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2011 – The Soundtrack


It seems like everyone does year-end in reviews for music. So why not me, right? I like music. I like counting backwards from 10. The problem with these lists is that when albums come out, they usually are the perfect soundtrack for that season. It doesn’t mean the music is any better or more important than the rest of what happened. So based on my own itunes/spotify plays, here are my favorite albums of 2011.

10. Watch the Throne – Kanye West & Jay Z

I like this album, a lot. But I don’t think it lived up to my unhealthy expectations. That being said, the more you listen to this album, the better it becomes. There is a surprising amount of subtlety, considering well, it involves Kanye. This also felt like an important moment in hip hop because it feels like the end of what we are currently considering rap – but what a way to go… Favorite Track: Otis

9. Explosions in the Sky – Take Care

It seems odd to me to classify this album as one of the years best, but the number of plays does not lie. I get a ton of stuff done while listening to this because it ebbs and flows, motivates and let’s you think. If this was a ‘top 10 albums I work to’ list, this would be in the top 2. Favorite Track: Trembling Hands

8. Foster the People – Torches

This album is probably the one I’ll get critiqued for, but who cares, it’s fun. It came out and was talked about in hushed tones, but then people discovered Pumped Up Kicks. Unfortunately, radio also discovered it and forced that song down our throats for the final 5 months of the year, which would be the most egregious thing radio did except for what they did to Adele, and trying to convince me that Rhianna’s album is good (it’s not). Torches is a lot of fun, and Houdini is by far the best track on the record.

7. The Roots – Undun

This might come as a surprise, since it was released so late in the year, but I listen to this album a lot. And here is the real kicker – it might just be my favorite Roots album of all time. I know, right? But then again, I lived in Philly until the tender age of 8, so it’s probably just because the content is so relatable to my life. Favorite Track: Stomp

6. Canon Blue – Rumspringa

 I had never heard anything about Canon Blue until my friend Edwin made me listen. And I kept listening to it. And then listened to it some more. It’s layers and layers of great, fun, unique music. The talent level of Canon Blue is awesome, the musicianship is off the charts, and nothing expresses “hey we moved to Nashville” like this album. Favorite Track: Bows & Arrows (Vegas)

5. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

Sometimes you hear an album and your immediate reaction is, “this is a lot deeper than I think” and “this could be album of the year” off the first listen. I first heard St. Vincent this year while in California and we were staying with 2 people, and they wouldn’t stop talking about St. Vincent, and were aghast at my naivety. So I started listening and really didn’t stop. It   is a complete album. Favorite Track: Cruel

4. Mike Birbiglia – Sleepwalk with Me Live

A comedy album on a music list? Hear me out: This is an amazingly flawless album. Each track is emotional, engaging, and hilarious. I love comedy because of the story telling and this album can not get any better from a story telling perspective. It’s unbelievable at how perfectly it is composed and how each story leads and builds and the humor almost is too much to take in all at once. There is also a book of the same name, and a soon to be movie at Sundance. I listened to this album a gagillion times. Love it. Can’t recommend it enough. Favorite Track: Listen to the whole thing without stopping.

3. Civil Wars – Barton Hollow

I love my wife. She is a lot of fun. She’s beautiful. Talented. Smart. Punny. She is the perfect compliment to me, while always calling me to be better. And this album connects us both. The content of the album is a little dark but the music and the harmonies are flawless. Granted, we got to see them live in a pretty small venue and they were way better in person. There are times at concerts when everyone in attendance is on the same page, and when they started playing Poison and Wine, it felt like everyone held their breath because they didn’t want to ruin such a great moment. This album reminds me of how awesome my wife is, even if the lyrics suggest the complete opposite with relationships.

2. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

I love my job. I love my officemates. I love what we do. And I love that we listened to this album nonstop since it came out. It has dominated our office playlist, even if it feels like it’s winking at us like “guys, the saxophone is still really cool” even though we all know it’s not, despite 2011 musicians doing a valid attempt at bringing it back (I’m looking at you Katy Perry and Bon Iver). The album is fun. The best part of music is that we enjoy it, and while there needs to be a few Poison and Wine songs in our life, we all love music because it’s fun, and this album is the most fun music of 2011,  even if Victoria’s Secret tried to hijack it, it even gave us the Seinfeld-esk bass solo on Claudia Lewis, probably my favorite track other than Midnight City.

1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver.

Bon Iver’s first album gave us all a taste of what was to come, and I feel like this album more than satisfied it, almost like potential was finally reached. I wore this album out when it came out, almost to the point of being annoyed at it and picking at it too much, making the album’s flaws bigger than they really were. When a friend encouraged me to give it another shot a couple months later, I loved the layers, the intention, the perfect progressions of each song. We all know Halocene is unbelievable, and the video is perfect for the song, but Michicant might be the best track on the album.

{The Notables: Florence + the Machine – Ceremonials; Ellie Goulding – Lights; Seryn – This Is Where We Are; The Decembrists – This Is Why We Fight; Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues; Childish Gambino – Camp; Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines; The Antlers – Burst Apart; Pete Homes – Impregnated with Wonder (another great comedy album)}

Thoughts? Any I left out? Disagreements? Either way, I am excited to listen to 2012.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January.2.2012 12:53 pm

    This is a list I can get behind. Although Black Keys – El Camino should be on here somewhere.

    • January.2.2012 12:58 pm

      I really wanted to like El Camino but just couldn’t get into yet. I’ll give it another listen though…

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