Here are my 50 favourite albums from the past year.
Frankly, this album was overrated though from the people I've spoken to there seem to be two Destroyer camps. I happen to fall into the one that thinks everything since Rubies was mediocre at best. Having said that, his songwriting is undeniable on Kaputt
and the horns are pretty fantastic.
49. Wasting Light
- Foo Fighters
I typically don't go for gimmicks like "we recorded this in my basement with a 1973 tape recorder and and homemade mic" but the analog recording used for this album made it sound fucking dirty
. A solid, straight rock, album.
48. The One...Cohesive
Another album that felt overrated this year, it seemed like every white person who didn't usually listen to hip-hop thought this was the greatest thing ever. Solid production gave this a spot in the top 50, but 2011 had much more exciting hip-hop to offer than this.
47. Clams Casino
- Clams Casino
The reality is that Clams is the best producer in the game right now but I just don't really like beat tapes. The fact that its even on here is a testament to his talent.
46. The Book of David
- DJ Quik
Probably the most surprising album of the year, I wasn't expecting to like this at all. Most rappers that are scions of the old west just don't translate well to the new game (Snoop) but Quik proved himself to still be relevant with a solid album.
- Gucci Mane & V-Nasty
This album should have been a bigger deal but no seemed to be paying attention. The fact is that its one of the most reviled figures in hip-hop pairing with one of the most beloved. The results are tepid at best but V-Nasty proves herself to be much better than her Youtube freestyles would have given me any reason to believe. This was, as far as I'm concerned, at least on par with Ferrari Boyz.
As close to an undeniable figure as modern music has, its difficult to find anyone that doesn't like Adele. Her songs are stirring and catchy, her voice is resonant and gorgeous and she's pretty enough to attract attention but just overweight enough not to attract envy. She is quintessentially likeable. Oh and Rolling In the Deep was the best fucking song of the year.
43. Hell On Heels
- Pistol Annies
Like most literate people without rattails, I can't stand most country music but there is something about Miranda Lambert that is captivating. These girls are fucking badass, acting as country's equivalent to the prototypical alpha male rapstar. If any girl group was going to sing about raping men, it would be this one.
42. An empty bliss beyond this World
- The Caretaker
The album that begged the question "what is music?" was a surprisingly affecting piece of artistry. Caretaker simple took old music and added tape hiss, in the process creating something wholly different from either of the constituent parts.
41. Electronic Dream
Just a really solid and enjoyable electronic album from a very talented producer. Nothing more and nothing less.
- The Drums
The most captivating thing about this band is that their music sounds so simple that anyone should be able to do and yet no one else does. The is the perfected sound of indie-pop, the music to which hundreds of pitchfork bands aspire.
39. The Greatest Story Never Told
I'm on an island here from my trill brethren, but I'm convinced that Saigon is one of the best rappers in the game right now and has the potential to craft a stone cold classic album. This just isn't it. In fact its not even as good as the original 2004 version that got bootlegged. The 2011 version sounds a little dated, with the Just Blaze production being anthemic but a little 2006. Having said that, it is still a brilliant album and feels shorter than its 80 minutes runtime because it flows to well. I miss the days of a single producer and a single rapper working together to craft a singular vision. This is the most cohesive album of 2011 and a solid contribution to the hip-hop canon.
38. Blue Dream & Lean
- Juicy J
I feel like I'm kind of on an island with this one as well as most people would put RBB2 way above Blue Dream. While I can see the merit of RBB2, I far prefer the Juicy rapping about sipping lean and nailing bitches to the trap star Juicy. The first half of this album made me want nothing more than to consume codeine and the second half made me want to have sex. The most evocative album of the year.
- Panda Bear
Suffered as much as anyone this year from massive expectations, Noah Lennox was forced to follow one of the most revered albums of the last 10 years. Add to that the rumours that it would only be a series of singles and the massive push back of the release date and this album was predestined to be shit on. Its a solid album of acoustic drone, is more enjoyable than it has any right to be and isn't even close to being the massive disappointment its be labelled.
36. Thank You Happy Birthday
- Cage the Elephant
Quite simple the most fun I have listening to a 2011 album is whenever I throw on this one. No two songs sound the same and there is a gleeful energy that bleeds from every note.
- Kendrick Lamar
There was a time when I was absolutely certain this was going to be AOTY. My love has tempered over the last few months but Lamar is still at the forefront of rap's new wave. The album drags a little here and there and, frankly, it never sounds like he's having any fun making music, but his storytelling is topnotch and his willingness to make potentially corny songs is refreshing.
- Wild Beasts
The album starts with one of the most gorgeous songs of the year in Lion's Share and, astonishingly, is able to maintain the depth and emotion throughout much of the remaining album. And the voice, my god, the voice.
33. New Brigade
I've always loved the post punk sound and these guys do a great job of capturing it. More than simply recreating, however, they've stripped the songs to their bare minimum, giving them a hardcore band's intensity and ferocity.
32. Cinderella's Eyes
- Nicola Roberts
The redhead from Girls Aloud crafted the most compelling pop album of the year. Admittedly, it is probably not as good as Katy B's but it is far more interesting.
31. Cold Day In Hell
- Freddie Gibbs
Along with Has-Lo, Gibbs did a great job this year reminding me that a classic hip-hop sound can still be captivating in 2011 amidst the based/swag/trill movements. This is the sound of gangster rap done correctly, except for the singing in the middle of the tape which is soft as fuck and surprised me, in a bad way, to no end.
30. Leave Home
- The Men
29. The Lizzie Mcguire Experience
- Kitty Pryde
So apparently a teenage girl from Florida made a mixtape that I think is better than new albums from Radiohead, Fleet Foxes, Wilco, Death Cab, Panda Bear, DJ Quik, etc. How? By creating hip-hop the way it is supposed to be made, free of expectations and preconceptions. She sounds like she's enjoying herself and making the music she wants to made, which is really fucking refreshing. Suck it Thom Yorke.
28. Smoke Ring for My Halo
- Kurt Vile
Every year several hundred guys with acoustic guitars put out a singer-songwriter album talking about themselves. Amidst this miasma of self-importance, Kurt Vile took a saturated genre and created something magical. It is simple music done beautifully and artfully.
At heart I am little more than a dirty hipster and this album appeals to that hipster on so many levels. Its She & Him, but with darkness, better melodies and a lead singer than can, uh, sing. Plus that Gibbs remix, which I count as being a part of the album, is so badass.
26. As I Float: The Great John Nash
- Young L
If this had been an EP, consisting of the last 10 tracks, minus Daylight, it would have been in the number one spot. The samples and production are breathtaking and L outdoes himself lyrically with startling introspection. My only beef is that nothing else he has done is nearly this affecting, leading me to believe that he may never be able to do this again.
25. James Blake
- James Blake
After essentially perfecting dubstep (along with Burial) on his slew of 2010 EPs, James Blake got his Michael Buble on and crooned all over this bitch. Some called it post-dubstep and some called in awful. For me, the truth is that its a great album that history won't remember, little more than a footnote in the shadow of his previous output. I respect artistic integrity and his desire to make something different but he should have finished what he started. 2011 saw dubstep leak into fratboy territory, where it was subsequently dateraped after being drowned in Budweiser. Blake had the opportunity to show everyone what the genre could be before seeing it die. James Blake
is like if Biggie had made Life After Death
an instrumental album.
24. Native Speaker
I read a review of this on Cokemachineglow and the dude said it was better than Merriweather Post Pavillion
so I figured I'd check it out. He was wrong but the album is still pretty damn good. It is a charmingly complicated pop album with gorgeous lyrics. I suspect that, in the future, I will look back on this album as far higher than #24. Too bad I didn't listen to it earlier.
23. Dye It Blonde
- Smith Westerns
Quite simple, the second best indie rock album of the year. It is straightforward but doesn't suffer because of it.
22. Tha Carter IV
- Lil Wayne
- Das Racist
Is having a tie a mindless copout? Probably. But there is a good reason for this. Each of these albums reeks of two things: laziness and artistic integrity. They could have done so much better and, yet, these albums sound like these artists made exactly the music that they wanted to make. This album all but proved that Wayne is the rap equivalent of Wilco (or Radiohead, same thing) and Das Racist just demonstrated how fucking talented they are by putting forth absolutely no effort and still sounding more interesting and worthwhile that 90% of modern hip-hop. I couldn't possibly have been more disappointed/enthralled by these records which makes them, essentially, one and the same.
21. Blvndlvnd Rvdix 66.6
The quality is garbage and the lyrics are devoid of any semblance of meaning but the production is fucking awesome, the Mortal Kombat samples are classic and he might end up being better for hip-hop than Lil B.
20. 808s and Dark Grapes II
- Main Attrakionz
I can't say enough good things about Mondre and Squadda. They both dropped great tapes this year and were all over solid tapes from a slew of Green Ova rappers, but their best work came on this mixtape. They work beautifully together but my favourite part is that they have the laid-back nonchalance of their new school acolytes but combine it with an undercurrent of legitimate talent.
19. New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges
- Colin Stetson
The most inspiring, and incomparable, album of the year was a collection of saxophone tracks from this peerless artist, in the truest sense of the word. The album was breathtaking. Buy it now.
18. Step Brothers
- Don Trip & Starlito
I was recommended this mixtape never having heard of either of the artists and, frankly, I was blown away. My favourite lyrical album of the year, and it became so as soon as Starlito uttered my line of the year "I don't get as high as I used to, Vince Carter..."
17. Space Is Only Noise
- Nicolas Jaar
I still have no idea what to think of this album but its gorgeous and evocative and stirs my soul. Thats all I really need.
16. House of Balloons
- The Weeknd
To be honest, this is a cursory inclusion as no list of 2011 seems to be complete without The Weeknd. This is not to say that I don't love his music, which I do, but I like to think of his entire output as a singular entity as opposed to breaking it up into three albums. Hence, if I was to construct a list of my top artists of 2011 he'd be #1 no question but since this is a list of albums he sits here.
15. Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing
- The Wonder Years
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for pop-punk and this may be the best such album I've ever heard. The opening track is all power and emotion, and the album has a striking undercurrent of positivity, which is refreshing as fuck. In addition, this album has some of my favourite lyrics since Travis Morrison was still writing songs. All told it is a fantastic listen so check your preconceptions at the door and bump this shit.
14. Tape Hiss Hooligan
Nothing had a bigger impact on my music listening in 2011 than the Green Ova collective and this tape was the best thing that the group produced. It features all my favourite Green Ova spitters (Mondre, Squadda, Western Tink, etc.), the production is absolutely flawless and with a 40 minute runtime there is absolutely no filler. I expect great things from .L.W.H. as a producer, and the Green Ova collective as a whole, in the future.
- Atlas Sound
As far as I'm concerned, there is very little left to be sad about Bradford Cox. He has established himself as being at the forefront of independent music and this album only serves to cement that position.
12. Simple Math
- Manchester Orchestra
Andy Hull has established himself as one of my favourite songwriters and he absolutely outdid himself on the band's third album. Affecting, playful and passionate, these songs are undeniable. This was the album I hard the hardest time not singing along to in 2011.
- ASAP Rocky
Much has been said about this album, plenty of it revolving around the assertion that ASAP brings very little to the table and that the credit belongs with his producers. The reality is that beat selection is a very important part of being a relevant rapper (look at Canibus and, to some extent, Nas) and ASAP deserves as much credit for choosing the beats as the producers did for making them. On top of this, ASAP chooses only topnotch guest verses, is entertaining as fuck in his own right and produced the best video of the year. There is more to hip-hop than lyricism and so-called fans of the genre would do well to remember that, otherwise they're going to miss the brightest star of hip-hop's new school amidst a haze of an assumed lack of relevance.
10. Take Care
Holy fuck I am embarrassed by how much I love Drake. I needed a few listens to get into Take Care
but will, over the next few months, probably listen to it more than anything else on this list. Like his newest acolyte, ASAP, Drake needs to be commended for his talent in every realm of music as opposed to being shitted on by "true heads" who call him soft. Like some hip-hop version of The Shins, he makes very few mistakes when he creates music, and this needs to be recognized.
9. Father, Son, Holy Ghost
As much as I tried to hate this album, eventually brilliant songwriting presents itself as just that and becomes impossible to ignore. It is frustrating to think that anyone has this much talent.
- Real Estate
These guys create my favourite sound, and aesthetic, in modern music but holy shit they sound lazy. Like the indie equivalent of Das Racist, if they weren't freaks of nature they would be producing the worst music ever. All Real Estate songs sound like they just went to the store and bought instruments, came home, plugged in and played what was recorded first try. It can drift past you if you don't make a concerted effort to listen to how brilliant the songs really are.
7. Strange Mercy
- St Vincent
I asked someone of last.fm what they thought of this record and he said that it was shit as it was just some chick making noises over bleeps and guitar fuzz. Agreed. But for me that produces a top 10 album of any year.
6. Watch the Throne
- Jay-Z & Kanye West
There is literally nothing left to be said about this album. It should have been awful. It wasn't. Everyone loves Niggas in Paris and the rest of the album is just as good. Deal with it.
5. Past Life Martyred Saints
Rising like a phoenix from the ashes of her previous band, Erika produced the rawest album of 2011. It is compelling and disturbing and she made me want to get stabbed with a butterfly knife.
4. Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me
- Touché Amoré
Have you heard this? No? Listen to it. Now.
3. Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
A loose concept album about a brother and sister communicating via dreams (I think), this album reminded me of the power music can wield, giving the listener the opportunity to escape their life and visit something greater, more meaningful, than themselves.
2. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
- Bon Iver
The sound of a man distancing himself from what he has done so far, the music went hand in hand with his public persona. This could have made the music self-serving and douchy, which it probably is, but the guy is just so fucking talented that it doesn't really matter what the intent was when you hear the beauty that ensues.
- Danny Brown
"Fuck a bitch mouth until her face caves in..."