer (Canada, Pop/Folk)
This Ontario pop and folk singer songwriter has long had critical acclaim but financial success has eluded him for the most part, not an unfamiliar story for talented Canadian artists. For Long Player, Late Bloomer Sexsmith worked with hit-making producer Bob Rock, and the result is slicker, more pop than folk, tighter, with what some would call calculated arrangements and almost too perfect harmonies. This said, the songs are fantastic and the album has done very well, which Sexsmith deserves. Love Shines, which is also the title track of an excellent film documentary about Sexsmith, is a stand out track, but the whole album is hit-worthy. His lyrics are as good as ever, and perhaps No Help At All tells his story best.
“I’ve been learning all my lessons the hard way
Nursing the exit wound
From a near fatal mistake
You could say it was time for a wake up call
But I never did get that call
There was no help at all”
What to Drink: I’d drink a similarly award worthy Canadian beer, something honest like Picaroons Best Bitter ($3.80/500 ml). Picaroons won Brewery of the Year at the 2011 Canadian Brewing Awards. Regular strength English ale with balanced bitterness.
2. Sloan – The Double Cross (Canada, Rock and Roll/Pop)
Another critic’s darling that has never really made it outside Canada, Sloan put out another solid LP in 2011 to celebrate 20 years of records. With 4 singer songwriters sharing time, this album might be good or great, depending on which guy you prefer. I think Jay Ferguson’s songs are the best on this record, including Beverley Terrace and Green Gardens, Cold Montreal. This is a high quality, diverse album that, in a fair world, would make them even richer, instead of just paying the bills.
What to Drink: Being a Nova Scotia band, I’m picking my favourite beer from Halifax that we can get in New Brunswick right now, the quite hoppy but still very drinkable Propeller IPA ($13.45/6 pack)
3. Tim Finn – The View Is Worth The Climb (New Zealand, Pop)
One of the original members of New Zealand’s best ever band, Split Enz, Tim Finn still makes great, thoughtful pop music, much quieter than the Enz, but still full of pop hooks.
What to Drink: A smooth New Zealand red wine perfect for mellow contemplation: Nobilo Regional Collection Merlot $19.99.
4. Penny Blacks – harbour (Canada, Rock/Folk)
One of the more exciting New Brunswick acts, led by singer songwriter Jason Ogden, who is joined by a collection of local musicians, this is an elegant collection of songs, with complex yet singable melodies and refreshing arrangements. Kick off track You’ll Never Know is a highlight, but my favourite is the string infused She’s Losing Herself, which evokes UK greats Squeeze and Billy Bragg.
What to Drink: A local wine from Mott’s Landing, which are not yet available at the ANBL but you can buy from the winery in Cambridge Narrows. For New Years, try their Cranpagne, a tasty sparkling cranberry/grape wine.
5. They Might Be Giants – They Got Lost (USA, Rock/Pop)
After some successful kids albums, this is a true return to form, sounding a lot like their quirky 80’s efforts: edgy pop with lots of humour.
What to Drink: Try a fun, colourful tropical cocktail, Cruzan White Rum ($24.99/750 ml) and pineapple juice, with a splash of lemon or lime juice and a cherry and lime garnish.
6. The Cars – Move Like This (USA, New Wave)
Better than their last album, which was over 20 years ago! This has 4 or 5 really cool tracks (particularly Blue Tip and Sad Song), and the rest is pretty fine. It’s just great to hear this sharp synth/guitar band singing their tight harmonies again.
What to Drink: a clean, cutting white wine like Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, $12.99
7. Nick Lowe – The Old Magic (UK, Jazzy Country Ballads)
Some of the best crooning on record. Nick’s House For Sale gets my vote for song of the year.
What to Drink: A Vodka Collins, made with fresh squeezed lemons, out on the back patio on a hot summer day. I use Prince Igor Extreme Vodka ($25.99) from Ontario.
8. Will Currie and the Country French – Awake, You Sleepers (Canada, Pop)
An energetic new pop band along the lines of Ben Folds, Ben Kweller, and Sloan. Check them out!
What to Drink: Ontario Riesling, from Vineland Estates ($20.99), Cave Spring ($17.29) or others.
9. Tom Waits – Bad As Me (USA, Weird Jazzy Folk Rock Blues)
Waits is back with another record of eclectic sounds. Hard to describe, but I love it.
What to Drink: Campari ($25.29/750 ml) and soda. This aperitif from Italy is bright red, complex, bitter, herbal and fruity. Hard to describe, but I love it.
10. Pugwash – The Olympus Sound/ tied with Thomas Dolby – Map of the Floating City (UK, Pop)
Two great pop records, one a newish band, Ireland’s Pugwash, who bring back the Beatles and ELO sound, and the other a New Wave pioneer, Thomas Dolby, who returns triumphantly with a brilliant record, his first album since 1992.
What to Drink: St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout and St. Ambroise Pale Ale, two of Canada’s best beers ($14.53/6-pack). Mix them as a Black and Tan or drink separately.
Cheers and Merry Christmas!
Craig Pinhey is a certified Sommelier and writer who loves good drink and music. Visit him www.facebook.com/Craig.Pinhey.FrogsPad or follow him on Twitter as frogspadca.