After a huge delay, I finally found time to post my top ten albums of 2011. As I’ve written in previous comments, I’m surprised with how little overlap there is between our lists. Personally, I think my list is superior to y’alls. 🙂 However, I do concede that there are many albums that I never heard (e.g., Wilco, PJ Harvey, Jordie Lane, Kasabian, etc.). So it is entirely possible I simply missed out on some outstanding releases.
Preamble aside, here we go…
10. Band of Horses “Infinite Arms” (2010) — genre: American Indie Rock
Typically beautiful and excellent album by these (now) New Folk Rock veterans. But as you’ll see with the rest of my list, I made a deliberate effort to stay away from what I consider a tired, oversaturated Indie Folk Rock scene.
9. Elbow “Build a Rocket Boys!” (2011) — genre: Emoschlock
No one has better production values than Guy Garvey. Listening to this album over a good set of cans is an absolute sonic pleasure. Still, this album lacked the gravitas of previous efforts. That, however, didn’t stop me from giving it multiple chances to move me. Did it ultimately succeed?
8. Joan As Police Woman “The Deep Field” (2011) — genre: American Indie Rock
Joan Wasser continues her relatively anonymous assault on the music world. Equal to her previous albums, this one was less Torch Song and more R&B. I think what vaulted it over the top for me was finally seeing her deliver the goods live with a proper backup band. That, and being super friendly after the show. 😉
7. Hard-Fi “Killer Sounds” (2011) — genre: Lad Rock
As I’ve written previously, I didn’t think this album was going to last in my rotation for long. I felt they lost their way with one too many trips to the club. But it grew on me fast, to the point where I now think it’s their best album. The lesson here is that the four of us are due for a visit to a disco, yes?
6. Two Door Cinema Club “Tourist History” (2010) — genre: Sneaker Rock
This album rocketed up my rotation after a single listen. They’re like Death Cab for Cutie after getting their drinks spiked with Prozac and a dash of meth. That it didn’t get a mention from you fellas all year shocked me, especially since they’re from Northern Ireland. C’mon Keef and Mork — represent!
5. Anna Calvi “Anna Calvi” (2011) — genre: British Indie Rock
This is my favorite debut of the year. If you try hard enough when listening to this album, you can smell the cigarette smoke coming out of your speakers. Very talented, very sultry, to me she’s the female Jeff Buckley. I look forward to see what she comes up with in the future.
4. The Horrors “Skying” (2011) — genre: Post-Punk Revival
Their previous two releases were great, but disjointed affairs. They seemed like a survey course of music’s underbelly: Shoegazer, Gothic Rock, Punk, Noize Rock, New Wave, Garage Rock. And because no one song blended all those genres, it was hard to figure out where they were headed. But this album was laser-focused. If Echo & The Bunnymen had children, this is the band that they would have spawned.
3. The Vaccines “What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?” (2011) — genre: Post-Punk Revival
Yes, this band sounds derivative. I hear it all: Glasvegas, The Strokes, even some Embrace (especially the voice). But what an interesting mix. I was sold almost immediately (thanks Mork!). I only wish I didn’t pass up the chance to see them this year.
2. Friendly Fires “Pala” (2011) — genre: White Funk
As much as I loved their first, this sophomore effort is superior. This band, unlike The Horrors, doesn’t need three albums to define their sound. They are New Romantics born twenty years too late. A Red Bull-spike cocktail live, they were also the second best concert I attended in 2011.
1. White Lies “Ritual” (2011) — genre: Post-Punk Revival
Dark and anthemic, this won this year’s iTunes play count sweepstakes by a landslide. And I think after listening to it, you’ll agree that this is exactly the style of music you envision me listening to. If Ian Curtis were alive to hear this album, he would probably beam with pride from the legacy he created. Or he’d hang himself. Again.
The albums that missed the cut include:
The Kooks “Junk of the Heart” (2011)
Brendan Perry “Ark” (2011) — best concert I attended last year.
Ian Brown “The World Is Yours (2007)
Other Lives “Tamer Animals” (2011)
Pearl Jam “Ten” (1991)
Time to discuss…