The year in music: best albums that aren't from this year

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Emmylou Harris
  • Emmylou Harris
One of the frustrating parts of putting together year-end album lists is that by any given December at least a few of the records that mattered most to me during the previous 12 months didn't actually come out in that time frame. Given how regularly I discover or rediscover great old material, I could make an entire year-end list of it. So I did. After the jump, a few of my favorites.

The Bob Seger System
Mongrel
1970

In May of this year the Reader ran a review of a bootleg compilation of early Bob Seger material showcasing the wiggy, frantic R&B-infused rock on which Seger built his early reputation—music that will likely blow the mind of anyone who only knows the man from his drippy Silver Bullet Band hits. (Its author, Tal Rosenberg, has since come aboard as our digital content editor.) It's a compellingly enthusiastic essay that appealed to my Michigan pride, and it inspired me to spend some more time with Mongrel, the key recording by the thunderous garage outfit the Bob Seger System. I don't know that I heard a heavier song in 2011 than "Lucifer." Pretty sure I didn't.

Emitt Rhodes
Emitt Rhodes
1970

I stopped in at the Rainbo for an afternoon beer earlier this year and the bartender was playing what sounded like a Paul McCartney solo record but without all of the goofiness that Paul McCartney solo records generally entail. That is how I joined the cult of Emitt Rhodes, a mostly invisible but well-populated group that worships a precocious young rocker from bygone days who burned himself out after making a couple of the best proto-power-pop albums ever.

Eek-a-Mouse
Bubble Up Yu Hip
1980

A band's tour van is frequently a battleground of musical tastes, and coming to a consensus on what to play on the stereo involves finding the overlap in a complicated Venn diagram. Frequently that overlap falls on odder stylistic turf than you'd expect—which is how, when my band spent a month on the road this fall, the most-played album in our van was this collection by dancehall singer, toaster, and speaker-in-tongues Eek-a-Mouse. (This also led to a lot of impressions of his signature scatting style that approximately zero people outside of the van found any humor in.) I'm going to cheat a little and include the video for his 1982 single "Ganja Smuggling," which got the most van spins of all and provides a good starting point for your own Eek-a-Mouse impersonation.

Flo & Eddie
Flo & Eddie
1974

The Turtles' Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman had some very ambitious and very odd artistic goals that didn't fit into a chart-friendly pop band, or at least into their label's notion of one. After the group disbanded, the pair were free to double down on their weird vision, joining Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention and releasing records like Flo & Eddie, which tears pages out of the history of rock music circa 1974 with the anarchic glee of a character out of a Warner Brothers cartoon.

Emmylou Harris
Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town
1978

Probably the only record I played front to back more times this year than Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town was Willie Nelson's Willie Sings Kris Kristofferson, which has been my most played record of the year several times before. I have no idea how many times I've listened to "Easy From Now On" in 2011, but it's utterly destroyed me with every single spin.

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