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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

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
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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