Alright, alright… So my plan was to post this list sometime during the first month of the year. That way, I could catch up on any last minute albums from 2011 that I may have missed out on these last twelve months. Now, with just under two hours left in the month, I give you my list haha
10. The Civil Wars-Barton Hollow
The Civil Wars are a band that seemed to gain more attention than you would ever expect a newcomer to receive. 2011 was a year that featured them releasing their debut album, a nationwide/international tour, countless awards, and even a show at the iconic Grand Ole Opry. Needless to say, the duo of the incredibly talented John Paul White and the incredibly adorable Joy Williams were busy. Songs like Poison & Wine, Falling, and To Whom It May Concern create an alternative country album that begs to be played.
Favorite Tracks: Barton Hollow, Poison & Wine, Forget Me Not
9. Real Estate- Days
While Real Estate seemed to sneak under the radar for most, their album Days definitely caught the attention of some true music lovers. With perfect harmonies driving some of the catchier, melodic hooks I’ve heard in quite some time, a truly unique album was crafted here. Having heard it described to be influenced with sounds of R.E.M, American Football, and Pavement… I find it hard to even think of a way that could go wrong.
Favorite Tracks: It’s Real, Out of Tune, Wonder Years, All the Same
8. Iron and Wine- Kiss Each Other Clean
This album didn’t really seem to stand out to as many people as I would have expected it to. For me, it did, and boy did it. While it didn’t quite live up to some of Beam’s older albums, the standouts here are easily on par with those in his current library. While Beam brings back a full band, including some pretty sweet horns, he truly shows off his vocals here. Using his soft vocals we’ve come to know and love, the mix of boldness he throws in some of these tracks really helps separate the album from those past.
Favorite Tracks: Tree By The River, Rabbit Will Run, Your Fake Name Is Good Enough for Me
7. TV on the Radio- Nine Types of Light
When TVOTR released their lead single “Will Do”, I knew that I was going to love this album. Breaking from the high energy, fast paced tracks they’re known for, Will Do was slowed down to the point several friends had to ask who the song was by. With one song differing, intro “Caffeinated Consciousness” and “You”; bringing all the steady beats, and drops you’ve been expecting.
Favorite Tracks: No Future Shock, Will Do, Caffeinated Consciousness
6. The Black Keys- El Camino
In 2010, The Black Keys released Brothers. Not many people expected these guys to be able to reach that level again. Needless to say, this duo from Akron has done so. Even if you only heard the lead off track “Lonely Boy,” you would know how good this album is. With ripping guitar licks that only these two could produce, El Camino is a Blues Rock album like no other.
Favorite Tracks: Lonely Boy, Little Black Submarines, Gold on the Ceiling
5. The Antlers- Burst Apart
Named “Best New Music” by Pitchfork, Burst Apart was entirely deserving of this accolade. The smooth electric guitars playing so simply over Peter Silberman’s falsetto, the underlying crashing drums throughout, the subtle ambiance buried withing each track; these are the building blocks that create Burst Apart. And together, they create an album that is worth listening to.
Favorite Tracks: I Don’t Want to Love, Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out, Putting the Dog to Sleep
4. James Blake- James Blake
James Blake, the album and the artist, accomplished some big things in 2011. Earning him a Mercury Prize nomination, Blake was able to craft a post-dubstep, electronic album that made those who previously doubted the genre truly admire it. His soulful vocals, the perfect balance of auto-tuning, and beautiful piano loops construct an album that you just want more of. Luckily, this year also came with a deluxe edition of the Self-Titled, as well as two EP’s.
Favorite Tracks: I Never Learnt To Share, The Wilhelm Scream, Fall Creek Boys Choir (Deluxe Edition)
3. Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues
Every few years, a band comes along that releases an album so good that you worry they’ll never be able to record anything as good again, and part of you hopes that they never release anything else (see The Postal Service). For me, Fleet Foxes were that band (and in this case, that album as well). While I eagerly anticipated the release of Helplessness Blues, especially after the release of the title track before the album’s release, I didn’t quite know what to expect. The first time I listened to this album, I was so thankful that they recorded and released it. The band proved that they could back up the hype that grew around them three years prior. Landing in the top five on nearly all “Best of” list I came across last year, Helplessness Blues is just a fine piece of work.
Favorite Tracks: Montezuma, Helplessness Blues, Blue Spotted Tail
2. Bon Iver- Bon Iver
Justin Vernon, again, is one of those rare cases. When he released For Emma, Forever Ago back in 2008, I didn’t really want him to release anything else. I feared it would tarnish the image built around his music. Again, I was wrong. Bon Iver is truly a work of art. Where For Emma was about broken love, and boy was it, Bon Iver is about a different kind of love. Constructing each song with so much detail is something that Vernon has really come to be known for. Crafting each song about a place, a location, whether that be real or fictional, it’s a real treat for us. Listening to each song, you’re transported to somewhere different. And the beauty that each track really is is what makes this album so special from start to finish. This is a must own album, if you don’t already. Put it on, open some wine, lock out the world, and escape with the music that is so so beautiful.
Favorite Tracks: Holocene, Michicant, Calgary
1. M83- Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
It has been a long, long time since we’ve been graced with an album as jaw-droppingly gorgeous a M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. It’s been even longer since an album this good came as a pair. The double album that is Hurry Up is so thoughtfully crafted, and so meticulously assembled, it’s amazing that so few people have yet to even give it a listen. The 79:05 long almost dream-pop album transmits you to a place you can normally only find in your dreams. From the very get go “Intro” moves you from the world you know, to a world of make believe; and you don’t ever want to leave. The weaving of tracks, each different, but similar enough to create a consistent mood, has you lost for what seems like hours. The overall feel is cathartic. The emotions you find are those you long for. You want to listen to this album from start to finish. You want to listen to it straight through. And when it’s over, you want to start fresh from the beginning. You want to play it again and again, because it really is that good, but also because each time you play though it you notice something else. An ambiance that surrounds you, Hurry Up is nothing short of a masterpiece. Pitchfork Ian Cohen of Pitchfork may have said it best when he said, “Hurry Up instead serves as a framework to realize the marvelous capability of our dreams and daily lives, should we be open to experiencing it.”
I’ve recommended a lot of music since I’ve launched this blog. But, never have I meant it more than now. GO AND GET THIS ALBUM. I don’t even want to tell you to give it a listen, just go and buy it. Believe me when I say this, you will not regret it.
Favorite Tracks: Midnight City, Wait, Raconte-Moi Une Histoire, Steve McQueen, My Tears Are Becoming A Sea
iTunes (Digital) | Amazon (CD) | InSound (Vinyl)
-Childish Gambino- Camp
-Noah and the Whale- Last Night on Earth
-Washed Out- Within and Without