Chalk it up to a gradual cultural apathy that grows with age, a soul-numbing breakup, or the fact that I spent the last six months listening to nothing but Springsteen, but there’s little doubt in my mind that I discovered less new music in 2011 than in recent years. Thankfully, a deluge of heartbreak, euphoria, stress and experimentation spread over the year opened my ears to an increased array of sounds.
Anyway, I’ve put this off long enough– without further ado, my 20 favorite albums of 2011 (and a few others), in 140 characters or less:
Honorable mentions certainly worth a listen:
The Weeknd – House of Balloons
Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song
Blind Pilot – We Are the Tide
The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?
Deer Tick – Divine Providence
Little Dragon – Ritual Union
20. Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong
First of several entries with a common theme: “More-than-decent sophomore discs which hardly hold up to predecessors, yet still trump most.”
19. Washed Out – Within and Without
I’m unapologetic in acknowledging I’m happier in a relationship. This mix makes me loathe my single status a whole lot less, however.
18. Yuck – S/T
Remember the ’90s? This catchy assortment of tight little jams should bring it all back nicely. Sadly, POGs sold separately.
17. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne
Learning Hova named his new daughter ‘Blue Ivy’ in reference to his Blueprint albums + Roman numerals for 4 (IV): good for a bump-up.
16. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Something indefinable kept me from falling madly in love with this album. A beautiful collection of ornate, poignant folk, nonetheless.
15. Cults – S/T
Tooth-achingly sweet with more hooks than a bait shop; I’m shocked it’s still in my constant rotation and not played out months ago.
14. Diego Garcia – Laura
Elefant frontman Garcia takes his act solo as romantic guitar & seductive strings sing his sadness. This Laura chick must’ve fucked up. Bad.
13. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Belong
Doubting POBPAH could do much to improve on their eponymous debut? You’ll find yourself hooked on this slightly poppier second take, too.
12. The Dustbowl Revival – Holy Ghost Station
If you still haven’t heard Dustbowl, let’s hang out. We’ll see ’em in Venice, Echo Park, my buddy’s backyard, any which way the wind blows.
11. Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
Vastly more produced than their first go-around; quick, infectious record dripping in Lennon influence. Look no further than ‘Imagine, Pt 3’
10. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Well behind on M83, who’ll probably never receive adequate praise from me. That being said, this is a staggering double dose of electronica.
9. Bon Iver – S/T
If you’re anything like me (requiring music to fall asleep), this is a must. Prefer For Emma, Forever Ago, but comparably pastoral, serene.
8. Cut Copy – Zonoscope
Matching 2008’s In Ghost Colours seemed impossible, very well may be the case. Opener ‘Need You Now’ maybe CC’s best track to date, though.
7. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Given the way my love affair with San Francisco blossomed in 2011, only fitting I include this impressive follow up from these native sons.
6. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
Ironically, I’d all but left the Decemberists for dead after 2009’s Hazards of Love, convinced they wouldn’t put out a decent record again.
5. Tennis – Cape Dory
Charming, breezy and clocking in at just over 28 minutes, this debut had me longing for Atlantic beaches as it melted my winter into summer.
4. The Black Keys – El Camino
Just because the Keys are now part of the mainstream (UGH!) doesn’t mean their rock’s gotten any less forceful, memorable or downright sexy.
3. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
Cascading synths and echoing vocals lathered over soaring crescendos and lush melodies make for a sublime escape.
2. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far
Seeing Will Sheff & Co. play Tucson’s Rialto in June was drunk, nostalgic bliss; I’m hard pressed to name a finer current singer-songwriter.
1. Beirut – The Rip Tide
Parents, please expose your kids to genuinely gifted musicians like Zach Condon before they’re even old enough to know what a Katy Perry is.
>>DOWNLOAD: My Quite’s 2011 Mixtape
My Quite is in no way qualified to write about, talk about, or dole out advice on music. To be perfectly honest, he’s surprised he’s even permitted by law to wax it on the internet–and EVERYTHING’S legal on the internet! He knows the Bon Iver LP is better than he lets on. He knows Radiohead put out a great record in 2011 called King of Limbs, but he still prefers their more melodic fare, like OK Computer and The Bends and In Rainbows. He doesn’t really mind Adele that much; he just can’t help but imagine most of her songs are about a Meat Lover’s Pizza. These and other reasons are why this list is clearly marked his “favorite” albums, not “the best.” If you haven’t listened to certain selections, he’ll be pleased if you check them out. If you don’t, he really has no way of knowing, unless you go out of your way to tell him personally that you aren’t listening to his recommendations, in which case you’re, well, kind of a dick. He hopes you get some grade-A booty as a direct consequence of the mix he’s included, because God only knows he won’t. My Quite is hereby entitled to 10% of said grade-A booty received, at his discretion.