M&T Best Albums of 2011: #1

#1. Middle Brother- Middle Brother

While all of us here at Maimed & Tamed Music can appreciate the adventurous and unheard, there’s something to be said for an album that stays true to itself. Clearly, Middle Brother did not need to reinvent the wheel to be our far-and-away favorite album of the year. The record is a compilation of 12 equally strong songs that are a perfect snapshot of life and love on the road. From beginning to end, I cannot find a weak spot in the record. “Daydreaming” opens the album, with Deer Tick frontman John McCauley offering up his token blunt lyrics.  McCauley is known for writing up songs at a break-neck pace, so it makes sense that he rarely holds back. His ability to write songs without mincing words, from “Mom and Dad” to “Middle Brother,” allows us to really enter the mind of a Middle Brother.

While John McCauley nails the drunken, spirited aspect of the album, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith adds songs to the album with a more jaded point of view. Goldsmith is known for a more methodical, painstaking writing process, and in turn, he afforded us with some of the best written songs of the year. “Blood and Guts” and “Thanks for Nothing” absolutely skewer an unfortunate ex. These songs are peppered with classic lyrics whose clarity will stand the test of time. While I wish that Goldsmith wasn’t singing about his volatile relationships, solely for his own mental health, I have to say I’m glad these experiences caused timeless songs of heartbreak.

From the cheery, to the dark, the album works its way through the psyche of McCauley, Goldsmith, and Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez. And just when you think the album has run its course, the simple strums of “Million Dollar Bill” begin. The song, which features Goldsmith’s ingenious analogies and a verse from each member of Middle Brother, is the perfect closer to the album. A song with incredibly strong writing, a unique point-of-view and a simple and gorgeous tune is more than fitting for the album closer.

The transience of the folk supergroup, who have not even hinted at definite plans to reunite, does add to the importance of the album. What they created so perfectly may never come about again, and for that reason we are certainly glad that we caught them in Boston as well as a killer set at Newport Folk Festival 2011. But regardless of the fact that this album is truly once-in-a-lifetime, nothing can take away the fact that Middle Brother is a collection of twelve songs that cannot be topped this year.

Featured Tracks: “Million Dollar Bill”, “Blue Eyes”, “Blood and Guts”, “Mom and Dad”


Posted on by Caroline in Best of 2011

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