Top Albums of 2011

    It’s that time again. The end of the year when I go through all of the music that came out in 2011 and pick which ones made my list. This year, I actually assign numbers, leading up to my number one pick. I also have listed those that didn’t quite the make the top 10, those that I liked, but still growing on me, ones I’ve not had a chance to listen to much and a special mention for one of my favorite albums of the year.

    And here we go….

  1. We Were Promised Jetpacks “In the Pit of the Stomach”
    In the Pit of the Stomach
    KevinIL turned me onto this band and as I recently blogged, this second album has some great tracks on it like “Circles and Squares” and “Sore Thumb” that have a great flow to them, and that bit of hard edge that puts this somewhat obscure band and album at the start of my best of 2011 list.
  2. Neon Indian “Era Extraña”
    Era Extraña
    I saw this band live before I heard any of their studio songs. The raw energy of being in the audience and feeling their giant cloud of sound surround everyone in attendance, I had to hear more. So this year, they released this album of electronica that was immediately embraced. From “Fallout” to “Polish Girl” and every other track from this release is great from start to finish. It’s just that bit of different sound of synths that separates this band from the rest.
  3. Red Hot Chili Peppers “I’m With You”
    I'm With You
    Since Mother’s Milk was released in 1989, I’ve been an RHCP fan. I’ve stuck with them through the several exits of John Frusciante and the myriad of guitarists that came and went [a special nod to Dave Navarro, even though he wasn’t the best fit]. So with this new album, comes a new axe man in Josh Klinghoffer. And he shines on tracks like the album opener “Monarchy Of Roses” to “Look Around,” proving that this band’s sound still has what it takes to make a rock record these days.
  4. Grouplove “Never Trust A Happy Song”
    Never Trust A Happy Song
    Another band I saw live this year, who were just a fun band to see. Add to that the radio play “Naked Kids” received, which is itself an addictive anthem that you chant while listening. And then there’s the iPod touch commercial that showcased another song “Tongue Tied” that easily gets committed to memory. The rest of the album doesn’t disappoint, either, for being a late entry to my playlist. Excited to see this band live again in 2012.
  5. M83 “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”
    Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
    Who knew this band had five previous albums before this double disc release. Well, I obviously didn’t. But no matter since this new effort quickly grew on me. With songs like the big international hit “Midnight City” and the upbeat “Claudia Lewis”, the sounds are just stellar productions of greatness. Their creative mixes help cement this record as a favorite.
  6. Fleet Foxes “Helplessness Blues”
    Helplessness Blues
    I initially panned this band as a bunch of throwback Beach Boys fans trying to recreate that magical sound from the mid 60’s ‘Pet Sounds’ era. Well, after many listens to their debut album, I became hooked. So when they released this second album, I wondered if it was just going to be a rehash of the same songs. Nope. Much more grander on the musical scale. Tracks like “Montezuma” and the most recent single “The Shrine / An Argument” proves they are not just retreading their sound.
  7. The Airborne Toxic Event “All At Once”
    All At Once
    And adding another band to my list of ones I’ve seen live that find an incredible way of duplicating their in studio sound to the stage. The vocals of Mikel Jollet are amazing and his range on songs like “All At Once” and “Changing”, accompanied by a bevy of musical talent once again keep them on my top list for this year’s album release.
  8. Adele “21”
    21
    Normally it takes a lot for me to embrace a British solo female artist, like Lily Allen, who is one of my favorites. But I add Adele, who continues to impress me. This sophomore album scores big with a giant sound on songs like “He Won’t Go” and “Someone Like You.” She’s had her recent share of vocal issues which I hope she can recover from to make a huge comeback. For now and for most of this year, this album has continued on it’s path of greatness.
  9. Foo Fighters “Wasting Light”
    Wasting Light
    So let’s get this one out of the way right now. Sybil, I know you are probably saying “What the fuck, Marty?” And yes, this album was amazing this year, even though it came in as my second favorite of 2011. And their live show in October made my top 10 list of all time best concerts I’ve attended in almost 30 years.

    But coming in second place means this seventh studio release by this band is no loser. On the contrary, this is the best rock album of the year. I can’t find a single track on this record that was bad. Loved the videos for “Rope” and “Walk” The intense guitar work in tracks like “A Matter Of Time” and “Bridge Burning.” The thundering bass and drums in “Back & Forth.” I can’t praise this album enough. While there are Foo records that I place higher in the Foo Chain, this is one of their best. And that says a lot for one made in Dave’s garage on all analog equipment. Rock on, Mr. Grohl.

  10. Foster The People “Torches”
    Torches
    I first heard the song “Pumped Up Kicks” in 2010 on SiriusXM’s Alt Nation channel. They played the song a lot. In fact, once it caught on, they played it too much. I had to back away from this song for a while because I really got tired of hearing this song.

    Fast forward to April 2011 when they were gearing up to release this debut album. I decided to pre-order the album from their web site, which came with an instant download of four of their songs, including the afore mentioned hit single. I found other songs that were more in tune to my ears. “Helena Beat” and “Houdini” were so much more. Then the album released, introducing me to other tracks like “Call It What You Want” and “Don’t Stop (Color On The Walls)”

    Then I saw them live and met them at an acoustic show and was really pumped up [natch] about this Los Angeles-based band. Sure, there were some comparisons to MGMT, but I heard a fun and new sound that had a throwback to the 80’s. And it’s all of these reasons why this album became my favorite for the year. I can’t wait to see them live again and to see what other music they will create in 2012.

Growing On Me

I like these albums. I really do. I call them all 10.5 on my 2011 list.

  • Explosions In The Sky “Take Care, Take Care, Take Care”
    Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
    This instrumental only band has been a favorite of my daughters for a while. I listened to the song “Trembling Hands” and really, really liked it. Now the rest of album is growing on me, thanks to Spotify.
  • Radiohead “The King of Limbs”
    The King of Limbs
    I am an unapologetic fan of Radiohead. I loved “In Rainbows” when it came out in 2007. And I even talked about how this album might end up on my best of 2011 list. Well, I guess it did, but it’s just not growing on me like I thought it would to make the top 10.
  • St. Vincent “Strange Mercy”
    Strange Mercy
    To me, this is the definition of a hipster album. Lots of melancholy sounds and vocals. This is like a female version of The National, with a bit more upbeat sound thrown in for good measure. Regardless, the background sound tends to stay in the background.

Took It To 11

And I don’t mean that in the Spinal Tap interpretation. Not bad, not horrible… just not in the top 10 of my favorites.

  • The Cars “Move Like This”
    Move Like This
    After 24 years, The Cars came out with a new album. And for this Cars fan, it was highly anticipated. It’s good, but after listening to it for most of the year, I admit it didn’t have the staying power to make the top 10 list.
  • Jane’s Addiction “The Great Escape Artist”
    The Great Escape Artist
    It was hard to believe this was only their fourth studio album. And it was a good effort. But after many listens, it fell off my replay list quicker than I expected. Maybe I needed to see them live to reinvigorate my interest.

Queued Up

Albums that I have heard good feedback on or already have an invested interest in the band. Here’s my thoughts after a couple spins.

  • KoRn “The Path Of Totality”
    The Path Of Totality
    I just barely got this album this last week. I have all other KoRn albums and while I prefer their sound from their first five releases, I’m actually not hating this completely new direction. There’s a core sound here, but it’s way more techno than you’d expect from this nu-metal band from Bakersfield, CA.
  • Bon Iver “Bon Iver”
    Bon Iver
    Not really a fan, but I’ve heard really good things about this album. I’ve listened to it a few times on Spotify and it’s not bad. Perhaps a few more listens and I’ll learn to embrace it more.
  • Yuck “Yuck”
    Yuck
    I saw this on many of the best of lists for this year and had heard the song “Get Away” and it’s catchy sound. The rest of the album is just as catchy. It’s got a slight Smashing Pumpkins feel to it, mixed with some indie guitars.

Special Mention: Pearl Jam “20”

While a favorite of mine, as evidenced by my glowing review of it, this album really belongs in a special place [saving the best for last, if you would like to look at this way] on this 2011 list.

  • Pearl Jam “Twenty”
    20
    What more can I say that I’ve not already said about this soundtrack to the Cameron Crowe-directed documentary. Just about every track is a pleasure to listen to for any long time Pearl Jam fan.

Any thoughts, favorites or omissions? Comment away

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