P|M|W’s FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2011
This took me a lot longer to finalize than I had planned. Truth be told, last year’s came easier because as a whole, I felt last year had a stronger collection of albums - so much so that I just picked a favorite and had everything else tie for second. This year, I felt that I had some room between some of them that I could play with and in the resulting list, actually pick a top ten favorites.
I use the word “Favorite” because this list was made by me, and I wouldn’t want to pretend that I am capable of knowing what’s “best” for anyone, so what you’re looking at is a list that’s my favorites. Not intended to spark an argument, but mostly hoping to maybe shine a light on an artist or album that perhaps you didn’t catch earlier in the year and when lined up next to some of these others, you might take the time to check them out as well.
So, without further ado, I’m going to list my top ten with short explanations, and then the back ten are the ten most played, most favorite, most-most that didn’t crack the ten (in alphabetical order). Hope you enjoy. The Favorite Songs lists will be up in the next couple of days with accompanying podcast and I promise they’ll be much more thorough and interesting, as they’ll be audible.
THE LIST///TOP TEN FAVORITE ALBUMS (2011)
- “The King of Limbs” by Radiohead :: If you are familiar with my previous top five lists of years past, you know that I have a fondness for Radiohead. More often than not, they make my top spot. So this shouldn’t be as much of a surprise, but to me it really is. When I first heard “TKOL” I was underwhelmed. I enjoyed what I heard but it didn’t stick like previous material. I sat the album aside and moved on. Then, somewhere around the time that Radiohead performed the “From the Basement” sessions, I pulled the album back out and where previously I had felt that I was being challenged, I suddenly felt that familiar warmth. The songs were growing on me and where previously, I had all but dismissed this album as the one where Radiohead got away from me, I was embracing the textures and the layers and melodies and rhythms. I came back to this album more than any other this year and with each listen I discovered more to love. It wasn’t the mindblowing, earth shattering release that I was expecting to top my list, but that album never came. What came was a surprise album by my favorite band that i was not ready for, but luckily was still around when i found my reasons to be ready. I love the album. It’s not their best, but this year it was my favorite.
- “Bon Iver, Bon Iver” by Bon Iver :: You could almost hear the backlash growing before the final notes of the final song played. Yes, it will appear on as many “best of” lists as it will on “most overrated” lists, but that’s just fine. For me, the album works. It’s a reminder of music that I hadn’t thought of in ages, by an artist who’s had hands in dozens of my favorite songs of the past few years. I trusted Justin Vernon to not rely on his simple charms and he didn’t disappoint. The album can be challenging to those expecting twelve more variations on “Skinny Love”, but anyone paying attention could see that this is a direction that he was likely to head from the moment he started touring in support of “For Emma”. I happened to really love the direction. I might not love the next, but that’s just fine. When you love something an artist has done, you’re not signing on for life. You can exit the bus at any stop. I’m happy to stick around and hear some more electric piano and abstract lyrics for the time being. It’s produced some really beautiful, haunting, and in the end welcoming music. No complaints.
- “Burst Apart” by The Antlers :: Talk about low expectations. I had nothing going in to my first listen of “Burst Apart”. “Hospice” was a fine album, but a little dreary and easily forgotten for me at that time. “Burst Apart” felt like a band awakened and challenged to write big, expansive, artistically engaging pop songs and they lived up to the task without fail. Also, the 1-2-3 hit of “Hounds”, “Corsicana”, and “Putting the Dog to Sleep” are the best sequential album run all year.
- “Days” by Real Estate :: At first listen I was afraid everything blended and sounded overly similar, but a couple of more listens and the details started flooding forth. It’s a deceptively simple album loaded with wonderful writing, beautiful melodies and incredible craftsmanship. “Days” just hit on all cylinders for me and reminded me of why I love bands who don’t shy from a well written pop hook.
- “Charade is Gold” by Pulseprogramming :: Sort of what I’d hoped a grown-up version of Postal Service to sound like - only better. It’s a gorgeous, haunting, synth pop masterpiece.
- “Our Blood” by Richard Buckner :: A criminally underrated singer-songwriter turned in his best album in years and again, no one seemed to notice. Some of the best writing I heard all year and Buckner’s vocals is still one of my favorite lived-in, weary instruments in all of music.
- “Yuck” by Yuck :: Smart, nostalgic, indie pop that holds up with some of the greats. “Stutter” is one of the best songs of the year.
- “The Ocean” by Two Bicycles :: While everyone was waiting for the new Teen Daze album to drop, many seemed to fail to notice that he’s already dropped an album one million times better just a couple of months before and it explored more interesting soundscapes by far.
- “Moon Killer” by Small Black :: Had this been a full fleshed out album, it would have been higher. Small Black turned in one of the biggest surprises of the year with a free mixtape that makes me hope and wish that their next studio outing has this kind of sound, and this sort of confidence. Fucking killer songs.
- “Romantic Comedy” by Big Troubles :: Maybe the catchiest, most infectious album that I heard all year. Loaded with dreamy, lo-fi, shoegazer sounds, but as good as they all are, none of them touch the brilliant album closer, “Never Mine”.
There you have my top ten. I could surely go on and on, but I’m sure more of you stopped reading back at Radiohead. For that, I will rush through and just list the back ten. In alphabetical order as I could not choose one over the other. These are simply the albums that I lived in and carried with me the most throughout the year (save for the first ten). Any of these ten would be a great listen. I can’t recommend them enough.
- “You Are All I See” by Active Child
- “The Rip Tide” by Beirut
- “On the Water” by Future Islands
- “Gardens and Villa” by Gardens and Villa
- “Hearts” by I Break Horses
- “Smoke Ring for my Halo” by Kurt Vile
- “Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped” by Moonface
- ‘“Rare” by Tearjerker
- “House of Balloons” by The Weeknd
- “The Year of Hibernation” by Youth Lagoon
There you have it. The list of Favorite Album of 2011, as decided by me. The Favorite Songs of 2011 list should provide more fun, as there will be accompanying sounds to go with, and the entire collection spreads far and wide. That should be up in the next couple of days. In the meantime, how about them albums? Did i drop the ball or forget anything? Surely, I did. At any rate, thanks for reading, take care, hope you enjoyed any or all of these as much as i have.