Saturday, 17 December 2011

Top 50 Albums and EPs of 2011

Another year has come and gone and music artists are releasing more music than ever. Whether 2011 was a good year for music is completely subjective, but I like to think so. I've heard so many new artist that have a unique sound or different twist on any given genre. I've compiled a list of my top 50 favorite albums and EPs of the year.

50. Moonlit Sailor - Colors in Stereo
49. The Venetia Fair - The Pits
48. Destroyer - Kaputt
47. Modeselektor - Monkeytown
46. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
45. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
44. La Dispute - Wildlife
43. Goreshit - Semantic Compositions on Death and Its Meaning
42. Iroha - Iroha
41. Kate Bush - 50 Words for Snow
40. Jóhann Jóhannsson - The Miners' Hymns
39. Jamie Woon - Mirrorwriting
38. CunninLynguists - Oneirology
36. David Sylvian - Died in the Wool
35. Greenwood Sharps - Things Familiar EP
34. Submotion Orchestra - Finest Hour
33. Boris - Heavy Rocks
32. Shlohmo - Bad Vibes
31. Mastodon - The Hunter
30. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
29. Rustie - Glass Swords
28. 88Kasyo Junrei - SYG88
27. Chelsea Wolfe - Apokalypsis
26. The Roots - Undun
25. Tim Hecker - Ravedeath, 1972
24. Field Rotation - Acoustic Tales
23. Dakota Suite & Emanuele Errante - The North Green Down
22. Jacaszek - Glimmer
21. Einar Stray - Chiaroscuro
20. Steven Wilson - Grace for Drowning
19. Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact
18. Danny Brown - XXX
17. Keffa Kay - Angel
16. Disasterpeace - Rise of the Obsidian Interstellar
15. Blazo - Colors of Jazz
14. Kashiwa Daisuke - 88
13. O'Death - Outside
12. Balam Acab - WANDER / WONDER
11. Unexpect - Fables of the Sleepless Empire

10. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
Annie Clark really came out with quite the art pop album. A mix of beautiful vocals and really catchy instrumentation is what makes this album good. The guitars have a really weird but aurally nice effect to them. It really stands out in the track Cruel, which is probably my favorite track off the album.

5 word review: Weird at times, but catchy.

9. Nujabes - Spiritual State
Nujabes a.k.a. Jun Seba was a jazzy hip-hop producer from Japan. I say "was" because he unfortunately passed away after a car accident back in 2010. Yep, this is a posthumous album. These are unreleased track he was working on before his untimely death and was later mixed and mastered by friends. This album is really heavy with jazz making really beautiful music. Some tracks feature emcees doing their thing while some songs are just plain funky with its instruments. A great final chapter.

God just needed a producer.

8. A Winged Victory for the Sullen - A Winged Victory for the Sullen
This duo is a collaboration between Stars of the Lid member Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran. They make some very beautiful neoclassical ambient music. My favorite thing about this album is just the atmosphere it sets up. The mix of Wiltzie's ambient drone elements with O’Halloran's piano playing is a match made in heaven. Very simple and very relaxing. Great stuff.

Pretentious names but beautiful music.

7. Giles Corey - Giles Corey
Giles Corey is a one man dark-folk project by Dan Barrett (member of Have a Nice Life). This is his debut album, some time after attempting to commit suicide. This is probably the darkest album I've heard all year. Lots of echoing going on during every track, haunting instrumentation and a feel of dread on some of the songs and yet it's all beautiful. Some songs are more upbeat though, balancing it out.

Damn Dan Barrett, you scary!

6. Hiromi - Voice
Hiromi Uehara is back as strong as ever with her 7th studio album. If you are unfamiliar with her work, she is a jazz fusion pianist all the way from the land of the rising sun. Her piano playing is as great and catchy as ever, with great performances by drummer Simon Phillips and bassist Anthony Jackson. The compositions are very memorable and just so upbeat and catchy that you can't dislike it. Maybe not as top tier as Another Mind or Spiral, but definitely a great addition to her discography.

Truly speechless, no pun intended.

5. The Middle East - I Want That You Are Always Happy
The Middle East is a folk/post-rock outfit from Australia (not a middle eastern country). It's a shame that they broke up shortly after the release of this album; I would have loved more from them. Most of the songs are rather short, averaging 2 to 4 minutes or so but they easily get their point across. One track, Deep Water, is an exception. It's about 10 minutes long and takes it's time. It's one of the most emotional songs on this album too. It actually almost made me tear up on the first listen, a feat that no other song has ever done. Beautiful stuff.

It's deep water, driving rain ;_;

4. Efrim Manuel Menuck - Plays "High Gospel"
Efrim is the most influencial musician alive, at least to me. The co-founder of Godspeed You! Black Emperor changed the way I listened to music. This is his debut solo album, and what an entrance. A mix of experimental post-rock and singer/songwriter tracks, this album is very much like Efrim. Many samples and long drawn-out sections with a larger-than-life feeling. It has beautiful and sometimes haunting vocals that fit perfectly with the instrumentation. I really feel the emotion in each song. Never have I heard an Efrim release that disappointed me. I'd say this album is closer to A Silver Mt. Zion in terms of style, but the tracks feel a lot more personal.

Familiar style but new sounds.

3. James Blake - James Blake
James is a dubstep producer from the UK and this is his debut album. Although he's often labeled as dubstep, I prefer to call his style "electronic soul". It's a really nice and refreshing new sound that I've just never heard before. The songs are very abstract and minimal in terms of content and the lyrics repeat themselves a lot in each song and yet it's that simplicity that what make this album so great. The voice effects he has going on throughout the album is so hypnotic and sounds really great. Each track sounds different from each other but all goes together so well.

Short album, lot's to say.

2. Kendrick Lamar - Section.80
Kendrick Lamar is a rapper from Compton. I bet after seeing Compton, you made the assumption that he makes gangster rap or something like that, but you couldn't be more wrong. For a 24 year-old rapper, he's very socially aware and it really shows in his songs. Most of his songs have a social or political message to it. No Make-Up is about a girl who covers up herself with make-up because she thinks she's unattractive and to hide black eyes from physical abuse. The way Kendrick and the female vocalist play off each other on that track is just awesome. Keisha's Song, which is my personal favorite song of the year, is about the life of a prostitute and it has a twist ending. Every song has a story or message to hook you in.

The production is absolutely fantastic. HiiiPower is probably the best beat I've heard all year. It's not just that these beats are good, but there's just so much variety in them as well. Some beats are really electronic, like Tammy's Song with all it's bleepy bloopy sounds, and some are really soft and jazzy. Hell, the beat to Ab-souls Outro sounds like a straight up jazz song. Kendrick has really great flow and can rap pretty fast at times. His voice is a little nasaly but it isn't irritating so it isn't a problem. If it didn't start off slowly, it might have been my favorite album of the year.

Political social rap done perfectly.

1. *shels - Plains of the Purple Buffalo
"When we titled the album back in 2007, we didn't realize how appropriate and relevant it would be to our own Endeavour of completing this record. The Neverending story is all about not losing hope, taking a leap of faith and believing in something you may not be able to see, touch or understand - and overcoming fear -- it's about letting go and realizing your own power and allowing yourself to reach your full potential -- these ideals are at the core of this album" -- Mehdi Safa

*shels is a post-rock/post-metal band with some sludgy influence and this is their sophomore release. This is my introduction to this band, and boy, what a way to give me an impression. This album is epic, in the literal sense of the word. It sounds big. It sounds loud. It's atmospheric. Every song just fills your head with some very beautiful imagery of buffalos running across the beautiful plains while the sun is setting.

The instrumentation is just fantastic and the production is really great. The sludgy guitars, the drumming, the horns, everything goes together so well. The horns are probably the best thing on this album and they know just when to use them. In case you aren't already aware, the title is a reference to The Neverending Story and like he mentioned, it couldn't be more appropriate. Every single track on this album sounds hopeful. Another reason why I like the horns is because of that; they sing an emotional tune of hope and prosperity.

Huge, epic and incredibly beautiful.

And there you have it. My top 50 albums of the year. Hope you enjoyed these as much as I did.

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