In 2011 the album became cool again. This year I actually got excited for the release dates of many albums, something that hasn’t happened in a long time. Though there wasn’t one huge album that towered over the rest, except maybe Adele’s second album in terms of album sales, there were a lot of great albums for almost every kind of music fan in 2011. Here are my favorite albums released this year and then some honorable mentions.
James Blake – James Blake
One of the most powerful album I’ve heard in a long time, this will be the album that I’ll remember the most from this year. The album is soulful and minimal, using post-dubstep electronics that are usually anything but minimal. James Blake should be someone to look out for in the future, but his proper debut album has already established his place in music.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Before this album came out, Justin Vernon was known more for the story of his debut rather than the music itself (loner musician is sad, goes to a cabin in the winter woods, makes a record, becomes friends with Kanye West). However with Bon Iver, he is no longer confined to his own myth. Now he is, to me at least, the Peter Gabriel of our generation, a creative artist who is defining his career with such great songs such as “Calgary” and “Holocene”. If For Emma, Forever Ago is his winter record, then this is his spring record.
Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire
My favorite singer-songwriter finally released an album after a three year drought, and it did not disappoint. It sounds like a classic Neil Young record, and it is stacked up there with Heartbreaker and Gold. It’s good to have you back Mr. Adams.
Wilco – The Whole Love
Wilco had nothing to prove in 2011, but Jeff Tweedy and his most consistent lineup created a fantastic album anyway. The album keeps the weird dream-pop of Being There and experimental of A Ghost Is Born, all while being one of Wilco’s most accessible albums. Every song is great, but “One Sunday Morning” could be a top five Wilco song.
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Where as their first album sounds medieval, Fleet Foxes’s second album sounds timeless. This was the album I kept in my car the longest this year, it was the perfect driving album. This album stopped this band from becoming a one-album wonder and shows a promising future from this band.
The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
The album I didn’t expect to love so much, especially considering the past work of the band that is the closest thing to a modern day Smiths. Simple lyrics, stripped down production, lovable songs, what more do you want from an album?
Honorable Mentions (Albums You Should Still Check Out)
My Morning Jacket – Circuital
Drive Motion Picture Soundtrack
Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
Jay Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne
Tom Waits – Bad As Me
M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
The Strokes – Angles
This is an awesome album collection, and I am excited to see what I’ll be buying in 2012.
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber