Top 10 Records of 2011

Welcome to Anthems and Atleticos Top 10 Records of 2011 list, a collection of my favorite records from the year in music.

Honorable Mentions
  • Washed Out- Within and Without
  • The Black Keys- El Camino
  • Adele- 21
  • Holy Ghost!- Holy Ghost!

10. Real Estate- Days


Sun soaked and laid back, Real Estate’s Days is a fantastic reminder that bands don’t always need to resort to extremes to produce great music.  This is an easy record to enjoy, giving you the sense that it was effortlessly made to perfectly accompany those windows-down, sunglasses-on, stress-free moments of summer.  But don’t let the simplicity fool you, Real Estate has it all figured out on their sophomore offering- they’ve distilled a formula that’s as classic as it is refreshing. Listen to "It's Real":

9. Radiohead- King of Limbs

Radiohead is about the closest thing to an automatic qualifier as you’ll ever see on any year end list, mine included.  While King of Limbs isn’t even close to being one of their best albums, Radiohead is still leading a game that most bands don’t event know how to play.  Everything they do moves the needle forward, from how they record and release music to how they package it (KOL could make this list on they way it looks alone).  It’s a small sample size at just over 37 minutes in total length, but that’s plenty of time for Radiohead to remind you that they’re in a league all by themselves. Listen to "Lotus Flower":


Beat-maker/producer Aaron Jerome’s sound may be as difficult to describe as his alias is to pronounce (It’s ‘subtract’, for all you vowel lovers out there). This record can be categorized as anything from post-dubstep to electronic pop, and each guest vocalist gets their own music styling to sing over.  Jerome’s Young Turks label mate Sampha deftly croons on a majority of the tracks, but the standout moment here is easily the mesmerizing lurch of “Wildfire” featuring Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano.  If songs this perfect are what SBTRKT is pushing out on a debut record, it’s easy to see how his sound (however defined) will be a major influence in years to come. Listen to "Wildfire":
SBTRKT - Wildfire 

7. The Antlers- Burst Apart


If Real Estate is my list’s bright, easy listener, Burst Apart is that record’s antithesis.  It’s brooding, emotionally complex, and better enjoyed alone in one’s head rather than on some party playlist. Antlers frontman Pete Silberman wails through compositions that are legitimately heartbreaking and cathartic all at once, showing a gift for song writing that few of his contemporaries possess. He looks inward to deliver songs that are both distressing and stunning, none more powerful than the album opener “I Don’t Want Love.” Listen: 

The Antlers - I Don't Want Love 

6. TV on the Radio- Nine Types of Light


Sometimes it’s tough to distinguish great records from average records made by great bands.  2011 saw releases from some of the biggest veteran names in indie rock, some very good and some pretty pedestrian.  TV on the Radio, for all the critical praise they’ve received and the respect they’ve garnered from fans, is a band that has gotten better and grown more confident with time. Even though Nine Types of Light is their most accessible album to date, it is not complacent and in its own way pushes forward the bold art rock that put these guys on the map.  While they may have streamlined the message, there is no denying the forceful soul that makes TVOTR one of my absolute favorite bands. Listen to "New Cannonball Blues":

TV On The Radio - New Cannonball Blues 

5. Wilco- The Whole Love

Speaking of indie heavyweights, Wilco’s eighth studio album is their best effort in a long time. The Whole Love blends the best parts of the three post-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot records into an album that shows this current lineup finally hitting its full stride.  But, that’s really splitting hairs when it comes to a band led by one of America’s greatest songwriters. Jeff Tweedy’s crew is so accomplished, they can only be compared against themselves- and there’s no such thing as a mediocre Wilco album. Both sonically adventurous and full of beautiful quiet moments, it’s more disjointed (in a good way) than Sky Blue Sky or Wilco (The Album). That’s always been Wilco’s strength though, to deliver incredible songs in unexpected ways. Listen to “I Might”:

Wilco - I Might

4. M83- Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

First things first: most double albums get automatically disqualified in my book.  It’s a very rare case where I feel like the artist couldn’t have trimmed the fat and put out one really solid, single disk.  Then you have a double record like Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming from a guy (Anthony Gonzalez) who built his reputation on same-sounding, shoegaze-y electronica.  Everything points to this being a really difficult album to digest.  Somehow, it all works phenomenally well on this stellar record.  Gonzalez has seriously upped the ante vocally and with his ethereal pop sensibilities.   Of course, it all comes down to great songs and there’s no shortage of outstanding works.  “Midnight City” will rightfully get the lion’s share of attention, but “Steve McQueen”, “OK Pal”, and “Claudia Lewis” are also among the best songs of the year. Listen to “Midnight City”:
M83- Midnight City

3. Tune-Yards- W H O K I L L 

Merrill Garbus’ stunning W H O K I L L is an album full of contradiction- weird, horizon expanding, genre busting contradiction. The Tune-Yards’ leading lady is the chief paradox, being one thing one second and something completely different in the next breath. She can nimbly move from guttural, masculine growls to sweet falsetto in the same line of verse.  It’s a lo-fi, tape loop record that also has big horn section moments.  It’s a record that takes tiny bits of things you find familiar and chops them into a sound that can be as jarring as it is foreign.  The only constants on this album are Garbus’ invigorating vision and unique talent; she’s a pioneering voice uninhibited by any sort of boundary.  Listen to "Bizness":
Tune-Yards - Bizness

2. Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues

“So now I am older/Than my mother and father/When they had their daughter/Now what does that say about me?” sings Robin Pecknold on Helplessness Blues opener “Montezuma”, leading with the type of self-reflective, existential questioning that weaves throughout Fleet Foxes’ gorgeous second album.  After the massive success of their debut and the scrapping of initial sessions for this record, it seemed as if Pecknold’s intense perfectionism might get the best of his songwriting efforts.  Instead, he and his immensely talented bandmates let it all hang out, taking risks and making their pastoral folk a much more personal experience.  They are also a phenomenal live band and my affection for this album got a huge boost from seeing them twice this year.  They’re just an amazing band whose sound resonates with me on every level.  Listen to "Bedouin Dress":
Fleet Foxes - Bedouin Dress

1. Bon Iver- Bon Iver

What makes an album your favorite of the year? For me, it’s simply the record that you connect with the most; it’s the record that instantly changes your mood the second you put it on.  This is an intensely personal album for me.  It’s the soundtrack to long walks and longer drives. Its indirect lyrics and inviting musical textures allow you to create your own meaning and move you to a range of emotions.  Justin Vernon, deserving of the acclaim he will continue to receive for Bon Iver, has crafted something beautifully ambitious out of a soundscape that is as warm as it is bleak.  Bon Iver creates a complete environment around you as you listen; it envelops you and makes you feel. This year, it just made me feel more than any other record.  Listen to "Holocene":

Bon Iver- Holocene

Thanks for reading and listening. I'd love to hear your thoughts and your own personal Top 10 lists.  Leave them in a comment below!

No comments:

Post a Comment