It’s that time of year again: Music magazines and websites have passed judgment on 2011’s best albums and singles, and there was good news for several Texas musicians. Miranda Lambert, St. Vincent, Beyoncé, Hayes Carll, and, less predictably, two stalwarts of the Denton scene—the quiet five-piece Seryn and European expat Josh T. Pearson—all made the lists.
Texas Monthly cover girl Miranda Lambert made not one but two records in 2011—her recent solo outing Four the Record and the debut from her trio the Pistol Annies (pictured above). Both cracked Rolling Stone ’s Top 50 Albums of 2011 list, with the Annies’ Hell On Heels at 29 and Lambert’s solo effort, Four the Record, coming in at 31. The Pistol Annies also won recognition from Entertainment Weekly , which named Hell on Heels the ninth-best record of the year (that article is not yet available online). Paste included the Annies’ title track on its top fifty songs list, and Rolling Stone picked Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart” for its best singles list.
But Lambert’s critical acclaim was second to another Annie: Dallas native Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent, who won near-unanimous recognition for her third album, Strange Mercy. It was honored as the eleventh-best album of the year by both Pitchfork and Paste. SPIN magazine put it at number 34, while Rolling Stone had it as number 26. St. Vincent’s song “Cruel” was also on Pitchfork and Paste’s singles list.
Beyoncé did equally well with mainstream Rolling Stone and indie-influential Pitchfork. RS named Countdown as the fourth-best record of the year; Pitchfork had it much lower at number 27, but honored both the title song (which came it at number seven) and “1+1” (number 26) on its list of the year’s top one hundred tracks. Pitchfork also had Beyoncé’s former bandmate Kelly Rowland’s “Motivation” on its singles list at number 79.
SPIN was the only publication that flipped out for Hayes Carll, putting the country singer’s KMAG YOYO (& other American stories) at number 32 on its album list. SPIN editor Steve Kandell called the title track (which Rolling Stone did include among its top fifty singles) “the best movie ever made about the War on Terror.”
Also getting recognition from just one source was Josh T. Pearson, whose spare and haunting Last of the Country Gentleman came in at number 33 on Rolling Stone ’s list. RS critic David Fricke is a big fan of Pearson’s long-ago group Lift to Experience, and the Denton music scene in general. “A stark, confessional masterpiece,” RS said of Pearson’s decade-in-the-making solo debut.
Meanwhile, Paste put on its own campaign for the “soaring, affecting folk music” of Seryn. Having previously proclaimed that the Denton band played the best show of SXSW 2011 , the magazine put its album This Is Where We Are at number 34, and also recognized the song “We Will All Be Changed.”
Other Texans mentioned were Gary Clark Jr. (whose Bright Lights EP was number forty on Rolling Stone ’s album list), Austin emigre Bill Callahan (the number 22 album from Pitchfork), and Austin’s Neon Indian (69th-best single and an honorable mention album from PItchfork).