My Favorite Albums of 2011: Better Late Than Never

27 Dec

We all know it’s coming — the almost-dreaded “Best of” lists that flood magazine covers, blogs and other entertainment sites that revolve around music and music culture. While I’m sure a lot of outlets genuinely enjoyed the artists on their lists, I’m finding myself wondering why it was that some of the albums that made it on these lists actually did. Was it popular opinion? Money? Level of Fame? Or perhaps, did some of them actually deserve those spots?

Rather than waste anybody’s time on repeating the names of every band on every other list, I’ll be honest and tell you that these ten albums are the albums that I can’t stop listening to, and why I think you should listen to them as well. Some of them might be on the Top lists of every other outlet, but I doubt they’re in the top ten.

From my favorite bands to bands that I never listened to before this year, this list can also be named “Listen and Fall in Love with 2011” or “Ten Reasons Why 2011 Didn’t Suck for Music!” They were hard to put in

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Girls – Father, Son, Holy Spirit
Like most of us, an eclectic taste in music has spawned an appreciation for things that go beyond the realm of simply liking “rock” or “pop”. And if it weren’t for Girls’ third album, Christopher Owens might have never been able to show the world how Dwight Yoakum could positively influence the surf/chill rock genre. The album is a hit from start to finish, tackling issues of love and life on tracks like “Honey Bunny,” “Vomit” and “Die.” Other tracks, such as “My Ma” and “Forgiveness” help Owens find closure in his tortured past, while the album’s closing track, “Jaime Marie,” is easily one of the year’s most beautiful.

Chad VanGaalen -Diaper Island

Okkervil RiverI Am Very Far

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Mates of StateMountaintops
The mates of Mates got experimental with Mountaintops, earning them a place among the ranks of albums to be praised. The album flirts with sounds across the spectrum, and even pays one hell of an homage to Motown on “Total Serendipity.” However, what the band hasn’t been commended for often enough since the release of this is taking risks with their music and finding success in them. Songs like “Palamino” and “Maracas” flaunt Kori Gardner’s ability to ditch the organs and experiment with sounds found on synths and pianos, while vocal performances from both Gardner and drummer/husband Jason Hammel seem to have improved (although I admittedly love their voices no matter what.) The two slow things down on “Desire” and “Mistakes,” but all ten tracks on the album are unforgettable and catchy in their own right.

La Dispute Wildlife

DodosNo Color

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Bright EyesThe People’s Key
Conor Oberst is known for many things, but his unpredictability might be the one that keeps commentators on the edge of their seats. Previous releases left fans floored at changes in sound, and for the most part, people weren’t even aware that The People’s Key was being written until information on its release were publicized. However, perhaps the lack of pressure laid on Oberst are what allowed him to move forward and find ways to both get back to Bright Eyes, and seek out a new dimension to the music. Taking notes from Cassadaga, the album begins and ends with a deep, almost satanic voice before flowing into “Firewall,” setting a tone for Bright Eyes’ most mystical album to date. Still, songs like “Shell Games” mesh prior releases, while “Jejune Stars” drives the band into new, harder territories. However, the album as a whole feels more like an idea than others bring to mind. Where Oberst once felt like a sheep looking for his flock, songs like “Ladder Song” and “One for You, One for Me” make him seem like he’s tackling a single concept versus using us as his fleet of therapists. If you didn’t like Bright Eyes before, this is definitely recommended.

Peter, Bjorn and John – Gimme Some

Black Keys -El Camino

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Wild Flag Wild Flag
In recent times, a new wave of feminists are erupting into the public’s eye. Whether it’s from faulty politics or not isn’t really clear, but I’ll be damned if any of the ladies of Wild Flag aren’t given due recognition for bursting through the glass ceiling before Sarah Palin. Basically, Wild Flag is a supergroup that pulled members from Sleater Kinney, Helium and The Minders, and they’re reminding women what it’s like to rock the fuck out. Opening track “Romance” is an anthem for dancing around in your panties with a bottle of your favorite beer, while tracks like “Something Came Over Me” and “Glass Tambourine” are like a kiss on a busted lip – it’s punk with a slice of charm. However, the ladies travel from that fast, loud sound on “Boom” to an almost-Americana approach on “Racehorse” with guitar parts that require more than some simple chord progression. Crooning or not, Wild Flag proves that if you want a damn good rock album, sometimes you’ve got to hike up your skirt and bang it out yourself.

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