Saturday, February 4, 2012

Top 10 Albums of 2011

Music: DG Editor Tony Nunes continues a look back at 2011's best, with the top 10 Albums of last year

Better late than never. In a week devoted to wrapping up our delayed and extensive 2011 year-end best of series I take a look back at the 10 best albums of 2011. Strong voices, fresh faces and timeless treasures make up this list of incredible works that constructed a year filled with unique and amazing music. 

From the indie and folk scenes, to the glitz of Hip Hop and Rock Hall legends, I present my picks for 2011's best records.

10) Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

Fleet Foxes take us for a ride through the mountains of the Pacific Northwest on a Neil Young inspired tour of alternative folk Americana. The title track, 'Helplessness Blues' is the album's best for its epic harmonizing alone.

9) Deer Tick - Divine Providence

The fourth album from this Rhode Island five piece, Divine Providence is balanced perfectly by folk punk party anthems like the aggressive shenanigan driven 'The Bump,' and darkly written tracks like 'Clownin Around' which answer for the rebellion.

 8) Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What

Clapping guitar, Afropop riffs and an energy only Simon can deliver lights up every song on So Beautiful. 'Rewrite' is the key track of the record, with Simon's whistling and guitar overshadowed only by his strengths as a lyricist.

7) James Blake - (self titled) 

Minimal and more soulful than most dub-step or electronic musicians, Blake blends jazzy piano with low-key vocals that bring hard emotion to richly textured songs like 'The Wilhelm Scream.'

6) Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, ULTRA

Odd Future member Ocean is hands down the most commercial and talented of the group. Sampling everything from Coldplay to Radiohead on Ultra, his dark subtlety truly reigns on 'Novacane,' a standout track highlighted by Ocean's smooth vocal style.

5) Tom Waits - Bad As Me

Waits doesn’t limit himself into one niche of music.  His seeds are planted nowhere, and his variation on style validates this point track by track on Bad As Me.  Read my review for more.

4) Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Mirror Traffic

Pavement front-man Malkmus duets his poppy vocals with layered guitar solos of 90's slacker glory. Standouts like the albums 'No One Is (As I Are Be)' make you celebrate the refreshment of Malkmus' style then long for more California alt-pop to brighten our days.

3) Bon Iver - (self titled)

2011's most beautiful album, an organic collection of music that builds on the intimate resonance of Iver's voice. The acoustic strengths of tracks like 'Holocene' are perfectly matched by the slow momentum of Iver's song construction.

2) Jay-Z and Kanye West - Watch the Throne

West had 2010's best album with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and now he and Hip Hop's greatest lyricist offer up 2011's best Hip Hop. The Album features everyone from Beyonce to Frank Ocean on intricately produced, brilliantly sampled tracks like 'Niggas in Paris,' which elevate the game to new heights as only Jay and Yeezy can. 

1) Tune Yards - w h o k i l l

The best of the year, w h o k i l l is a punch-up experiment in layered textures of afropop, indie rock, and soul which give even the greatest and most unique voices in music something to contend with. Read my review for more on this great album, my pick for 2011's best.

Honorable Mention; Billboard Artist of the Year Adele's 21, The Decemberists folk ballad driven The King is Dead, Electro-80's surprises on the Drive soundtrack and Mali's Boubacar Traore's school of African music on Mali Denhou.


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