Tuesday, January 17, 2012

BEST ALBUMS OF 2011 (In my not-so-humble opinion, that is!)

Was “2011” as good as “2010” in terms of music? Well… not quite.

Sure, there were some super-hits such as Adele’s “21” and “Watch the Throne” by Jay-Z and Kanye West. Those made Rolling Stone’s “Best of 2011” list at Numbers 1 & 2 respectively. But they did not make MY list.

And there were popular releases by Foo Fighters… Fleet Foxes… The Decemberists… Wilco… The Black Keys… P.J. Harvey… Florence + The Machine, and the final album from R.E.M. - all of which seem to have landed somewhere in the “Top 20” on just about every “Best of 2011” list I’ve seen. But they did not make MY list.

No… this year it was much tougher to come up with my “Top 10”. Too many albums to choose from… and too many of which just didn’t seem up-to-par. A lot of it just seemed to be the same. Still, somehow I did manage to purchase/download over 110 albums from iTunes during the course of 2011 - and there had to be something in there worth writing about… right?

Right!

So, here are MY picks for the “Top Ten Albums of 2011”… and once again I will not play favorites. I will not be starting with a “No. 10” and working my way down to a “No. 1” choice. The albums are just so different from one another… yet all are amazing in their own way. They are listed in the order in which they were released.

And here they are...

“The King of Limbs” by Radiohead (February 18, 2011)

Is it as good as, say “OK Computer” or “Kid A”? No. But “The King of Limbs” is very much a Radiohead album. Haunting. Almost “sacred” sounding. The more you listen to it, the more you find… and the more it grows on you. Highlights include: “Lotus Flower” and “Codex”


“Wounded Rhymes” by Lykke Li (February 25, 2011)

Bolder than her 2008 debut… “Wounded Rhymes” gives us a more confident Lykke Li. This album still has a bit of that classic-y, vintage sound to it… yet it’s completely current and modern at the same time. Does that make sense? Who cares! Just listen to it! Highlights include: “I Follow Rivers” and “Get Some”


“Holy Ghost!” by Holy Ghost! (April 04, 2011)

Who is going to fill the void left after LCD Soundsystem called it quits in early 2011? Well, it just might be Holy Ghost! - which happens to be on the DFA Records label founded by LCD’s James Murphy. This album is phenomenal… one that you can’t help but move to. If I had to choose one favorite amongst these ten - this just might be it! Highlights include: “Do It Again” and “Wait and See”


“WhoKill” by Tune-Yards (April 15, 2011)

OK… this album is NOT for everyone! Some might describe it simply as “weird”. At times it’s sort of “Björk plays ukelele to an African drum beat”… which just makes it even more wonderful! Merrill Garbus’ voice is powerful… and the music is… well… there’s a reason why this album is making so many “Top 10 of 2011” lists. Just give it a try! Highlights include: “Gangsta” and “Bizness”


“Burst Apart” by The Antlers (May 10, 2011)

This is a simple, yet complex… sad, yet beautiful album. There’s a hint of Radiohead influence here… but there’s also so much more. It’s soulful… emotional… wonderful. Highlights include: “I Don’t Want Love” and “Parentheses”


“Past Life Martyred Saints” by EMA (May 10, 2011)

In my opinion you just have to love an album with a song that opens with the line “Fu@# California… You made me boring”! This album is powerful… confrontational… poetic… and, well… yeah - there’s a heavy Patti Smith influence here! It’s a bright spot in a world of “same-ness”. Highlights include: “California” and “Milkman”


“Destroyed” by Moby (May 17, 2011)

Some loved this album. Some hated it. I think it’s amazing. It’s dream-music. Moby composed and recorded the album while on tour… often recording songs in his hotel room while suffering from insomnia. He described the album as “Broken down melodic electronic music for empty cities at 2 am”. That description is perfect! This is the music in my head when I’m sitting on the windowsill of my room at the Hotel Chelsea, looking out at the city while my wife sleeps and my head races with thoughts. Highlights include: “Be The One” and “Victoria Lucas”


“Il Volo” by Il Volo (May 17, 2011)

Completely different than anything else on the list… Il Volo is the self-titled debut album from the Italian classical pop trio. What makes this album so amazing is the pure talent - especially when you consider that the oldest member of Il Volo is a mere 18 years old! This album took the rest of the world by storm… while the U.S. was obsessed with Rebecca Black’s “Friday”. What does that say about us? Highlights include: “O Sole Mio” and “E Piu’ Ti Penso”


“Born This Way” by Lady GaGa (May 23, 2011)

OK… OK… I know what you’re thinking! I don’t care though! Yes… this album was a mega-hit. Yes… the title song has been played, and played, and played some more. Yes… some of it sounds a bit too influenced by Madonna. Yes… it’s Lady GaGa. All of that being said - I love this album! It’s powerful… and I don’t think there’s another album released in 2011 which has influenced pop-culture more. Say what you want about Lady GaGa… but this album deserves to be in the Top 10. Highlights include: “Born This Way” and “Edge of Glory”


“Strange Mercy” by St. Vincent (September 09, 2011)

Sorry, I know I already used a Björk reference here once… but I have to again: Annie Clark’s voice IS Björk-like at times… especially on the opening track, “Chloe in the Afternoon”. I also hear hints of “Shakespeare’s Sister” here. The similarities end there though. This is very much it’s own album. Personal. Wonderful. Highlights include: “Cruel” and “Cheerleader”


HONORABLE MENTION:

“Into the Woods” by Of Monsters and Men (December 20, 2011)

I’ve heard them referred to as “Iceland’s Mumford and Sons”. I don’t know about that. I can’t stand “Mumford and Sons”… but I’m loving “Of Monsters and Men”! This short EP was released to build up the U.S. audience prior to the groups full-album debut release in 2012. All I can say is I can’t wait to hear more! This EP only has four tracks… so I won’t choose two as “Highlights”. They’re ALL highlights!


WORST ALBUM OF 2011:

“Lulu” by Lou Reed & Metallica (November 01, 2011)

I listen to this album, and all I can say is “Why?” - while shaking my head. I had doubts from the moment I heard of it’s possibility… yet I clung to the hope that somehow this might work. Well… it didn’t. This was not only the worst album of 2011… it just might go down as being one of the worst albums EVER!

BEST METAL ALBUM:

“Beyond Magnetic” by Metallica (December 13, 2011)

I wasn’t impressed by much in the way of Heavy Metal offerings in 2011. I was, however, happy to see the release of this little EP by Metallica late in the year. It’s actually comprised of songs recorded during the “Death Magnetic” sessions… which never made it to that 2008 album. So it’s not exactly “new”. Still, it does make up for the atrocity that was/is “Lulu”. Well… maybe not completely… but it does help! Again, this EP only has four tracks… so I won’t choose two as “Highlights”.

BEST POSTHUMOUS RELEASE:

“Lioness: Hidden Treasures” by Amy Winehouse (December 05, 2011)

Some loved Amy Winehouse. Some hated her. Others didn’t quite hate her… but didn’t quite understand why she was such a big deal, either. I was among those who loved her music… thought her to be talented… thought her voice to be powerful and soulful… and thought it sad that she was not able to pull herself together in time. This album is a fitting tribute. Highlights include: “Tears Dry” and “Valerie”

BEST RE-ISSUE:

“Nevermind: Super Deluxe Edition” by Nirvana (Originally released September 24, 1991)

Re-Issued in celebration of the 20th anniversary of it’s release - (Has it REALLY been 20 years!?!) - this album is still as powerful, awesome and relevant now as it was then. The “Super Deluxe Edition” has 70 tracks… (almost five dozen more than the original) - including alternate takes, B-sides, rehearsal takes and some live recordings. Highlights include: Well… THE WHOLE DAMN ALBUM!!!

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