JudyJams’ Top Album Picks for 2011

December 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm Leave a comment

I decided to forgo my picks for Nov/Dec since this close to the end of the year, online music coverage is basically a race to the finish line for top 10 lists. I’ve spent the past few weeks revisiting my favorite albums, many of which I have highlighted in my picks throughout the year. Here is what I came up with, and I apologize for going a little overboard in the descriptions of the Top 5:

1. Washed OutWithin and Without
(Image via SubPop.com)
This record received so much gushing press before its release that I almost didn’t bother listening. I’m so glad that I didn’t trust my instincts. Washed Out’s debut is a well-balanced, perfectly graceful album that I want to listen to over and over again. In the coldest months of January, I’ll be grateful to have such relaxing, summer songs on my iPod as I trudge through the snow.
2. Bon Iver– S/T

Image via minnesota.publicradio.org

This man can really do no wrong in my eyes (perhaps the last song on this album was WAY too ‘80’s for me, but I can overlook it). It was thought that nothing could satisfy fans after such a powerful debut like For Emma…, but the self-titled follow-up really hit the mark. It was a slow burn for me, but it really hit home after I saw him live over the summer. I love when artists mix things up a little bit from album to album, and I see Justin Vernon doing that for the rest of his career.

3. Toro Y MoiUnderneath the Pine

Image via Stereogum.com

Toro Y Moi’s sophomore album is exactly the type of music that I needed when it came out: fun, quirky, and a good time every time. Each time I listen, I discover another song that I love. His mix of dancey, disco-influenced songs combined with smooth electro pop beats is expertly constructed.
4. SBTRKT-S/T
(Image via Sbtrkt.com)
An eclectic mix of a record that pairs the British DJ’s beats perfectly with a range of vocalists, including most notably Little Dragon‘s Yukimi Nagano on the song “Wildfire.” To me, this is one of the successful DJ/electronic/vocal combo albums of the year, even though SBTRKT is sure to be overshadowed by the likes of James Blake and Burial.

5. Wye OakCivilian

Image via Tumblr.com

After hearing so much about this band, I had to hang my head in shame when I discovered how far behind I was. Civilian was one of the best indie-rock records I have heard all year. It is an album on which literally EVERY song is good. The dual male/female vocalist pairing, with a heavy emphasis on dark harmonies, hits all the right notes for me.

6. Zola JesusConatus

Image via Wikipedia.org

After teasing us with a dark and wonderful EP last year showcasing her beautiful (classically trained) voice, Zola Jesus finally released her full length and I haven’t stopped listening since.

7. tUnE-yArDs whokill

Image via Amazon.com

Merrill Garbus is my hero, and “Bizness” is one of the best songs of the year, hands down.

8. The AntlersBurst Apart

Image via Amazon.com

A very successful sophomore effort that made me go back and reconsider the debut.

9. Wild Flag– S/T

Image via Wikipedia.org

These ladies rule my world. Nothing will ever replace Sleater-Kinney, but this record comes pretty damn close.

10. Peaking Lights936

Image via Gorilla Vs Bear.net

This was my “ignore-everyone-on-the -subway-and-enjoy-beautiful-music” record. It worked out very nicely.

(Honorable mentions after the jump)
Gardens & Villa– S/T

Image via Voxmagazine.com

What a great discovery and a great new band, worthy of contributing to whatever the future holds for indie-rock.

12. TinariwenTassili

Image via Amazon.com

I’ve always been a fan of Afro-beat, but these guys bring the drama, especially when they add Tunde Adibempe and Kyp Malone from TVOTR.

13. Unknown Mortal Orchestra– S/T

Image via Amazon.com

Another record that was widely hyped in the media, this funky 60’s rock influenced album is a fun time, especially the single “Ffunny Ffriends.”

14. The WeekndHouse of Balloons

Image via The-Weeknd.com

The first of two free mixtapes spread through the internet like wildfire, this mashup between R&B classic sounds and hip hop new wave never gets old.

Entry filed under: Bands We Like, Best of, Best of 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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