With 2011 done and dusted, here’s a quick round-up of my favourite albums of the year. It’s very long overdue, but my mom says better late than never.
#10 Wilco - The Whole Love
This album really surprised me with how left-field it sounded, yet all the tracks were entirely listenable and every bit enjoyable. I can’t say I’m a Wilco fan, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. #10 was a fight between this and El Camino, which was very good, but I loved how The Whole Love felt fresh.
Favourite tracks: Art of Almost, Dawned On Me
#9 Washed Out - Within and Without
What I most appreciate about Washed Out is that there’s a new age quality to his music; atmospheric and reviving, almost like a Gregorian chant. But it feels very modern and very, well, chill. Like lounging at Cafe Del Mar with an ice cold glass of hipster.
Favourite track: Amor Fati
#8 Porcelain Raft - Gone Blind EP
Okay, so this is an EP, not a full-length. It’s a small cheat! Porcelain Raft’s music is danceable, fresh and undeniably cool. One of the several one-man-bands on this list, it is incredible the keys and switches that Mauro Remiddi can wield to make us weak in our knees. The LP is due out in 2012, and we’re sure it won’t disappoint.
Favourite track: Tip of Your Tongue
#7 Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Radiohead might arguably be the best thing to happen to music since The Beatles. I was watching a BBC documentary about REM, and how they achieved their success without ever compromising on their sound. Radiohead are sort of the present day version, no? Constantly evolving and always staying ahead of the fray, Thom and gang have mastered the music biz, and the art of the body-twitch dance while at it.
Favourite tracks: Separator, Codex
#6 Wu Lyf - Go Tell Fire To The Mountains
Wu Lyf can very simply be described as mysterious, powerful and enigmatic. They have a distinctly unique sound that only they can pull off. Frontman Ellery Roberts doesn’t sing, he doesn’t shout. He proclaims. That blissful combination of poppy Real Estate-esque guitar riffs with those protest rally vocals make this young band one of the most exciting musical acts of the year.
#5 Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Girls’ sophomore LP offers up more of what the band does best - timeless love songs that flow from the depths of all our hearts. Close your eyes, sway from side to side, let the head do its banging and the music float into your ears and tickle your little heartstrings. This album will probably inspire more teenage serenades than James Brown at an open mic night. It only leaves one small unanswered bit: why doesn’t Christopher Owens wear his hair asymmetrical anymore?
Favourite tracks: Honey Bunny, Magic, Vomit
#4 Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes wow again with impeccable harmonies and inspired instrumentation. Helplessness Blues displays incredible growth for the Seattle band; keeping to their distinctiveness and giving fans what they expect, yet evolving the music into a fuller, lusher sound that is still undoubtedly magical.
Favourite tracks: Grown Ocean, Battery Kinzie
#3 Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Justin Vernon and gang made the most beautiful, most compelling and most sophisticated album of the year. Magnificent lyric and enchanting sounds draw landscapes and evoke feelings of sadness and hope that even the most dramatic episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition cannot conjure.
Favourite tracks: Holocene, Towers, Perth
#2 The Antlers - Burst Apart
The Antlers are a band that I am very passionate about, and Burst Apart was my most anticipated album of the year - I practically stalked NPR for first listen. There is an earnestness and honesty about The Antlers that comes across in the instrumentation, as well as the vocals. That is incredibly rare and very special. As we’ve learned to expect from the boys, in this LP, the emotion is enveloping and it’s easy to get lost in the swirling symphony of feedback and Peter Silberman’s relentless cooing.
Favourite tracks: Hounds, No Widows, Corsicana
#1 Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation
This album, this band, just blew me away. Every track on here sticks in your head. They are triumphant and pensive, with the most amazing arrangements that build to a glorious finish. Amazing stuff. Trevor Powers, you are genius. I can’t get enough.
Favourite tracks: Montana, The Hunt, July