This is the list of my favourite albums released this year. It’s vaguely in order, but it’s always too difficult to enumerate lists like this. Also, some honourable mentions and one disappointing collaboration. I might add to this as I mull over this subject, it was quite difficult to be comprehensive in my decisions.
Cut Copy – Zonoscope
This was my favourite album released this year. A mellifluous amalgamation of pop and electro, this album soars with beautiful melodies and vocals. Cut Copy do not forget their dance roots, managing to incorporate heavy beats and floating summery melodies that simply make me feel like sitting on a beach and staring at calm water.
Tom Vek – Leisure Seizure
Tom Vek created the sort of album no one really notices until its forced down their throats. In other words, I had to listen to it three or four times to understand and adapt to the style; a dance record with heavy rock and punk influences, but it was definitely worth it. A Chore is easily one of my favourite tracks this year.
Male Bonding – Endless Now
Punk rock cleaned up and polished, ready to appeal to the masses. This album was less raw, but no less energetic or entertaining than their previous release. Unfortunately I doubt this album will (or did at all) but I am a sucker for some heavy guitar matched by subtle vocals.
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
The follow up to their break through debut had high expectations and did not disapoint. Not for everyone, it is an obscurist collection of musical styles and expressions, resulting in a subtle, soft, pleasing album. The lyrics are much more obvious, the themes of death and exestensialism from the first album are revisited; but with much less subtelty. This only adds the emotional engagement and depth of the album.
Radiohead – The King of Limbs
I don’t think I would have had the heart to not include this album on a best of list, yet it is still deserving. Certainly one of the Oxford group’s less commercially appealing and critically received, the album still does deliver everything you would expect from Radiohead. It is certainly more self-indulgent to the groups interests, pursuing bizarre rhythms and complex musical structures which are only appreciable with the greatest of concentration. Certainly it is worth the effort.
The Horrors – Skying
It was interesting that this album was a starting point for my exposure to The Horrors. The change from their previous two albums is significant; from their punk rock roots, the English band created an unique synth-heavy, rhythm driven album. The vocals are hidden behind a distorted guitars and incomprehensibly garbled lyrics, but are no less important. Skying is an appropriate name for the record: every moment of inspires a sense of wonder, of staring up at the sky and enjoying life just a little bit too much. I have been reading Brave New World and this album has been the perfect soundtrack for the dystopic idealised future it presents.
James Blake – James Blake
Unfortunately, I have lost my interest and appreciation for this album. Perhaps from overplay or from over-hype, something no longer sits quite right. However, I still thoroughly enjoyed this album and its live performace at Splendour. James Blake managed to combine his beautiful voice and subtle piano with bass heavy influences. I am sure you have heard enough about James Blake so I will leave it there.
Arctic Monkeys – Suck it and See
Again, I could hardly leave my most played band off a list like this. However, this is probably my least favourite album by the Sheffield quartet, Alex Turner and his gang exploring much more mellow, 60’s rock themes. It is an album that requires patience, especially if you begin with the expectations of explosive Arctic Monkeys of the past. The heavier tracks like Brick by Brick and Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair while nonsensical were my initial favourites. However with time; tracks like Love is a Lazerquest have shown me their ludicrous yet entertaining worth. I am very interested to see the contrast between old and new material in their live show.
TV On The Radio – Nine Types of Light
The fourth album from the New York art-rock band was followed quickly by the death of their bassist, but fortunately he was able to finish recording the album. It continues their tradition of fluctuating influences, punk, soul funk and rock resulting in an enigmatic yet undeniably catchy album. A more subdued work than Dear Science there are beautiful vocals of the opening track contrasting with the up-tempo unleashing of craziness of Caffinated Conciousness to finish the album.
CANT – Dreams Come True
I like to think of this album by Grizzly Bear bassist Chris Taylor as the kind of record Sonic Youth would make if they met in 2011 and only had a keyboard and a Macbook available to them. Instead of screeching guitars and clashing chords; screeching synths are present in this subversive and unexpectedly progressive album. Not at all an easy listen, Dreams Come True is a underrated stand out of 2011.
Various Artists – Newermind
While this is a compilation, it was undeniably one of my favourite albums released this year. Curated by SPIN magazine, it includes tracks by artists as diverse as the Meat Puppets, Midnight Juggernauts and Amanda Palmer. The quality of the source material however stands out as these bands all pay tribute to Nirvana’s landmark sophomore album, which marked its 20th anniversary this year. Definitely worth a listen, the less well known bands like Foxy Shazam and Surfer Blood really do justice to classics like Drain You and Territorial Pissings.
The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
The Vaccines are undeniably the hype band of 2011. Maybe. Well definitely if you read NME. Their pop-rock debut What Did You Expect presented a plethora of accessible hooks and relatable post-break up lament. There was a sense of repetition, of genericism to this album; something that may be cured by a bit of time out the spot-light to explore a greater depth of music which The Vaccines certainly showed the potential for.
The Drums – Portamento
The Strokes – Angles
The Rapture – In the Grace of Your Love
tUnE-yArDs – WHOKILL
Tyler, The Creator – Goblin
Surfer Blood – Tarot Classics EP
Wavves – Life Sux EP
Dum Dum Girls – He Gets Me High EP
Metallica and Lou Read – Lulu
Up and Comers
Bleeding Knees Club
Favourite Album I listened to all year: Very close between Zonoscope and The Stone Roses