Sunday, December 11, 2011

2011 The Albums - Top 10

What a year 2011 has been for music. It was a year that guitars and the British conquered again and hip-hop hit an unfortunate slump. It was the year that we lost Amy Winehouse, LCD Soundsystem, White Stripes, REM, Heavy D, Thursday, Rilo Kiley, Grinderman but gained back Stone Roses, Black Sabbath, Black Star and The Rapture. It was the year that both Gallagher's squared off against year other and dubstep hit the mainstream. What a year indeed. Now we look back before we push forward at the 10 best albums of the year.

In Short Form:
10 - M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming!
9 - Radiohead - The King of Limbs
8 - Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
7 - Florence & The Machine - Ceremonials
6 - Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
5 - Adele - 21
4 - James Blake
3 - The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
2 - Portugal. The Man - In the Mountain, In the Cloud
1 - Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See.

In Long Form With Explanations:

10. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
Double albums are always an ambitious product and undertaking and are always hit or miss. Yet, when an artist crafts a double album that hits, the result is material of legend. For Frenchman Anthony Gonzolez aka M83, his latest effort - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming is a concept record about the endless imagination a child has. It is not only a record you can dance to but a record that captures the spirit it is to be a kid when the whole world is your oyster. A simply beautiful and brilliant album that will have you hitting repeat over and over and over again.
Key Tracks: Intro, Midnight City

9. Radiohead - The King of Limbs
The masters of mystery return with their shortest record to date but in typical Radiohead fashion, it finds them getting deeper and deeper into the unknown. Dabbling with the electronic blips and sonic selections they have crafted through the years and mixing it with dubstep and grime, Radiohead rework themselves into a whole new territory. Then again, that is why we love them so much.
Key Tracks: Lotus Flower, Giving up the Ghost

8. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
In the year that saw both Gallagher's pin themselves against each other as if it was a Heavy Weight Boxing match for a title belt, Noel and Liam released albums in the same year after the 2009 break-up of Oasis. While Liam and Beady Eye managed to create a solid debut record of rock and roll hits, Noel showed off his musicianship and crafted some of his best work in years. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds is a record that even if you were not a fan of his work before, you will find yourself falling for it.
Key Tracks: The Death of You and Me, AKA...What a Life!

7. Florence & The Machine - Ceremonials
Defying the sophomore slump, Florence & The Machine returned with a record that is not only far superior than their debut but a record that shows the longevity of Florence Welch. Filled with layers of beautiful sounds and deep lyrics, not to mention Welch's powerful voice, the woman from Wales has gotten our attention and we cannot wait for more.
Key Tracks: Shake it Out, No Light, No Light

7. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
In the age of computers and digital recording, hardly anyone ever dares to go analog anymore. Well, hardly anyone unless you are Foo Fighters. One of the biggest rock bands in the world decided to record in Dave Grohl's garage and strickly to tape to release not only one of the best rock albums of the year but one of the best albums of the band's career. Reuniting with Nirvana's Nevermind producer, Butch Vig, Grohl and the boys flexed their heaviest muscles and went for broke on a record we will be talking about for years to come. Also, getting a hand from former Nirvana bassist, Krist Novoselic and Husker Du front man Bob Mould also doesn't hurt to have in your corner.
Key Tracks: Bridge Burning, Walk

5 - Adele - 21
The years most talked about artist and one of 2011's biggest selling artists, Adele has become the new voice for the broken hearted. Their was no escaping Adele in 2011 and no one seemed to mind, finally a singer that cared less about appearances and more about content and most of all, finally a singer that could actually sing! 21, much like Florence and the Machine's Ceremonials, Adele defy's the tragic sophomore slump and blows her debut out of the water.
Key Tracks: Rolling in the Deep, Turning Tables

4 - James Blake
We named James Blake our "Best New Artist" for a reason, just listen to his self-titled debut and you will understand why. The seductive album that brings forth emotions of heartbreak, loss and yearning for something bigger can only come from a talent that has more to say. His simple, lo-fi and dubstep sound maybe minimal but it packs a severe punch. A sound that is joyously uncomfortable and is that album that will settle you into the end of your night or the album you will toast to with a glass of red.
Key Tracks: The Wilhelm Scream, I Never Learnt to Share

3 - The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
Exactly one year ago this month, we labeled The Vaccines as our "Rising Artist," now they have a top 5 album on our countdown. The reason for all of this is simple, The Vaccines just want to have fun and play good time rock and punk. Taking influences from doo-wop, hardcore, punk, rockabilly and Motown, this London band has had a tremendous year and will only get bigger and better over time. When we said to believe the hype, we meant it, this album is a testament to that.
Key Tracks: If You Wanna, Wetsuit

2. Portugal. The Man - In the Mountain, In the Cloud
There is something truly special about Portugal. The Man and it goes beyond their music, it is their commitment to making themselves better and better each time. The only band to EVER appear on our Top 10 list three years in a row says something. These art rockers are more concerned about pleasing their fans and making great art and could care less about record sales that with this philosophy in mind, they are the band they are and have achieved the success they have. With their major label debut, In the Mountain, In the Cloud released on Atlantic Records this year, the band still managed to make the record they wanted to make and did not compromise anything for the major label, which is why, Atlantic of all places is the perfect home for them, it has always been the philosophy of that label thanks to it's founders. Portugal. The Man are showing why they are one of the most important bands of our time and this album is further proof.
Key Tracks: Head is a Flame (Cool With It), Sleep Forever

1. Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See.
In the months after England's Arctic Monkeys released their much talked about debut, Whatever People Say I Am Is What I Am Not in 2006, they released an EP entitled Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? and heard singer Alex Turner say "In five years time will it be 'Who the fuck are Arctic Monkeys?!" Well Alex, it has been five years time and people know who the fuck you are and are coming out in droves to see you. The band has gone from playing their instruments at 100 miles-per-hour with their first two albums to taking it down a few notches with their interesting and ambitious 2009 release, Humbug to now crafting their best record to date. Suck It and See has been the album this band was born to make, everything they have done before has lead them to create this album and these sounds. A record that shows Turner's brilliant songwriting and the bands craft in proper form. Suck It and See is not only the best album of the bands career it is the best album of the year, summing up 2011 perfectly. Roaring and swelling guitars played by British musicians who have a lot to say and much to make you feel.
Key Tracks: She's Thunderstorms, Suck It and See

So that is it folks, the 2011's 10 Best. See you next year, in the meantime take a look at the other awards we gave out for our annual end of the year music lists: