Here are my 30 favorite albums of 2011, arranged in descending order, with my favorite track from each album.
The top 10, by virtue of being my favorites will have some pretty pictures and accompanying blurbs!
30. Panda Bear -Tomboy (Last Night at the Jetty)
29. Still Corners – Creatures of An Hour (I Wrote in Blood)
28. Feist – Metals (Cicadas and Gulls)
27. Adele – 21 (Someone Like You)
26. Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know (Sophia)
25. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Ffunny Ffriends)
24. St Vincent – Strange Mercy (Champagne Year)
23. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong (The Body)
22. Zola Jesus – Conatus (Collapse)
21. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints (California)
20. Young Galaxy – Shapeshifting (Cover Your Tracks)
19. Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls (Found Love in a Graveyard)
18. Yuck – Yuck (Georgia)
17. Future Islands – On the Water (Where I Found You)
16. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient (Baby Missiles)
15. Givers – In Light (Ceiling of Plankton)
14. Little Scream – The Golden Record (People is Place)
13. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes (Sadness is a Blessing)
12. The Head and the Heart – The Head and the Heart (Lost in My Mind)
11. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (Helplessness Blues)
10. Battles – Gloss Drop
Battles are an experimental rock trio from New York. Last year, they lost their lead singer and most influential member, Tyondai Braxton. Somehow, for their newest album, they came up with one of the catchiest, most addicting song of the year. It is the perfect summer song to dance to. By the power of this single, they are#10 on this list.
09. The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh
The Low Anthem are a band from Rhode Island who specialize in playing haunting folk music. They also specialize in playing a lot of unusual instruments that you don’t normally see bands use. The four members of the band can play reportedly 34 instruments (These include a clarinet, a 1917 pump organ, a saw, an autoharp, singing bowls, crotales, a stylophone, cellphones(!), and a jaw harp, whatever that is). Reportedly, their fans have been donating old vintage instruments to the band as a challenge to see if the band can play them. Let’s see you try to play the bowafridgeaphone, Low Anthem!
08. Beirut – The Rip Tide
Beirut is the brainchild of New Mexico wonder-kid Zach Condon. The band’s type of music is best described as being “Balkan” and “worldly”. I think it’s because they use a lot of horns. Small horns. Big horns. French horns. Bass horns. Trumpets. Horns I don’t know the names of. There’s also an accordion and sometimes violins in there. Take a listen and expand your musical view.
07. Mates of State – Mountaintops
Mates of State are Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel. They met around 15 years ago in Lawrence, Kansas and decided to start a band. They also like each other a lot and got married in 2001. More than 10 years later, they have 7 albums and 2 kids. And they’re still playing happy, poppy, incredibly danceable music – while bringing their kids on tour. I love happy endings.
06. Wye Oak – Civilian
Wye Oak are Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner, a folk-rock duo from Baltimore. They made a couple of albums that I was peripherally aware of, but wasn’t really that much interested in checking out. Then I saw the trailer for the second season of the Walking Dead (see the video here, starts at 2:56), which used the song “Civilian”. And the song was…perfect for the trailer. So much so that I decided to listen to the whole album again. And it is REALLY good! I also decided to try to watch The Walking Dead, but got bored after the first episode. Zombie shows need more gore. Boo.
05. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
Youth Lagoon is 22-year old Trevor Powers from the wonderful far-off land of Boise, Idaho. He makes these incredibly depressing, sad-sack music, that sounds like they were recorded in his bedroom (SPOILER: they were). Somehow, the songs are pretty epic in nature. I like to listen to these songs when I’m taking long walks or I feel like brooding. And that’s what his music is for. Gloriously depressing music to listen to, that makes you think that sometimes being depressed has its perks.
04. Austra – Feel It Break
Austra is fronted by Katie Stelmanis (the blonde in the picture), an opera-trained singer from Toronto. The band plays droney, electronic dance music that somehow shouldn’t work when Katie makes these operatic howls and wails during the songs. But it does. Live, you will see Katie, with her blonde hair sticking out from the rest of the band, bending over and howling these high-pitched notes, with a set of brunette twins as her back-up singers, doing these slow mesmerizing dances. Hypnotizing.
03. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
M83 is an electronic shoe-gaze band, the project of Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez. M83 is in my top 5 favourite bands of all-time and created two of favourite albums, the nostalgic Before the Dawn Heals Us and the John Hughes worshiping Saturdays = Youth. M83 also makes the best music videos (see here and here). Anthony decided to go in another direction with his newest record, saying it is heavily influenced by the Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dreams. Anything related to early Smashing Pumpkins is a very good thing. The result is another sonically-epic album. And that’s how I would describe M83’s music. Epic sounds that will soundtrack your life.
02. Braids – Native Speaker
Braids are four shy and awkwardly geeky kids from Calgary who decided they want to form an experimental shoe-gaze art band. Their debut album came out back in January, and after listening to it once, I decided then and there that it is one of my favourite albums of the year. The songs are atmospheric and moody, occasionally punctuated by front-woman Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s screams and yelps. To be honest, Native Speaker is not for everyone. It is not an easy nor a safe album to listen to. But not all music should be easy or safe. Stick with it though, and the music will stick with you.
01. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Bon Iver started out as Justin Vernon, a bearded guy from Wisconsin, who four years ago, after getting his heart broken, locked himself in a cabin in the woods during the dead of winter and came out with one of the best folk record I ever heard.(The record, For Emma, Forever Ago, is presumable about Emma. Emma, on behalf of everyone, thank you for breaking Justin Vernon’s heart). Justin is a lot happier nowadays. His band has grown to a four-piece, his music has expanded sonically, and he’s on first name basis with Kanye West, guesting vocals on Yeezy’s record. The newest record is no longer as lonely as the first record. It is also the most beautiful music you will hear this year. And that is why, it’s number one on this list.