These are my picks for the best albums from 2011. To me a great album doesn’t just have a few standout tracks. An exceptional album has terrific songs, top to bottom. Once you hit play on that first track, you don’t want that album to end. Sure, no album is perfect. There may be one or two songs you don’t love as much as the rest. But when you can’t bring yourself to hardly ever skip a song, we have a winner.
These are listed in order as best as I could break them down. The 1st 5 albums clearly stand out above the rest. Depending on my mood, in reality, the order of these could be changed up. I think I have it in a solid order overall.
1. The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient
This is clearly a great album top to bottom. The crazy thing about this one is that unlike most albums, there really aren’t one or two songs that are head and shoulders above the rest. No standout single. Most people would take that as a bad sign. The fact is, every song is equally amazing. This is just great music. They have that classic rock sound, a little Bob Dylan to them. But there is this extra layer on top. This isn’t out there experimental, nothing crazy, just added the right amount. This updated classic sound hit a homerun. Anyone would appreciates good music should be able to hear the greatness here.
2. The Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
This album is easily my most played album from 2011. Ever since the 1st time I heard the Fleet Foxes a few years ago, they have been one of my favorite bands out. The harmonies just can’t be beat. I waited impatiently along time for this album to come out. Robin Pecknold didn’t disappoint. Completely worth the wait. From the opening chord, the album is completely on point. Just beautiful harmonies throughout. I literally could play this album wherever, whenever and I would be happy. Hard to pick any standout here because to me, almost every song is standout. But I do particularly love The Shrine/An Argument, an 8 minute song that is stunning, a classic. I finally got to see them live this year, one off the bucket list, incredible!
3. The Antlers – Burst Apart
Almost a perfect album. Musically these guys kill it. Creative. Great lyrics. Peter Silberman has a crazy voice and he sounds just as good live. He can really hit some notes like most can’t. This album can easily just put you in another place. Two of my favorite songs include Putting The Dog To Sleep – haunting, and Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out.
4. Bon Iver – Bon Iver
What can I say about this album that hasn’t been written? Definitely one of the great albums to come out in years. The arrangements this band has put together is simply astonishing. Everything about this album is beautiful. I really love the song Holocene.
5. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Anthony Gonzalez it a homerun with this album. From the amazing beginning (Intro), to the close (outro), this album brings you on a journey. The standouts include one of the songs of the year, Midnight City, Steve McQueen, and Intro. This was one of the best shows I saw last year. Lots of moving!
6. Wye Oak – Civilian
I love this album for the sound that this two piece band creates. Jenn Wasner has an amazing big voice. Go see them live if you get the chance, for only two people, they can fill up a big room with some incredible sound. Standouts include: The Alter, Holy Holy, and the title track, Civilian.
7. The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low
The once married couple, Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard created what is easily one of the most underrated albums of the year. This is one I haven’t seen on many end of the year lists. Their voices just seem to work together so well. They go back and forth throughout the album. This is that beautifully sad album. And it works so well. Standouts include: Woods and Cover Ears.
8. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
The Civil Wars have won a ton of awards for this album. All deserved. One of the best written albums ever. The whole story of how this group came to be is just so cool once you have heard this one. You would think these two were together, based on the amazing lyrics. How could they not be? It’s even crazier watching play together live, they put everything into their show and it would seem they were actually singing to each other. They both have incredible voices in their own right. Some standouts: I’ve Got This Friend, Poison & Wine, Barton Hollow, and don’t forget the Leonard Cohen Bonus cover – Dance Me to the End of Love.
9. Tune-Yards – WHOKILL
One of the most creative, different albums from the year. Merrill Garbus uses tons of different instruments, loops them together to create songs. Such a cool talent. Standouts: Gangsta, Powa, and Bizness.
10. Real Estate – Days
The perfect album for a nice, sunny day. These guys sound like they should be chilling, riding down the Pacific Coast Highway, not Jersey where they are from. Standouts: It’s Real, Green Aisles
11. Other Lives – Tamer Animals
Another beautiful, well written album that puts you somewhere else. Standouts: For 12, Tamer Animals, Old Statues
12. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
This is one of those albums more people should know. Creative. Standouts: Cannons, Afternoon, 17, The Hunt
13. Cults – Cults
This duo got a lot of buzz before the album came out. This album lived up. Standouts: Abducted, Go Outside, Oh My God
14. Caveman – CoCo Beware
Another album that completely flew under the radar. Incredible harmonies. If you enjoy the Fleet Foxes, you should enjoy these guys. I’m very tempted to move this album up the list, and more than a spot or two. I discovered this album late in the year, from the opening note, I was hooked. Standouts: Great Life, December 28th
15. Toro Y Moi – Underneath The Pine
Such a perfect album. Chill, but at the same time, makes you want to dance. Still Sound is easily one of my top songs from the year, has a little bit of everything, funky, chill, dance, great lyrics. Love it!