in Top Ten

Colin’s Top 10 Albums of 2011

I feel like I did a lot of complaining on this blog about how there were so few exciting music releases this year, but in the end I’m pretty satisfied with 2011’s music as a whole.  I seem to be listening to more and more new music each year, and this year I ended up listening to 33 albums, though of course SOPA might have a considerable influence on my ability to freely download that new indie band that all the nerds on the internet are talking about.  Anyways, let’s get on with this thing.

Honorable Mentions:
Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient
Radiohead – The King Of Limbs

10. Cults – Cults

I’m just a sucker for music like this.  With their ’60s girl group sound, Cults doesn’t do a whole a lot to set themselves apart from a lot of similarly-minded indie pop bands, well except for the fact that their songs are just really damn catchy.  Sure, it’s entirely possible that I’ll have completely forgotten about this album a year from now, but it provided me with some first rate pick me up music throughout the year, and for that I’m grateful.

9. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

As far as I remember, this was the first album to come out this year that really grabbed me.  This took me a little bit by surprise since it’s not typically the kind of thing that I find myself listening to, but I suppose Lykke Li’s overt popiness is matched equally by her penchant for exploring all sorts of different sounds and genres, and that’s cool I guess.


8. Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’

There are a lot of pop singers nowadays that seem to draw heavily from the soulful sounds of ’60s R&B, so I’m not exactly sure what jumped out at me about Stone Rollin’.  I guess the thing about Raphael Saadiq is the undeniable energy behind his songs.  I mean you don’t hear many modern R&B artists trying to infuse their music with the kind of raw garage rock swagger that you hear on tracks like “Heart Attack” and “Over You”.  And yet Saadiq shows himself equally able to put new delightful spins on the tried and true soul ballad formula as well.

7. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

When this album initially came out, my immediate reaction was “Whoah, this is weird, therefore I’m not gonna even give it a shot.”  I guess it’s pretty sad that I’m at a point in my life where I consciously avoid art that’s challenging in any way, but thankfully I eventually decided to give Strange Mercy the shot it deserved.  Sure, it is weird and filled with all sorts of messy emotions, but it’s also full of beauty and grandeur, and somehow Annie Clark pulls off that uneasy balance in a way that few others could.

6. Wilco – The Whole Love

Of all the established artists that released albums this year, Wilco was not one of the ones I was expecting to blow me away, which I suppose accounts for the fact that I severely underestimated The Whole Love until much later in the year.  For really the first time since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, you see Jeff Tweedy and co. successfully fusing their more experimental and abrasive tendencies with the classicist country rock of their last few albums.  In some ways I think you could even say that this is the album that Wilco have been building towards with this more consistent line-up.

5. TV On The Radio – Nine Types Of Light

So this is the album where TVOTR toned it down a bit and laid down some sensuous lovey-dovey songs.  It makes for an album that doesn’t have the urgency or timeliness of their last two releases, but that’s perfectly fine with me when these guys are perfectly adept at making lovely R&B-tinged ballads like the ones featured on Nine Types Of Light.  Plus there are still songs like “New Cannonball Run” and “Caffeinated Consciousness”, which capture how undeniably badass this band is still capable of sounding.

4. Wild Flag – Wild Flag

You may or may not have noticed, but I tend to gravitate more towards high-energy guitar based music than really anything else.  Wild Flag was easily my favorite guitar record for rocking this year away, which is a bit unexpected considering it came from a bunch of chicks in their late thirties.  But what can I say, these ladies have the chops and the unabashed energy to hang with any of their younger indie rock peers.  Here’s to hoping they’re just getting started with this infectious debut.

3. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

In the three and a half years I spent in San Francisco, Girls is probably the only SF band I can recall getting heavily into, so I suppose for that I’ll always associate Girls’ first album as well as Father, Son, Holy Ghost with that city.  It’s kind of incredible how much musical ground Girls has already covered considering they’ve only been around for a few years now.  Father, Son, Holy Ghost sees the band covering pretty much every genre that was remotely relevant during the ’60s and ’70s, and it’ll be fun to see what they continue to do with their distinctly retro style.

2. Bon Iver – Bon Iver

When I wrote my original review of Bon Iver’s sophomore album, I didn’t really have much to say about it other than the fact that it’s just a really beautiful album.  Six months later that’s still about all I can say about it, as it’s beauty just seemed to become more welcome and inviting as the months went by and the weather started to get colder.  It’s quite possible that this might be the most widely acclaimed album of the year, though I can’t be sure.  Either way it’s plenty deserving of it’s praise and I’m sure it’s something I’ll keep returning to in these early days of 2012.

1. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

And here’s another album that also caught my ear because of it’s profound beauty, albeit in a more traditional and rustic manner.  You could argue that Fleet Foxes is slowly just becoming a Robin Pecknold solo project, but it’s that personal quality that Pecknold infuses Helplessness Blues with that really resonated with me, and I can’t really complain about anything he’s doing here.  I suppose It’s a little weird that I fell so hard for this album, considering the first Fleet Foxes album never quite hooked me in the way it did for most people, but I’ve come to love both albums and hope these guys can just keep doing what they’re doing, ’cause it’s pretty great.

  1. Wow we have no albums in common that’s interesting. Unfortunately I probably only listened to like three of the albums on your list but knowing me I’m sure I’ll listen to most of them in like three years.

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