I’m a little late on arrival, but it’s time for me to at least reflect on my favorite music of 2011.

There were a couple of important events that changed my listening habits in 2011 and together, they helped me to discover a wonderful playlist for the year. In February, I bought a new Jeep Wrangler and that ushered me into the world of Sirius Satellite radio. Most important, Spotify helped me connect the dots from Sirius and friends on Facebook.

2011 was a topsy-turvy year as the economy and several personal issues bogged me down from time–to-time and thankfully, the playlist for the year kept me riding above the fray. From long drives on the weekend with the windows down to a steady stream at the office, here are the bands and the music the helped bridge the gap into the New Year.

Album of The Year
Foo Fighters
It’s funny how first impressions can tarnish your opinion of people. Sure. I knew Dave Grohl was in Nirvana and I’ve heard their music with the Foo Fighters. They’ve been up to this for a long time. However, the first time I saw Dave on a televised interview several years ago, he seemed so arrogant that I made up my mind I didn’t like him and never paid much attention since. However, when the new album ‘Wasting Light’ debuted earlier in the year, I started hearing these songs on the Alt Nation and was inspired by the anthems and intensity of their substance. First, “Rope,” then “Back and Forth” and finally “Walk” gave me plenty of moments of reflection of what Rock and Roll is all about. Strong lyrics, powerful melodies soldered with a rockin’ beat and gritty guitar lines. All coupled with rich harmonies and in-your-face confidence. Sorry Dave – I’ve seen you several times and listened to your interviews and I’m converted. Hope to see a show soon.

Best New Pop Band
Foster The People
Out of the blue this summer, I first heard Foster the People with their song ‘Pumped Up Kicks” while driving along Interstate 81. At first their music seemed a bit much on the pop scale, but I liked their approach. A light-hearted take on catchy melodies and a carefree mood which seemed to lift me up from my weekly funk. Over the months, they caught some attention from the late-night television with a performance on Letterman and it wasn’t long before their music was just about everywhere. Not sure how far they can take it, but I liked the delivery for the year.

Favorite Band of 2011
Black Keys
A lot of my young friends love the Black Keys. It wasn’t that long ago, they were just a small indie band with a cult following. Appearing at the Orange Peel and Bonnaroo locally, this duo has experienced a meteoric accession. The new album El Camino came out late in 2011 with the single ‘Lonely Boy’ and they’re quickly becoming mainstream. That could be good or bad depending on how they leverage their success with originality, but for now, they have some great music to discover. I personally preferred the ‘Brothers’ album as this collection captures the raw DNA of this powerful union of guitars, drums and minimal structure, but the new album is sure to attract new listeners. Besides, the video and new single is uber-catchy.

Personal Favorite and Guilty Pleasure
Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys
One of my favorite online purchases last year was the Codes and Keys album by Death Cab for Cutie. I was there day one because I find their sound infectious and their maturity and taste are at a peak this year. The band has had a full discography of great music and even if you’ve never listened to Death Cab, you’ll be inspired by most every song. They’re no newcomers either. The band started out in 1997, but Ben and the boys have been turning out some terrific music. Codes and Keys may be one of their best yet too. It’s laced with hope and love and collects one of the more poetic lyric efforts of any band of the year. This album literally made my Summer more enjoyable. Thanks guys.

Most Promising New Band
Mute Math
I like hearing bands who rise above mediocrity with something cool and fresh. Mute Math is another Alt-Band featured regularly on Sirrius. Hailing from New Orleans, the band has been around since 2003 and each new album ushers a new spice that is building a strong fan base. They recently appeared in Knoxville at the Valarium and as usual, put on a great show. We’ll have a chance to see them locally as they bring the Odd Soul tour to the Orange Peel and I’m gonna certainly make sure to attend this Sunday night show.

Best Songwriter Album
Ryan Adams – Fire and Ashes
Aside from the bands and the albums, I’d be amiss to not include Ryan Adams this year for his impression on me as a songwriter. He’s no newcomer either and I’m a bit more attentive this year because of my tenure playing music with Jamen Denton in Wise Old River. He’s a big fan and performs his music at every show. Adams is a slice of Dylan with a disheveled hair style and at times melancholy yet vitriolic in his rumored personal interactions. Nevertheless, armed with a red, white and blue guitar he’s turning out an amazing collection of lyric and song that continues to gain fans including myself. His new album Ashes and Fire is a regular feed on my Spotify collection and I always look forward to playing his music live.

Most desirable concert and expected new album
Muse
I’m an old prog rock fan and have a long list of bands like Yes, U2, Rush, Kansas, Genesis and other big arena rock bands who craft powerful music with artistic and complicated music. Muse is a three-piece band from the UK who obviously have an amazing live show and a modern, chic that inspires me as a musician. Even though their album ‘Resistance’ came out in 2009, the collection of massive soundscapes made into my playlist multiple times this year and I would love to add this show to my list of of concerts if they come down South. Their sixth album is due out in October of 2012 and is described by vocalist Matthew Bellamy as a “”christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, with some ambient rebellious dubstep and face melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia.” Can’t wait…

There you have it. One for the history books and another end to a great year with new music. So glad to experience life with a new soundtrack this year and I’d ask if you agree or disagree. What’s your favorite band or album of the year?