[photogallerylink id=111587 align=left]With attention spans getting shorter and shorter, top tracks of the year sometimes seem easier to get excited about than the album format, but most bands and artists are still on the full-length album every 2-4 years cycle, and until that changes I’ll be more than happy to dork out when it comes to picking ten of the year’s best. Here we go.
10. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Foster The People[/lastfm] – Torches
There. I did it. For me, the musical equivalent of a candy bar. Is it nutritious? No, not really, but sometimes you just want to let your brain rest with an album that doesn’t take five or six listens to really absorb. According to some, “Pumped Up Kicks” was the “song of the summer,” and to deduct points because I’m a little burned out on it wouldn’t have been fair. It’s tough to rank albums in late December that have been playing around you nonstop for the past several months. Are you just burning out on ‘em like anything else? Are you realizing that they’re not very good? Do you favor records that came out later in the year because they’re still fresh? What’s going on, exactly? I don’t know. I just feel like leaving FTP off wouldn’t have been the right thing to do.
9. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]The War on Drugs[/lastfm] – Slave Ambient
An album that won’t make my hardcore rock ‘n’ roll friends roll their eyes. “Baby Missiles” is such an excellent track, it could come close to carrying this album into the top 10 on its own. “Brothers” is another highlight and since “Missiles” was already posted in my Top 25 Tracks of 2011, “Brothers” gets the nod here.
8. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Girls[/lastfm] – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
I was lucky enough to see this band at Lincoln Hall in the fall and they were one of the best bands I saw all year which was somewhat surprising because when I saw ‘em a couple years ago at the Empty Bottle they were, um, a little off that night. I think they were dealing with some sudden lineup changes at the time, so they get a pass on that one. I’m posting “Die” because the heavy metal kid in me can’t quite figure out if the main riff is more [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Black Sabbath[/lastfm] or [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Thin Lizzy[/lastfm]. Maybe you can help me out with this one…
7. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]tUnE-yArDs[/lastfm] – w h o k i l l
I’m getting better and better with the case sensitivites within her name and album titles. What, you didn’t dig her first album, BiRd-BrAiNs? See what I mean? If you enjoy music that sounds like not much else out there, if you enjoy music created by someone that sometimes can’t stop smiling (and looping) during her performances, and if you enjoy music that’s used to bring in a bunch of cash for charity (along with hugs), then the work of Merrill Garbus is for you.
6. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Junior Boys[/lastfm] – It’s All True
A Canadian duo that’s been releasing albums since 2004. I wasn’t expecting a top ten album when I gave this thing its first spin back in June but it’s loaded with catchy songs from front to back like the one posted below, “Banana Ripple.”
5. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]M83[/lastfm] – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
When I heard “Midnight City” for the first time, I knew. Top 10 albums list for 2011, no doubt about it. If you enjoy big sounding music with catchy hooks, Adrian Gonzalez delivers time after time. Also, if you’re a sucker for dream-pop, it’s right there in the title! It’s all good x 2.
4. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]John Maus[/lastfm] – We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves
A late year surprise for me. It tried to slip past into 2012, but thankfully the music gods above wouldn’t let a fan of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Joy Division[/lastfm] miss out on “Quantum Leap.” Will the entire album remind you of Ian and the boys? No. If you want to get lost in a dark, raw pop record, this is all yours. You gotta love a guy that said, “Honestly, I thought I was making Top 40 kind of stuff. It wasn’t until people kept telling me so that I realized my work was thought of as something ‘other’ than that.” And yes, that’s John singing the line, “Pussy is not a matter of fact.” Bonus points for the album cover resembling a nasty storm on Lake Michigan that’s nearly impossible to surf.
3. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Cut Copy[/lastfm] – Zonoscope
Their records are improving, their live performances are improving, they keep getting better and better and if they continue on the current trajectory, album #4 will be at the top of everyone’s list in 2012/2013/2014.
2. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Tycho[/lastfm] – Dive
As mentioned in the Top 25 Tracks of 2011 post, Tycho is San Francisco’s Scott Hansen who’s also a graphic artist. Quite a smooth transition for Scott. It’s an album that can be described as relaxing, dreamy, and might be best experienced alone, in a place where you can just shut the f— up and get lost in your thoughts for a while.
1. [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Bon Iver[/lastfm] – Bon Iver
Take one of the best albums of the year and insert it into times and places that you remember fondly and its stock rises quite a bit. Bon Iver got a lot of airtime in 2011 on XRT, it followed me on every road trip this year, and when it came time to sit down and come up with my #1, there really wasn’t much of a debate. Bonus points for Justin Vernon’s hoop skills, his love of the outdoors, and the band’s team workouts, which you can see for yourself in this video.