Every year, we break it down for you — the best albums of the year. This year, I've kicked off the post with my Editor's Picks, and because opinions are entirely subjective (we don't all listen to the same music, I'm aware), I've also rounded up the CL Music Team's submissions for their favorite albums of 2011. Enjoy — and get ready to stock up your music library.
2. MuteMath, Odd Soul (Teleprompt/Warner Bros.)
Seriously badass '70s-vibing prog-psyche rock with plenty of crunchy grinding guitars, fatty fuzzed-out bass and synthesizers, and some electro-groove moments to keep things from getting too overly throwback. "Blood Pressure" below.
3. TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light (Interscope)
The buoyancy and sexiness of 2008’s Dear Science permeates the avant rock outfit’s fifth LP. Themes of love, society and politics are explored against dark, loop-and-horn-infused experimental sounds marked by elements of electro-rock, hip-hop, psyche-soul, funky R&B bounce and moments of melodic grooving pop. "Second Song" below.
4. Extra Classic, Your Light Like White Lightning, Your Light Like A Laserbeam (Manimal Vinyl)
San Francisco's Extra Classic offers up a mesmerizing, soulful, hazy-layered groove-and-psychedelia take on dub reggae. The sextet captured the sonic quality of old Jamaican recordings by laying it down all-analog, on 8-track tape, and using vintage recording equipment from the 1960s and '70s. It definitely has a very warm quality to it, as if the musicians are playing amid a hanging cloud of ganja smoke. Listen to "Congo Rebel" below.
5. Cloud Control, Bliss Release (WEA)
The first full-length from a new Aussie band radiates feel-good sunshine. Mellow, psyche-folk with surf rock and Afro/tribal percussive tendencies, vocals that range from ecstatic yelps and whoops to lovely multi-voice harmonies and straight-forward nasally singing, and plenty of unexpectedly catchy hooks. "Gold Canary" below.
READ THE REST OF MY PICKS ALONG WITH A ROUND-UP OF THE CL MUSIC TEAM’S PICKS FOR 2011 AFTER THE JUMP
6. Battles, Gloss Drop (Warp)
A wacky-absurd and heavy driving prog-experimental foray that leaves a definite impression, with memorable guest spots by Chilean vocalist Matias Aguayo in the album's lead single, the island swaying-hardcore-ska-metal-WTF? number, “Ice Cream,” and British rock icon Gary Numan in the metallic wailing “My Machines” (awesome video below).
7. Metronomy, The English Riviera (Because Music)
Just discovered this UK band on their third album and while the lyrics aren’t clever — even a bit humdrum at times — they’re also memorable and the music is sticky addictive electro-wonky pop that grows on you like a fungus with its boy-girl harmonies, moments of Dark Wave drama, and tastefully light use of horns. Check out "The Bay" below.
8. Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi, Rome (Capitol)
The fruits of a collab between producer mega-talent Danger Mouse and vet Italian composer and arranger, Daniele Luppi. The two spent more than five years working on this project that assembled surviving performers of 1960s and '70s Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western scores. Norah Jones and Jack White provide guest vocals on this excellent, high class LP. Listen to "Two Against One" featuring White below.
9. Morningbell, Basso Profundo (Orange Records)
A surprise last-minute addition to my list from a Gainesville psyche rock band. Their fifth studio album has definite retro appeal with its sexy hip-shaking grooves, bouncy jangly pop appeal, and the dreamy falsetto of frontman/guitarist Travis Atria. Listen to "I Could Use A Little Help" below.
10. Akron/Family, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (Dead Oceans)
The band synthesized elements of their earlier lo-fi freak-folk experimental sound into their more recent crunchy-progressive rock vibe; the result is a bizarre odyssey that goes back and forth between moments of noise and serenity. "Silly Bears" below.
Bonus 11. White Denim, D (Downtown Records)
Yet another awesome band from Austin, this swirly psychedelic rock/neo-prog/garage and acid blues outfit draws on the aesthetic of pretty much every awesome band from the 1960s and '70s — Pink Floyd, The Who, Steely Dan, Allman Brothers — and experiments with what they have to present swirling, epic songwriting that tends to bedazzle and get hooked you posthaste. This is White Denim's fourth studio album and debut as a four-piece with second guitarist Austin Jenkins. "Drug" below.
Click here to check out albums of the year with a local slant.
Also worthy of mention: The Black Keys, El Camino (Nonesuch), Caveman, Coco Beware (Original Recordings Group), The Dodos, No Color (Frenchkiss), Rachel Goodrich, Rachel Goodrich (Yellow Bear Records), Sondre Lerche, Sondre Lerche (Mona), The London Souls, The London Souls (Soul on 10), My Morning Jacket, Circuital (ATO), Thundercat, The Golden Age of Apocalypse (Brainfeeder).
2. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake (Island/Vagrant)
3. Ghostpoet, Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam (Brownswood Recordings)
4. Foster The People, Torches (Columbia)
5. M83, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming (Mute)
6. Tom Waits, Bad as Me (ANTI-)
7. Sigur Rós, Inni (XL)
8. Wilco, The Whole Love (dBpm)
9. Jónsi, We Bought a Zoo Soundtrack (Columbia)
10. Yelle, Safari Disco Club (Barclay)
"Comme Un Enfant" below.
And in no particular order after No. 1:
Gavin Friday, Catholic (Mb3 Records)
Wilco, The Whole Love (dBpm)
Nick Lowe, The Old Magic (Yep Roc)
Fountains of Wayne, Sky Full of Holes (Yep Roc)
Urge Overkill, Rock & Roll Submarine (Redeye)
The Bangles, Sweetheart of the Sun (Waterfront)
Wanda Jackson, The Party Ain’t Over (Nonesuch)
Duran Duran, All You Need Is Now (S-Curve)
Poly Styrene, Generation Indigo (Future Noise)
Lenny Kravitz, Black and White America (Roadrunner)
"Push" video below.
...and a heartfelt nod goes to the best and most cleverly and economically packaged reissues of the year: Suede. All five of the superb albums in this dynamic Britpop band’s catalog got the royal treatment and were remastered, included a full extra disc of demos, live tracks, etc AND brought along a DVD of live performances and promo videos.
Grouplove's "Colours" video below.
"Midnight City" by M83
Honorable Mentions: My Morning Jacket, Circuital (ATO); Bon Iver, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar); Theophilus London, Timez are Weird These Days (Reprise); Real Estate, Days (Domino); Akron/Family, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinzu TNT (Dead Oceans)
"Santa Fe" by Beirut