Saturday, January 7, 2012

Top 10: Albums of 2011

2011 was a strange year, musically. As usual, many long-standing bands broke up and some great musicians passed away. But amongst the sea of radio-catering, tweenie-pop, and simply bad albums, there were quite a few brilliant albums released last year. I think it's slightly telling that some of the best albums last year came from fresh faces. Bands like Cults and Foster the People took the world by storm with their first albums, following them up with a tour full of sold-out shows. 2011 also saw the incredible rise of the wonderful Adele, whose second album stayed in the U.S. top five for 39 weeks, also bringing her first album back into the top forty.

What did I listen to in 2011? Many of my favorite bands and artists finally released new albums around the same time, some better than others. While I found Metals by Feist to be a little less impressive than I'd expected, many new albums dominated my year.

10. Join Us by They Might Be Giants
Join Us has all the elements one should expect from a They Might Be Giants album, with added values like great production. "Never Knew Love" may very well be the most beautifully composed They Might Be Giants song of their career.
Key Tracks:
"Never Knew Love"
"You Probably Get That a Lot"
"Old Pine Box" 

9. Angles by The Strokes
This album's undoing was the fact that it was composed of 50% really strong songs and 50% mediocre songs. I liked it, it sounded great blaring out of my truck speakers while I drove around in the heat of the summer. But I'm not convinced it was as solid as an album as some of the competition.
Key Tracks:
"Taken For a Fool"
"Under Cover of Darkness"
"Machu Picchu"
8. Born This Way by Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga finally followed up The Fame with this year's Born This Way. Born This Way is filled with catchy radio hits, dance beats, and just a touch of meaningful lyrics. I'm not into radio hits or dance beats, but Lady Gaga usually manages to make them work, as is the case with this album.
Key Tracks:
"Marry the Night"
"Bloody Mary" 

7. It's a Corporate World by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
I was introduced to this duo through their cover of The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows." For their debut album, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. put together a series of catchy, well-written tracks. The use of instruments and sounds is beautiful.
Key Tracks:
"Simple Girl"
"Morning Thought"
"It's a Corporate World"

6. Ceremonials by Florence & the Machine
This is one of those albums that improve in complexity with each listen, as you dig deeper and hear the layers of talent put into it.
Key Tracks:
"Breaking Down"
"Shake it Out"
"All This and Heaven Too"

5. I Believe in Everything by Speak
I reviewed this album earlier this year. Speak put together a great, poppy forty-odd minutes of music, with a lot of maturity for a first album.
Key Tracks:
"Stand By Us"
"You Know as Well as I"

4. Wanderlust by Everybody Else
Everybody Else fueled this album with Kickstarter contributions. The finished product fell only slightly short of their first album- and only in places. There are many tracks that are much more complex than the first album, but I'm just a sucker for Carrick Moore Gerety's flowing vocals, which aren't featured as heavily on this album. It's a really great album. Were it just a notch better, it would have been higher than #4 on my list.
Key Tracks:
"Out All Night"
"Soldiers Without an Army"

3. Double Capricorn by Robert Schwartzman
I feel like I gave this album a half-hearted review, when really, it's brilliant. I really only had one complaint apart from the length, and that's uncommon. Schwartzman's near one-man album is beautifully composed and preformed.
Key Tracks:
"Out of My Mind"
"Love is All Around"
"All My Life"
2. Codes and Keys by Death Cab For Cutie
When your favorite modern band releases a new album, you have no contractual obligation to like it. But I really do like Codes & Keys. It's nothing to compare with Narrow Stairs, which is one of my favorite albums of all time, but it's still a really good album. Some Death Cab fans were dissatisfied with this album, saying it was much too happy. Not only would I argue that that is not true, but I would also like to point out that it's okay to be happy once in a while. This album is solid, with lots of beautiful lyricism, gorgeous instrumentals, and several catchy tunes. I liked it from the first listen.
Key Tracks:
"You Are a Tourist"
"Unobstructed Views"
"St. Peter's Cathedral"

1. Good & Evil by Tally Hall
Six years after Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, Tally Hall finally released their sophomore album. Some fans seemed to give it one listen only before giving up and proclaiming it as "missing the fun of Marvin's." But the key to Good & Evil is that it improves exponentially on the second and third listens. Tally Hall achieved so much with this album, creating a cohesive, beautiful masterpiece that doesn't stray from the feel of their first album apart from having more constant themes and lacking a rap element. Furthermore, you can hear the advanced musicality of this album. As far as my personal feelings toward this album go, I lived and breathed this album for a good portion of the summer. Some of the songs on it have taken me near to tears, while others make me smile brightly as I recall how I spent some of the best moments of my summer. I'm sure I will continue to listen to this album as long as I can hear.
Key Tracks:
"Who You Are"
"Misery Fell"
"Out in the Twilight" 


  1. I disagree, "Turn The Lights Off" and "Cannibal" are the best!!!!!111!!1!evelen!!

  2. "Cannibal" was listed up until the last minute. I ended up going with my top three plays from the album, even though there were other ones I liked more, just because I couldn't decide :F.