Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Best Albums of 2011

Every December, like many people, I tend to reflect back on the year that just ended in hopes I can remember the lessons that I learned. I'm 34 now but it's amazing how similar my interests are from say, when I was 21.

You would think I would spend time listing my favorite sports moments of the year for a blog post about 2011 but I talk sports all year long (I'll probably do that list later though lol). The list I enjoy making the most is my favorite 10 albums of the year. I spend way too much time and money on music but I simply love it. It's my escape. My muse in a lot of ways.

This was an awesome year musicically for me because I returned home to Boston, the city that started my love of the medium in the first place. WFNX, the Boston radio station, will always be special to me and artists that it exposed me to still are played on my iPod. That internship actually gave me my career because I learned I wanted work in sports and play around in music. It's worked out pretty well for me.  

In 2011, I saw bands like The Head and The Heart, Taylor Swift, The DropKick Murphys (at Fenway as well as 2 other times) Ani DiFranco, The Indigo Girls, Florence and The Machine, Laura Marling, Two Door Cinema Club and other great acts around the country. Live music will always be a part of my life and learning about new bands is probably my favorite hobby.

This was the year of "Americana" for me. Mumford and Sons (see link below) was my favorite album in 2010 and that just sent me down a path of musical discovery that was truly wonderful. So many amazing acts in that genre right now like Old Crow Medicine Show and the Avett Brothers, both whom did not put out an album in 2011, so they aren't below.

While I don't review music for a living and don't listen to everything that is out there ... here are my favorite albums for 2011. For reference - here is my 2010 list

10. Ellie Goulding: Lights 

Let me be honest right off the bat....Ellie can't sing live. Her performances I saw in support of this album were not good. HOWEVER, this is not about that. This is about recorded albums and this album is just really fun brit-pop. The title track Lights is one of my favorite songs of the year and Starry Eyed was a huge hit in clubs with its multiple remixed versions (like the one above). 

9. Florence and the Machine: Ceremonials 

The sophomore album from the talented singer was highly anticipated by me and it did not disappoint one bit.  Florence was on my list of Top 5 bucket concerts and I'm happy to say I got to see her in December in Kansas City. The album is big - really big and tough to recreate live but Florence's voice is glorious. I'm not going to bother listing my favorite tracks because there are too many but if you liked her first album, you will love Florence's second. 

8. Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keyes 

In May, the seventh studio album was released by the alternative rock idols. I have been a fan of Death Cab since the early 2000's and they continue to produce amazing, mind-melting albums. They capture so many wonderful emotions in their songs and the sounds they continue to come up with so unique. For anyone with an appreciation for something that sounds different than your normal rock songs, this album is for you. 

7. Laura Marling: A Creature I Don't Know

The (now) 21-year old brit singer/songwriter continues to show signs that she will be a tremendous force in the music industry for years to come. Her latest album puts her once again on my list of favorite albums of the year. Just like last year, her guitar playing and lyrics are something you MUST hear if you love folk music. I got to see her in Boston in late October with only around 500 people in the club. It was an awesome experience and I can't wait to see her again soon. 

6. The Dropkick Murphys: Going Out In Style 

Boston's punk-rock boys dropped their best album to date in my opinion in 2011. From start to finish, the record is extremely strong. Influences of folk, punk, ska, and rock are heard throughout the album and I got the chance to see the band 3 times in 2011 in support of the release. They have become one of the best live acts touring in the country and a band you should not miss if they come to your town. 

5. Bon Iver: Bon Iver  

Late in 2011, I finally came around to buying a full album from the Midwest folk group, fronted by the supremely talented Justin Vernon. I had been hearing amazing things about the band for years but never got around to buying an album of theirs. Shame on me because the self-titled record is phenomental. It's haunting, loving, and scary all at the same time. It might be the best driving album I've ever heard. Check it out - I'm serious. This band's second album is crazy good.  

4. Jay-Z and Kayne West: Watch the Throne 

This wasn't a great year for hip-hop or rap music in my opinion. It was the year of Americana, which you will see coming up but this album matches two of the best ever together. Genius on so many levels. Great beats, rhymes, and lyrics. I'll always like these two solo, so when you put them together, it's awesome. 

3. The Civil Wars: Barton Hallow 

I'm not ashamed to say that I learned about this group from twitter ... Taylor Swift's twitter account to be exact. The young country singer said that Poison and Wine was her favorite duet maybe ever, so I had I hear it for myself. If you can listen to the above song without being moved, you have no heart. It's simple as that for me. It's the most emotional song of the year. Spectacular and gut-wrenching.  

2B.  Alison Krauss and Union Station: Paper Airplanes 

What can I say about Alison that hasn't already been written? She is a legend, an icon. I'm not going to try to say anything that will make me sound stupid but I finally saw her live in 2011. Her music is something that I will always treasure for the rest of my life. Her latest album is as strong from start to finish as anything she has produced. If you don't have this album, you have to own it. Again, "Americana" is the strength of 2011. 

2A. The Head and The Heart: The Head and The Heart 

"Down in the Valley with Whiskey Rivers, These are the places you will find me hiding" ... what an awesome lyric and awesome song. My favorite of 2011. "Americana" music for me really started with Alison and then moved into Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling. However, it exploded for me 2011 when I found this band. It led me to the Avett Brothers and other wonderful artists in the genre. I saw The Head and The Heart in Boston this fall and they were UNREAL. This band is only just beginning.

(Yes, there was a tie. I couldn't decide lol)

1. Adele: 21 

I will admit that Adele's first album, 19, was not one that I fell in love with. I liked it but my reaction was nothing compared to what I felt after listening to 21 for the first time. From start to finish, it's the strongest, most timeless album of the year. This album I believe will be in the running for album of the decade and we are only 2 years in. It's that good. 

Thanks for reading this and feel free to email or post your thoughts in the comment section. I'm always looking for new bands! Happy listening in 2012!  (PS: Here is my favorite rap song of 2011 from an album I don't own :) Drake - I'm On One  love the chorus!) 

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