Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Best Albums of 2011... for now

I have loved every minute of 2011 so far. I have been overwhelmed with the amount of great music that has come out, and it doesn't seem anywhere near of stopping. Though there were unfortunately bad releases from Cold War Kids and Friendly Fires, everything else has been amazing. This will definitely change by the end of the year, as Incubus and Portugal. the Man have yet to release their albums, but here is what I have so far:

Honorable Mentions:

White Denim – D

Fucked Up –David Comes to Life

Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math

Smith Westerns – Dye it Blonde

Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

10.) My Morning Jacket – Circuital:

This is the type of album this band should be making. While Evil Urges wasn’t a dud by any means, their latest release supersedes it by really settling back into where It Still Moves left off with that classic rock and psych-folk combination the band is known for. Songs like “Victory Dance” and “Holdin’ On to Black Metal” is where the band flexes its creative muscles and where Jim James is breaks out of the falsetto that was clearly prevalent on the previous album. It’s a weird and terrific record, which is all I can ask for from them.

Choice track: "Holdin' on to Black Metal"

9.) Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’:

I’ve been told that this entry should be replaced with Charles Bradley, but I disagree. Raphael Saadiq, the record producer turned R&B genius, has put out a stellar album that is chock full of Motown-like tunes for you to groove to. Sure, he might not have the years of pain and suffering that someone like Bradley has endured, but Saadiq has a good amount of soul in his voice. He proves he is a true student of music with the influence of Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder and Chuck Berry showing proudly on his sleeve.

Choice Track: "Stone Rollin'"

8.) Tom Vek – Leisure Seizure:

It’s been less than a year since I had first heard about Tom Vek and I’m already a huge fan. The first time I heard “A Chore” I was enamored by his ability to make these garage-rock styled beats mixed with his own brand of catchy electro-rock music. Vek has a very intriguing voice that stays in tune even when it sounds like it doesn't stand a chance of doing so. But when he hits those higher notes in his limited range, it all just seems to work.

Choice track: "A Chore"

7.) Foo Fighters – Wasting Light:

Sure, I might catch some flak for putting this record on my list, but I was initially blown away after hearing the first track that was released from this album, “White Limo.” It gave hints that the latest Foo Fighters album was going to be the heaviest since The Colour and the Shape, and that it would be more creative than One by One or In Your Honor. The album explodes with sound and barely lets up with songs like “Burning Bridges” and “Arlandria.” It’s an album that packs a punch but with songs that will be stuck in your head for days.

Choice track: "Burning Bridges"

6.) Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues:

There is no indication whatsoever that Robin Pecknold struggled to complete this follow up to 2008’s self-titled album. It harkens back to 60’s and 70’s styled psychedelic-folk music and is rich with beautifully arranged instrumentation that can leave you in a trance. The addition of former Blood Brother and multi-instrumentalist Morgan Henderson was a great pickup on the album as he is able to lend his vast array of musical knowledge to an already talented group.

Choice track: "Bedouin Dress"

5.) Foster the People – Torches:

While my colleagues on this site may find them boring, seeing this band live breathes new life into many of the songs on this album. It’s unadulterated pop music that fits the mold of the summer season it was released in. What gives the album even more credibility are the confessions of a former junkie that seep through the mixture of infectious-beats and dizzying synthesizer hooks. If anything, this album shows a band that has a lot of potential and the energy to back it up. Plus, Mark Foster has such a unique voice that it’s hard not to listen to.

Choice track: "Call It What You Want"

4.) Tyler, the Creator – Goblin

It’s difficult to praise this album because of the moral issues behind doing so, but Tyler, the Creator has this ability to lessen the blow of something that is incredibly offensive by doing it in such a witty and creative manner. Let’s be honest, though, which of our favorite rappers wasn't offensive with their lyrics? This record is full of menacing beats that will get your head moving, especially songs like “Yonkers” and “Tron Cat,” and features Tyler talking with his therapist on a consistent basis throughout the record. It’s hard to admit, but his imagination has me intrigued and curious to hear what he has to say next.

Choice track: "Tron Cat"

3.) The Antlers – Burst Apart:

Seeing this band live is what really helped give this album such a high ranking for me. Its atmospheric sound mashed with a perfectly distorted guitar on many of the tracks perfectly complements front man Pete Silberman’s soaring vocals. Sure, most of it is in falsetto, but on tracks like “Every Night My Teeth are Falling Out”, he stretches his vocal chords. While 2009’s Hospice was considered by some to be a soul-crushing record, Burst Apart is able to stray away from that, but the haunting melodies dance around your head and seduce you to come back for more. So please, listen to those urges because this album might take just a little bit of time to grow on you.

Choice track: "Parentheses"

2.) Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver:

Justin Vernon decided to go away for a bit, and by go away I don’t mean he went to another cabin in the woods, I mean he rolled with Kanye West for a year. Now, Bon Iver is back with a release that rivals the greatness that was For Emma, Forever Ago, but updates his sound with layers. As with anything with Bon Iver, it is a perfect album to slip on headphones, close your eyes and just let the sound swell take you over. Some of the more revealing parts are not when he sings in his signature falsetto, but when he lets his voice drops with the guitar riff. Honestly, it gives me chills.

Choice track: "Holocene"

1.) Man Man – Life Fantastic:

This wasn’t what I was expecting to top any of my lists when I originally saw the full slate of albums that was expected to be released for 2011. If anything, this one caught me completely by surprised. Man Man is known for creating music that is, most of the time, just pure madness. It was filled with kazoos, pots and pans, barking dogs and sometimes fireworks. They’ve reined it in this time around, with the help of Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis, and have produced a rather sophisticated album. Well, for them at least. It still has that signature doom-wop flavor the group has championed, but a bit more toned down, so you can really hear the emotional detail front man Honus Honus lays out. Trust me, everyone benefits from it.

Choice track: "Spooky Jookie"


  1. I'm actually kinda surprised you didn't put cold war kids in here. Also, you need to listed to more hip hop. Tyler the creator is probably one of the weakest albums to come out this year in the genre. And finally, I completely agree that Charles Bradley should replace Rapael Saadiq. Sooo much better. Apparently I gotta check out that Man Man album.

  2. I don't like to be a hater man but I'm not really with this list. Tyler, the Creator had moments of brilliance but on the whole was not that good. Foster the People was not a very good album; I really only liked 4 or 5 songs. Foo Fighters...really??? I haven't listened to Tom Vek yet so I can't judge. Raphael Saadiq is a good album but not top ten material, just a solid listen. Joey listen to Man Man right now. Make it top priority. Its superb.

  3. I didn't expect any of you to dig this list. But don't hate on the Foo Fighters just because it is the Foo Fighters. Their shit has been weak in the past but this is a strong album. And Tyler's album, for me, really grabbed me. Don't know why, but I liked it the more I listened.

  4. It kinda scares me that tyler the creators album really grabbed you. Regardless I just bought man man for 5 dollars on amazon, so I'll be hitting that up today, and I do like some of your picks. I don't want to come off as completely negative haha.

  5. Just listened to man man and wow! When they get so focused? Theres so much more depth on this rease than Their others. Really slept on this one. Nice pick for number 1!