|The Best Albums Of 2011
||[Jan. 26th, 2012|07:19 pm]
Hello people. Once again it's time for me to infuriate you. Although, I really just make this list for myself so I really don't care if I infuriate you. This year, despite what many critics have said, was an exceptionally good year for music. I half considered increasing the size of my list to 50 to incorporate more of what I wanted to, but lethargy trumped my desire to force more of my opinions down your throats. I will shortly get to what I considered to be the quintessence of greatness in music for the year 2011, but first a disclaimer. The opinions expressed herein can not be held against the writer, no matter how vehemently you disagree with him nor how much said writer pokes fun at you or your tastes. I have been told I'm pretentious by more than a few people, particularly when it comes to music, so this shouldn't be a surprise. I mean no offense, I am merely expressing my opinion, which, I'm told, is what I'm supposed to respect on the part of others. Well I do respect it, I ask you to respect mine. This does not mean I still don't think that Britney Spears, Great Big Sea, or some other analogous "artist" makes what could charitably be described as the excrement of an elephant falling on your face whilst having your skin massaged by cheese-graters, or that I won't express my distaste, just that I still respect your musical opinion. You may not think I do based on how I describe things, but that's your problem. I just happen to disagree with your opinion and refuse to characterize what I see as putrid crap any other way than that. I will rarely put things euphemistically, as I'm sure you know if you know me at all. That said, I now ask you to indulge in my didactic list of the best albums of 2011.
33)Radiohead - King of Limbs
What's that you say? How dare I arbitrarily start a list on a weird number rather than on some nice neat number like 50, 40, 30, etc...? Well, good sir or madam, this is my list, not yours. That was a euphemistic way of saying kiss my hairy, purulent, pale white ass. Now then, onto more substantive issues. This was the only Radiohead album I've ever heard that I didn't like after just a few listens. It took a lot of time to grow on me. These boys haven't had respect for conventional song structure for a while now, but this album takes unconventionality to new extremes. The last half of the album goes into more familiar territory than the first half, which is the half that I really love. Albums very often are top-heavy, but it is exceedingly rare that they are bottom-heavy. This is almost definitely my least favorite Radiohead album, though that may change in the years to come. That said, even a bad Radiohead album is still bounds ahead of most other albums.
Standout Tracks: Everything from "Lotus Flower" onward.
32)Noah And The Whale - Last Night On Earth
Thanks go to Nicole for introducing me to this wonderful little band. Their first album gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. It's smart folk with an endearing heart and wonderful lyrics. Their second effort, Last Night On Earth, sees them returning to what made their first album so awesome, but it seems that they have partially run out of creative juice. Had they ventured into territory that was substantially different this album might have been greater. Instead, they essentially took the same formula they used for their first album, with the awkward addition of synthesizers, and used it again to write more songs. Not to denigrate this album, because it is wonderful, but to do something very similar and not do it as well as the first time is somewhat disappointing. I still highly recommend both of their albums to anybody who enjoys easy listening with a genuine heart. That is exactly what you'll find inside this Whale.
Standout Tracks: "L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.," and "Life Is Life,"
31)Say Hi - Um, Uh Oh
Prize for coolest album title very possibly goes to Say Hi this year. Clever and yet somehow fairly descriptive in its simplicity. That isn't easy to do and for that I bow to them, as I also do for the quality of the album itself. Certainly it isn't even close to as good as their last album, but it still gave me considerable enjoyment.
Standout Tracks: "Posture, Etc.," "Devils," and "Take Ya Dancin'"
30)Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
So many people, so many so ready to bitch at me for liking Coldplay. You might say that they would emasculate me somehow. To that I would reply, there is no masculinity in me to emasculate. I've heard these guys described in an article as "the best of the worst bands." I think that's overly derogatory, though I do think it has some merit. At least they try to go outside of their sound. This album sees them take a fairly large step forward. This album is a bit top-heavy, but it's still fairly solid.
Standout Tracks: "Paradise," "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall," "Princess Of China," and "Charlie Brown."
29)Death Grips - Exmilitary
Truly, it is not often that a rap or hip hop album makes it onto my best albums of the year list. Here, for reasons that will be discussed momentarily, is an exceptional exception. This album gives new meaning to the rap cliche "drop a bomb." Certainly, this is exactly what Death Grips have done. They have dropped what amounts to a thermonuclear weapon on the poor excuses for hip hop and rap that now exist. The vocal style is delivered in a drill sergeant fashion, matched to some of the most interesting beats and sounds I've ever come across. With all the manufactured and unoriginal rap and hip hop out there this is a well needed breath of fresh air. What exactly this is that Death Grips has left us with will take years to digest, but it is without a doubt sure to be proclaimed brilliance. "Fuck where ya from/fuck where ya goin'/it's all about where you're at" he screams in "Lord of the Game." Indeed, Death Grips is in the midst of rap genius far ahead of its time. That, is where Death Grips is currently at thanks to this album, swimming in unsung genius' territory.
Standout Tracks: "Lord Of The Game," "Guillotine," "Takyon (Death Yon)," and "Beware."
28)Feist - Metals
Metals seems to be a very apt name for this album. The coldness, darkness, and war that are connoted by the word adroitly define the feeling of this album. Elegant vocal and instrumental arrangements come together to haunt your ears. It's an album made by someone at war with herself and part of the world around her. Not to say that it doesn't have its lighter moments, because it does, just that I think it shines most in its darker moments. This album has most certainly taken my favorite album by Feist spot. It's eerily awesome. The opening track "The Bad In Each Other," is good enough to warrant a spot on anyone's list. One imagines an old western style duel between a male and female at first, only to be swept away by the sudden, but very natural, musical change when the chorus comes. Thanks Feist.
Standout Tracks: "A Commotion," "The Bad In Each Other," "The Undiscovered First," and "Get It Wrong, Get It Right."
27)Chevelle - Hats Off To The Bull
FINALLY. Another album by Chevelle to enjoy. Their last two albums had a scattered few songs that I really enjoyed but the overall quality of the albums were pretty bad. It might be that my expectations were so low that I loved this album more than I should, but I can't help it. Their first two albums are two of the coolest rock albums of the last decade. He still has one of the most beautiful, interesting, and amazing voices ever. Not to mention the range. From angelic to a perfectly delivered raspy scream. I'm happy that I don't have to write these guys off.
Standout Tracks: "Envy," "Clones," "Ruse," "Primma Donna," and "Face To The Floor."
26)Hey Rosetta - Seeds
At first I wasn't terribly fond of this album and I still think it's vastly inferior to their previous efforts, but it grew on me over time. Particularly after I saw them perform the songs live. I hadn't seen them live until then and did not realize what a great show they put on. For those of you who don't know them, they're from Newfoundland. Not to worry though, they don't sound anything like Great Big Sea. These guys actually make what is called "good" music. "It will come around/but everything is now/I know everything is right now/and the loneliness is a lot/'cause a nothing weighs a tonne/I mean nothing weighs a fucking tonne" croons Tim Baker on the album's last song. I wish I wrote that.
Standout Tracks: "Bandages," "Seeds," "Welcome," and "Yer Fall."
25)City And Colour - Little Hell
Dallas returns. With the recent demise of Alexisonfire, which I mourn with many others, because of Dallas Green's decision to focus on City and Colour (among other things, I'm sure), I and many others are forced to be satisfied with whatever Green happens to put out under his City and Colour guise. Luckily, Dallas has managed to craft an album that is engaging and sees him experimenting a little, which is a good sign for the future. In contrast to his last effort, I felt that this album was more solid throughout. It still does not come close to his first album, Sometimes, but I doubt anything he does in the future will. Much of the album is similar both lyrically and musically to his last effort, but interesting moments do happen, such as the jazz infused "Fragile Birds." "O'Sister" sounds like it could have been a B-side for Sometimes. "Weightless" brings to mind nineties' rock, though people may disagree with me there. Either way, I'm happy that he will continue to make music.
Standout Tracks: "The Grand Optimist," "Fragile Birds," "O'Sister," and "Weightless."
24)Florence + The Machine - Ceremonials
The follow up to her debut LP carried a heavy weight in the form of my very high expectations and the jury is still out on exactly how well she carried the burden. What I can tell you is that this album is most certainly inferior to her previous effort. While it does have its moments of glory, they are too few and far between to even come close to Lungs. When I first heard this album I fell in love with it. I was quickly taken under its spell, listening to it over and over again. However, I noticed that after several listens I was listening almost exclusively to 4 songs. The rest lost their luster a little too quickly. How well an album stands up to repeated listenings and time is a crucial deciding factor for its greatness, at least for me. It summarily failed this test, with the exception of the songs that I will list below. Her first album had more tightly structured pop songs and, I can't believe I'm saying this, her new album should have stuck to that. I give this album such a high placing not because of its overall quality, but mainly because of the stunningly amazing quality of four songs. Had the rest been of the same quality it almost surely would have been in the first, second, or third spot. However, "No Light, No Light" could very possibly be my favorite song of the year. I still think its multiple layers speak to what one can do in the context of a studio album.
Standout Tracks: "No Light, No Light," "Shake It Out," "What The Water Gave To Me," and "Only If For A Night"
23)White Lies - Ritual
As the first track gets going and you sit there bombarded by all the wondrous sounds, you may think to yourself, this is cool! You'd be thinking what I thought. An album that takes myriad sounds and arranges them into what could be described as a musical rainbow. When juxtaposed with the vocal style it just fit so well together I couldn't help but fall in love. The guitar riff from the chorus in the opener "Is Love" is enough to make be bow to these gentlemen. Simplistic, yes. But sometimes the simplistic is better than complexity.
Standout Tracks: "Is Love," "Bigger Than Us," "Holy Ghost," "Bad Love," and "Strangers."
22)Lydia - Paint It Golden
I was extremely happy to learn that Lydia had gotten back together and were making music again since they happen to be one of my favorite bands. Okay, so not really back together as its just two former members, but regardless I was a happy, albeit pale and unhealthy, boy. This album was actually pretty solid too, which more than makes up for their last "album." I do admit, however, that it lacks the same powerful emotional punch that was characteristic of their first two albums. Regardless, it is an enjoyable album, though I would not recommend it universally as I would their first two albums. My major complaint with this album is that it lacks diversity, with each song sounding too similar to the last.
Standout tracks: "Get It Right," "I'll Bite You," and "Birds."
21)Adele - 21
Alright, I'm waiting for the inevitable hatred that this choice will cause. Get it out of your system. Yes, she was drastically overplayed everywhere you went. I don't care. She made a solid album that has only a couple of mediocre songs. You can't deny the beauty and power of her voice. Anybody with a voice like that and chooses the jazz infused music that goes along with it are alright in my books.
Standout Tracks: "Set Fire To The Rain," "Rumour Has It," and "Rolling In The Deep."
20)Fink - Perfect Darkness
Darkness? Yes. Perfect? Almost. The album is essentially an acoustic album, though bass guitar is pervasive and there is sparse percussion. It works beautifully when put to Fin Greenall's voice, which is variously haunting, creepy, sincere, searching, sinister, and tender. This is the first album I have heard by him and I definitely will end up listening to his other albums when I get time. This album is a testament to what can be done with musical simplicity. You don't need all the fancy crap that popular music utilizes. You can make an album that will endure with little frills and gimmicks. Fink has done just that, stumbling with only a couple songs, which lack the force that the rest of the album has.
Standout Tracks: "Fear Is Like Fire," Warm Shadow," "Foot In The Door," and "Perfect Darkness."
19)Halos - Living Like Kings In Confined Space
These gentlemen, if my humble opinion, are sadly underrecognized for their talent. They have crafted an album that is interesting and moving. Dreamy and just all around wonderful. It is an album of mourning and hope. Almost every song has a sincere emotion that you can feel caress your skin. It did not take any time at all to grow on me, which can either be a very good or a very bad sign. Luckily, it has stood the test of time thus far. The emotional power, both lyrically and musically, of "Amalgam" floored me when I first heard it. When I saw the song "Never Never Land" coming up on my first listen I expected some trite crap due to the cliche title. Boy was I surprised by the piano ballad that hit my ears when I did hear it. While "Never Never Land" doesn't offer anythign original by any means, it does what's been done before so many times with wonderful skill. I doubt that many people will agree with me on the quality of this album, but nor do I care. I found out about them from a site that I check called themusicthemessage.com, which, rather unfortunately, is updated irregularly these days. I eagerly await their next release.
Standout Tracks: "Amalgam," "Helium," "Hekla," and "Glass Slippers."
18)The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Belong
How do I begin to describe this album? Should I say it's like The Cure, but with more indie rock? That isn't quite right. Should I say it's indie pop-rock with a touch of emotional glamour? That's a bit more fitting, but still off the mark. How about mixing modern indie-rock with elements of eighties' rock? That's got an element of truth too, but still not quite right. An album that's both fun and yet wheres its heart on its sleeve? Again, that doesn't do it complete justice. Put all those together and you'd have a decent idea of what this album is like. It's short and sweet, with only ten songs to devour, but any more and this album wouldn't feel quite right. Pure At Heart strike the perfect balance between all the descriptions I've mentioned above and the finished product is something that just about anybody could enjoy. All I can tell you is that it's an album worth checking out, no matter your musical preferences.
Standout Tracks: "Belong," "My Terrible Friend," "Heaven's Gonna Happen Now," and "Too Tough."
17)The Boxer Rebellion - The Cold Still
Their last album, , is very possibly one of my favorites of the last 5 to 10 years. Consequently, I had unreasonably high expectations for this album. Sadly, they were supposed to come to Edmonton, but had to cancel due to illness. Damn it all to hell! Anyway. They managed to craft an album that is still throuroughly enjoyable, just not anywhere near the same caliber as their first two albums. That seems to be a recurring theme of this year's list. New albums by artists that I love not living up to their previous material. I suppose that's the musical life when you're, supposedly, a pretentious hipster. The anticlimactic opening track manages to be stunningly incredible despite it not exploding as I thought it would. The slow groove and the subtle building up work so well when put together with the vocals that I couldn't help but fall in love. I did find that, unlike their first two albums, this album did take repeated listenings to truly work its way into my heart. Either way, it's wonderful.
Standout Tracks: "No Harm," "Locked In The Basement," "The Runner," and "Step Out Of The Car."
16)Evaline - Woven Material
After waiting what seemed like several years Evaline finally released their debut album. This came highly anticipated for me since their only EP before this album had four songs that I held as being some of my favorite for years. So with salivation I waited, and waited, and waited.... When the day finally came I wasn't disappointed, well, that's not entirely true. In the time in between the EP and the album they lost their drummer, who I thought added a dimension to the band that was integral to its greatness. Kind of like how Dave Grohl's drumming turned Nirvana from decent to incredible. His absence is certainly noticeable, though his replacement does do a respectable job. The songwriting, for taking so many years, is not quite as good as the songs from their first EP, but still rather enjoyable. On their EP almost every song had multiple musical climaxes, which this album, sadly, mostly lacks.
Standout Tracks: "There There," "Feeding On The Congregations," "Hours," and "Overwhelming Shapes."
15)Thrice - Major/Minor
Little needs to be said about Thrice for most people. They've been around for ages and have rarely faltered when it comes to their music. They consistently try new directions and never lack amazing lyrics or emotional punch in their music. They have been one band that has almost never let me down. Unfortunately, they recently announced that they are going on an indefinite hiatus. Pardon me while I weep. On the bright side, they've left us with a good solid album in case they don't get back together. It starts out with a good heavy track, "Yellow Belly," where vocalist Dustin Kensrue sings "you were built for blessing/but you only make them bleed/but you don't care, you don't care/bruise yourself but shout out/the blackness that you breathe/but you don't care, you don't care." I wish I wrote a lot of the lyrics he has. The man has an incredible gift. Obviously, a great deal of subjectivity is involved when it comes to lyrical preferences, but Dustin has almost never let me down. Always profound and never cliche.
Standout Tracks: "Yellow Belly," "Call It In The Air," "Cataracts," "Words In The Water, and "Listen Through Me."
14)Sainthood Reps- Monoculture
When I found out that the brother of Jesse Lacey, the frontman of Brand New, had his own band I was understandably intrigued. This album does not disappoint. It isn't terribly inventive, but the genre it does, it does well. The sound is fairly reminiscent of Brand New's last effort, Daisy. This, if you have similar tastes to me, is fantastic news. It's aggressive and dark, not to mention lyrically powerful. Jesse isn't the only one in the family with lyrical talent it seems. It's a fairly hard rock album, but when done well that's a good thing, to me at least. I will mention that some people will find this album off-putting because of its dark nature, but I would still reccomend giving it a shot.
Standout Tracks: "Monoculture," "Animal Glue," "Holiday Makers," and "Dingus."
13)Manchester Orchestra - Dig Up The Dead
Truly, these guys are geniuses. I am in shock and awe. This album and their last album are both just a paragon of what music can be. I felt as though I was listening to a friend talk to me after a long absence while listening to this album. It is epic, angry, mournful, thoughtful, fun, uplifting, and a million other words that I won't use. It, like its predecessor, is also an incredibly dynamic album. Each song will take you on a journey vastly different from the last. Within each song you will be surprised at the directions that it goes. Originality in structuring the songs is evident at almost every turn. If I can't predict what's going to happen in a song then I give the band extra points. If they do it for two albums in a row then I bow to them out of gratitude and amazement. I can only hope that their next effort is just as good. My fingers are crossed.
Standout Tracks: "Mighty," "Pensacola," "April Fool," and "Simple Math."
12)Middle Brother - Middle Brother
"Early in the morning, too hungover to go back to sleep." So begins Middle Brother's self-titled LP. That is exactly how this whole LP feels to me, as if the first song is when he first awakes with a terrible hangover and it progresses to having a few buddies over and just jamming, joking, and having a good ol' time. It has elements of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and modern indie rock mixed together to form a potent sonic force. Every time I hear this album I feel as though there should be a summer sunset outside my window, a beer in my hand, empty bottles strewn about my floor, and a permanent smirk on my face. This album is primarily just a lot of fun, which, paradoxically, is why I really like it. My musical proclivities are normally more on the substantive, deep, and profound side of things, but I really couldn't help it with this album. It charmed me.
Standout Tracks: "Middle Brother," "Theater," "Me, Me, Me," "Blue Eyes," and "Daydreaming."
11)Bombay Bicycle Club
From the opening track right up until the closing seconds of this album I was enthralled. How more people don't know of them I don't know. Every second of it is simply entrancing. Dynamic subtlety defines much of the album, with songs growing and branching out into all areas of your brain as they chug along. It'll take you on a ride of emotions. At times you feel as though you should be laying on a beach in the sunshine sipping your alcoholic beverage of choice. Then you'll feel as if you are floating in the clouds. Moments later you'll feel a tinge of happy despair. The music of this album is cogitation inducing and strangely soothing, not to mention terribly catchy. I can not tell you how great this album is, you simply need to hear it yourself and ride the calm waves of awesomeness until you are brought into shore and put down gently onto your bed to go to sleep with thoughts swirling about inside your head. The last song on the album, "Still," reminds me of something Radiohead might have done. This album is just pure awesomeness.
Standout Tracks: "Shuffle," "Still," "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep," "Lights Out, Words Gone," "Bad Timing," "Leave It." Oh, fuck it. Every song is awesome.
10)O'Brother - Garden Window
You know, the first time I sat down to listen to O'Brother's Garden Window my thought process went something like this: "That's a pretty deft use of noise to open the album with. This album is going to be dark and heavy. The second song is really cool, but in a vastly different way. I'm starting to really like this album. This album IS dark and heavy. This guy's lyrics are fucking awesome. I don't think this album can get much better. 'Lay Down' has got a pretty creepy beginning reminiscent of some of Brand New's Daisy." Then at approximately the 1:30 mark of 'Lay Down,' in what I can only describe as a freight train barreling towards you at the speed of sound and then crashing into your brain, came some of the most powerful vocals I have ever heard. It sent chills down my spine. My jaw literally dropped and my eyes went wide. There are far too few moments such as this when listening to music. I immediately relistened to the track and then to the entire album so many times I lost count. I have read reviews for this album that describe it as a "behemoth." There could not be a more apt description of this album. It is shockingly, darkly, and weepingly beautiful.
Standout Tracks: "Lay Down," "Lo," "Easy Talk (Open Your Mouth)," "Poison," and "Cleanse Me."
9)Matthew Good - Lights Of Endangered Species
I said it before in a previous blurb and I'll say it again. Yes, I know Matt Good's music is terribly depressing and sad. I don't care, I still love his music. He's a master songwriter and that hasn't changed. What has changed between this album and the last is that he was diagnosed with having bipolar disorder. Can you really blame the man for writing such depressing music now? That's right, you shut your mouth. This album is painfully beautiful as usual. The epic eight minutes and 20 seconds of "Non Populous" will tug at your heartstrings and then rip them to shreds as the guitars come roaring in. After listening to "Set Me On Fire" you will literally want to set Matt Good on fire because of the depth of emotion that comes bursting forth from every element of the song. You will gladly do anything he says for giving you such great music.
Standout Tracks: "Non Populous," "Shallow's Low," "What If I Can't See The Stars Mildred?" "Set Me On Fire," and "Lights Of Endangered Species."
8)D.R.U.G.S. - Self-Titled
If youère wondering D.R.U.G.S. is acronymic for Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows. For this they get the coolest band name award of the year (If you've read my lists from previous years you may have begun to notice that I arbitrarily hand out awards that are arbitrarily created. So sue me, bitch/es). Now, for those of you that have heard this band many of you will be wondering with utter disgust and disbelief as to how this album got so high on my list. You'd be wondering exactly what I'm wondering. I can't deny that this was one of the most played albums of the year. I'm still not sick of it and I don't know why. I hated the vocalist's previous band with the passion of a thousand burning suns. Yet, for some odd reason, I found this terribly enjoyable. I can't help it. It was catchy, fiercesome, and at all times bursting with emotion. I could relate to a decent amount of lyrics, as trite as they could be now and then. I shamelessly refuse to apologise for where it has ended up on my list. I will get into a bareknuckle boxing match with whomever can't handle my decision, or just some verbal jousting, whichever you prefer.
Standout Tracks: "Graveyard Dancing," "If You Think This Song Is About You, It Probably Is," "Laminated E.T. Animal," "The Only Thing You Talk About," and "Sex Life."
7)Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
How this album did not make it on to any best albums list that I've come across so far, and there have been a lot of them, is beyond me. I adore this band and have for quite some time now, but this album is a little something special. It induces in one the feeling of cogitation and questioning what exactly, confound it all, IS the meaning of life. Words truly will not describe what this album will make you feel, which is fitting since Mogwai is a band that only rarely includes vocals in their songs. However, I will still make an attempt with words. Try, if you can, to remember the first time you experienced a snowfall on a calm, sunny winter day. Now couple that with the feeling of drifting through safely through outer space past near infinite galaxies and cosmic attractions. That may begin to give you a vague idea of what the album is like. The opening track "White Noise" builds with such beautiful subtlety that it alone is enough to warrant a spot so high on the list. It's nice to know that true musicianship is alive and well still.
Standout Tracks: "White Noise," "Death Rays," "San Pedro," "How To Be A Werewolf." Actually, they're all fantastic.
6)Death Cab For Cutie - Codes And Keys
I was fairly anxious to hear Death Cab's new album, since their last effort left a feeling that something ethereal was lacking. After falling off the proverbial wagon with one album, many bands are unable to get back on. Others, luckily, will not only manage to get back on, but also strap some jet engines on to said wagon. Death Cab have done just that, crafting an album that I will probably be able to enjoy for years to come. The opening track, "Home Is A Fire," is a perfect example of why. It has a groove that arrests you after repeated listenings and a sort of anti-chorus. You half expect the song to explode when the chorus comes, but instead it offers something akin to ghostlike sounds that are both mildly haunting and beautiful at the same time.
Standout Tracks: "Doors Unlocked And Open," "Codes And Keys," "Home Is A Fire," "Underneath The Sycamore," and "You Are A Tourist."
5)TV On The Radio - Nine Types Of Light
Based on TV On The Radio's first two albums I simply thought they were a decent band, but nothing terrible special. Actually, I thought they were a tad overrated. Boy, did I underestimate these gentlemen. This album proved me wrong. Funky grooves, psychedelic sounds, and falsetto abound. TV On The Radio have put together an album that is, for lack of a better word, cool on so many levels I can't count. It sounds like this whole album could be a soundtrack for some futuristic, post-apocalyptic Orwellian movie. I am in awe of almost every song on this album. Just the bass on this album alone makes this album worth checking out. When it comes together with everything else you'll really feel like you've been slapped in the face.
Standout Tracks: "No Future Shocks," "Repetition," "Forgotten," "Second Song," "Keep Your Heart," and "You."
4)Grouplove - Never Trust A Happy Song
Miss Lynsey Wong told me about these folks towards the end of the year and I became deeply angry with myself for not finding this sooner. In fact, I became so mad that I seriously contemplated paying the current world heavyweight champion to hit me 43 times as punishment. I then quickly decided that the brain damage that would occur as a consequence would disable me from even knowing what music is anymore, thus, I changed my mind. This album is indie rock at its finest. Elements of pop are utilized adroitly and seamlessly melded with a joyous, carefree rock that is so infectious that you won't be able to stop listening to it, no matter how hard you try. When the album slows down occasionally gems can be found as well. "Slow" and "Cruel And Beautiful World" are both fantastic songs. I implore you to disregard the advice that Grouplove hands out through their album title; trust every single happy song that come together to make up this album. You will be a happier person for it.
Standout Tracks: "Colours," "Itchin' On A Photograph," "Slow," "Lovely Cup," Tongue Tied," and "Cruel And Beautiful World."
3)NEEDTOBREATHE - The Reckoning
What if Mumford and Sons and Kings of Leon had a lovechild? It very well might sound something like this. NEEDTOBREATHE have crafted a record that is beautiful, profound, and yet, dare I say the odious words, radio-friendly. This album is very possibly my most played of the year, which is what I decided to use, in part, as a tiebreaker. The second song on the album, White Fences, is enough to warrant a first place finish for the album. I have not heard such sincere and powerful vocals from a previously unheard of band for a long time. Apparently, while making the album the band completely reworked the songs numerous times until they all felt a burning fire in sonic form. Normally such overthinking tends to lead to mediocrity or disaster. In rare cases it can lead to perfection. Thankfully, and quite obviously by its placement, the latter is the case here. I admit that the album is a bit top-heavy, but the first six songs are more than enough to justify making this album part of your collection. Not to say that the rest of the album is bad, just that it isn't up to the same quality of the first six songs. In the end, I'd have to say that the reason this album made it so high on the list is because of the emotionality of the song White Fences and Reckoning. These two songs are, pardon my language, fucking amazing. Originally I had this album in the number one spot, but upon further reflection I realised that it didn't stand up from start to finish to El Camino or The Big Roar. However, it is still absolutely amazing. In the opening track the vocalist croons "we've got oohs/we've got aahs/we've got everything a man could need." Indeed, this album has just that, everything a man could need.
Standout Tracks: "White Fences," "The Reckoning," "Oohs And Ahhs," "Drive All Night," "A Place Only You Can Go," and "Slumber."
2)The Black Keys - El Camino
If this album and their previous effort, Brothers, were to go at it in a boxing match El Camino would knock out its opponent in the first minute of the first round. This is saying quite a bit as Brothers was either my first or second favorite album by The Black Keys. This is saying even more, given the voluminous discography they have. I read a review for this album saying that it was more polished than its predecessor, which I take issue with. I think this album has much more of a rough sound, though the songwriting itself could possibly be described as polished. Either way, it's a brilliant record that literally has not one skipable song. That in itself is no easy task to accomplish. The Black Keys make it seem effortless, to everybody's benefit.
Standout Tracks: "Little Black Submarines," "Lonely Boy," "Gold On The Ceiling," "Sister," and "Run Right Back."
1)The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar
Hello perfection, my name is Marshall, it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. what started out as an acquaintance ended up turning into what I'm sure will be a lifelong friendship. This album is so good it hurts. For a debut album you can't ask for much better than this. They took some songs off of their first EP, A Balloon Called Moaning, and put them on this album, though they did rework them a bit. Both versions end up being fantastic, just in different ways. For those of you who have an irrational hatred for female vocalists I suggest you stay away from this. For the rest of you who aren't close-minded I say get this album immediately if you haven't already. It's full of arena ready rock. Guitar riffs that crunch and soar, vocals that tear your heart into pieces one moment, only to uplift you in the next. You'll be singing along as you listen to this album over and over and over again. I only have one tiny fault with the whole album and that's that the first song could have shaved off, what I think is, a superfluous minute and a half off of the approximately 8 minutes. Even this is a minor complaint as it's not terrible or anything, just a bit unnecessarily drawn out. Otherwise it's pure perfection. The Big Roar is the apotheosis of what pop-rock should sound like. I love female vocalists, but, possibly due to the skewed ratio of male to female vocalists, they rarely make it to the number one spot. This album's spot is well deserved and I can only hope that their next album maintains the same quality in this one.
Standout Tracks: Really, every song is awesome so I'll just give you a sample of what I happen to be listening to most right now: "A Heavy Abacus," "The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade," "I Don't Want To See You Like This," and "Austere."
Honorable Mentions -
Big Talk - Self-Titled
When I heard that The Killers' drummer made a solo album I laughed, rather heartily at that. However, I should have remembered that Dave Grohl was once the drummer for Nirvana. Drummers can have wide-ranging musical talent and this album is proof of that. It's certainly worth checking out, even if you don't like The Killers. I personally haven't been a fan of them since their first album, particularly because of their specious claims of greatness.
By A Thread - By A Thread
It was truly a surprise and a relief that after an approximately decade long hiatus By A Thread had returned. Their music is similar in mood to their last effort, Last Of The Daydreams, but the songwriting has matured a bit. It's still dark and angsty, but it has grown slightly in complexity.
The Rural Alberta Advantage - Departing
This was a pretty good album, but their first is so amazing that this album seemed to be lacking the sincerity and emotional punch of their first album. It came close, but close isn't good enough.
This is the section where I bitch and moan about how particular artists disappointed me and shat upon my overly high expectations. It is where I vent my frustration about the crap-tastic nightmares of music that, somehow, these people thought were good ideas.
Jack's Mannequin - People And Things
I should excoriate Jack's Mannequin for this album, but I loved his last two albums so much that I can't bring myself to do it. Suffice to say that this album had two or three pretty good songs and the rest just made me yawn.
Mother Mother -Eureka
Okay, I'm being a bit harsh by putting this album here. In all fairness it was actually a decent album, but I suppose it's near impossible to follow up an album like O My Heart. There are a few songs that I've come to enjoy, but I still feel as if the album as a whole lacks a heart. It seems more forced.
Carolina Liar - Wild Blessed Freedom
*Pukes* Yes, this album pissed me off that much. I really loved their debut album, depite its sugar-pop tendencies. This one overloads on the sugar-pop and really is lacking the subtleties and musical dynamism that made the first record so good. It sounds as if any random pop star could have wrote these songs in a few days. Unoriginal and boring. I haven't given up hope yet though.
Twin Atlantic - Free
In all fairness this album was also actually decent. It made its way into this dreaded area because their debut album is one of my favorite albums ever. It was incredible. This, again, like Carolina Liar, went the way of less skillful songwriting and more down the boring, not to mention terribly (most of the time) formulaic, radio friendly route.
Rise Against - Endgame
I will not dignify this album with more than a couple sentences. It's the first Rise Against album I don't care for.
Albums that, should I have heard them earlier, would have been on my list for last year.
Albums that are in what I will call "Purgatory"
Bright Eyes - The People's Key
I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this album. It is definitely vastly different compared to all of Bright Eyes' previous stuff. I like parts of songs, but then feel like other parts of the same song are awkward and strange. It might grow on me, as many albums have, over time, but for now I'm putting it in this new section.
Albums that, had I heard them earlier, probably would have been on my list last year.
The Menzingers - Chamberlain Waits
Holy. Fuck. This album is awesome. That's all I need or want to say. Get it now.
Mansions - Best Of The Bees
This album was nothing but B-sides and yet it is probably his finest work. Incredible album.
The Dead Weather - Sea Of Cowards
That's all for this year. A great year for music sadly ends, but another one hopefully begins. As always, if there is an album not on here that you think I may not have heard, please, do let me know. I am a music addict. I am always looking for new music. Cheers.
P.S. I just realized I put Adele's album, 21, in the twenty-first spot. This was not purposeful, slightly odd that it ended up that way, but not purposeful.