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2011 Faves: 25 Recorded Musical Albums We Liked

Posted by January 1st, 2012 No Comments »

"Are you sure it's not 'Boner Iver?', huh huh. Huh huh."I have no shame in waiting until the first day of 2012 to finalize our 2011 year-end coverage.

Doing so gave us a chance to wade through countless other opinions on the year’s best music, movies and television programs. In sharing as many links to 2011 year-end lists as we could find through our Twitter and Facebook pages, we were reminded about stuff we fell in love with earlier in the year and got a chance check out some things we missed. The holidays afforded us extra time off from work to catch up, and ultimately we were more informed when we weighed in with our final votes.

What follows are the twenty-five favorite albums of about twenty contributors to I’m eternally grateful to have so many cool people participating and apologize to each of them in advance if my comments on their selections seem flip. I won’t pretend to be intimate with each of these albums and, when I’m not, I’ll say so. Hopefully some of you will join me in checking out some more of 2011’s best as 2012 begins. 

Please listen to Grouplove safely25. Grouplove – Grouplove EP  & Never Trust a Happy Song (Atlantic)

I have to admit I’m smitten with two of this band’s songs, “Colours” and
“Hangin’ on a Photograph,” though I can hear myself regretting it later.
I’ve taken heat for my disdain for Okkervill River and these guys are
like a Jr. Varsity version of that band, but with a touch more levity. I
guess one should allow a band who formed “during an artist’s residency
on the Isle of Crete” a bit of pretension, though. 


Go Go Boots24. Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots (ATO)

Still suffering from comparisons to their brilliant trio of classic albums
(Southern Rock Opera, Decoration Day and The Dirty South), America’s
best “alt-country” band is still putting out some of the best rock and
roll on the planet.


Astronautalis23. Astronautalis – This is our Science (Fake Four Inc) 

Greg Lehman raved about this guy’s set at Bumbershoot this year, and
apparently he wasn’t the only one who discovered the Minneapolis based
kitchen-sink-hip-hop-folk-singer in 2011.


Chances are good they were listening to Katrina & the Waves when they took this picture22. Cults – Cults (In the Name Of) 

Yummy 50s girl group influences set to thick, shimmery guitars. Lovely.


If your house was full of ballons, where would you sleep? Zoinks!21. The Weeknd – House of Balloons (Self Released) 

I’ve heard this described as “R&B music for the Indie rock set,”
which puts me in the target audience I guess. Love what I’ve heard.


Jesse Sykes is totally awesome20. Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter – Marble Son (Fargo) 

On Marble Son, it feels like long-time Sykes collaborator Phil Wandscher
(formerly of Whiskeytown) took control of the Sweet Hereafter’s sound,
which is extremely guitar-heavy and feels like a completely different
band this time around, says former Nada Music Editor Adam Lawrence. He also suggests
that it’s best listened to “through comically over sized headphones with a
long twisty cord.”


"Dude, check out all those angles, man"19. The Strokes – Angles (RCA)

I always thought the Strokes were kind of a modern day version of the
Cars – both are great bands with great songs that didn’t get any Indie cred because they released their music on major labels. Then the Strokes
reunited and released Angles, which sounds like a Cars record. I was
glad to see a couple other contributors voted for this album. It
deserves to be in the top twenty. I even got to see their comeback show at
SXSW and it totally ruled.


Male Bonding: just another brick in the wall?18. Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts (Sub Pop) 

One of a handful of under-appreciated bands signed by the mighty Sub Pop records in the last few years.


Does the album title indicate this is Destroyer's last?17. Destroyer – Kaputt (Merge) 

I’ve never made time to listen to this band, fronted by my third
favorite vocalist in Vancouver, Canada’s The New Pornographers,  but
critics sure seem to love them.


Hi Tim16. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky)
This mysterious artist appeared at the end of a few ballots with comments like
“not usually my thing, but wow this is great.” So Tim’s definitely on my list of artists to check out in early 2012.


What's that there now?15. Wye Oak – Civilian (Merge) 

Earlier this year I listened to three songs by every artist performing
at the annual Sasquatch! Music festival at the Gorge Amphitheater in
central Washington and Tweeted my thoughts (follow along this year
at @ashmatty and @nadamucho, hash tag #NMSquatch). That was my
introduction to Wye Oak’s gorgeous, folky melodies and big washes of
dreamy, distorted guitar, and I’ve been a fan ever since.


We'd like to formally submit our application for commissioner of the Hot Sauce Committe14. Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee (Capitol) 

With many of our contributors counting the Beastie Boys among the
critical bands of our formative years, it’s hard to tell if we’re voting
on legacy and history here, but I sure to like this record and
apparently so do the rest of the crew.


For the glory of the real estate13. Real Estate – Days (Domino) 

Here’s the latest precocious Indie rock band that everyone’s
going ga-ga over. Give me Q1 2012 to decide if I buy it or not.


We totally dig the Thermals12. The Thermals – Personal Life (Kill Rock Stars) 

This one came out at the tail end of 2010 but we can’t leave it out (my instinct’s tell me The Black Keys December 2011 release, El Camino, will get enough votes to make our list in 2012 too). The
Thermals are one of those bands that are truly more than the sum of
their parts, breathing new life into catchy, fuzzy guitar rock. This is a
great record. 


Wave the indie rock Wild Flag with us11. Wild Flag – Wild Flag (Merge) 

Nothing new or innovative here, just fantastic, angular Indie guitar rock like the Pixies and Sleater-Kinney, who made us want to start a music ‘zine in the first place. Wild Flag features two
members of S-K – drummer Janet Weiss and guitarist/vocalist
turned Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein – alongside guitar goddess Mary
Timony of Helium. Unfortunately the camera didn’t pan far enough back to spot
me and fellow Nada contributor Dan Lurie bobbing our heads along to this song from their SXSW live performance for KEXP this year, 


It's official: likes Girls10. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost (True Panther) 

Intriguing stuff from this San Francisco duo, who avoid the
software slump on Father, Son, Holy Ghost. I dig everything I’ve heard
and need to spend more time with both of their records – this one and
2009’s Album.


Deer Tick are a totally fun band and stuff9. Deer Tick – Divine Providence (Partisan) 

No co-founder Gabe Baker and I saw this country-ish rock band at
the Tractor Tavern in October. Their set was like their first couple albums –
loose, fun, uneven and sprinkled with flashes of brilliance. Divine
is their most consistent record to date, edging closer to
Replacements barroom stomp than their previous efforts, but I still
think their best album is yet to come.


We better start runnining in Russian Circles more often8. Russian Circles – Empros (Sargent House) 

I’m usually not one for instrumental rock music, but either my tastes are
changing or Russian Circles are just that good. Because “Schiphol” is
one of my three favorite songs of the year.


OK, we're watching the throne. Now what?7. Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne (Def Jam / Roc-A-Fella / Roc Nation) 

I’ve yet to play the whole thing, but I dig the songs I’ve heard
and still rate Kanye’s Dark Twisted Fantasy… among the best albums of
the past five years. I’m not surprised this got so many votes.


Don't rush us, we're going as fast as we can. Jeez.6. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Mute) 

The latest from this French act was included on more ballots than any
other artist this year, which probably means I should go ahead and check it


Here's your James Blake5. James Blake – James Blake (A&M/Atlas) 

I think I missed the show of the year when Blake played the Tractor earlier this year. Contributor Charlie Larson called his set “the
perfect blend of rhythm and melody” and I tend to believe him. Tracks
like “Limit to Your Love” and “The Wilhelm Scream” feel affected by a
higher power. Jeff Buckley’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluiah” is
the only comparison that jumps to mind.


That's some formidable joy right there4. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar (Atlantic/Canvasback) 

The Big Roar is a great debut that showcases the Joy Formidable’s wonderfully catchy and inventive songs, but the most exciting thing about this Welsh band is that they
still haven’t captured their amazing live sound perfectly on record yet.
When they do, watch out.


Man this is a cool album cover3. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain (VICE) 

This Atlanta garage rock band’s first four albums featured equal parts perfect garage rock, filler and failed experiments, so it’s nice to see them
finally put it all together. My personal number one album of the year, Arabia
is solid from top to bottom and features at least seven of my
favorite songs of 2011. Production help from Mark Ronson probably didn’t


You go, David2. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life by (Matador)

My favorite punk/hardcore band since the Blood Brothers, this Toronto
band seemed to emerge from nowhere in 2011 (despite the fact that David
Comes to Life
is their third studio album since 2006.) Our contributors
also raved about their live show, which I hope to catch in 2012.


We bet this guy pulls a ton of tail1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver (4AD/Jagjaguwar) 

Milwaukee act Bon Iver (the songs of singer/songwriter Justin Vernon)
responded to the critical acclaim of 2007’s gorgeous For Emma… by
changing gears on the eponymous follow up. Here
Vernon opts for a big, full chamber pop sound that suits his pretty
voice and intriguing stories just as well as the sparse acoustic guitar
of his debut. Plus, chicks seem to totally dig him. 


Also receiving votes:

AA Bondy – Believers; Apparat – The Devil’s Walk;
Atlas Sound – Parallax; The Beach Boys – The Smile Sessions; The Boxer
Rebellion – The Cold Still; The Black Keys – El Camino; The Cave Singers
Invitation Songs; Chad Vangaalens – Diaper Island; Charles Bradley – No
Time for Dreaming
Ceremony – Into the Wayside Part I/Sick; Childish Gambino – Camp; Clap
Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical; Craft Spells – Idle Labor; Cut Copy –
Zonoscope; The Drums – Portamento; Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take
Care, Take Care
; Foster the People – Torches; Ghost – Opus Eponymous;
The Glitch Mob – We Can Make the World Stop; Gold Leaves – The Ornament;
Helms Alee – Weatherhead; Kasabian – Velociraptor!; Lady Gaga – Born
This Way
; Liturgy – Aesthetica; The Lonely Forest – Arrows; Mayer
Hawthorne – How Do You Do?; Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, but You Will; Mickey
Newbury – An American Trilogy (reissue); Mountain Goats – All Eternals
; Nero – Welcome Reality; The New Division – Bucharest; Shabazz
Palaces – Black Up; Sigur Ros – Inni; Soundgarden – Live on I-5; Summer
Camp – I Want You; Old 97’s – White Port; Queens of the Stone Age –
Queens of the Stone Age; Radiation City – The Hands That Take You;
Radiohead – King of Limbs; Seapony – Dreaming; Sleeping Bag – Sleeping
; Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts; Trash Talk – Awake; Wolves in
the Throne Room – Astral Blood; Wugazi – 13 Chambers; Yacht –
Shangri-LA; Wilco – The Whole Love; Wooden Shjips – Lazy Bones

More 2011 coverage:



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