Top 10 2011

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Jan 21 2012, 1h31

While I wouldn't say 2011 resembled the fire hose of star power (well at least in the Pitchfork-land I find myself living in) of 2010, there was, yet again, a never ending stream of great music being released all over the genre map. Sometimes I want to cry when I hear people bemoan the decline of the music industry, as it is an unequivocal fact that music is being pushed to more and more glorious heights with each and every year. My music listening habits have changed profoundly with each passing year (I'm now a devout convert of Google music in the cloud, but as long as it scrobbles its kosher in my book), but the heady excitement of pumping yourself up to listen to a new album for the first time has never held more appeal then this year. Ok, before I drift off too far talking about how much love I have for the music I love, here are my albums of 2011:

10. Thurston Moore/J Mascis- Demolished Thoughts/Several Shades of Why

Although not particularly similar sounding albums, these two veteran indie stalwarts tie for 10th. Both released stellar albums somewhat out of the blue around the same time which not only augmented their iconic status, but offered new sonic experiences to those accustomed to their respective blasts of feedback guitar. Totally badass, both of them.

9. The War on Drugs- Slave Ambient

A masterful album which somehow manages to meld the very different genres of droning, Yo La Tengo ish, underwater indie rock with stomping rootsy- Americana. Great listen.

8. Radiohead- The King of Limbs

A glistening gem of post "In Rainbows" Radiohead. Yes, in the context of other masterstrokes this band has granted us, it does feel a bit incomplete, but ends up actually standing the test of time as a meticulously crafted, shimmering nugget of alien deliciousness we come to expect from this band.

7. Mastodon- The Hunter

With "Crack the Skye" inching itself up into the upper echelons of not only my Top Metal albums of the 2000's, but up into the very top of my favorite of last decade, there was just about no way the new one could live up to my expectations. It doesn't match Crack, but its a pummeling collection of songs embracing a more fun loving side of probably the best active metal band.

6. Low- C'mon

Completely different sounding from anything else on this list, this album (very appropriately) snuck up on me gradually throughout the year. Full of great songs which prove themselves once you give them time to flush themselves out.

5. Thee Oh Sees- Carrion Crawler/The Dream

Duh, of course psychedelic garage punk is fun, but when does any release in this genre warrant repeat listens? This album is amazing. How can this not be a touchstone for this genre? What could you do to make this a better album? I hope, for the sake of music, there will be hoards of new bands clamoring to replicate this orgasmic album.

4. TV on the Radio- Nine Types of Light

What professionals. Toning down on the Bush-anxiety rage which so permeated their last work, they produce a fantastic album which effortlessly blends genres as any other work you have listened to in the past month. "Will do" is sublime.

3. Bon Iver- Bon Iver

Sure, at times it does sound like the Newt Gingrich of elevator music (does that forever date this post?), but with albums,and career arcs, such as this, I need to show reverence for the artist who completely abandons his "shtick" (dude....he just broke up with some girl and went to the woods to write an album!!!) in favor of a grandiose swing for the fences. And you know what? Its a winner, an absolute smokeshow of an album which soundtracked some of my most epic solo iPod adventures of the year. Kudos, Bon Iver, lets see what you have in store for us in 2015.

2. Panda Bear- Tomboy

I was initially very turned off by the sheer "song heaviness" of it all. God, who could get through this entire album in one sitting? However, this trait ended up making it a very endearing album to me, and a natural counterweight to the soupy psychedelia of his previous work. New harmonies and melodies to be found on each listen.

1- Kurt Vile- Smoke Ring for My Halo

Never before has such a flawed album been so perfect. Dragging myself out of bed and to work on a smoggy Beijing morning on the crowded Beijing subway with a hazy Beijing hangover never sounded so good. With lyrics like "I don't want to work, but I don't want to sit around all day frowning", this album struck a visceral cord with me. A laconic masterpiece I voraciously devoured for months on end.

Just missed- Ryan Adams (really a beautiful collection of songs), Wilco (kinda mehh, but the highs are very high), Wu Tang (FIRE!!!!), SBTKRT (really love this album, tackles a very specific sound and succeeds with flying colors), Ty Segall (stomping acoustic rock with melodies which sound like he surprises even himself), REM (as worthy of a curtain call as anyone could have asked for), James Blake (very airy post dubby drabness), Cass Mccombs (both of 'em), and Black Keys (what a blast the new one is). Love.

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