I will preface my Top 10 list by saying you won’t find Bon Iver’s self-titled on it. I have nothing against you, Justin, and I do love your album. It’s just you were #11 and Rob told me I could only write about 10. No hard feelings? And without further ado, my Top 10 albums of 2011.
10. Craft Spells – Idle Labor
I feel like this album doesn’t get enough credit for how great it is. New wavish, 1980’s synth electro-dream pop in 2011? And yes, I did in fact have a seizure after I wrote that sentence. In any case, this album features not only my personal #10 song of the year in “After the Moment,” but also such gems as “Scandinavian Crush,” “Party Talk,” and the “Your Tomb.” Like a fine wine, this album gets better with age and every spin I give it.
9. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
When I first heard “How Can U Luv Me” I thought it was an interesting song and a band worth checking out more. Hard to believe the band’s initial hit may be the least interesting song (and it’s still a good song) on this fantastic self-titled debut. Armed with a guitar climbing all over the place and some scratchy mic’d vocals, their sound is one you won’t forget. Be sure to listen to “FFunny FFrends” and “Little Blue House.”
8. Hooray For Earth – True Loves
I first encountered this band listening to SiriusXM U in my car when True Loves came on. The sound of the drum sticks banging the edge and setting the beat….some echoed ahhs and then, the synth drops. My reaction, “What the fuck is this? I like this. No, I really like this.” And even better, the band wasn’t a one hit wonder. “No Love,” “Bring Us Closer Together,” “Last Minute,” and my personal favorite, “Same,” all deserve your attention.
7. The Drums – Portamento
I enjoyed The Drums first self-titled album, but I absolutely love this record. It still features a heavy dose of bass and sing-along choruses, but this one seems to venture down a darker path than its predecessor. The focus of the record is on relationships and eventually, their death. “What You Were,” my favorite track, describes the impending doom of going into a relationship you know isn’t going to work out, but yet, you try anyway. “But still I cave in. I gave you my heart. I cave in. I knew I would die.” Let the The Drums get you through the ones that really hurt.
6. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
How far has this band come? It combines that loveable beach pop from their first record Album (“Honey Bunny”) with a dash of that fuller sound on Broken Dreams Club (“Alex”), ultimately culminating with a true anthem moment on this record (“Vomit”). Taken as a whole, the band dives even deeper into the human spirit than before, resulting in a true masterpiece of sound.
5. Destroyer – Kaputt
A record in the truest sense, this requires being listened to from start to finish to truly appreciate the beauty and entirety of the emotion put into it. Dan Bejar weaves you rich, aesthetically pleasing tracks that will transfer your mind away from this world to whatever you choose to imagine. Perhaps no better song represents this full-bodied work than the 8 minute long “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker” in which you’ll begin with a gorgeous flute solo before having a blaring trumpet help you cross the finish line.
4. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
Thankfully for us all, Trevor Powers decided to leave his bedroom and share his music with the world. My favorite aspect of this album is how his voice is recorded in lo-fi. At times it sounds so soft and fragile…almost broken, before breaking out in renewed strength and vigor. “Cannons,” “Afternoon, Seventeen,” “Daydream”…actually, just listen to the whole thing.
3. Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!
My favorite electronic album of the year, Holy Ghost! brings the fun on their self-titled debut. In fact, as I’m looking at my list, I seem to have enjoyed a lot of the 1980’s pop revival bands that put out records. Well, I was born in the 80’s , so I guess it fits. In either case, “Wait and See, Hold My Breath,” and my #2 song of the year, “Jam For Jerry,” highlight a fantastic debut from this NYC duo that will get your feet moving.
2. The Antlers – Burst Apart
The Antlers make you ponder the big things in life. While Hospice was a runaway emotional train wreck, this album is about musical experimentation while focusing on loneliness and death. But that truthfulness and darkness is what truly makes this band great and this album so beautiful, for they allow the listener to completely dive in and explore parts of ourselves that we don’t on a regular basis. How deep you will go, well, that’s up to you. The Antlers just provide the sound to get you there. Focus on “Parentheses, No Widows,” and personal Top 10er “I Don’t Want Love.”
1. Real Estate – Days
On first glace, this album appears to be about the 21st century American experience of the Suburbs. But at its core, this album is less about the suburbs and more about taking a nostalgic look back at beauty and simplicity in growing up there.
If it takes all summer long
Just to write one simple song
There’s too much to focus on
Clearly that is something wrong
At 26, the sentiment that “life passes you by” is beginning to hit home. My focus has gradually shifted over the years from what I was going to do all summer off school to now how I want to invest my money, how much life insurance I need, and all those other adult questions I used to avoid. Somewhere along the way, I grew up. But while we all can look fondly at the past and with anticipation for the future, don’t ever forget to live in present.
Written by Greg Dahman
Love them or hate them, people are always talking about them. I have yet to notice anyone else make a 2k11 list covering covers. My selections for the best songs from previous recordings are as follows:
13 Real Estate – Barely Legal (The Strokes)
I could not be any more pumped up for the upcoming Strokes cover album Stroked. If the rest of the disc stacks up to the first single from Real Estate, we are all in for a real treat. Congrats, Real Estate, on making this song your own–no small task.
12 The Black Keys – Dearest (Buddy Holly)
The Black Keys work wonders on their take on this Buddy Holly classic. Short, sweet and fantastic. The Keys at their simplest, which is always a good thing.
11 Morning Benders – Lovefool (The Cardigans)
Hand claps, acoustic guitar and three part harmonies. Rarely do I say that a cover surpasses the original, but this sure as hell comes close. A helluva rendition of the classic guilty pleasure from Swedish rockers The Cardigans.
10 Friendly Fires – I’m Good, I’m Gone (Lykkie Li)
What better way to add buzz to their latest release, Pala, than to put out of cover of a song that people can’t hate. These guys have a formula and it is continuing to work.
9 She & Him – Oh Boy (Buddy Holly)
When I heard that a tribute album to Buddy Holly was going to be dropped this year I thought “Oh Boy”! Unsure of what to expect I found exactly what I was looking for with this track.
8 Fitz and the Tantrums – Arthur’s Theme (Christopher Cross)
This is a silly cover from a silly movie by a band getting a lot of buzz this year. I love it.
7 Hooray for Earth – Lewis Takes Action (Owen Pallet Cover)
This band has caused me to take a step back ever since I started listening to them. No Love, True Loves, and Sails make their full-length debut stand strong. This cover makes me think they are going to be around a while.
6 Bat for Lashes – Strangelove (Depeche Mode)
Natasha Khan continues to be the mark for indie innovation. This pairing just makes sense to me.
5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Higher Love (Steve Winwood)
After Dodge posted the video of them covering this at the White Cabaret in Indianapolis I was extremely jealous for being out of town. If this does not win you over, I am not quite sure what will. Their cover of The Beach Boys “God Only Knows” deserves to be on this list as well.
4 James Blake – A Case of You (Joni Mitchell)
James Blake and the Dub-step movement has been one of the hottest topics of 2k11. This song makes me believe there is some legitimacy to it.
3 Mr. Little Jeans – Suburbs (Arcade Fire)
Sometimes groups get popular after they have maxed out on buzz via a cover (i.e. First Aid Kit – Tiger Mountain Peasant Song). I thought it would be impossible to cover anything off this album. I was wrong.
2 Bon Iver – I Can Make You Love Me / Nick of Time (Bonnie Raitt)
Justin Vernon’s release this year deserves to be album of the year, win a Grammy, and be talked about for the rest of eternity. Opting to play this to national audiences instead of a track on his latest release tells you how good he thinks this is and I would have to agree.
1 Dum Dum Girls – There is a Light That Never Goes Out (Smiths)
This beats out Bon Iver because of the happiness it brings to the table. This cover has given me a newfound respect these four Californian garage poppers. This is number one because I do not think of it just as a cover, I consider it one of my favorite songs of the year.
Written by Brett McGrath