My Favorite Albums of 2011

2012/01/02

It seems to get harder each year for me to cull my playlist and find my favorite albums of the year. Part of it is just the sheer number of albums and part of it is a inborn reluctance for me to name favorites - my listening is just too mood based. I love them all! (Spoken like a true mother.) But I have done my best and listed the best of the best below. The stuff that came out the last quarter of the year really didn't get a fair shake but that's life I guess.

I'll start with my two very favorites of the year. These are the albums that I simply cannot get enough of.

The Decemberists, The King is Dead
This album has killer songwriting by one of my favorite bands. Add to all that goodness the mega bonus of Gillian Welch guesting on most of the album and I'm sold. I saw them live earlier this year and it was my favorite show of the year. Crazy great show.

June Hymn
Why We Fight


Adele, 21
It's hard to say what my favorite track is. Her vocals blow me away.
And as much as I loved her debut album, this one has a polish in the production that makes it amazing. Adele occasionally makes me feel guilty as if I'm flirting to close to main stream pop. But she's worth it.

Rolling in the Deep
Rumor Has It


This year seems to be a strong one for plain and simple songwriting. Just amazing songs all around. The two above certainly fall into this category, but there are a handful of others that I truly love as well.


Middle Brother, Middle Brother
This is one of those albums that I never think of as my favorite until I realize that each and every track is one I love. Funny thing is that two of the three band members released other albums with their main gig (Deer Tick and Dawes) and I don't really love either of those albums.

Portland


Tristen, Charlatans at the Garden Gate
Saw her earlier this year and I am enchanted with the whole album. Got a killer concert T too so that should be bonus points. Finding new artists like this is my favorite thing about my obsessive music listening habits.

Baby Drugs


Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Here We Rest
I would never categorize myself as a Jason Isbell fan, but I adore all his work, including his time with the Drive By Truckers, so I guess I need to  wrap my head around it. Great songs. Great album.

Alabama Pines


Caitlin Rose, Own Side Now
Saw her in a tiny bar during SXSW earlier this year. She was literally five feet in front of me, not even on a stage but just standing in the middle of the room. I could listen to this album over and over, just lovely songs and I love her vocals too.

Shanghai Cigarettes


These are the albums that I turn to when I need something melancholy and beautiful.


Wye Oak, Civilian
The mood of this album is completely singular. I love the moody vocals and production. Beautiful.

Fish


Radiohead, King of Limbs
I'll admit that this album hasn't made it to adoration status for me yet. But I have no doubt that it will. Radiohead is a slow burn for me and it can take dozens of listens to unravel.

Lotus Flower


Alexi Murdoch, Towards the Sun
Just beautiful. I've heard a lot of comparisons between Murdoch and Nick Drake which are very apt. I love the quiet of this album.

Someday Soon


Gillian Welch, The Harrow and the Harvest I knew I would be a huge fan of Gillian Welch from the very first song I ever heard. I love her songs, her vocals, and David Rawlings beautiful guitar work. This new album is no exception. The beauty of it all is just indescribable.

Hard Times


These are the albums that make me smile. Crazy fun stuff that is just an absolute delight.


Cornershop, And the Double-O Groove Of
I've always loved Cornershop even though their catalog is pretty spotty. But this album with all the vocals done by Indian singer Bubbley Kuar is a complete delight. I am never sad when I listen to it.

United Provinces of India


Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside, Dirty Radio
I defy you to listen and not love it. Completely fresh. Completely infectious. Makes you wonder why there aren't more albums that sound just like it.

I Swear


Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two
If you have a half an hour to spare you must, must watch this video. I know, I know, who has a half an hour to spare? But it is so worth it. I am not a die hard Beastie Boys fan, but this album is all good. The film is crazy awesome too.

Fight for Your Right (Revisited)


My Brightest Diamond, All Things Will Unwind
This album was a total surprise for me. So unusual and beautiful and quirky. Her label is Asthmatic Kitty, which was founded by my one true love Sufjan Stevens, and I can completely see his influence. The songs are completely unexpected and work in such a fantastic way.

Be Brave


You didn't the good times would end with just 14 albums, did you? My 2011 playlist is full of dozens of other albums that I am crushing on. Here's a list of other albums I love this year, in no particular order.

Jessica Lea Mayfield, Tell Me :: R.E.M., Collapse Into Now :: Say Hi to Your Mom, Um, Uh Oh :: Tapes 'n Tapes, Outside :: The Damnwells, No One Listens to the Band Anymore :: The Belle Brigade, The Belle Brigade :: Iron & Wine, Kiss Each Other Clean :: Dolorean, The Unfazed :: Telekinesis, 12 Desperate Straight Lines :: Hayes Carll, KMAG YOYO :: Sarah Jarosz, Follow Me Down :: Maritime, Human Hearts :: The Rural Alberta Advantage, Departing :: Frank Turner, England Keep My Bones :: Foo Fighters, Wasting Light :: Elbow, Build a Rocket Boys! :: TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light :: Jill Andrews, The Mirror :: Eddie Vedder, Ukulele Songs :: Tinariwen, Tassili :: Bon Iver, Bon Iver :: King Creosote & Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine :: Lisa Hannigan, Passengers :: Bjork, Biophilia :: Mutemath, Odd Soul :: Feist, Metals :: Wilco, The Whole Love :: We Are Augustines, Rise Ye Sunken Ships :: Fountains of Wayne, Sky Full of Holes :: Richard Buckner, Our Blood :: Steve Earle I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive :: Brett Dennen, Loverboy :: Death Cab for Cutie, Codes and Keys :: Black Keys, El Camino

You can see my entire 2011 playlist on Spotify here. If you haven't jumped into Spotify you really should. It's free for a basic membership and it's unbelievably awesome. Happy listening!

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