Favorite albums of 2011 by Connecticut artists

Continuing my show-and-tell session, the following are a few of my favorite albums of 2011 by Connecticut artists:

Sketch Tha Cataclysm“Indie Rappers Do it For Gas Money, Vol. 2”

Waterbury emcee/producer Armando Acevedo II paints a brutally honest portrait of a struggling indie rapper on his latest LP. Laden with finely-wrought beats, complex lyricism and indefatigable soul, “IRDIFGM 2” trumps many of the overblown records peddled by the rap mainstream this year. For many of the artists behind that music, material wealth is the holy grail. In Acevedo’s case, money is important, but only insofar as it helps him to fill up his gas tank, and get him to the next gig.

The Files and Fires“For People Talk Lightly…”

The rhythms and melodies of the Danbury-based ambient rock quintet’s debut LP float along quietly and methodically before transitioning into a waterfall of sound. The arrangements are complex, the vocals are haunting and a feeling of suspense permeates the record. It’s a stunning effort from this group of classically-inspired 20-somethings — one that matches even the finest offerings from Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and many of the band’s more experienced post rock peers.

The Stepkids – “The Stepkids”

On its debut self-titled LP for Stones Throw Records, Bridgeport’s The Stepkids — guitarist Jeff Gitelman, bassist Dan Edinberg and drummer Tim Walsh — weave together psychedelia, Motown and lo-fi wizardry to create a lush, time-tripping sound that passes for a rediscovered record from the 1970s. Though they cull from many artists and styles (Earth Wind & Fire, Sly Stone and Todd Rundgren, to name a few), the record isn’t a photocopy, the band insists — it’s a collage.

M.T. Bearington Love Buttons

Love can be messy. Just ask M.T. Bearington. On its latest record, the New Haven pysch/folk quartet of Matt Thomas, Bill Readey, Kelly L’Heureux and Jason Bates unleashes a sound that is at once suspenseful and soothing, quiet and crushing, over the course of 11 brilliant love songs. The juxtaposition of tender, melancholic moments and lusty, impulsive ones may feel a little erratic compared to a conventional romance record, but it’s an appropriate sonic analogy for the way love actually works.

Echo & Drake“Sundrenched Elsewhere”

The Hartford-area band led by singer/guitarist Jon Ericson and guitarist Rich DeVito has fashioned an epic, shimmering sound on “Sundrenched Elsewhere” — a project that feels so evolved as  to belie its first album status. Grounded in brit-pop but dipped in an array of styles (post punk, indie electronic, folk), the record is layered in swirling, reverb-drenched guitars; soaring, wistful vocals; and the occasional groovy rhythm. It’s the kind of album that can make you dance one minute, and cry the next.

I also liked:

Fake Babies – “We Started Blues”

Dirt E. Dutch – “Bars Magica”

Wess Meets West – “Chevaliers”

Jerkagram – “We’ve Only Come To Leave”

Apathy – “Honky Kong”

Scott Gargan