End of the Year Lists (2011): My 10 Favorite Albums

This is actually my first post about music. I love music. Discovering new artists is something I really really enjoy, but I’m very picky and don’t spend as much time listening to new stuff as I should. That said 6 out of these 10 albums were by artists I didn’t know or hadn’t got around listening to yet. Was 2011 a good year for music? I think so? I definitely feel awkward talking about why I think music is good or not good because it’s not anything I’ve ever studied or fully understand. It’s always a gut feeling. Because of this, all descriptions will be much much shorter than they would be for television or film. I do know nothing this year compared to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West and Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens (Both A+ material). Anyways, here are my 10 favorite album from 2011:

10. Bon Iver by Bon Iver

Bon Iver was nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammys this year. This doesn’t make any sense considering this his second album, and his first album was a critical hit. Bon Iver’s new album is filled with a ton of emotion, but it isn’t as raw and heartbreaking as his first album. I hope he follows in Sufjan’s footsteps and explores his more experimental side because I can only listen to this so much, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a very very good album. I just have to be in a mellow mood to listen to it.

Grade: B

9. Smother by Wild Beasts

Wild Beasts are one of those bands I didn’t really know about before the year began. I heard of them, but never listened to them. So I gave this album a spin and was blown away. Smother opens with the brilliant song, Lion’s Share (above), one of my favorite songs of the year. Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t live up to the incredible opening. That said, the rest of the album is very consistent and I really enjoyed it. I’m really looking forward to whatever Wild Beast does next.

Grade: B

8. Undun by The Roots

Undun just barely came out and I haven’t had much time to digest yet, but I really enjoy it so far. Who knows, this album could easily move up this list as I listen to more. As of right now, I really don’t have anything else to say.

Grade: B

7. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming by M83

Here’s another artist I didn’t know at all before this year, but then I saw the video above (the song immediately became my rington). Needless to say, I had to listen to the new album. It’s a very very good album, and it really is an album. Besides “Midnight City” I have trouble telling songs apart, but as a whole it’s a very wonderful listen. It’s an album that’s great for working out, playing in the background, and careful listening. A pretty awesome combo. I definitely can’t recommend it enough. I have a feeling this one is a huge grower.

Grade: B+

6. The King of Limbs by Radiohead

Radiohead put me in a tough situation here. I love them. I unabashedly love them. They are my favorite band, and the release of their new albums is always an event. I was dying for a new Radiohead album. I loved In Rainbows, and couldn’t stop listening to “The Daily Mail” and “Give Up the Ghost” (new songs Thom had been playing live). They came out of no where and released the thing, but I was disappointed. The King of Limbs was only 8 songs and around 30 minutes. Initially I didn’t really love any of the songs. Everything had become so intellectual. Since then the album has definitely grown on me. I heard the songs live and their wayyy better. The live performances brought out the soul and energy they kind of lost with never ending tinkering in the studio. The King of Limbs is solid, but Radiohead had to come a long and release 4 singles (all great), which included my favorite song of the year, “The Daily Mail” (above). Honestly, if they had released this album with those 4 songs this album would easily be one of my top 3 albums of the year.

Grade: B+

5. Father, Son, Holy Ghost by Girls

(NOTE: I had a lot of trouble ordering albums 5 through 2. They spots could easily change depending on the day). Um… wow? This one really surprised me. It’s one of those albums where the slow songs are much better than the upbeat songs. This album is part Beach Boys (which is okay), part emotional devastation. Mark my words, “Vomit” or “My Ma” with be the song playing over the end credits of a film I’m developing.

Grade: B+/A-

4. Strange Mercy by St. Vincent

I swear I listened to St. Vincent before, but I didn’t like her music. For whatever reason, everything clicked this year. Maybe I need Strange Mercy to get me used to her, but I really like her now. The first half of Strange Mercy is brilliant. I literally love the first 6 songs, but I’m not as big as on the second half of the album. If Annie Clark had been able to maintain that amazing quality through out the entire album it may have been my favorite album of the year. I saw her live this year, and she’s great. Put on an amazing show. I may have a huge crush on her (shhh, don’t tell Samantha).

Grade: A-

3. The Greatest Story Never Told by Saigon

Saigon made this album 5 years ago! His record company decided not to release it because they didn’t believe it had commercial appeal. In reality, they were scared to release it because of what it had to say. It constantly addresses socioeconomic issues. There’s so much anger in this album, but Saigon harnesses it with so much focus it becomes transcendent and poetic. Every song flows perfectly into the next. This is by far the best hip hop album of the year, and probably the most important album I’ve heard in a while.

Grade: A

2. Nine Types of Light by TV on the Radio

TV on the Radio is one of my favorite bands. My expectations for this album were probably just as high as they were for The King of Limbs. As the release date came closer it was revealed the album was full of love songs. I wasn’t sure what to think. I wanted the political, angry TV on the Radio, but then I heard the album. They’re still angry, but they’re also interested in love, and the combination works very well. There’s a lot of emotion in these songs. They kind of stepped away from the incredibly intellectual way they make music and made something simpler, more emotionally raw. Is this my favorite TV on the Radio album? I don’t know. I love them all, but it’s definitely the most emotionally engaging. That said, their older songs are bursting at the seems with emotion when they’re played live. I saw TV on the Radio this year, and it was the best show I’ve ever been to. I love them.

Grade: A

1. Let England Shake by PJ Harvey. 

(Note: Yesterday I had this album ranked 3rd, but I just really listened to it for the first time in a while… What the hell was I thinking!? This album is fucking brilliant. Definitely the best album of the year. )How had I never heard of PJ Harvey!? Let England Shake is an amazing album about the world we live in. It’s incredibly political and beautiful (always an amazing combination). Every time I listen to it I’m shocked how many high quality songs PJ Harvey strings together… Let England Shake is consistently great through out genius through out.

UPDATED GRADE: A/A+ (Original Grade: A-)

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About Sean Temple

Filmmaker, Progressive, Feminist, Emerson MFA Student, Director of HUNT. I use film to critique our society and reveal the struggles real people deal with every day. View all posts by Sean Temple

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