Ok 2011, you were kind of a weird, but good year for music. Honestly, this has been one of the hardest “Top 25” lists I have ever made, because, besides my pick for the number one album, a lot of the rest was pretty much up in the air for me.
One note: PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake is nowhere to be found on my list. Sorry for partying, but it still just hasn’t clicked with me.
Also, lots and lots of good hip-hop came out this year. Which is fun, but also, as a big fan of hip-hop, might make my list seem very “commercial.” Not really sorry for this one, it just is what it is.
And so…..judge away:
25. Panda Bear – Tomboy
I mean, it’s mostly all about “Last Night At the Jetty,” but it’s also about the overall lush, woozy sound drenched in layers upon layers of reverb heard throughout the album that makes Noah Lennox’s Tomboy a notable listen in 2011.
24. Cults – Cults
Cults threw their hat in the whole retro-pop ring and came out on top with their first try. Although I was skeptical at first, debut single “Go Outside” was the perfectly breezy song of the summer. Seeing them live at the 7th Street Entry sealed the deal, and “Walk At Night” is one of my favorite songs of the year.
23. Lady Gaga – Born This Way
There’s really not much more to say about this one than what I already wrote in my review of the pop star’s second album, and even though it’s getting kinda old kinda fast, there’s no denying that this was one of the best pop albums to come out this year.
22. Beyoncé – 4
Ughhhhhhh Beyoncé, how you murk me so. Even though I would have preferred an album filled with songs like “Countdown,” we instead got more of a mood album, a Beyoncé tone poem, if you will. You can almost hear the tears in “I Care,” feel the swagoo in “Party,” and bonus track “Dance For You” definitely makes me want to swirl. A fine body of work.
21. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
Another example where a live show catapulted an album into being something special…no but really, as a debut, The Year of Hibernation is a remarkable achievement for the young Mr. Powers.
20. TV On the Radio – Nine Types of Light
Bucking the trend, I actually didn’t much enjoy this band’s appearance at First Ave. I honestly think it was just because I was in a sour mood, however music usually can lift me out of that, and that just didn’t happen at the show. But as an album, Nine Types of Light continues a winning streak for TV On the Radio.
19. Britney Spears – Femme Fatale
I mean…Britney hasn’t been this exciting since Blackout. Love her, hate her, say what you will about her, but Femme Fatale is simply a fun, expertly crafted, perfect pop album, and that’s all it needs to be. It’s also fun when Britney gets dirty and swears (“You can be my fuck tonight” on “How I Roll”) and references past hits (“Hit me one more time” on “Inside Out”). Let’s just face it, growing up with Britney as the soundtrack to everything from 8th grade “mixers” to high school proms and now drunken, messy nights out in your 20s has been a gift everyone can (and should) appreciate.
18. Feist – Metals
Metals is a really pretty album. Nothing too groundbreaking happening here, but for craft, this album gets an A. “Graveyard” and “The Circle Married the Line” sound both thrilling and heartbreaking at the same time, which could describe this album as a whole….yes? Maybe? Yeah.
17. James Blake – James Blake
Dubstep ughhhhhhhh. It’s a great album though. Also, I saw him in the Entry and you probably didn’t.
16. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Yeah yeah, “Midnight City” is like, the song of the year. Listening to this album in one sitting is quite the experience. And, they hit their live show out of the park at First Ave.
15. CANT – Dreams Come True
I was pretty skeptical about the solo effort from Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, especially since lead single “Answer” really didn’t do much for me. Well, wow, this album is pretty fucking great, proving Taylor can hold his own as an artist. Also, none of you went to the show at the Entry. Shame on you.
14. Terius Nash – 1977
Terius Nash aka The-Dream. That’s pretty much all you need to know. The best part is that this breakup album is mostly about Christina Milian. Super fun. Also, 1977 is a contender for giving us some of the best one-liners in rap history: “You used to be anti-internet, but now you constantly blogging and shit,” “Another day with you is just another fucking day,” “That get up in the mornin’ and put it on me, she so horny,” “Let me sing you my drunk song,” “Blowin’ bottles of dat drank,” “Ever seen a n@&*a buy a house from the toilet?” I could go on, but I wont. You should just listen.
13. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know
Not too much to say about this one either, other than Laura Marling’s voice is, you know, one of those voices. It just hits you right in the gut. And she’s only 21. Although not as immediate as I Speak Because I Can, there are plenty of highlights throughout A Creature I Don’t Know, including “I Was Just a Card,” “Salinas,” and “Sophia.”
12. Wilco – The Whole Love
WILCO IS BACK!!! Right, they didn’t really go anywhere, but honestly, this is the best thing since A Ghost is Born, and a lot of people didn’t even like that album. So then this is the best thing since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Which is saying a lot. Also, their first of two recent shows at The State Theatre was one of my favorite concerts of the year, maybe even ever.
11. The Roots – Undun
If you know me, it’s kind of a given that if an album includes Sufjan Stevens in the credits, I’m going to take notice. And while Sufjan’s “Redford” is the base for the last suite of songs, the rest of this concept album is all The Roots, and it’s fantastic. Definitely the most heartfelt hip-hop found on this list.
10. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Strange Mercy might be Annie Clarke’s masterstroke. “Cruel” is one of the best songs of the year. The title track is my personal favorite from the album. All in all, Strange Mercy is classic St. Vincent but more focused and sonically profound. Amazing stuff. I also got to sit on the stage for her show at The Walker.
9. The Antlers – Burst Apart
The Antlers’ Hospice was a masterpiece, even if it left you completely wrecked after each listen. Talk about a downer! Things haven’t changed much with Burst Apart, but everyone was waiting to see if Peter Silberman and crew would be able to produce something as meaningful that didn’t have the story arc of Hospice. I’d say The Antlers have succeeded – Burst Apart still tells a story, but this time it’s about moving through the murky waters of heartbreak and loneliness, fun stuff like that! Who knew depression could sound so lovely?
8. Real Estate – Days
The surf-infused sounds of melancholy is the best way I can describe Days. What’s up with me and loving sad-ish music so much? Anyways, Days is a lovely gem of an album. And really it’s not all that sad. Seriously, don’t let that scare you away from listening to it!
7. Beirut – The Rip Tide
Zach Condon’s most accessible work still maintains that European quirkiness that defines Beirut’s sound. Condon’s voice has also never sounded better, song’s like “Goshen” a showcase for his deep, swoon-worthy vocals. All those horns pull at your heartstrings too.
6. Radiohead – The King of Limbs
It’s an odd year for me when Radiohead put out an album and it’s not automatically number one on my list. Yup, I’d say you either loved or hated The King of Limbs. Maybe it even pissed you off. Clearly, I fall in the love camp, while also recognizing that better music came out this year. Honestly though, why is everyone so mad that the album (consisting of JUST EIGHT SONGS?!?!?! ) is under 40 minutes long? There’s a lot packed into those 40 minutes. “Bloom” is like an awakening, “Lotus Flower” is another one of the best songs of the year, “Codex” murks you and “Give Up the Ghost” is unlike anything heard from the band. Yeah, it’s not an instant classic like In Rainbows, but this record holds up very nicely when not compared to Radiohead. Think about it. Bye.
5. Kanye West & Jay-Z – Watch the Throne
Yeah yeah, I know I wasn’t head-over-heels for this when it first came out. But my, how Watch the Throne has grown on me, just like I guessed it would. Again with this one, pretty much everything that could be said about this album already has been said. Along with 1977, Watch the Throne also ranks high with classic one-liners that have quickly made their way into me and my friends’ everyday vernacular. I’d type out some examples but I’d have to use too many $*#@)($#@s.
4. The Weeknd – House of Balloons/Thursday
Completely out of nowhere and I am so completely happy that both of these mixtapes (with a third on the way) happened this year. Really, there’s not a single track on both of Abel Tesfaye’s (ok let’s just stick with calling him The Weeknd) outings thus far that I would skip over. They just make you feel so many feeelingssssssssss. And I think that’s a good thing, especially in this genre.
3. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
I actually re-listened to Helplessness Blues last night as a refresher. Originally it was a few slots lower on my list, but my notions were confirmed that, yeah, this is definitely one of the top three albums of the year. The title track kills me every time. The harmonies almost make you want to vomit because they sound so perfect. It’s almost an overload of beauty. Did I really just say that? Yeah. Cuz it is. Helplessness Blues is almost an overload of beauty.
2. Drake – Take Care
Are you for real? Really though, Drake killed it this year. I really can’t talk about it. I also really can’t talk about that album cover.
1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Why must Justin Vernon do this to me? Crying in my car, crying at work, crying in my apartment, crying at the freaking concert. This album is actually mind blowing. It’s almost like everyone wanted it to suck because it would not be fair for our very own Justin Vernon to keep on succeeding and producing music that is again and again this transcendent. But guess what??? He made 2011’s album of the year.
So, that’s it! Below, in no particular order, are some of the albums that didn’t make the cut, even though I really, really wanted them to. Going up to 50 albums would have actually killed me.
Akron/Family – S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT
My Brightest Diamond – All Things Will Unwind
tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l
Cut Copy – Zonoscope
Bright Eyes – The People’s Key
My Morning Jacket – Circuital
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong