The 20 Best Albums of 2011 (so far) - Sean Doyle
I must start by saying that a list such as this is very hard to compile and even harder to rank. To this effort, I decided that the best approach would be to determine which albums I have played the most in the past six months and go from there. This is a very personal list, and I know it won’t include everything great that’s come out since 01/01/11 (there have been a lot this year). This is a list of my top 20 go-to albums of 2011 (so far).
20. Yuck – Yuck
The accessibility of this noise-pop band makes Yuck like going to see your best friend’s band play a house show and singing every word long into the night. Check them out in the new mPlayer here.
19. The Belle Brigade – The Belle Brigade
This brother and sister duo produce some of the most interesting harmonies I’ve heard in years. Sometimes it’s extremely hard to tell where one voice stops and the other starts. Lyrically speaking, this is one of the deepest, most thought-out albums of this year.
18. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Self-titling this album seems very fitting. It is 100% Bon Iver doing what the band does best. Vernon’s shining voice punches through these melancholy tracks.
17. Yellowbirds – The Color
Sam Cohen’s low, earthy vocals set the pace for each track on the album, making it perfect for a slow day on a beach with a tropical drink in hand.
16. Fucked Up – David Comes To Life
This album sounds like if my favorite band, Hot Water Music, made an epic hardcore-rock opera. Very rough vocals, thoughtfully layered music, and songs that tell stories. A do-no-wrong mix in my book.
15. Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines
This album changes genres every time it changes tracks. From singer/songwriter folk to power pop, Telekinesis makes agony live peacefully in whistle-out-loud catchy melodies.
14. Cloud Nothings – Cloud Nothings
Garage-punky-bubblegum hooks with super-fuzzed-out vocals. More please.
13. Generationals – Actor-Castor
This whole album makes me think of dawn on a day you’ve been looking forward to. The type of lo-fi garage-pop that just makes you want to get out and do something awesome.
12. Adele – 21
Soulful pop isn’t typically a genre I find myself returning to. At least not until I heard 21. Adele’s undeniable talent converted my punk-rock-raised ears, and I thank her for that.
11. Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
The perfect blend of gritty swamp-crunch and soaring vocal harmonies. The conflict presented in this album is done so elequently, it sounds like the literal translation of the band’s name. A very civil war.
10. John Vanderslice – White Wilderness
Not only is Mr. Vanderslice one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, he’s also one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever heard. His live show is so amazing that I saw him almost every show he played at this year’s SXSW.
9. Seryn – This Is Where We Are
This band instantly had my full attention when I heard “We Will All Be Changed.” Every other song on the album expands on that same captivating sound. Seryn’s lyrics and vocal harmonies become more complex with every listen.
8. Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing
Every song on this album seams to swell and ache in a way that almost makes it feel like the bruise is your own. The physicality of this music extends all the way to the drum beats. RAA’s drummer seems to always pick the most physically demanding yet tasteful beats he can play, as if to ensure you’re left catching your own breath.
7. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes manages to combine the beautiful simplicity of a singer/songwriter with the cathedral-filling sound of a folk powerhouse. The lyrics on this album consistently leave me lost deep in thought.
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – It’s A Corporate World
This whole album sounds like a wonderful lo-fi experiment, suited for a slow day spent by a pool. Their name doesn’t do their music justice.
5. Morning Teleportation – Expanding Away
You know how in horror films the whole audience knows not to go into the room where the light’s burnt out, but the character does anyways? Yeah, I hate that. Which is why I’m a big fan of this band’s completely unpredictable style. I love Modest Mouse and The Flaming Lips, and this album sounds like the two formed an indie-acid-surf-rock supergroup and decided to record a stream-of-conciseness jam. Many of these songs sound tailored to fit any surfer’s epic ride of the perfect wave.
4. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
This album has so many beautifully unexpected twists and turns it kindly asks (as I feel is Beam’s style) for multiple listens. Who but Beam could throw a kickass slide-whistle breakdown into the middle of a song?
3. Middle Brother – Middle Brother
These guys decided to lock themselves in a house in Tennessee for a month and record to analog (way harder to get good take). Dawes, Delta Spirit and Deer Tick are equally represented in the best possible way.
2. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
I’m a huge MMJ fan. I’ve loved every album they’ve put out (yes even Evil Urges…mostly). So it only makes sense Circuital is near the top of this list. To me every new My Morning Jacket album feels experimental and familiar all at once. This one manages to connect songs that have hints of Pink Floyd and the Allman Brothers with songs that have chord progressions that sound as if they’ve been pulled straight from eight-bit favorites of our youth. MMJ, you do what you do and you do it so well.
1. Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong
I have played this album too many times to count this year. These guys pull together all that is classic and good in rock, culminating in an album that’s cohesive and timeless. All of these songs remind me of any number of ‘70s rock hits, while still feeling very fresh. Like the classic albums Dawes draws inspiration from, I believe future musicians will reference Nothing Is Wrong as a major influence. By far the best album I’ve listened to in 2011.