17 Best Albums of 2011

So it here it is, late as usual. I almost made it to 20 this year, but I only made it that numerous because I got 20 extra dollars and spent it all on albums which goes a surprisingly long way on Amazon Music. 2011 was a good year for music, and for me, a year of travel (New York, New Orleans, Florida, North Carolina, etc) so most of my favorite albums were ones I listened to while driving, while flying, etc.  I got videos of some of my favorite songs so you listen/ see as well!

17. Ceremonials- Florence and the Machine

I still haven’t decided on whether I actually like this album. Certainly I usually like Florence and the Machine. Somehow they went less “My Boy Builds Coffins” and more “Drumming Song” and someone needs to tell Florence that as much as she likes going outside and making mud pies and getting a little dirty, she’s not Alice Cooper. But I do like the angry singy song songs on the album, so number 17 it is. Best song: Shake it out.

16. English Rivera- Metromony

I only started listening to this album in the last week seriously, but I really like it. They do a bit of things on a computer than make some good noises. Really good production on this album. Best song: the Look.

15. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks- Mirror Traffic

Stephen Malkmus gives me a deep sense of stranger danger. Not in Pavement, but in this album he creeps me out a little. He sings so good though. Best song: The Senator. The video features a raunchy Jack Black.

14. Rise Ye Sunken Ships We are Augustines

We are Augustines like to yell a lot. They have some nice bass moments in the background of their screaming. Favorite song: Chapel Song.

13. Wild Flag – Wild Flag

Wild Flag rocks! I first heard them on NPR first listen. At times they remind me of Letters to Cleo if you listen very, very hard. Girl band power! Best song: Electric Band.

12. Thao and Mirah- Thao and Mirah

This year Thao  did some music stuff with another lady named Mirah. I don’t like it as much as Thao’s other work. There’s a little too much not Thao in it. But it is angry Thao with angry female accompanist,  which is something I can get behind.  Best track on album: Rubies and Rock despite the fact that Thao doesn’t sing it.

11. Father, Son Holy Ghost- Girls

I have a theory about Girls. I think early in 2011 they hatched an elaborate plan wherein they kidnapped Wilco and made Wilco record their (Girls) album under duress. This explains two things: why they sound just like Wilco, and why Wilco put out a flippy floppy album in 2011. Perhaps Wilco is too afraid to record good music now. The perfect crime. Best song: Honey Bunny.

10. Days by Real Estate

Real Estate sounds like going to the beach in the rain. Best song: younger than yesterday.

9. 50 Words for Snow- Kate Bush

This went onto NPR  first listen at the exact right time in my psych this last semester and made everything click. No favorite, but I like Wild Man.

8. Veronica Falls- Veronica Falls

Veronica Falls is this years’ whispy, girl pick for me. There’s one every year, and this is this year. Best song: Found Love in a Graveyard.

7. Nightlife- Phantogram

Phantogram is one of the two bands I saw live this year (the other being the Eels). I saw them over at the Blind Pig with Candra Gill and it was crowded but loads of fun! This is just an EP, but a good one. This group is great for my productivity, I listened to this a lot when I work. I really like “Don’t Move” on this EP.

6. Bon-Iver- Bon-Iver

For me, Bon-Iver is to the Michigan Winter what the Postal Service is to Seattle Rain. There’s something quietly perfect about the moment of the music relating to the pace. This new, not very originally named Bon-Iver album makes me smile on the inside. My favorite song: Towers.

5. Showroom of Compassion- Cake

Every year with a new Cake album is a good year for all of humanity. It sounds like every other cake album. But it’s new! Best song: Federal Funding. Incidentally I found this album when I was taking grant-writing, so it was especially ironic.

4. Shangri-La- Yacht

Yacht is another one of my NPR first listen albums. But this one stays with you. At times sounding like an obscure ‘80s tribute album, at other times fancy free with the greatest of electronic stylings. The lady in Yacht has a deep voice that often made me think she is a man. Best song: Shangri-La

3. The King is Dead- The Decemberists

My boyfriend Matthew Stonebraker said it best: after only a couple of listens, you are singing along with the Decemberists albums. Just to show us he still had it, Colin Meloy turns his lyrics to old’ US of A with appropriate uses of mandolin and electric guitar. While not as great as Crane Wife, it’s certainly much better than Hazards of Love. It is home to my current favorite Decemberists song: Rox in the Box.

2. Blood Pressures- The Kills

I went back and forth between The Kills and Blue Scholars this year. If Top 10 Lists were diving competitions, I feel like this album would win on a technical best from Czechoslovakia. The Kills have been no slouches in recent years for sure. In this album, they go more diva, with less drum solos and more torch songs. Their music reminds me of that sticky, unsanitary feeling of being in the middle of a crowd at a concert you are really enjoying. I like this whole album, but “The Heart is a Beating Drum” is one of the best.

1. Cinemetropolis- Blue Scholars

I must have telepathically sent Blue Scholars a list of everything I loved about them and they took that list and exclaimed “By jove, let’s do it!” (or whatever Hip-Hop people say). Gratuitous name checks of Seattle neighborhoods, business and basketball players. Upbeat songs about social justice. A good bass and a beat you dance to. I must have listened to it over a 100 times this year. It accompanied me down to Florida, back from Florida and on all the small road trips in between. I really like the theme of this album, an ongoing thread about films and filming throughout the whole album. Non-Seattle people I know don’t get it. It’s kind of like Dick Hamburgers… there’s something there beyond the food. There’s community. Best Song: Lalo Schifrin.