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2011 has to be the best year in music, I ever experienced. Granted, it's also the first year I actually followed the new releases. I heard around 80 releases, which is peanuts compared to some of the diehards around here, but nevertheless I discovered a lot of cool stuff. Below are the 20 highlights of this year for me.

Guess what? 2011 also had fantastic electronic releases who didn't reside in the dubstep genre. With Scintilla, Stendeck released his third album, and it's an absolutely jawdropping release. Probably his most accessible as well, with this time around as much attention given to the complex beats as to the eery soundscapes.

With their gritty, early 90's sound, Yuck were one of the many surprises for me, this year. They proved alternative rock music is still viable for the mainstream radio, with local stations picking up "The Wall" and "Stutter" around here. This album certainly made a lot of car rides more enjoyable.
18Explosions In The Sky
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

The critics may be right in saying Take Care, Take Care, Take Care provides more of the same, but the fact is practically no post-rock band around these days does it better than EITS. I also still absolutely love the flow of their albums, which is again apparent on Take Care.
17Mr. Oizo
Stade 2

After years of silence, Oizo returns with what may be his best work. The schizophrenic beats will make you dance your ass off. It's been my weekend soundtrack for about two months now.
16The Black Keys
El Camino

The Black Keys were sure quick to follow up their magnificent Brothers of last year, but the result is - as expected - impressive. El Camino is easily the most uptempo Black Keys yet and with it, they make another steady push into the mainstream. Be assured though, they are hardly selling out, 'cause the sloppy and sleazy guitar riffs are all around the place. Rock the way it's meant to be.
15Manchester Orchestra
Simple Math

Perhaps the band with the most misleading band name in the business - Atlanta is not exactly next door to Manchester and this is almost pure grunge at times. But what a magnificent album, full with grandeur and epic pieces as the title track or "April Fool". "Pensacola" is very close to being my SOTY.
14Kashiwa Daisuke

I'm a big sucker for minimalist and emotive piano pieces as the Japs can create them like no other. So this was a pretty obvious highlight for me, this year.
13Pinch and Shackleton
Pinch and Shackleton

Adash's review says it a lot better than I can, but this defines dubstep for me: dark, gritty, dirty, foul and dangerous. I'd say I had nightmares because of this, but that would be a bit over the top.
12Amon Tobin

Of course this list would have Tobin on it. Easily the most consistent creator of warped and twisted electronic pieces for over a decade now, and his latest is the most intense album of his yet. But really, you haven't experienced this, until you've seen him live: ISAM live raises the bar for electronic livesets to the height of practically infinity.
11Laura Stevenson and The Cans
Sit Resist

One of many "Sputnik" albums on this list, but nevertheless one of the finest pop/folk/rock/indie/whocares albums in probably ever. "Healthy One" and "The Wait" are the absolute killers on here.
10The Horrible Crowes

When you make an album like this, Brian Fallon, I almost find it a bit sad if you're saying the next Gaslight record will return to the punk roots. Use more piano and organ, goddammit! Seriously, though, listen to this yesterday.
9Frank Turner
England Keep My Bones

While I don't consider myself a lyricsman, there's no denying the lyrics are what makes this an essential 2011 release. Full of wit and humour, but also striking the right nerves when the songs demand it. The songs themselves fantastic as well. Give him a couple of years, and Turner might turn out to be the new Dylan or Billy Brag. "Who would've thought rock'n'roll would save us all?" I knew it all along.
Old Raves End

The quintessential dubstep release of 2011. Upon it seemed a bit too simple, too easy, but somehow it gradually got under my skin. Why do I like this so much? Because no other dubstep or other electronic release sounds so warm, so human as Old Raves End. It may have been produced by artificial means, but it sounds so real and intimate. Brilliant in every way.
7Submotion Orchestra
Finest Hour

And then we have Submotion Orchestra. Mysterious, epic, loungy, relaxt, dark and dangerous, Finest Hour glides from mood to mood, but is so cohesive, so consistent and just so darn good that's never a problem. Ruby Wood is the new Beth Gibbons and it's clear that without her, this would have never worked as much as it does now.

Can I be a little chauvinistic? Thanks. Because I strongly believe that in a few years Amatorski will rank among the absolute powerhouses of post-rock. The most fragile and intimate record of 2011, no doubt about it. Haunting, soothing, chilling and eery, TBC is the best Belgian debut of the past decade.
5The Jezabels

From fragile and introvert to bombastic epicness. Prisoner is again a very eclectic album, but also hugely cohesive. The songwriting on here is incredible and the over-the-top sound doesn't wear out after many listens, luckily. Too many single highlights on here to list them, but actually the whole is greater than its parts.
4Arctic Monkeys
Suck It And See

Yes I may be a huge fanboy, but the Arctic Monkeys released one of the best album this year. It seems like they are getting better with each album, and they are a band who are willing to experiment, where many others just try to play it safe. None of their albums sound the same, and the lyrics of Alex Turner get more poetic which each release, and like that other Turner, are full of wit and humour. Musically the mix between their retro pop and newfound stoner tendencies is great and feels completely natural. The Monkey really feel more at ease on Suck It And See, and it's great to hear them actually having fun once.
3Bomb The Music Industry!

?The point is when you got a perfect wave, a perfect anything you go for it. Don?t worry about what the shark has stuffed up his butt. I mean there will always be sharks, but how often does this once in a lifetime wave come along?.?
Keep You Close

Now, I discovered a lot of fantastic, new stuff this year, but when one of your absolutely favorite bands comes along and releases an album that's better that anything they put out in the last ten years, then of course it belongs in the top regions of a list like this. The previews I heard made me hope for the best, but after the first spin of Keep You Close, I was left breathless at how much it exceeded my expectations. If you are a fan of alternative rock, and you still have to listen to just one album this year, make sure this is it.
1Fucked Up
David Comes To Life

How much I wanted to put dEUS at the top, I just couldn't with David Comes To Life existing. Ever since it came out around here, it has been litteraly stuck in my CD player. Even today, not a week goes by without me giving this sucker a spin - I think I'm addicted. From start to finish the tempo is blazingly fast, the sound is completely overwhelming and the content will make your head hurt with the complexity (in a good way though). I really don't get the complaint that this is too long, if every track on here is an absolute killer. When it ends, the only thing I want is to press play again. Fucked Up were already the best punk band of the noughty's and with David, they released a true punk masterpiece and one the absolute best albums I ever heard.
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