Top Albums of 2011 - #50-31
50. Sam Roberts Band – Collider
One of Canada’s true rock-and-rollers put forth yet another strong album to add to his collection. Fans of classic rock have always loved his style, but Roberts adds a modern indie-rock twist to his brand of music. It’s not too far off the track from his earlier works, and it’s definitely enough to keep long-time fans satisfied.
49. Com Truise – Cyanide Sisters
Chillwave or not, Com Truise adds a very unique take to the genre of sweeping synthesizers and creative beat making. He creates very large sounding songs with plenty of depth, but only minimal instrumentation. The streamlined sound may wear off on listeners after repeated listens, but it’s definitely intriguing for a debut.
48. Junior Boys – It’s All True
Hamilton, Ontario’s version of Chromeo knows exactly what to do with their electro-pop sound, and how to tweak it on each album to get results. It’s another funky fresh collection of tracks, with the clean production fans have come to expect. Lead singer Jeremy Greenspan’s flawless vocals and the experience of tour after tour with Caribou makes them also one of the best live acts around.
47. Deerhoof – Deerhoof vs Evil
Deerhoof have a very distinct sound. It’s noisy, slightly electronic, and extremely melodic at times, with a dash of Caribou influence on top. That sound becomes even more defined on their 2011 output “Deerhoof vs Evil.” It’s the perfect name for the record. Just when the album starts getting too light and fluffy, the evil side of Deerhoof sneaks in and snaps it back down to Earth.
46. My Morning Jacket – Circuital
At age 33, lead singer Jim James may very well just be entering his prime. Album number six for the band isn’t just another accomplishment to their great careers so far, it caps off a great year for the band which included a guest spot on the Buddy Holly tribute compilation “Rave On.” The band recorded a show-stealing, pristine version of “True Love Ways.”
45. Atlas Sound – Parallax
Pushing the boundaries is just what Bradford Cox is good at. Whether it’s with his Atlas Sound project or with Deerhunter, he’s always challenging himself to write songs with new styles. Parallax is no exception. Although he purposefully experiments with Parallax, it shares a commonality with the rest of his discography; it’s a definite grower.
44. Vivian Girls – Share the Joy
Sometimes the simplistic route can be the best road to take, and the Vivian Girls take that advice quite literally. There isn’t much variation throughout “Share the Joy” but that works in two different ways. It’s a positive thing because if you’re in the mood for jangly indie pop/punk, it completely hits the spot. Repeated listens to the album will test your patience a bit, though. It still stands as one of the best albums of its’ style in 2011.
43. Man Man – Life Fantastic
Man Man is a harsh, brooding and slightly gloomy sounding band, but they spin everything in such a friendly and acceptable manner. Honus Honus’s lead vocals alone should be enough to catch your attention. He’s one of the most energetic band leaders fronting one of the most energetic bands around. Life Fantastic is just another eccentric episode in the band’s brief, but memorable career thus far.
42. Wilco – The Whole Love
The perennial all-stars of the indie rock world got it done again in 2011. Wilco never seems to let their fans down, ramping up excitement for the release of this record with an online stream on September 3rd on their website. Although it left fans satisfied with a new group of solid songs, there was still a bit more to be desired. It may be their poorest release in a while, but it’s still Wilco – and it’s still great.
41. Yuck – Yuck
The fuzzed-out alternative rock from the 90s you thought disappeared years ago made a huge comeback in 2011. It came in the form of Yuck’s self-titled debut record, released on Fat Cat Records. Riff-upon-riff-upon-riff of pure nostalgia help you power through the 12 tracks on this album. It’s a refreshing look at the past, back when Pavement ruled the indie rock roost. Some may say that those were better times, but Yuck is here to remind us that they can still be relived in a refreshing way.
40. Future Islands - On the Water
The low and grumbly lead vocals of Samuel T. Herring are what immediately draw you into the music of Future Islands. The triumphant instrumentation, slick reverb and emotional song meanings are what keep you coming back. Coming back a few times may be what it takes to really appreciate the style of “On the Water.” It’s an extremely mature album for a band that is only 3 full-length albums deep into their career.
39. Thundercat - The Golden Age of Apocalypse
“The Golden Age of Apocalypse” may have ushered in a new golden age of Jazz-fusion, as Thundercat burst onto the scene in 2011 with his Flying Lotus-produced debut. FlyLo was the perfect man to display Thundercat’s exquisite vocals in the very best way. He also brought Thundercat’s musical vision down to a manageable level. Although the album does get very Jazzy in spots, the production really streamlines the vision. New artists tend to lack a lot of that on their first record, but the Golden Age of Apocalypse makes Thundercat sound like an expert already.
38. Megafaun – Megafaun
Filled with 3-part harmonies and clean folk melodies, don’t pass these guys off as Fleet Foxes clones. Justin Vernon’s former band finally broke through and made a name for themselves with their self-titled 4th album. Heavy “The Band” influence infused with modern day folk-rock makes an exceptionally strong combination, and results in a highly enjoyable record. The 8+ minute “Get Right” breezes by, quite gracefully.
37. Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean
So many bands and artists find a combination that works and stick with it album after album; never even thinking about wavering off the path they have become accustomed to. Iron & Wine has been developing for years, and has since evolved from Sam Beam’s lo-fi and quiet folk-rock project into a boisterous, glitchy and fundamentally unique brand of genreless music. Overthinking may have hindered “Kiss Each Other Clean” at times – going with a simpler approach may have benefited on a number of tracks – but it still stands as one of the most interesting musical projects out there.
36. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
If you’re looking for one of the danciest albums of 2011, this may be the one. “Midnight City” absolutely exploded when it was first released, and blasted M83 into the limelight. The song was in commercials, TV show features as well as played during their appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” did impress critics, but its’ questionable double-album, 22-track length does introduce the listener to a large amount of filler. There are still too many gems to be found to keep this album out of the top 40 of 2011.
35. The Strokes – Angles
It may not be their best release, but the Strokes proved that they still have a little gas left in the tank. After the moderately lacklustre “First Impressions of Earth” the band wasn’t sure about another venture back into the studio, going on an indefinite break. They recorded “Angles” upon getting back together, with the absence of Julian Casablancas’ presence for the sessions. He would then come and record the vocals at a later date. That may be what holds back “Angles” from being impressive, but it is still a thoroughly enjoyable record.
34. Cloud Nothings – Cloud Nothings
While many albums in 2011 decided to take the jazzier approach - going with longer songs and longer albums – Cloud Nothings took the opposite approach. Poppy and short – clocking in at a lean 27.9 minutes – the Dylan Baldi debut project out of Cleveland, Ohio produced some of the most impressive late-90s, pop-punk inspired music of the year. The first generation that can actually be inspired by bands like Blink-182 have hit the scene. Baldi’s youthfulness actually carries most of the tracks, and he will look to build off the success of the self-titled album with a release in early 2012.
33. Death Grips – Exmilitary
Perhaps one of the most frightening releases of the year may also be one of the best underground hip-hop projects of 2011. The term “hip-hop” is used lightly, as Death Grips is a beast completely on its’ own level. The album has quite an ominous start, leading off with a Charles Manson quote. “MC Ride” shouts and spits his wisdom out at an alarming rate and harsh loudness and “Hella” drummer Zach Hill provides most of the percussion. It’s a must-listen to album simply for the fact that it cannot be explained with words. In order to fully understand what “Exmilitary” is all about, you just have to listen. It may turn you off upon first listen, but it’s sure to make an impression.
32. The Decemberists – The King is Dead
The perennial leaders of the "Dad-rock" genre went just a little bit country for "The King is Dead." Always tinkering with their style, this release is just another notch for a band that seems to have an uncanny ability to cater to their fans wishes. It may get heaped on for being their most radio-friendly album to date, but it's also - without a doubt - the best alt-country record of 2011.
31. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Following up his brother Liam’s post-Oasis project “Beady Eye” wasn’t all that difficult. He could have released a half-assed group of incomplete demos from these recording sessions, and they still would have received better critical acclaim. Noel put the argument to rest with this record, that he was the true driving force for Oasis and the more talented Gallagher brother. Not his most complete work, but enough to get the point across.