Top 10 Albums of 2011

RecordsFrom traditional pop to rap, electronic, and even sax-centric indie rock that echoes the smooth sounds of Kenny G, 2011 was a great year for music. Check out our top 10 albums of 2011 after the jump, and be sure to sound off about what your favourite albums of last year were in the comments.

10. Destroyer – Kaputt

Destroyer - Kaputt

Here’s an album for those of you who listen to bands that don’t exist yet – or at least not as far as the Top 40 crowd is concerned. Frontman Dan Bejar has been running this Vancouver-based outfit since 1995. With Kaputt, the band attained incredible success in the indie scene as Pitchfork Media ranked it just behind Bon Iver as the second-best album of 2011. Aside from the title track (which is an instant hook), the album takes a few listens before the nuances really “jump.” But let me tell you, they do. And with lyrics like “step out of your toga and look to the folk / you are a prince in the ocean / in a pinch, in the sky, in your eye,” what’s not to like? On a side note, if you can watch Kaputt’s music video with a straight face, you may be eligible for a small cash prize.

Destroyer – Kaputt

– Liam Grue

9. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Bon Iver

It’s hard to find someone making more beautiful music than Justin Vernon. The reason the “grizzly man exiled to a cabin” story worked hand-in-hand with his debut For Emma, Forever Ago, was because the music itself was inherently engaging. There was a beauty in the creaks and a charm to the eclecticism of the instrumentation. The album itself was special. The self-titled sophomore, then, acts as somewhat of a reintroduction to the group; a declaration of intent. The scope expands, the beauty remains – Justin Vernon is here to stay.

Bon Iver – Michicant

– Dave Hayes

8. Grouplove – Never Trust A Happy Song


Tune your dials for Top 40, and set them loud. Grouplove does pop music how it was meant to be done. Take the best of Two Door Cinema Club and the soul of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and you’re getting there. With track titles as clichéd as “Cruel and Beautiful World,” you know the band won’t be providing any Radiohead-esque gestures of lyrical genius – but does music really have to be so subtle? One listen to “Colours” or “Spun” and you’ll agree.

Grouplove – Tongue Tied

– Liam Grue

7. Real Estate – Days

Real Estate

In a time where independent success seems reliant on left-field songwriting and clear-cut strides towards progression, there is often a desire for simplicity. Real Estate delivers. There is no flashy polish or excess production – just simple music that works. It’s time to arrogate the understatement.

Real Estate – It’s Real

– Dave Hayes

6. The Black Keys – El Camino

The Black Keys

If this were a list of the top 10 album names, the Black Keys’ latest effort would be no other place than at the top. But as an album, it still warrants a very well-deserved mention. To say that “Gold on the Ceiling” has a hook you won’t get out of your head would be an understatement, yet the Keys pull it all off while remaining firmly on the listenable side of catchiness. The album is a time machine of rock n roll – you can hear echoes of Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar playing on “Little Black Submarines,” and even a bit of Clash in “Run Right Back.” The Black Keys got it right with their seventh album. And by “it,” I mean most everything.

The Black Keys – Lonely Boy

– Liam Grue

5. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation

Youth Lagoon

Minimal instrumentation coupled with 808 styled drumbeats. Overbearing pianos and childish yelps. Melodies guide, drums follow. Everything seems to fall where you expect it, and that works just fine. The complexity is in the lyrics. Childhood posters and campgrounds, fireworks and cigars, headlights and laughter – it’s easy to feel the nostalgia. Which is where the true beauty of the album comes in. There is warmth in its sincerity. The crude production simply highlights the honesty of its substance.

Youth Lagoon – Montana

– Dave Hayes

4. Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne

Jay-Z and Kanye West

You must have been living under a rock in 2011 if you haven’t heard of this one. West’s production prowess combines with Jay-Z’s lyrical ability for an album that appeals to more than just rap devotees. With nods from R&B singer Beyoncé, 60s soul legend Otis Redding, dubstep producer Flux Pavilion on “Who Gon Stop Me,” and even a Will Ferrell sample from Blades of Glory, each song is certified fresh – and that’s saying something for an album with 15 tracks. At times dark (“No Church in the Wild”), at times lively (“Niggas in Paris”), the album stands out from other collabs – Hova and Ye do more than just trade verses. A social commentary on race, religion, and wealth, Watch the Throne is a production with a sound as crisp as the album’s gold foil packaging.

Jay-Z and Kanye West – Murder to Excellence

– Liam Grue

3. Friendly Fires – Pala

Friendly Fires

Sun-soaked, upbeat, danceable music. The title “Pala” is taken from Aldous Huxley’s novel Island, and seems a fitting analogy to the world of the songs. It describes a utopian society focused on the fragility of time. And in an environment where we constantly question our next steps, constantly combat a lingering feeling of uncertainty, and constantly dwell on our future preoccupations – there is a need to embrace the temporary. Pala serves as the perfect soundtrack.  It doesn’t take it self too seriously, and neither should we.

Friendly Fires – Blue Cassette

– Dave Hayes

2. TV On the Radio – Nine Types of Light

TV on the Radio

The weeks surrounding the Brooklyn quintet’s 2011 release will be remembered as a tragically bittersweet time for the band. Just nine days after its April issue, the band’s bass guitarist and backup singer succumbed to a battle with lung cancer. The album itself, though, is nothing short of fantastic. Opening track, “Second Song,” reveals a grungy saxophonic chorus line fused with a display of singer Tunde Adebimpe’s wide vocal range in a startlingly catchy downbeat to the album. Other highlights include the grinding head-banger “Caffeinated Consciousness,” the progressive soundscape of “Killer Crane,” and moving ballad, “You.”

TV on the Radio – Will Do

– Liam Grue

1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming


Synth-filled anthems, slow rolling ballads, reverb-soaked filler – a sum equal in measure to its parts. It’s big, it’s engaging; it’s a piece of art. Lyrical pleas for adolescent buoyancy backed by instrumentation inspiring flight. Listen to the singles, listen to the instrumentals, listen to it all – the songs are just meant to inspire imagination, wherever that might take you.  It’s hard to get lost in the depths of an album, but with “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” the embrace is inevitable.

M83 – Midnight City

– Dave Hayes

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