2011 was a weird year. There was a ton of great material, some of it easier to find than the rest. It was harder to sort this list because I felt the best records were all quite comparable in enjoyability. Nonetheless, I did my best, and the result is as follows.
Records that were noteworthy for one reason or another, but not contenders for the top 10;
Showroom of Compassion
The Rip Tide
-Mates of State
Codes & Keys
-Death Cab for Cutie
The King of Limbs
Last Night On Earth
-Noah and the Whale
The First Five
Records which were in contention, but didn’t make it;
15: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
14: No Color
13: What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?
11: Breaks in the Armor
The Top 10 Albums of 2011
-Pains of Being Pure At Heart
[full review] Dreamy yet driven indie pop from up-and-coming this talented New York group. It’s the stuff of a John Hughes movie, were it made in 2011.
9: Blood Pressures
[full review] Rhythmic, dark, and sultry, the Kills continue to prove ever-relevant in the low-fi indie-rock-scape. It’s music that I’m glad not to hear on the radio because it’s too good to share with other people.
-The Rural Alberta Advantage
[full review] Admittedly this record serves a similar purpose to last year’s Sign No More, but it ultimately proves to be a far more raw and explosive an album than the Mumford and Sons effort. Points given for hitting the ground running and not stopping until the final note.
7: Something to Die For
[full review] Truly this selection betrays one of my most fundamental biases, but I’m man enough to be up front about it. Soaring arena rock-pop, made in Sweden, iced with synth, is just a thing I like. Everyone else is perfectly welcome to join me.
6: Bon Iver
[full review] If you don’t know this record by now, just listen to it, and pay more attention next year. If you do know it, then suffice to say that Justin Vernon is a master of his art-form, and this record is the final word on that. Pure serenity from start to finish.
5: This Modern Glitch
[full review] Clever pop built on an 8-bit foundation; if you’re not either smiling or dancing while you listen to these tracks, the argument could be made that you’re not doing it right. Cut it with some nostalgia, and suddenly the record’s got some dimension and gravity, which propel it to this surprisingly high position in the list.
4: The King is Dead
[full review] The Decemberists prove their records need not be ‘epic’ to be ‘awesome’. A genre-crossing effort that is a real breath of fresh air in terms of texture, and a lot of fun to boot.
3: The People’s Key
[full review] Bright Eyes produced a remarkably coherent album in The People’s Key. Oberst’s philosophical musings weave perfectly into this bittersweet collection of tracks, punctuated by big-guitars and a more electronic direction for the band.
2: On The Water
[full review ] Future Islands is like a magic black box that takes sorrow and synthesizers as inputs, and returns forlorn gut-punching tracks that force you to feel melancholy as all hell. The emotional content alone makes the effort worthy; that you get to bob your head and sing along is an added bonus.
-Florence + The Machine
A bigger and darker record than Lungs is EXACTLY what I wanted out of now-mega-famous Florence + The Machine, and they delivered. I don’t think she can further improve on this sound, and while that makes the future a little grey, it means that Ceremonials was a perfectly timed effort that stands alone as the best record of 2011.
With that, another year is over! Hope you enjoyed the tracks and found something you enjoyed. Look out for the likely Errata series coming in January, where I outline stuff that wasn’t on this list, but should have been.
Back to Year End Lists.