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Aids' 2011: Albums

2011 was a year that saw me consume new music in quantities that I never have before. As a result, I found some amazing music this year and connected with a lot of it in a way that I had previously though impossible. While it's quite possible that I only see 2011 as the all-time greatest year for music precisely because I spent so much more time seeking it out this year, the fact remains that the following collection of albums bests (for me) and other year's. So without further ado, here are my favourite 100 albums from an absolutely fantastic year for music:
100Algernon Cadwallader
Parrot Flies
99Real Estate
98FareWell Poetry
Hoping for the Invisible to Ignite

Ramy will give me shit for this being so low.
96The Black Keys
El Camino

Doesn't suck like I thought it would. One or two terrible songs but the rest ranges from decent to awesome.
94Scale The Summit
The Collective
The Hunter
...and so we destroyed everything
The Destroyers of All
Dream Songs

My friend's band from Vancouver that has an obsession with Radiohead.
89Fair to Midland
Arrows and Anchors
88Ash Borer
Ash Borer
The Mesektet
86And So I Watch You From Afar
The Rip Tide
84Laura Marling
A Creature I Don't Know
83Frank Turner
England Keep My Bones
The Hope In Forgiving & Giving Up Hope
80Gold Panda
79Weekend Nachos
Plains Of The Purple Buffalo
Translation Lost
TKOL RMX 1234567
75House Boat
The Thorns of Life
I Was Here For a Moment, Then I Was Gone
73Mother Mother
72City and Colour
Little Hell

Still pissed at Dallas Green for breaking up Alexisonfire, but I can't deny that this album rules.
71Cymbals Eat Guitars
Lenses Alien
70James Blake
James Blake
69Mr. Oizo
Stade 2
68The Roots
67Sarah Fimm
Near Infinite Possibility
The King of Limbs
No Devolucion
63The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Everyone I Ever Met
61Balam Acab
60Florence and the Machine
59Until Your Heart Stops
56White Ribs
Darwinners and Losers
55Sorrow [UK]
Summer of Love
Spiritual State
52Submotion Orchestra
Finest Hour
Heavy Rocks II
48Gold Panda
DJ-Kicks: Gold Panda
47The Weeknd
House of Balloons

This stands for the entire trilogy which, for me, goes: House of Balloons>Echoes of Silence>>Thursday
46Kendrick Lamar
Section 80
45How Do We Jump This High?
Funny/Not Funny
Old Raves End
Like Shadows
41The Jezabels
39Cave In
White Silence
38The Wonder Years
Suburbia: I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing
37Wild Beasts
Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
35Chuck Ragan
Covering Ground
House of Stone
33Roman Flugel
Fatty Folders
32Kashiwa Daisuke
31Kate Bush
50 Words For Snow
30Natural Snow Buildings
Waves of the Random Sea
Garten Der Unbewusstheit
Life From Dead Limbs
27A Winged Victory for the Sullen
A Winged Victory for the Sullen
26St. Vincent
Strange Mercy
25Crash of Rhinos

In a genre that is somewhat notorious for its abrasive, even dark sounds, and oftentimes negative themes, Crash of Rhinos have delivered a refreshingly happy slice of post-hardcore that is best enjoyed somewhere between your fifth and sixth beer of the night with a group of close friends.
24Andrew Jackson Jihad
Knife Man

Dripping in sarcasm and scathing remarks about 21st century western culture, Knife Man is one of the most lyrically powerful records of 2011. Andrew Jackson Jihad put forth another record in their tried and true musical style of folk-punk and pair it with some of the funniest and thought- provoking words yelped all year.
23The Dear Hunter
The Color Spectrum (Complete Collection)

The Colour Spectrum is easily one of the most impressive concept albums ever recorded. While it is true that the 36 tracks are hard to listen to in one sitting without getting bored, the scope of this project alone is almost enough to warrant the amount of praise that it has received. The interpretations of the nine colours (well, seven colours plus black and white) by the band are remarkably accurate. I recently told a friend of mine about this album, and he was very intrigued and asked me to play him a few choice songs. I played him five or six different cuts, all from different sections of the album, and without fail he was able to decipher which colour the band was going for with each one. So sure, the 36-song project gets a little boring by the end if you attempt to listen to it one sitting, and it definitely loses points for that. But the scope of the concept and the nearly perfect execution of sounds are enough to bring this album into the top 25 LPs of the year. This is best listened to in sections, one EP at a time.
S/T Cassette

Aggressive, unrelenting screamo from a relatively unknown Alberta group that demands your attention immediately and does not let go until the end of the final track. Oh, and also their vocalist is a woman: bonus points (just kidding, but not really).
21Bon Iver
Bon Iver, Bon Iver

No, Bon Iver does not make my top 10, or even my top 20. Bon Iver, Bon Iver is an impressive and beautiful record, that much is nearly impossible to argue, but it does not even come close to touching the pure brilliance that was their 2008 debut. Still, Bon Iver has managed to create a worthy follow up to For Emma, Forever Ago with ten gorgeous folk tunes, complete with the trademark vocals of Justin Vernon and wonderfully organic sounding guitar textures.

The masters of the horribly named slowcore style of indie-rock return in 2011 in classic Low fashion. The album is full of soothing, gentle tunes that would relax even the most uptight of music fans.
19Tim Hecker
Ravedeath, 1972

Tim Hecker retains his throne as the king of modern ambient music with a thoroughly haunting and impressive record in 2011. He also gets bonus points for one of the best album covers of the year.
Empty Days and Sleepless Nights

Ahh yes, Defeater. I was admittedly apart of the hordes of people that hyped this record up to a completely unjustified level, and, like most of the other people in said horde, it definitely grew off me, hard. When this album was released, I was just starting to get into melodic hardcore and I definitely overrated what Defeater was doing with their music. Now that the dust has settled, I can agree that Defeater are not leaps and bounds ahead of their contemporaries, and that they aren't re-writing the rules of story-telling in hardcore music, or anything silly like that. However, I still enjoy this album and band a great deal, and stand by some of my previous statements about this album being quite unique and interesting for its genre. Empty Days and Sleepless Nights is a concept record that reveals the story within its lyrics in a very clear and easy to follow manner, and this makes for a very easy listen. The hardcore section of the album climaxes with the intense White Oak Doors, in which the main character of the story is killed by an oncoming train and the music and lyrics abruptly stop. The listener is then given a moment or two of silence to let the story sink in before the band changes gears and drops four acoustic folky tracks. Is it worth the insane amounts of hype? No, probably not. Still, this is a great piece of melodic hardcore and definitely a good starting point for anyone hoping to get into the genre.
17Foo Fighters
Wasting Light

Foo Fighters have been a great band for well over a decade now, and Wasting Light is further proof of that. However, this is more than just another passable album to get lost in their evergrowing discography. Wasting Light is surely a standout. The album is focussed and mature, but it still rocks like The Foos of old. And on that note, let it be said that it rocks hard, easily harder than anything they've done since 2002's One By One. To use an example, consider "White Limo." Grohl's vocals are nearly screams throughout and the guitar riffs are simple and dirty, yet manage to drive the song along in an effective, catchy manner. "White Limo," and the entire album in general, is an homage to the early days of The Foo Fighters, but with a new, fresh-sounding approach. All things considered, this is quite possibly their best album yet.
16Old Man Markley
Guts N' Teeth

For someone who hates country music as loudly and proudly as I do, the high placement of this album is pretty hard to explain. Old Man Markley avoid the clichés of the polarizing genre that they are a part of and marry its style with punkish attitude and high levels of energy. The title track is also one of the best anit-racist/sexist/whatever-ist tunes you will ever hear.

Scintilla is a dazzling piece of brooding IDM that will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good uhn-tss uhn-tss.
Mylo Xyloto

After the first single from this album was released (Every Teardrop is a Waterfall) I was very worried that this album would suck. I feared that Coldplay were about to jump the shark into the waters of overproduced, unnecessarily huge sounding arena rock. To be honest, the album does not sound too different from what I imagined it would, but I enjoy it all the same. The production is definitely over-the-top, courtesy of Brian Eno, but it works magnificently well with the sound that Coldplay are trying to tackle here (and the previously mentioned single works much better within the context of the album). Silly album/track names and ridiculous storylines aside, Mylo Xyloto is an album for Coldplay fans, nothing more, and nothing less. Those who like what the band have been producing for the past decade will enjoy this album, and those that have not, will not. I fall in with the former, and as such, I love Mylo Xyloto. Oh yeah I almost forgot: the track with Rihanna fucking slays. Haters gon hate.
13TV on the Radio
Nine Types of Light

TV on the Radio continue to be one of the most consistently enjoyable rock bands of our generation with Nine Types of Light, which delivers eleven tracks of groovy post-punk/indie-rock in classic TVotR style. R.I.P. Gerrard Smith.
Black Square

I never do a good job of describing any variety of electronic music, so I will avoid throwing too many adjectives or genre-descriptors at Black Square (I think this is deep house or some shit, but I am almost definitely wrong). Instead, I will just say that BNJMN have created one of the most chilled-out records of the year. Listening to Black Square will put you into a deep trance, perfect for listening to with a good pair of headphones while lying on your bed with the lights out after a long, hard day, and taking a brief trip to outer-space.
11The Mountain Goats
All Eternals Deck

John Darnielle does it again, no surprises here. Damn These Vampires is one of the best songs in his body of work yet, and that is quite a huge statement when talking about a man who has released as much music that he has.
10The Rural Alberta Advantage

I have been to rural Alberta several times, and from what I can tell, there is no advantage. Band name inaccuracies aside, The RAA have created an absolutely magnificent piece of introspective indie-rock with their second LP. Departing is an album that takes the listener through the emotions that go hand-in-hand with a devastating break-up through its wonderfully relatable lyrics, and accompanies these themes perfectly with fitting music.
9The War on Drugs
Slave Ambient

Slave Ambient is everything that you love about your parent's music collection, with a contemporary twist that somehow manages to make it sound distinctly like an album from our modern era. While listening to this album, it is entirely possible to become mesmerised by the buckets of fuzz and reverb and fall into a hazy coma (I know, it has happened to me several times already). It will be the best coma ever though; just let the lush melodies and Dylan-esque vocals wash over you and immerse yourself completely in this wonderful piece of warm, soothing music.
8Dan Mangan
Oh Fortune

Vancouver singer-songwriter Dan Mangan has drawn comparisons to modern folk-music giant Damien Rice with his previous two albums, and for good reason. With his latest album, Oh Fortune, Mangan branches out slightly from his style of by-the-books folk songs and incorporates more elements of different styles of music. That isn't to say that his previous albums were full of boring or plain songs, that is not the case at all, but there are only so many times that an artist such as Dan Mangan can write a folk song before he starts to repeat himself and become uninteresting. Fortunately for his fans, he prevents this from happening before it was even close to being an issue with his newest album. Oh Fortune sees Mangan use much more electric guitar (there is even a solo in Rows of Houses) as well as various other types of instrumentation, but he still retains the warm voice and contemplative lyrics that put him in the realm of folk giants such as Rice.
7The Antlers
Burst Apart

The Antlers made some serious waves in the musical world with their 2009 concept album, Hospice. Their new album, Burst Apart, is an entirely different beast and was met with some scepticism by music listeners that were apparently hoping for a rehash of Hospice. There is no unifying concept this time around, or at least not one so obvious. Instead, what The Antlers deliver on Burst Apart is a mere collection of songs, but each one is memorable in its own right. No Widows sounds like an underwater level of Donkey Kong 64 (i.e. awesome), Rolled Together is a subdued, slowly building piece, while album closer Putting The Dog to Sleep is a brilliant metaphorical piece of lyricism with chunky guitars and fittingly restrained drums. I will be the first to admit that Burst Apart lacks some of what made Hospice such a masterpiece, namely the unifying concept and powerful story-telling lyrics, but a rehash of Hospice would have been a terrible play from The Antlers. With Burst Apart, the band cleverly left their past where it belonged and instead attempted a new direction, and nailed it perfectly.
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

The new album from M83 is a marvellous combination of all the best aspects of modern-day dance music with 80s synth-pop. Before you even dent the surface of this monster 73-minute album, the listener is treated to an upbeat dance-tune with an unbelievably cool saxophone solo (Midnight City), the alternate ending to The Breakfast Club (Reunion), and some truly beautiful, touching music (Wait). Albums of this length are often ruined by needless filler or the brazenly obvious repetition of ideas, but M83 avoids all of this throughout the ambitious double-disc and instead delivers track after track of fresh musical ideas. If you fail to enjoy at least some of the music on this album, then you are dead inside. This album is the very definition of fun in musical form, with dashes of other, deeper emotions sprinkled throughout.
5Pianos Become the Teeth
The Lack Long After

Pianos Become the Teeth are masters at blending two styles into one cohesive sound. They marry the more aggressive and abrasive aspects of screamo music with the build-ups and dynamics of the post-rock style in a way that few of their contemporaries can dream of. The Lack Long After follows the style of their debut LP, Old Pride, but contains much more emotion, and that is what propels it to their best work yet. The death of the father of their main vocalist is the inspiration for most of these songs, and you can hear his pain when he screams. There is a perfect mix of restraint and aggression within this LP, and the maturity displayed by the band in this regard is not an entirely common trait of this sort of music. The entire album builds up to the final track, and it leaves absolutely nothing behind. I'll Get By is an incredibly breathtaking and passionate piece of music that perfectly evokes the emotions of sadness and loss, and the final result is possibly the best song of 2011.
4Hey Rosetta!

This is an album that has flown criminally under the radar. Seeds is a somewhat straight-forward indie-rock album by a group of talented Canadians from Newfoundland (hey whaddyaknow, Newfies are good for something after all #uneccesaryintercanadaracism). Drawing comparisons to Arcade Fire and several other prominent indie-rock bands, Hey Rosetta! have, somewhat puzzlingly, not gained much recognition for their music. Seeds is an album that I am hoping will change that, because it is simply stunning. It is pretty much the most straight-forward indie-rock album that you will hear all year, but it also happens to be one of the best. The music is wonderfully arranged and on several occasions tempts me to use that all too often misused word: epic. Tracks such as Welcome and Yer Fall make wonderful use of swelling guitars, start/stop drumming patterns, and group vocals to create goosebump inducing moments that went nearly unparalleled in 2011 indie. Lyrically, much of the album is focussed on themes that are at the forefront of the mind for anyone who feels that their life may lack meaning or direction, and I think that is a pretty large percentage of the youth of today. Seeds is an album that takes time to fall in love with. For myself, I was definitely impressed with it on first listen, but I did not consider it anything more than a nice indie-rock album, hardly unique or extraordinary. Something within in though got stuck inside my head, and for nearly a month straight (in December), it was literally the only thing I felt like listening to. Anyone who is a fan of well-orchestrated indie- rock must give this album a try. Seeds is the album that you will put off listening to forever before eventually kicking yourself for being so stupid and amending your pre-mature 2011 lists. (You see, there is a reason that I wait so long to submit my year-end lists.)
3Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math

Manchester Orchestra is basically the perfect indie-rock band, and Simple Math is essentially the realization of this bold statement. With each new LP, Manchester Orchestra take a different angle towards their song writing, but the result is always the same: catchy, fun indie-rock tunes that still carry emotional weight thanks to the personal, gripping lyrics of frontman Andy Hull. With Simple Math however, they have added an element of careful orchestration that, in the end, propels this album over their others, if only just. Soaring string sections are found on many of the songs here, but they are never overused or tackily smacked into the middle of a track that does not need them. Every piece of Simple Math feels carefully calculated in a perfect way that is never overbearing. Manchester Orchestra was never far from perfection with their previous LPs, but Simple Math is the full realization of everything that they have always threatened to create: epic, majestic compositions with intensely personal, yet eerily relatable lyrics that still somehow manage to remain incomprehensibly catchy.
2La Dispute

La Dispute burst onto the scene in 2008 with their impressive, but highly polarizing, debut LP. Most of the negative responses to that album were centered on the whiny vocal deliverance of Jordan Dreyer, and even though I am one that enjoys his vocals quite a bit, this qualm was definitely understandable, darling. (I actually hated his vocals for about a month before I slowly started to fall in love with them.) Their full-length follow up, Wildlife, tones this part of their music down, and instead of making the vocals and lyrics the centrepiece, it is the instrumentation that takes the spotlight this time around. The songs on Wildlife are constructed with great care and executed in such a manner that shows increased maturity from this young band. The concept on this album is not as strong as on their debut, and some (including myself) enjoy it less as a result. But it cannot be denied that La Dispute have proved that they are anything but a one-trick pony. Wildlife is an album full to the brim with interesting and unique musical composition, great drumming, and vocals restrained to the point just the right side of annoying.
1Laura Stevenson and the Cans
Sit Resist

Both La Dispute and Manchester Orchestra threatened to claim Album of the Year honours with two straight LPs (Somewhere at the Bottom of the River was my favourite of 2008, barely edging out Bon Iver and Coldplay, while Mean Everything Nothing took top honours in 2009), but Laura Stevenson and the Cans held them off in 2011. On the surface, Sit Resist is little more than a pleasant indie-folk record that goes through all the regular motions. The record is, in reality, much more than that. Beneath the seemingly simple folk framework of this album lies a story heartbreaking in concept and breathtaking in execution. Often mistakenly labeled as cute or charming, Sit Resist is in fact a deeply personal and devastating story of true love turned painful, a relatable topic for those of us that have had our asses kicked by a relationship gone wrong. Within the collection of songs on this masterpiece, Laura evokes too many emotions to count. There are moments of sweet bliss and unhindered love (Master of Art), jubilation (Barnacles), but also instances of frustration (Caretaker, The Wait), and straight-up devastation (I See Dark). So yes, this can easily be described as yet another indie-folk record with some cute female vocalization and just as soon forgotten, but beneath the surface of her unassuming demeanour, Laura Stevenson has crafted a brilliant collection of songs which tell the story of a love that was torn apart by circumstance, and a woman powerless to help it. Sit Resist is a classic grower: its genius takes time to reveal itself to the listener as it is hidden beneath charm and a familiar framework. But for those who allow it to be revealed to them will be treated to a nearly flawless conceptual masterpiece up there with the best break-up albums of all time. In a year overflowing with truly fascinating music, Laura Stevenson has somehow emerged at the top of a very impressive pack: Sit Resist is, without a doubt, the best album of 2011.
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