This is my favorite music from 2011. Keep in mind I listened to a limited number of new albums, so I’m sure there is a lot of great music out there that I just did not hear. If you music experts have some music that you feel I should hear then suggest it to me and I’ll listen.
9. Lupe Fiasco - Lasers
This album gets a mention for one song alone. The album is good, but not Lupe’s best. I like a few tracks, and don’t like a few others, but one song stands out as the best socially influenced hip hop song I’ve ever heard. That song is “Words I Never Said” and I really mean it is the absolute best I’ve heard of what can be classified in the genre of “socially conscious” hip hop. Whether or not that is even a genre recognized or if it’s just made up inside my mind.
8. Watch the Throne
This is socially aware hip hop, with a “luxury rap” twist, and not the other way around. Below the surface Jay Z and Kanye speak about various social issues while mixing in the usual “luxury rap”, but in a more clever way. They are both very clever and smarter with their words than most listeners may think at first. Just listen to “No Church In the Wild” and “Murder to Excellence” for examples.
7. Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys
This album is the first time that I have ever really paid attention to Death Cab. In the years before, I wrote them off as a band that I didn’t really care to hear, but I’m glad I gave them a chance because I love this album. It’s good from beginning to end. Since then I have given some of their earlier work a listen, but I just don’t like it as much, with Ben Gibbard’s stint in/as The Postal Service being the exception.
6. Alkaline Trio - Damnesia
This is a collection of past Alkaline Trio favorites, with an acoustic twist. These were all great songs to begin with and some of these acoustic-ish versions may be the best versions of these songs that I have heard.
5. Atmosphere - The Family Sign
Within the scope of Atmosphere’s many albums and EP’s, this album is one of my least favorite. With that thought, it may seem odd that it’s one of my favorite albums this year. That’s not a negative evaluation, but simply a testament to just how great their library of work is. I don’t think there is a voice and mind in any genre of hip hop that is better than Slug. There are a few tracks on this album I just can’t get into, but there are also gems like “My Key”, “The Last to Say”, and “Something So”.
4. Polar Bear Club - Clash Battle Guilt Pride
It took me a couple of months to really listen to this album because upon the initial listen I didn’t like it much. After more frequent rotation I began to like it more. It’s catchy, it rocks, and more so than any other band that I have heard in a while, these guys just sound like they know what they are doing and they have a fun time making music. Great album and a general fun and enjoyable listen.
3. The Black Keys - El Camino
Just released a little over a month ago, this album has not left my stereo since. It’s the usual blend of classic, alternative, and southern rock with a blues and soul influence. Funky, smooth, and fun to listen to.
2. Manchester Orchestra - Simple Math
Manchester Orchestra’s 2009 album “Mean Everything to Nothing” is possibly the best indie/alternative rock album I’ve listened to, so I expected a lot from their follow up “Simple Math”. They didn’t disappoint, as it is great, albeit a little different from their previous work. The album begins with a quiet and smooth, yet hard hitting emotional opener “Deer”, then charges right into the the hard southern rock sound of “Mighty”. From there the hard alternative sound continues for the bulk of the album, before lowering back down emotionally for the final few songs.
1. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
The most complete and unique piece of music I heard all year. From what I’ve noticed, you either love Bon Iver or find it unbearable to listen to, and I’m still not entirely sure how to properly pronounce “Bon Iver” (I tend to lean towards the pronunciation “bone e vair”). This album is melancholy, morose, and pensive with it’s soft sounds and Justin Vernon’s unique falsetto voice. Despite it’s gloomily beautiful sound I found it gave me a bright feeling when listening to it. It is an album that is enhanced by listening to it completely from start to finish. The songs all blend well and it carries a theme and specific emotion through the whole of it. The transition between the last three songs and the closing song, “Beth/Rest”, specifically, is grand and emotionally moving.