2011 Best Music List

Posted: December 27, 2011 in Reviews

Here’s my annual list of the albums that I have chosen as my favorites for the year.  It’s a totally self-indulgent list.  I find that lists of albums are becoming less relevant in a music environment that increasingly downplays the album in favour of the single.  It’s too easy just to grab a few plumb tracks from an album (which usually are the radio played hits or have been featured on YouTube) and miss some of the gems that are more obscure on the album.)

1. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean – It doesn’t seem to have made too many other lists, but it struck me early on in the year as a remarkable, diverse album with a lot of high quality but catchy tunes.
2. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues – This second album by Fleet Foxes comes in a notch below the first album.  The songs are more complex, but don’t stick in your mind as strongly as the previous set.  Still, it is wonderfully produced and some of the lyrics are masterful.
3. Adele – 21 – Not my usual fare, but you can’t deny the production quality, the incredible voice and fantastic song writing.  This lady has it all.
4. The Decemberists – The King is Dead – Much more down to Earth than the previous two opus rock operas, but the simplicity allows these guys to put together some great songs.
5. Bon Iver – This self titled second album is very different from the first.  Justin Vernon has chosen to stretch his talent in  some surprising directions.
6. Superheavy – This supergroup which includes Mick Jagger, Joss Stone and Damien Marley, has a reggae heart but hurls itself in multiple directions.  An original and fun trip.
7. Dawes – Nothing is Wrong – A mellow, soft rock album which is reminiscent of early Eagles or Poco.  This album contains my choice for best song of the year, which is “A Little Bit Of Everything”.
8. Destroyer – Kaput – A bit 1980s meets modern groove, but a gourmet, easy-going album to listen to.  Ear candy.
9. Wilco – The Whole Love – These guys have really chosen to mix it up on the latest album, combining punk, alt-country and pop.  It has the raw energy that has been missing from the past few releases.
10. Florence & The Machine – Ceremonials – The dynamic amazing voice remains and the quality of the songs takes an upturn.  Flo can’t help but benefit from the success of Adele and Amy Whinehouse, both of whom she shares a lot with.
11. Black Dub – A change of direction for producer/musician Daniel Lanois, having a soulful, drifting style sung by Trixie Whitley.
12. The Head and The Heart – The album was originally released in 2010, but then remaster and re-released in 2011 after Sub Pop saw the potential and put a bit more effort into it.  Contains two of the best song of the year, “down In The Valley” and “Sounds Like Hallelujah”.

Two albums that were technically released in 2010 but didn’t get on the radar (at least for me) until 2011 are

Bruno Mars – Doo-Waps & Hooligans – Which is just an avazing album.  Again, it’s not my usual fare, but it is so well written, produced and performed that it stands out like a happy bring light.

John Grant – Queen Of Denmark – With simple, stripped down songs of substantive lyrical strength.  An amazing double album of social, political and personal commentary.

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