Cheers To Camilo for the album art.
These are my favorite albums of the year. It wasn’t the year I thought it would be, but it had plenty going for it. A lot of good young artist came out and surprised me a great deal. I went with 31 albums because 20 + 11 = 31. It made more sense at first. I am ready to move on to 2012, but first, check out what records I was spinning in 2011.
29. Washed Out – Within and Without
28. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
Annie Clark is arguably the leading woman rocker of this generation. Every album she’s released has been consistently better than the last. On Strange Mercy she is able to rock out and provide moments of intense beauty that begs for repeated listens. I’m still trying to master the guitar myself, but after hearing the way Annie handles the guitar, why bother?
27. Beirut â€“ The Rip Tide
Beirut, Beirut, Beirut. What can I say that hasn’t already been said. I knew that The Rip Tide would find a spot here after hearing “East Harlem”, but “Santa Fe” sealed the deal. This album see’s Beirut doing it all, and it’s a strong consistent effort that Zach Condon should hold high in esteem. The man can do no wrong. This isn’t even their best album, yet, many bands would struggle just to imitate it. That’s saying something.
26. Foster The People â€“ Torches
Oh god, I may as well put a target on the back of my head for this one right? This isn’t going to be a popular choice for most people, but that’s ok. I was a fan of Foster The People when “Pumped Up Kicks” made internet rounds early in 2010, and I’m still grooving to it. Sue me. The album is not changing my life, but it’s made it a little bit easier. I had some good memories with this album, whether it be blasting it down on my drive to Bonnaroo, or at the countless drunken nights at school. Those are the type of moments that albums like Torches are made for, and no one can take that away from me.
25. Jay-Z & Kanye West â€“ Watch The Throne
Combining two talents like Kanye/Jay-Z really puts the old saying, “too many chefs in the kitchen” in the backseat. This could have been a disaster, but these two were on the same page from the get go. Watch The Throneis a great rap album from top to bottom that flows well, has just the right amount of featured guests, and just enough humor to get by. I doubt that this is going to be the last album from “The Throne”, and if it is, it was fun while it lasted.
24. Cults â€“ Cults
I don’t know if Cults entirely lived up to the immediate promise that “Go Outside” led me to believe about them, but they did perfectly fine for themselves. This is a smartly written, easily digestible first album that has many fine moments worthy of note. It’s amazing how fast these guys got snagged up by a major label, but that says something. I’m more so interested in seeing where Cults go from here, because they are certainly going to be aimed for a much bigger sound, and that could be a good or a bad thing.
23. Panda Bear â€“ Tomboy
Somehow Panda Bear released an overlooked album in 2011. Tomboy seemed to get unfairly pushed under the rug, and I don’t know why. It’s not Person Pitch, but he’s likely never releasing anything like it again. He did give us a highly atmospheric album full of cool vocals and sounds that beg to be treated with respect on your finest pair of headphones. If this album isn’t on your list, it’s likely it didn’t get that respect. Either that or your just impatient for some new Animal Collective.
22. Toro Y Moi – Underneath The Pine
Toro Y Moi sits opposite of the rest of the guys of the “chillwave” table likely because of this album. Chazwick Bundick turned to a live instrument sound while still keeping his identity, and it resulted it one of the funkiest albums of the year. I don’t know anyone that didn’t at least enjoy one part of Underneath The Pine. That’s a great feat any year, but it’s an accomplishment in 2011.
21. Tennis – Cape Dory
One of the easiest albums to listen to. I started the year off with this record, and spent many cold nights in early winter being warmed up with this album. Then came summer, and this record was there to hydrate me perfectly. Tennis gave us exactly what they promised with Cape Dory, and I’m excited to hear their new one. You don’t get produced by Patrick Carney of The Black Keys without good reason.
20. The Black Keys â€“ El Camino
What a transition. Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach seemingly became adored and hated by the public with a little song called “Tighten Up”. It was only a matter of time until The Black Keys blew up, and you’re wrong if you think it’s not deserved. El Camino is a record that doesn’t fuck around. It hits hard, quick, and rocks out. It’s the type of rock record that fans of both indie and mainstream rock have been looking for. I don’t see the problem.
19. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
Smith Westerns are a young band who are only going to get better. That’s the truth. It’s a scary truth when one listens to Dye It Blonde and hears the damn good glam rock that these Chicago boys are producing. This album was one I could rely on at any moment of the day throughout the year. I’m already waiting for the next.
18. The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
The Vaccines were arguably the most hyped up british rock band of 2011. And you know what, they lived up to every ounce of the hype. Their debut album was some of the most enjoyable guitar rock of the year. It’s straightforward and catchy, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. They’re not out trying to change the world, they’re just trying to make your life a little bit more enjoyable. I don’t know what you expected, but I got everything and more from this awesome album.
17. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
I’ll be honest, I still got a lot of digesting to do with this album. It’s dense stuff. It’s also one of the most rewarding albums when it hits it’s stride. “Midnight City” is a grand statement among the grandest of them. You’ll hear new stuff with every listen, and at 22 songs, there’s a lot to be discovered. A double album is a tough thing to pull off, but Mr. Gonzalez hit it out of the ballpark.
16. Atlas Sound â€“ Parallax
Bradford Cox is one of the busiest, and most effective songwriters in music. Between his work with Deerhunter and Atlas Sound, it’s amazing just how adored all his stuff is. The scary fact is that he seems to be getting and better. Parallax features some amazing moments that shows just how far along he has come as a singer. You could argue about which project of his you like better all day, but we can all agree that this is a pretty impressive record.
15. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
One of the only last minute additions onto my list. I don’t know why, but I slept on this record. I made up for it though because once I got into a groove, I couldn’t put it down. Kurt Vile, just like Mr. Cox is proving himself to be one of the most reliable guys in the game. Anyone who can write a song as pretty as “Baby’s Arms” is going places.
14. Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
No, Kings Of Limbs isn’t Radiohead’s best work, but it’s still Radiohead. They still gave us a great album worth of material that still has the ability to amaze. It’s got a little bit of each of their previous releases in them, and it’s length is pretty condense. In Rainbows was a tough followup either way you look at it, so I think Radiohead did quite alright for themselves.
13. Wild Beasts – Smother
Where is the love for Wild Beasts? Everyone knows of them, but not enough people are aware of their genius. The English gents are armed with two of musics most unique voices that allow them to do it all. They give us moments of haunting beauty over electronic waves and tight jams that honestly sound like no one else. Don’t sleep on these guys any longer, please.
12. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Girls came back swinging with Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Our first listen to “Vomit” gave us good reason to believe this album would come close if not surpass their highly regarded debut album. I don’t know where I stand on comparing the two quite yet, but this album remains as one of the highlights of the year with tracks like “Honey Bunny” and “Alex”, and of course, “Vomit”.
11. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
Cut Copy have become a major go-to when I want to put on a good track for parties or dancing. They deliver the goods. Zonoscope is as worthy a follow up to the near dance-rock masterpiece that is In Ghost Colours. From the epic opener “Need You Now” the tone is set and the band hits their stride once again with powerhouse dance songs that still find ways to surprise. Now that LCD Soundsystem is gone, Cut Copy is probably the best dance-rock act out there.
10. The Antlers â€“ Burst Apart
Burst Apart is a different look than Hospice, but it’s just as effective. Burst Apart is slightly more upbeat and hits a wider range of sounds yet it still takes a toll on your emotions. Peter Silberman’s vocals will always find a way to pull a few strings inside. The Antlers know their strengths and they know how to make them work while also changing things up. Burst Apart is a funkier record that still gives you feelings of dark isolation, yet you’re comfortable. That’s powerful stuff.
9. The Drums â€“ Portamento
When The Drums are on, they’re really on. The first five songs on Portamento are unstoppable. “What You Were” and “Money” are as catchy as they come, and I still want to put these songs on repeat, just as I did all summer long. This record is more synth heavy, but the core of The Drums aesthetic is still there. There are some parts of the middle section that I’m not crazy for, but the first half of this album and “How It Ended” are some of the most enjoyable songs of 2011, strong enough to pick up any slack.
8. Craft Spells – Idle Labor
Idle Labor really crept on me midway through the year and slowly but surely became one of my favorite records. From start to finish it’s a reliable dedication to great 80s synth-pop. Built around the staggeringly good “After The Moment” the album is crafted with chill ideas and fashions that put me at ease throughout my fall semester. I could put this on while driving, while doing homework, frustrating over females, or while hanging out. It didn’t matter. This album hit home in every way possible. It’s a perfect little debut album that will surely live on through 2012 and beyond.
7. Caveman – CoCo Beware
It was live at CMJ that Caveman caught my attention. They surprised me with stunning atmosphere-bending jams that were like dissolving waves around your neck. Their songs are often so simple in theory, but they bend and shape their voices and their instruments to create a sound that leaves you with feelings you never know how to evoke. I was afraid that their recorded material wouldn’t do them justice but oh boy was I wrong. I can listen to this album and get a new sensation every-time. CoCo Beware is catchy, powerful, and more often than not, beautiful. It’s not to be missed. Believe in Caveman.
6. The Horrors â€“ Skying
Who could have guessed the amount of development that The Horrors would go through. Is this really the same band who scared so many away with their Gothic appearance? Yes it is. They’ve come a long, long way since their NME glory days, and it’s been quite a ride. “Still Life” proved that these guys really hit their stride with Skying, and it was only a matter of time until they revealed to us the diverse sound that they have developed. Some parts shoe-gaze rock, other parts dabble in electronic glory. All in all, Skying is an album that provides you with a colorful outlook on a band that once seemed so dark. Give them a few more years and they will really be blowing minds.
5. Arctic Monkeys â€“ Suck It And See
Suck It And See isn’t the Arctic Monkeys best record, but it’s better than most are willing to give them credit for. They found themselves in a position to write a record where they were fully aware of what they were going for. “Brick By Brick” and “Don’t Sit Down” aren’t gems by any means, but their huge sounding tracks that show the boys having a bit of fun. Which is what they were going for. There’s plenty of serious stuff too. The best is saved for tracks like closer “That’s Where You’re Wrong”, one of the bands best tracks to date. The album crept up with an astonishing 2nd half that is a full blown Alex Turner showcase. This album will grow on a lot of people over the next few years, and people will soon see that Arctic Monkeys are one of the most consistently great rock bands out there.
I know you want Bon Iver to remain as your cabin boy secret, but this guy deserves all the fame and Grammy glory that he had coming. He captured our attention because of the sparse lonely sounds of his debut. He went bigger and bolder on the follow up and it’s a natural progression. Having the gift that Justin Vernon is graced with is one that only comes once a generation. It’s not to be wasted. Bon Iver deserve to be captured in all their glory, and that’s exactly what happens on moments like the ethereal “Holocene”. The album provides magical moments at ease, putting it as one of the best albums of the year. 2012 will see Bon Iver capture a bigger stage, and I think we should all be rooting with him, not against him.
3. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
We’re sitting in an age dominated by electronic heavy dance music that has practically tossed aside human emotion. Most of the stuff that we hear is heavy processed and missing a simple human touch. That’s why it’s so amazing that we have a band such as Fleet Foxes. They make folk rock that is as human and real as they come, and it’s so damn powerful. It hits home and connects with me with relative ease. From the first minutes of “Helplessness Blues”, any doubts that they wouldn’t be able to put out a worthy follow-up were immediately squashed. Fleet Foxes are 2 for 2, maintaining their ground as the premiere folk rockers in modern music.
2. Real Estate â€“ Days
I never expected an album of the quality of Days from Real Estate. Their debut album is a solid one, but no where near the quality of Days, which just sounds cleaner and stronger in every way. The band sounds so effortless and worry free throughout the album, it helps put your mind at ease and in a much better place. This was an album that I had no problem playing over and over. “It’s Real” is a perfect representation of the album. So easy going, simple, yet irresistible. Days captures the simplest moments of everyday life and makes them truly memorable.
1. Youth Lagoon – The Year Of Hibernation
The beauty of this day and age is that kids my age like Trevor Powers from Boise, Idaho can release an album that turns out to be my favorite album of the year. It’s really a wonderful concept.
I can still recall listening to “Montana” for the first time and being left in awe. Trevor’s voice sounded so lost and innocent, and I believed in everything he had to say. The dramatic build up hit me and it still hits just as hard. Just like the music video for “Montana”, the song leaves you trapped inside an old memory that is both good and bad, and you don’t want to leave, but you don’t necessarily want to remember it either. It’s the way life works, you take the good with the bad, and you make the most of it.
That’s what my listening experience is like for Youth Lagoon’s The Year Of Hibernation. All the slow beginnings of the songs take time to build into the satisfyingly epic finales that they blossom into by the end. Each song is like a journey where your left better off, not wondering what life was, or what it’s bringing you. You become fixated on your now, this particular moment, just wanting to live.
The Year Of Hibernation is technically called a bedroom album from Powers, but this album travels further than most “studio” albums these days can. It was released by a kid in Idaho, released on a small label, only 8 songs long. It doesn’t seem like an album that is destined to be adored by the masses. But that’s exactly what I love about it. It found it’s own way to become great. It shall grow to become even more special.