This week we are going to take a look at all of our reviewers Top album picks of the year. Please pipe up down in the comments with any that we may have missed or if you don’t agree with any of our picks.
Today we have our sporadic reviewer, ToddLevinsonFrank, take a look at his favorite moments of 2011.
- Stephen Marley – Revelation Pt.1: Root of Life
- Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire: The return of Ryan Adams features not only his best set of songs since 2005, but his voice sounds better than ever. His co-MVP’s here are legendary veteran producer Glyn Johns and keyboardist Benmont Tench (of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers).
- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Here We Rest
- Wilco – The Whole Love: Tweedy finds a fix for the fits, and Wilco makes what might go someday go down as their best album.
- The Roots – undun: The masters of album making strike again. The Roots have been so consistent and set the bar so high that seemingly every year or so they drop another classic on us and we put them on our year-end lists and talk about how great they are, and yet it still feels like we somehow take them for granted. Saving the best for last and releasing it in December, The Roots’ stark narrative, with the accompanying musicality well beyond just the beats, stands as perhaps the best album of the year.
P.J. Harvey – Let England Shake
Maybe the most unique and interesting albums of the year. Stark and fluttering, subtly explosive, beautiful yet blunt. This one took home prestigious awards and topped a lot of other lists, and it’s way high up on mine as well. Engaging and as urgent as she’s always been, but perhaps her most musical album to date.
Tom Waits – Bad As Me
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
I once described Fleet Foxes as a soundtrack for doing yard work at a Renaissance festival. And while that doesn’t make a lot of sense, I meant it in the best possible way.
Megafaun – Megafaun
Impossible to describe. Somehow manages to sound like both CSNY and Hot Chip. Comes off weird and eclectic, but still full of hooks.
Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots
Paul Simon – So Beautiful or So What
Not quite right up there with Graceland or The Rhythm of the Saints, it’s certainly still a “return to form,” as the press releases like to say. And in between the spots where it bounces like those albums, he sprinkles in a few mellow numbers reminiscent of his 1970′s ballads.
Mastodon – The Hunter
The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
This time they tone down the lush, orchestral emo-pop sound of their previous album, Hazards of Love, and return with a rustic and rootsy affair, with a solid assist from Peter Buck on guitar.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Middle Brother – Middle Brother
Collaboration of lead singer/songwriters (Deer Tick’s John McCauley, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, and Delta Spirit’s Matthew Vasquez) team up for a simple but stunning record that underscores each of their (potential) places in the next generation of great American songwriters. It’s like if Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and John Mellencamp recorded an album together, but did so in 1981-82, around the time they were each making Nebraska, Hard Promises, and American Fool. Actually it’s not really like that at all. Where was I? Oh yea, back to the list.
Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Pt.2
Radiohead – The King of Limbs
People either love Radiohead and swear by them as the best and most important and innovative band on the planet, or they don’t “get” them and think they’re overrated. There’s no point in me writing about them, other than to say The King of Limbs was a slow burn, took a while to grow, still one of my favorites from this year.
The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient
Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong
I like this better than their much-acclaimed debut. Full of subtle hooks and natural emotion, this has a crispy 70′s feel with all the guitars up front in the mix.
G. Love – Fixin’ To Die
Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring From My Halo
This is a great record that took me a while to actually dig. I’d hate to cheapen it with a string of bullshit music-critic buzzwords and catchphrases… but the retro anti-folk of Smoke Ring From My Halo successfully mixes Dylanesque phrasing with Lou Reed-style street poetry, and somehow comes out smelling like indie rock.
Sonic Youth – Simon Werner a Disparu
Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Instrumental rock experts hit us with another dynamic set.
The Antlers – Burst Apart
Another one that is kinda hard to describe. At times a bit odd, but mostly beautiful.
The Black Keys – El Camino
This is right behind The Roots’ undun in the “Best for Last” category. Dropping in December, this one brings the heat right outta the box. Once it’s given more time to sink in, it might end up being the best album of the year.
Follow Todd.Levinson.Frank on Twitter: @BumsLogic.