Craving some new music? We caught up with Managing Principal Ken Salyer, our in-house music connoisseur, and asked him to compose a playlist of songs he’s been listening to lately. Here are his top picks from albums released in 2011, along with his inner struggle to choose only 14 songs.

Music Playlist at

I love my job and the field of architecture, but listening and collecting music has always been my passion. In coming up with a playlist for the blog, I wasn’t sure how to best approach it. I currently have more than 18,000 songs on my iPod, and I usually listen to my songs in alphabetical order due to my odd distrust of the iPod’s shuffle feature. Some of you who know me may be chuckling to yourself as you read this (either that or worrying about me). I’m like “the anal retentive chef” in the old SNL skit—do I lay out my vegetables on the food prep table by their size or in alphabetical order? Truly, what I was listening to most recently were songs that started with the letter “H.” I rethought the idea and decided to create a playlist based on picking one song from albums I had purchased that were all released in 2011. Of course, I felt the list needed to be in chronological order, newest songs first.

1.  Norah Jones, “Jesus, Etc.,” The Bridge School Concerts, Released 10/21/11:  My most recent purchase is this 25th Anniversary double CD release of the annual acoustic concerts put on by Neil and Peggy Young to benefit the Bridge School. Norah Jones, who seemingly is incapable of a bad performance, succeeds again here on a great cover of a Wilco song.

2.   Ben Folds, “Selfless, Cold and Composed,” The Best Imitation Of Myself, Released 10/7/11:  I have been a Ben Folds fan since the first Ben Folds Five record hit stores in 1995, so when this three-disc retrospective came out last month, I suspected it would mostly contain tracks that had already been released on prior records. To my pleasant surprise, this collection is full of unreleased songs, demos, and new live versions like “Selfless, Cold and Composed,” which (unlike the Ben Folds Five video clip included here) is just Ben and a piano.

3.  The Bangles, “Open My Eyes,” Sweetheart Of The Sun, Released 9/27/11:  I am definitely a fan of power pop music with layered guitars and harmony vocals. The Bangles, with original members Susanna Hoffs and sisters Debbi and Vickie Peterson, have put out another strong album of original songs that follow the power pop formula. The selected track here closes the CD and is the sole cover song, the 1967 tune written by Todd Rundgren back when he was in the garage rock band Nazz.

4.  Dum Dum Girls, “Caught In One,” Only In Dreams, Released 9/27/11:  While browsing the used CD rack in Rhino Records last month, this Dum Dum Girls record was playing in the store and caught my attention.  This track, “Caught in One” is pretty typical of the sound of the rest of the CD (their second full-length LP) with great reverb-drenched surf guitar and surf beats combined with lead vocals sounding at times like Belinda Carlisle, Siouxsie, and Mazzy Star.

5.  Wilco, “Standing O,” The Whole Love, Released 9/23/11:  Wilco’s The Whole Love  is a catchy and impressive return to form after their last effort, 2009’s somewhat forgettable The Wilco Album. Standout tracks for me on the new album are “I Might” and “Standing O.”

6.  Stevie Nicks, “Not Fade Away,” Listen To Me: Buddy Holly, Released 9/6/11:  Buddy Holly would have turned 75 this year and to commemorate this anniversary, two different compilation albums were released with a variety of artists covering Holly’s songs. Both collections are surprisingly solid, but my favorite track is Stevie Nick’s version of “Not Fade Away” with effectively heavy use of hand claps and maracas.

7.  Fountains Of Wayne, “The Summer Place,” Sky Full Of Holes, Released 8/2/11:  Fountains of Wayne is yet another power pop guilty pleasure of mine. Although lead singer Chris Collingwood’s voice can at times border on whiny sounding, his and Adam Schlesinger’s songwriting remains as sharp as ever.

8.  Kid Rock, “Well All Right,” Rave On Buddy Holly, Released 6/28/11:  I’m not really a fan of Kid Rock, but I love his take on this Buddy Holly classic. The arrangement is sparse, tight, and the simplicity of the horn section is just cool. Also, you’ve got to love a song that can wrap itself up in just 2:09.

9.  Liam Finn, “Neurotic World”, Fomo, Released 6/21/11:  Liam Finn’s follow up LP to 2007’s ‘I’ll Be Lighting’ is another great outing with almost every song a winner. I’m still hoping to see Liam live, as others at HMC have told me he is quite remarkable in concert.

10.  Eddie Vedder, “Without You,” Ukulele Songs, Released 5/31/11:  My wife and I had the joy of seeing Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam’s front man, live in San Diego this past summer (thanks Michelle!) in support of this unusual record. Virtually every song is just Eddie with a ukulele and somehow it works.

11.  Foo Fighters, “Walk,” Wasting Light, Released 4/8/11:  Another great concert outing this year was Foo Fighters at the Forum with three other HMC employees (thanks Brett!), as Dave Grohl and company supported this outstanding new record. These guys have been making music for 17 years and this record is certainly as strong as any previous release.

12.  The Smithereens, “Sorry,” 2011, Released 4/5/11:  Yes, this is yet another of my power pop music purchases in 2011. I love this band and have been waiting for an album of new original material since their great 1999 release God Save the Smithereens. I think this is an outstanding record and the lead-off track, “Sorry” is a great example of their melodic and crunchy power chord sound.

13.  The Strokes, “Under Cover Of Darkness,” Angles, Released 3/18/11: I have always loved the fast-paced unique guitar rhythms of The Strokes, and this album is another strong one. There’s a certain likeability to the somewhat deadpan vocal delivery, too.

14.  Cake, “Sick Of You,” Showroom Of Compassion, Released 1/11/11:  My first new music purchase in 2011. Cake’s return after a long seven year absence does not disappoint. “Sick of You” is another humorous and catchy song from John McCrea and company, complete with their trademark straightforward guitar and trumpet attack.