As the end of 2011 approaches it’s time for everyone to publish their “Best Of” lists for everything from films to books to music. For the past few years I have posted my lists on Facebook, but now that I have this blog it makes more sense to post them here and share via Facebook. But if you’d like to look back at previous lists head over to Facebook and you can find them via my timeline.
Without further ado, here are my favorite albums of 2011:
- Superheavy by Superheavy — Ordinarily I’m not a big fan of so-called “supergroups” but this album tears it up and got major airplay in my car this fall. This genre-bending record features Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Dave Stewart, A. R. Rahman, and Damian Marley. It’s R&B meets reggae meets rock and it’s great from top to bottom. Dave Stewart is really the brains behind this collaboration and that shouldn’t surprise anyone given his body of work. Jagger gives the band a rock and roll edge, and Joss Stone is her usual soulful goddess. Throw in Rahman (the Indian guy known for the for the Slumdog Millionaire music) and Damien “son of Bob” Marley and you have one of the most intriguing combinations ever recorded. Miracle Worker was the big hit this summer but I loved the whole album. Have I mentioned that I’m in love with Joss Stone?
- The Goat Rodeo Sessions by Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile — I saw these guys on The Colbert Report and was truly blown away. What would happen if you took four of the world’s best classical musicians and put them together to record a classical/bluegrass album? A Goat Rodeo apparently, which is their term for a chaotic situation. It’s friggin amazing. Take a listen to Attaboy and you’ll get the idea.
10. Sky Full of Holes by Fountains of Wayne — I suspect this album isn’t going to make too many “best of” lists for 2011 but FOW is one of my favorite bands and even though this isn’t one of their best efforts it’s still Fountains of Wayne and that means I like it. Sky Full of Holes is not as upbeat as the band’s last few releases, but the slower songs are still full of the story-like lyrics and biting wit that defines these guys. It’s a solid listen with a few gems. Richie and Ruben is definitely one of the highlights.
9. Different Gear, Still Speeding by Beady Eye — Yes, it’s pretty much Oasis without Noel Gallagher but it’s Oasis nevertheless! If you are an Oasis fan (and you bloody well should be) then you’ll really love Beady Eye. This record begins where (What’s the Story) Morning Glory left off and delivers on the Oasis sound. Love it. Check out The Roller for your Oasis fix.
8. The Awakening by James Morrison — This record sneaked up on me this year and provides some proof that Spotify is great for introducing people to new music. I’ve liked Morrison’s voice for years now but never listened to an entire record — but Spotify changes the game so I was able to hear the whole album. It’s wonderful and has inspired me to go back and listen to his older records. Take a listen to I Won’t Let You Go for a sample of his unique sound. Sure, he looks like Chris Martin but he sounds like Seal!
7. Yes & Also Yes by Mike Doughty — This guy has been making great music since the 9os but I only discovered him a few years ago when a neighbor dragged me down to Tucson to see a live show. He has been in heavy rotation for me ever since and his new album is classic Doughty. The former lead singer of Soul Coughing keeps on rockitty rolling and his voice is one of a kind. My favorite tune on the new record is Na Na Nothing…enjoy this great song and amazing video!
6. Ukulele Songs by Eddie Vedder — This is one of the most beautiful records in years and the combination of ukulele music and Vedder’s tremendous voice makes me want to run away to Maui for good. The ukulele is awesome and Vedder plays it like a true fan, but let’s be honest — the voice is the star of this record just like every Vedder/Pearl Jam record ever made. If you liked the Into the Wild soundtrack he did from a few years ago you’ll love this. Longing to Belong is my favorite song on this moody and gorgeous album.
5. Codes & Keys by Death Cab for Cutie — I love DCFC and Codes & Keys is a great album. These guys keep getting better and better and I can’t get enough of their sound. Check out this amazing video for Home is a Fire directed by artist Shepard Fairey.
4. Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay — I’m still a huge Coldplay fan and consider them one of my all-time favorite bands…so there! I’m still spending a lot of time with Mylo Xyloto to fully take in all the nuances and beauty but I have to say it’s another very strong recording from the band. Like all of Coldplay’s albums the more I listen the more I like. The hit songs are always solid, but some of the lesser known songs also rock…for example Charlie Brown which I love. I was looking forward to this release all year and it does not disappoint.
3. 21 by Adele — By now there is no denying that Adele is a superstar. 21 has taken the world by storm and tops many a “best of” list for 2011. It deserves all of the accolades and it will likely add to Adele’s Grammy count. She’s such an unassuming superstar, especially when you compare her to the likes of the other artists at the top of the charts like Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. She has an incredible voice, and for such a young woman she writes songs like she’s seen it all. I surprised a lot of my friends by listing 19 as my favorite album of 2008 and 21 came close to topping my list this year. I loved 21 top to bottom from the very first listen and apparently most of the world agrees — the girl can sing. My favorite song from 21 is Set Fire to the Rain but every song is special.
2. El Camino by The Black Keys — It has only been out for a few weeks but it’s already wearing out my iPhone and testing the speakers in my new car. El Camino is everything you want in a rock and roll album and I’m thinking I already like it more than last year’s Brothers. It’s upbeat from start to finish and the Keys’ play their instruments like each performance is the last they’ll ever have. There’s not much you can say about this besides turn it up! Here’s a clip from SNL last week of the Keys doing Gold on the Ceiling.
1. The King is Dead by The Decemberists — I have to admit it was a tough call this year because I liked so many albums equally, but if I’m being honest the album that I enjoyed the most this year was this one. I think it all starts with Colin Meloy’s voice and then you add in all the unique and interesting musical sounds from the band and this record just delivers. I’m not sure where you stick them in terms of genre because there’s elements of folk, rock, country, baroque, you name it. All I know is that I love it. The more I listen to The King is Dead the more I hear early REM, which is not too shabby of a comparison. I absolutely loved 2009’s The Hazards of Love which was sort of a folk-rock opera, but The King is Dead delivers the same sound plus a handful of really great memorable pop songs like Down by the River, This is Why We Fight and my favorite…Calamity Song.