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I go back and forth on whether time passes too slowly or too quickly, but either way, I’m surprised every year when it’s time to make another list.  It’s always nice to go back and revisit albums that came out earlier in the year; the memories they evoke are a nice gauge of how good or bad the year was.  Merry Christmas to everyone on Sputnik, and I hope you all have positive memories when you make your own lists.

25. Childish Gambino – Camp

Community has become one of my favorite television shows ever, and that’s the only reason that I listened to this album. I didn’t listen to Watch the Throne or Goblin or undun or really any other hip-hop album that came out this year. I just haven’t really been in the mood. But I’m glad that I listened to Camp, because it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable listens of the year. It’s catchy but that’s not really it. A lot of people have criticized Donald Glover for his lyrics, and I’m certainly willing to concede that some of them are pretty bad, but this is probably the album that made me listen most attentively this year. By the end of my first listen, I really felt like I’d been on a journey, like I’d gotten to know Glover a little bit. There’s a lot of confusion on Camp – most of the record seems to be predicated on Glover anticipating criticism and responding to it beforehand – but it’s endearing to me. I like hip-hop that’s a little unsure of itself. Sometimes he doesn’t know whether to snarl or smile and he does something that falls in between; life, I suppose, is never precise.

24. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

Bob Dylan + fuzz = awesome rock music.

23. Adele – 21

There’s a running joke about Adele’s music only appealing to lonely cat ladies. While her songs can be pretty sad, what’s even more sad is that even though Adele is clearly not ashamed of her plus-size physique, all of her promotional photos and album covers are essentially close-ups of her face, with maybe one of her hands thrown in for good measure. It gives me a slightly uneasy feeling, because listening to 21 is such a draining experience. Her voice rips me to the core, it exposes everything, it reveals pure distillations of feelings. There is no hiding, no artful close-up meant to cover up something undesirable. She’s got one of the most honest voices I’ve ever heard, and I wish the culture that surrounded her would take some notes.

22. *shels – Plains of the Purple Buffalo

It’s a shame that it took *shels so long to finish this album; if it had come out closer to Sea of the Dying Dhow, they might be a lot bigger than they are right now. As it is, it seems like the few people who knew about them back then largely forgot about them by the time this record was released, and those that did listen to it stopped talking about it fairly quickly. That’s okay though. The album’s immense sound speaks for itself.

21. Andrew Jackson Jihad – Knife Man

Part of me really wanted to find Knife Man super annoying. Another part of me knows it’s super annoying. But there is a part of me larger than those that never wants me to utter any words ever again if they don’t come from this fucking album.

20. Bright Eyes – The People’s Key


I used to listen to Bright Eyes a lot. Nowadays though, The People’s Key is really the only album that appeals to me. It seems like it’s the only Bright Eyes album where Conor Oberst isn’t channeling someone else, where there are actually unique musical ideas present instead of blunt force emotion. And it’s the only Bright Eyes album without awful samples. Let “One for You, One for Me” play until the end, and the last word you’ll hear is “mercy,” given to the speaker by someone in the crowd – a perfectly simple representation of everything that Oberst has been trying to illustrate for years.

19. Chuck Ragan – Covering Ground


Hot Water Music’s new album is probably not going to be all that great if the songs released so far are any indication, but at least we can count on Chuck to release the most solid of solo albums every two years or so.

18. Los Campesinos! – Hello Sadness


I’m not even gonna fuckin’ try.

17. Eisley – The Valley


Whimsy.

16. Giles Corey – Giles Corey


“I want to feel like I feel like I’m asleep,” is something I’ve never been able to articulate but always felt.

15. The Decemberists – The King is Dead


I had to double check that this album came out in 2011, because it seems like I’ve been listening to it for a really long time. Maybe it’s just because I only listened to The Hazards of Love for like a month before I forgot about it. This is very much a summer record, which is weird because it came out in the winter, and also I listened to it the other day when it was very cold and I got so nostalgic that it almost made me sick. What I’m saying is that it’s great for any time.

14. Mastodon – The Hunter


“It’s just the curl of the burl; that’s just the way of the world.”

13. The Dear Hunter – The Color Spectrum (Complete Collection)


Will The Dear Hunter have any creativity left over after this project? Who cares! Their linked concept albums have never really been worth caring about, so I’ll just listen to Green in the summer and gaze in wonder at the trees! and the leaves! and the sun! and I’ll be annoying everyone around me but I’ll just be so damn happy!

12. Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math


A lot of Simple Math really isn’t all that simple. In fact, most of it is pretty damn overcomplicated. Mostly there is too much orchestration, to the point of being saccharine when it should be ominous. The album lacks the subtle beauty that made songs like “I Can Feel a Hot One” and “Tony the Tiger” classics, but I’ll be damned if the skeletons of these songs aren’t just as great. It’s just a little hard to hear it sometimes over the violins and child choirs. Generally I just let the mood that “Deer” sets dictate the rest of the album, and if I have to let my own voice reveal the human element to these songs, then so be it.

11. Pulling Teeth – Funerary


Nothing much to say here. Pulling Teeth’s music becomes bleaker and better with every release.

10. Protest the Hero – Scurrilous


Protest the Hero ditch the concept albums and focus all their energy on some of the catchiest metal songs I’ve ever heard.

9. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck


John Darnielle is basically the greatest human alive. He is more beautiful than you and everyone you know, and he is more metal as well.

8. Thrice – Major/Minor


Thrice aren’t my favorite band anymore, but it’s always such a pleasure to sit down and listen to their new record for the first time. That about says it all.

7. Patrick Wolf – Lupercalia


Patrick Wolf’s always been a pop artist, and certainly he’s always been an unabashed person in general, but Lupercalia is really his first unabashed pop album. It’s very refreshing to hear a record full of love songs from someone who doesn’t get huge radio airplay, because lord knows the indie audience will take heartbreak over love any day. But the sheer force of these songs will win over just about anybody, and if you need more depth, there’s always his back catalog.

6. Bomb the Music Industry! – Vacation


Even now at the end of the year, it’s still a little hard to say what makes Vacation so different from other Bomb records. Really, it brings most of the same things to the table – volume, energy, honesty – but in different ways. It doesn’t hit hard at first, but over time it packs more of a wallop than anything else he’s ever written. I guess it means he’s growing. Sometimes I wish he would just scream “We’re fucking the world!” again, but then I hear the end of “Felt Just Like Vacation,” and everything is just fine.

5. Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials


Glee is so unbelievably fucking terrible now, but at least I discovered Florence and the Machine because of it. My first listen of Ceremonials was an experience of pure joy. I was filled with such a weird happiness. I don’t know, it was just nice to hear Florence exceed the potential of her debut by such a great distance. There’s really no reason to listen to Lungs anymore. “Shake It Out” alone can make you experience every single thing that the entirety of Lungs would, and it can make you dance to boot.

4. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain


Music journalists speak often of “the moment,” referring generally to a section of a song that makes them realize the greatness of an album. I spent a long time trying to pinpoint what that would be for Go Tell Fire to the Mountain, but I kept getting too drawn into the music. I like Wu Lyf; I’m very interested to see what they do with their career. I like their mystique, I like that they don’t face the camera in their promo shots, I like that they seem like a thousand nameless ideas transposed into sound instead of a group of people. You can’t understand the words, so you’re sort of forced to subconsciously listen with a different part of your brain, the part reserved more for feeling than listening. I had originally thought that this album would place a lot lower on this list, but then I realized that there’s absolutely nothing about this album I dislike. And I suppose that right there is the answer: this album is one moment that lasts for forty-five minutes.

3. La Dispute – Wildlife


A few weeks ago I was listening to “King Park” in my car very loudly, and for whatever reason, it hit me particularly hard even though I’d heard it many times before. I became deeply engrossed in the story, envisioning everything that Jordan Dreyer was describing, to the point where I felt like I was also in a dream. During the last minute of the song, I started to feel my breath catch short and I was actually almost brought to tears. And although I had already loved the album and given it a very positive review, that was when it hit me – this is powerful stuff. La Dispute tapped into something with this album. I’ve no idea what it is and I’m not sure I want to, because so much of it is dark, gray, and hopeless, but real enough to touch as well. The last line of King Park sums up the extreme creative leap that La Dispute made with this album – “I don’t want to know how it ends.” That’s the difference between Wildlife and Somewhere at the Bottom… - the knowledge that sometimes no great understanding or wisdom comes from loss and love, the knowledge that sometimes things happen and there is no reason for them. Sometimes there is only the continual search for clarity that refines itself with every fleeting experience.

2. Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones


Frank Turner is the greatest artist alive who has never written a classic album. There is always some frustrating misstep on his albums. Sometimes they’re small (“Love Worth Keeping” from Love Ire & Song), and other times they’re huge (half of Poetry of the Deed), but either way, they’re always there. If it weren’t for the awful, a capella “English Curse,” England Keep My Bones would be the best album of the year and an undeniable classic. But Frank is seemingly never able to stop short of kitsch. It drives me insane. But it’s a testament to just how perfect the rest of the album is that England is still the second best album of the year. With only one listen, “I Am Disappeared” was cemented as Frank’s best song, and one of the best songs ever, seriously. “I keep having dreams of things I need to do, and of waking up and not following through, and it feels like I haven’t slept at all.” Amazing.

1. Laura Stevenson and the Cans – Sit Resist


I’d be hard-pressed to find a musical descriptor that I hate more than the word “cute.” There is a condescending nature to the word that is unavoidable. Then again, Sit Resist exceeds just about any word you could use to describe it anyway, but there is just so much more to this album than quirkiness and accordions. Laura says it best in “I See Dark” when she sings, “I see dark and I cannot write it.” Underneath every song, darkness pervades, lapping at the walls and threatening to break through, and there is sometimes a sense that Laura is tired of fighting it, about to give up, and it is that desperation that elevates Sit Resist to the best album of the year. Female-fronted indie can be more than something that “reminds me of Regina Spektor” or “is so quirky and cute.” It can be more than innocuous and benign; it can spread hints of darkness into the best of moods because, as Melville would say, it’s impossible to really feel and appreciate something unless you feel a little bit of its opposite as well.





Urinetrouble
12.11.11
excellent list

Trebor.
12.11.11
Really good pictures and correct number 1

theacademy
12.11.11
best non-willie staff list yet although i wonder what got left off for camp

theacademy
12.11.11
yeah but you don't really like metal anymore

clercqie
12.11.11
Great list and writeup! Love the description for Vacation, I feel the same way. It grew on me really hard as well, to the point it's almost my favorite release from this year.

MalleusMaleficarum
12.11.11
i've been putting off that Giles Corey album, and i would get it now but i dont think theres enough time for it to grow on me and make my year end list anyways

gabethepiratesquid
12.11.11
Don't like 22, 25, 6 or 14 one bit but neato list. Giles Corey was one of my favorite albums of the year.

Electric City
12.11.11
wonderful job chan, love seeing bomb and wu lyf so high

Transient
12.11.11
i fucking love i am disappeared so much ffffffffffff

KILL
12.11.11
gay

Electric City
12.11.11
also, reading your stuff always makes me want to get off my ass and write something. so good for you man

Acanthus
12.11.11
The b/w pictures suite this extremely well, kudos! Loved 1's description!

Kris.
12.11.11
fantastic list
super surprised to see camp on here tho

FelixCulpa
12.11.11
Great write up and classy pictures.

mynameischan
12.11.11
the funny thing is that i didn't plan on having b/w pictures but i got them all from searching tumblr and EVERY PICTURE on tumblr is black and white. it was almost impossible to find good color pictures. i only had to edit like 3 of these to b/w myself. also none of these are credited because tumblr is the land of uncredited photos.

tsundereSCIENCE
12.11.11
Great stuff Chan

klap
12.11.11
hey someone else liked bright eyes

Activista anti-MTV
12.11.11
yess

mynameischan
12.11.11
yeah rudy i think you and i were the only ones

natey
12.11.11
love Sit Resist and reading this list

LegendofPittman
12.11.11
inb4 1000 comments

Omaha
12.11.11
Yes for 10

WeepingBanana
12.11.11
nice list broseph

AliW1993
12.11.11
Really awesome list, glad to see Bright Eyes, The Decemberists and WU LYF so high up.

TenSecondsToThink
12.11.11
I think Sit Resist is a perfect album, but there's just not enough in it to make it as classic as the other few classic albums I know so far.

ILJ
12.11.11
I always look forward to your reviews and lists. Fantastic as always. I was sorta surprised to see Adele in there though.

Trebor.
12.11.11
I think Sit Resist is a perfect album, but there's just not enough in it to make it as classic as the other few classic albums I know so far.

What?

Maniac!
12.11.11
1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1 is 1

DoubtGin
12.11.11
then again it's not


great list with even greater b/w pics

therayder
12.11.11
Awesome list

Eko
12.11.11
awesome

Blackbelt54
12.11.11
one of the best lists I've seen so far

iambandersnatch
12.11.11
5 in general is so overrated and had to side-eye you a bit for dissing the previous dear hunter albums (they actually are good, thanks :P) but still one of the better lists i've seen. kudos

mallen-
12.11.11
Awesome list.

Always get excited when I see Covering Ground

HBFS
12.12.11
there are some nice beards between 14-12, great photos

Ovrot
12.12.11
twas the night before christmas and all through the house
not a creature was stirring
not even a mouse

AngelofDeath
12.12.11
Good write-ups. I still think Lungs is far superior to Ceremonials, though.

taxidermist
12.12.11
[i]A few weeks ago I was listening to “King Park” in my car very loudly, and for whatever reason, it hit me particularly hard even though I’d heard it many times before. I became deeply engrossed in the story, envisioning everything that Jordan Dreyer was describing, to the point where I felt like I was also in a dream. During the last minute of the song, I started to feel my breath catch short and I was actually almost brought to tears. And although I had already loved the album and given it a very positive review, that was when it hit me – this is powerful stuff. La Dispute tapped into something with this album. I’ve no idea what it is and I’m not sure I want to, because so much of it is dark, gray, and hopeless, but real enough to touch as well. The last line of King Park sums up the extreme creative leap that La Dispute made with this album – “I don’t want to know how it ends.” That’s the difference between Wildlife and Somewhere at the Bottom… - the knowledge that sometimes no great understanding or wisdom comes from loss and love, the knowledge that sometimes things happen and there is no reason for them. Sometimes there is only the continual search for clarity that refines itself with every fleeting experience.[/i]

Had the exact same feeling the other day.

pcar
12.12.11
time tebow

oh and agree with number one

Days of Future Passed
12.12.11
Nice list. Nice photos too. Black n White

Trebor.
12.12.11
Black and yellow black and yellow black and yellow

Satellite
12.12.11
like half of my top 40 is on here

good write-ups, too, chan

Metamorphosis
12.12.11
Holy shit great list! A lot of it is on my top 25 for this year for sure.

Irving
12.12.11
Fantastic list. Looks like you had an amazing year Chan!

AtavanHalen
12.12.11
cool list, but:

"There’s really no reason to listen to Lungs anymore."

are you fucking KIDDING me?

Aids
12.12.11
great list, 1 and 3 are my 1 and 2. Loving the pictures you added as well, makes this look legit.

oh and this: "John Darnielle is basically the greatest human alive. He is more beautiful than you and everyone you know, and he is more metal as well." is fucking awesome and so true.

Aids
12.12.11
and hell yes to everything you said about Laura Stevenson. people comparing her to Regina Spektor are stupid, and there's really nothing "cute" or "charming" about Sit Resist at all, unless you aren't paying attention to the content.

Knott-
12.12.11
idk barnacles is a pretty fucking cute song

Aids
12.12.11
I don't have the lyric sheet with me, but I thought it was "I see dark, and I cannot right it"

maybe it's "write" though? either way it's a good lyric

Aids
12.12.11
yeah Adam that's true.

Lucid
12.12.11
I always like reading what you have to say. Great list.

Aids
12.12.11
i just realized how hilarious the picture for La Dispute is. Jordan Dreyer looks like a fucking dumbass and that guy is just standing on stage, gawking. also, 14-12 is beardtastic.

Capablanca
12.12.11
Awesome list. Good to see Bright Eyes made somebody's top 20.

Imploder
12.12.11
the la dispute picture is awesome. good soundoffs on here.

Weathered
12.12.11
Massive props for including Patrick Wolf, that album is great.

Tyrael
12.12.11
Aw man wheres the metal

sixthgoldenticket
12.12.11
glad to see 3, 21, and 20 even though I don't agree about his music feeling forced

AuntJemima
12.12.11
really good list

glad 17 is here

TooLateToGoBack
12.12.11
Good last.

Awesome to see La Dispute at 3. Also, no Thursday? No Devolucion was perfect.

SylentEcho
12.12.11
How can Chan write blogs here? I thought he was just a user.

231090
12.12.11
All Eternals Deck

Aids
12.12.11
......

welcome to sputnik?

Eko
12.12.11
La Dispute picture is win

mynameischan
12.13.11
"How can Chan write blogs here? I thought he was just a user."

we are all just users man

and adrian, the liner notes say 'write'

bungy
12.13.11
9. What you said. Yes exactly

thebhoy
12.13.11
At first I was like, yeah Childish Gambino is okay, now I think it might be one of the worst releases I've heard this year.

bungy
12.13.11
Last time I saw Darnielle he came out to his usual metal and this time it was straight fucking death metal and he let it play for obviously way too long before they started. it was hilarious

mynameischan
12.13.11
i don't know how many people know that he writes south pole dispatch for decibel magazine every month, and it is hilarious

thebhoy
12.13.11
also, need to hear that Mountain Goats... too late for my best of list, but I still need to hear it

Time
12.13.11
you should check out the wonder years album from this year chan i think youd rather enjoy it, the lyrics at the very least

YetAnotherBrick
12.13.11
"But there is a part of me larger than those that never wants me to utter any words ever again if they don’t come from this fucking album." YES. THIS. SO. HARD.

mynameischan
12.13.11
People II: Still Peoplin' is the greatest song title ever

Cipieron
12.13.11
meh

ConsiderPhlebas
12.13.11
That Chuck Ragan album is sweet

defjaw83
12.13.11
Great list man, I always enjoy reading your shit. There's quite a few here that I haven't even heard yet

raggedragamuffin
12.13.11
great list. just downloaded everything i didn't already have.

foreverendeared
12.13.11
I love that 12, 13, and 14 basically look like the same person.

HaloDude442
12.13.11
hahahah forever is so right they really do

Knott-
12.13.11
lmao

Aids
12.13.11
"and adrian, the liner notes say 'write'"

ahh ok I thought I might be wrong. but like I said, either way it's a fantastic lyric.

NeutralThunder12
12.15.11
great list but scurrilous was insanely lame

#1 is top 5 without any type of doubt

Fort23
12.15.11
"I didn’t listen to Watch the Throne or Goblin or undun or really any other hip-hop album that came out this year. "

fuck you

botb
12.16.11
chan this is still the best staff list yet

Odal
12.17.11
WHERE THE FUCK IS TROPHY SCARS

mynameischan
12.18.11
the staff consensus list doesn't include EPs

ScorpionStan
12.22.11
haha Laura Stevenson is sooo ordinary. Kind of ridiculous that such an uninteresting artist deserves even close to a #1 spot. If you wanna hear some female indie pop-rock that actually does exceed the term "cute" (because Laura does not, no matter how hard you try to believe she does), check out The Joy Formidable. It's every bit as inspiring as it sounds.

ScorpionStan
12.22.11
haha Laura Stevenson is sooo ordinary. Kind of ridiculous that such an uninteresting artist deserves even close to a #1 spot. If you wanna hear some female indie pop-rock that actually does exceed the term "cute" (because Laura does not, no matter how hard you try to believe she does), check out The Joy Formidable. It's every bit as inspiring as it sounds.

ScorpionStan
12.22.11
my bad

ScorpionStan
12.22.11
Also i actually know several people that think English Curse is the best moment of the album...interesting

mynameischan
12.22.11
scorpionstan is here to BLOW THE LID OFF MUSIC

ScorpionStan
12.22.11
how terribly perceptive of you

Believe it or not, i was serious. Most people i know that have heard Laura can't get past her ditsy 5 year-old voice, even if they could get past the kitchiness of the music. Fair or not, it's the truth, and it's why her popularity will always have a very low ceiling. But i mean hey fetishes are fetishes man no judgement

Electric City
12.22.11
chan how are you surviving this

Deviant.
12.22.11
This is all incredibly insightful stan, thank you for telling someone that it must be inherently wrong of them to fond joy in an album. Anytime I feel like going against the grain i will surely seek you and your edginess out and humbly request an audience

JWT155
12.22.11
Everyone's different.

Deviant.
12.22.11
You can't win a discussion by bringing in fictional characters andcas

JWT155
12.22.11
I should get Tebow to tackle you both...

ScorpionStan
12.22.11
oh sorry guys forgot it was against Sputnik law to disagree with a list ranking

haha Deviant i really don't want to believe you're that dull. Read my comment again, and try to control your sarcasm this time. I said that most people would never see Laura's music as any more than "quirky" and "cute" (which is true), that i thought her list ranking was way too high (which is true, i do think that), and then i even gave him his due when i said "fetishes are fetishes, no judgement." If that sounds like I'm telling Chan it's wrong for him to personally find enjoyment in the album to you, then boy you really are dull. Or you're just willing to sacrifice the truth for a cheap snarky retort, one of the two.

If this list was "Chan's 2011 guilty pleasures", or "Chan's fave jams 2011", you would have a point. But Channing unequivocally and categorically states that Sit Resist is "the best album of the year." THAT was my point of contention and i am quite free and justified in contending it. Just as much as he is free to make laughable #1 rankings in the first place.

Electric City
12.22.11
man youre thick but ill just point out the most obvious thing:

"most people would never see Laura's music as any more than "quirky" and "cute" (which is true)"

says who?

ScorpionStan
12.22.11
Practically everyone i know who has heard it (I work part-time at a studio on music scores and such so i know many who have listened to her and know her), other review sites and mags, even her own fans. Hell just google it.

My point was simply that Chan is a bit out of touch, or else just a little too emotionally involved.

theacademy
12.22.11
man youre thick but ill just point out the most obvious thing:

you're ScorpionStan

bungy
12.22.11
only perverts like laura's music, fortunately there are only very few

ScorpionStan
12.22.11
Aha! There ya go theacademy...i guess i am edgier than i thought

and yeah bungy i could see the pedophile set latching onto her lol

bungy
12.22.11


ScorpionStan
12.22.11
I will say that this is my favorite staff list out of the one's i've seen so far

Deviant.
12.23.11
You're setting yourself up for a huge fall when you have to rely on the opinions of others

klap
12.23.11
generally speaking stan people don't qualify every opinion that comes out of their mouther in everyday speech.

this is the best album of the year (in my opinion)

this is the best pizza i have ever had (in my opinion)

this is the best blowjob you've ever given baby (strictly speaking from my perspective here)

bungy
12.23.11
But i mean hey fetishes are fetishes man no judgement

Electric City
12.23.11
"this is the best blowjob you've ever given baby (strictly speaking from my perspective here)"

lol

ScorpionStan
01.19.12
oh haha hey guyz you replied and i had to miss it awww

Laura still sucks. And judging from the fact that Sputnik opinions and favorites are an admittedly eccentric minority, i can only take your resistance as confirmation of my viewpoint :)

Deviant.
01.19.12
That's a great outlook you have there stan. You disagree? I WIN!

robertsona
01.19.12
oh my god scorpion stan is back

Activista anti-MTV
01.19.12
w'sup stan

Satellite
01.19.12
learning so much from stan brb gonna 1 sit resist

Deviant.
01.19.12
It's the non sputnik thing to do, so everyone seems to be telling stan anyway

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