Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 20 Albums of 2011

Presented, as last year, with limited comment. Spotify and Grooveshark links for all.

20. Beastie Boys
Hot Sauce Committee, Pt 2

RIYL: The Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys returned in style after the mostly 'meh' To the 5 Boroughs. Solid hooks and clever lines throughout.

19. Tim Hecker
Ravedeath, 1972

RIYL: Droning bliss, the world's most melodic air conditioner

The year's most surprising album. I gave it a preliminary listen thinking I would easily discard it. That shit is haunting.

18. Panda Bear

RIYL: Watery sounding music, lots of vocal layers, The Beach boys being played in a really big room.

Lots of highs, a couple dry spots in the middle. Still enough on the high end to come back to again and again.

17. Sims
Bad Time Zoo

RIYL: Doomtree, Really wordy rappers, books about 'Occupy wall street'

Sims rubs me the wrong way a lot of times, so the instant I preordered his CD, I wondered why I had done so. I proceeded to love it.

16. Drake
Take Care

RIYL: Really rich people humblebragging constantly.

I don't know exactly how I got to this point. The dude just makes catchy music that works as great as driving music during summer or winter, day or night. The production on his tracks fascinates me.

15. Dessa
Castor, the Twin

RIYL: Jazzy female fronted rap, High swagger to body weight ratios

I had already heard a lot of these arrangements at Blowout VI, but the jazzier live band really gives Dessa that "chanteuse in a smoky bar" vibe that really fits these songs.

14. The Weeknd
House of Balloons

RIYL: Lurid, debauched parties, Smooth crooning, drugs.... lots of drugs, sex

How to become a really big deal in 2011... work your ass off, release three albums worth of material. Oh yeah, make incredibly catchy songs that make six minutes feel a quarter that long (also, talk about sex and drugs a lot).

13. Blue Sky Black Death

RIYL: Huge sonic landscapes, instrumental hip-hop that doesn't have anything to do with hip-hop.

Nothing could ever replace Endtroducing, but at times this feels like a slightly more cinematic version of that DJ Shadow masterpiece.

12. Kurt Vile
Smoke Ring For My Halo

RIYL: Acoustic guitars, cynical lyrics

Smoke Ring For My Halo was a welcome surprise. I didn't expect much out of it, since I'm not big into the wandering acoustic rock thing. Vile's arrangements just feel so much fuller than most of his genre.

11. James Blake
James Blake

RIYL: Soul/Dubstep hybrids... are those a thing?

I didn't listen to a lot of Blake's output last year (I'm sure I'll remedy that soon enough), but this worked as a good introduction. Surprisingly good vocals and well constructed songs.

10. Viva Voce
The Future Will Destroy You

RIYL: Pretty much anything. Seriously. Why aren't you listening to these guys?

Husband/wife duo Viva Voce are a great band that I haven't been able to get anyone into yet. They make good rootsy rock music. Sometimes she sings, sometimes he sings. Listen to their music.

9. Doomtree
No Kings

RIYL: Vaguely indie-ish rap that doesn't succumb to standard indie rap tropes

With "No Kings", Doomtree really branched out their production to new places. Almost all of them worked for me, and the rappers themselves sounded fresh and up to the challenge, ready to tear into that new direction.

8. Childish Gambino

RIYL: Clever lines and good hooks, smartasses, rappers who enjoy Rugrats

This album is kind of a combination of the bite I wanted from a Tyler, the Creator CD mixed with the pop and R&B sensibility that Drake infuses everything with. Thanks to Andrew for the heads up.

7. Cults

RIYL: Catchy, retro tunes with dark secrets, small, coastal new england towns

I didn't buy the hype last summer, but the debut album was alluringly dark, yet catchy. It was sort of like if Best Coast joined... well... a cult.

6. The Antlers
Burst Apart

RIYL: Sad songs, songs about the endings of beautiful things, the end of Old Yeller

I'm slowly coming around on The Antlers. Not just this album, but their whole discography. This one still reigns supreme, though. A thoroughly emotive and exhausting listen.

5. …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
Tao of the Dead

RIYL: Doodling dragons on the back of your chemistry notebook

Trail of Dead keeps insisting on making the music bigger and bigger, at this point it's in for a penny, in for a pound. That means, that for every tightly spun barnstormer, there's a 17 minute proggy beast. Luckily, I enjoy it all.

4. Radiohead
The King of Limbs

RIYL: The Kid A side of Radiohead, Thom Yorke, Skittery Beats

I'll admit, if this wasn't Radiohead, I don't know if I would have given it as many listens as it needed to grow on me. Once it did, though, it stuck with me. There's not a weak track on the album.

3. TV on the Radio
Nine Types of Light

RIYL: All thing funky, the vocal stylings of Tunde Adebimpe

I was sort of surprised to see how much this album got slept on. It's definitely moving further toward TVotR's funky side than their previous offerings, but hearing songs like "Second Song" proves that's actually a pretty good thing.

2. The Go! Team
Rolling Blackouts

RIYL: Cheerleaders, explosions (of confetti), saying everything in double dutch time

The formula hasn't steered them wrong yet, why would they change it - especially when they seem to have come closer to perfecting it here than ever before.

1. Bon Iver
Bon Iver, Bon Iver

RIYL: Beards

It's the fashionable pick this year, but it got that way for a reason. I tried to resist the siren call, it didn't work. Each of these songs feels like part of my daily life at this point. If the lyrics don't quite have that naked emotional honesty that The National struck last year with High Violet (and I don't think they quite do), the music itself does more than enough speaking. It whispers, it strains, it breathes, it squalls - and Justin Vernon's weirdly compelling voice sails the album through that storm. In the Grammy nominated (!?) Holocene, he sings "...and at once I knew, I was not magnificent..."

Meh, I disagree.

1 comment:

  1. Nice place you got here.

    Just started listening to the Tim Hecker record. I think I'll dig it.