Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tanner's Top Ten Albums of 2011

We're back! In one of our few recurring installments, Danny, Stefan and I will share our top ten albums of the year. I really enjoyed a lot of albums this year (as you will see) but these were my favorites:

10. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes (2/28)

Stefan introduced me to the earlier Lykke Li album, and I really enjoyed it, though it was a little to “cute” for lack of a better word. This album, which I first heard in its entirety on XM radio on a long road trip, is more mature and serious, and even has some hints of darkness. I really enjoy the Icelandic drums and unique rhythmic percussion of Lykke Li, and adding this extra depth to her catchiness made this album especially good for me.

9. Wilco – The Whole Love (9/27)

Wilco had been getting boring to me, (although I never dislike anything they do) but their latest ablum blew me away. They upped the tempo and aimed for more of an alternative (as opposed to their typical Americana) sound, and made it work really well. It’s definitely my favorite album of theirs since 2000’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which is one of my all time faves.

8. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light (4/12)

A – I really like the lead singer ‘s (Tunde Adebimpe) voice, either when he’s singing normal or falsetto. B – Sometimes I can get lost in the layers of instruments they use when I’m listening casually, but if I have headphones in or if I make it a point to really pay attention the songs only get better and better. C – The band made videos for all ten songs on the album and the videos run together to make one 60 minute film. It’s pretty awesome, and I suggest you check out at least some of it.

7. Lupe Fiasco – Lasers (3/8)

This is my favorite album of 2011 that you can hear on top-40 stations. I think Lupe is a great pop-rapper and his message always seems more socially conscious and less hypocritical than most of todays’ more popular similar artists (like Kayne, Drake, Lil Wayne, and BoB to name four). Also, this album gets bonus points for being played NON STOP at the Siesta Key chateau in April for a week and not making my stomach turn eight months later.

6. Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys (5/31)

I overplayed this album so I had to take a break from it, but listening to it now there are four A+ songs on it (Codes and Keys, Doors Unlocked and Open, You are a Tourist, and Underneath the Sycamore) and the rest of the album are solid Bs. I like that Death Cab took a step back and mellowed out a bit compared to the last album, but they can still inexplicably create energy on even some of their more laid back songs. I think the rhythm section doesn’t get enough credit for staying in the background while still keeping songs sung by Ben Gibbard from being boring.

5. Iron and Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean (1/25)

It was tough making this album number five on my list because it is SO GOOD. From a straight song-writing aspect, Iron & Wine (I assume the dude is Iron and his sister is Wine) are fantastic, and this album is particularly good because they used the studio to create an entirely different sound than what we are used to out of them. My one quibble is that this album would have been EPIC if they would have included acoustic versions of all the tracks, so the loyal fans could get a little of the classic Iron and Wine sound. Please listen to the studio version of one of the best songs on the album, followed by the acoustic version to see what I mean.



4. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues (5/3)

When I first listened to this album I was floored, and it is still as good on the thirtieth listen as it is on the first. I really liked how there seemed to be little flaws in some of the harmonies and instrument pitches to make it sound organic, and then I read that they would re-do takes that were too good because they wanted the album to sound like a bunch of guys singing around a camp fire instead of a men’s choir. That creative choice really made the album, because I could definitely see a world where these songs would be too polished out of the studio and ruin the heartiness of Fleet Foxes’ sound. I could see looking back in five years and thinking that this was the best album of 2011, but it doesn’t encapsulate the year for me like the top 3 do.

3. Childish Gambino – Camp (11/15)

I think the main reason I love this album so much is that I was really excited for it and it exceeded my expectations. Donald’s lyrics are amazing, and the production is way better than I thought it would be. It seems like he made a conscious effort to showcase his versatility, with the aggression of “Bonfire,” the melody of “Heartbeat” (he sings his own hooks) and the soul spoken word of the outro. Donald does rap about bitches and pussy too much, but he awknowledges this and his elegantly written spoken word autobiographical story that concludes the album gives us some insight as to why he has this attitude. At any rate, you don’t have to get over analytical to enjoy these lyrics (try to read them while watching the video):

Okay, it's Childish Gambino, homegirl drop it like the NASDAQ
Move white girls like there's coke up my asscrack
Move black girls cause, man, fuck it, I'll do either
I love pussy, I love bitches, dude, I should be runnin' PETA
In Adidas, with some short shorts, B-O-O all over me
My green is where it's supposed to be, your green is in my grocery
This Asian dude, I stole his girl, and now he got that Kogi beef
My dick is like an accent mark, it's all about the over Es
Hot like a parked car
I sound weird like nigga with hard R
Fly like the logo on my cousin's 440
Eatin' Oreos like these white girls that blow me
Vodka for my ladies, whiskey for a grown man
Hangin' in the islands, lookin' for Earl like Toejam
I made the beat retarded, so I'm callin' it a slow jam
Butcher and I know it, man, kill beef, go H.A.M.
These rappers are afraid of him
Cause I'm a beast, bitch, Gir, Invader Zim
Gambino is a call girl, fuck you, pay me
Brand new whip for these niggas like slavery
They told me I was awful man, that shit did not phase me
Tell me how I suck again, my memory is hazy
"You're my favorite rapper, now" Yeah, dude, I better be
Or you can fuckin' kiss my ass, Human Centipede
You wanna see my girl? I ain't that dumb
You wanna see my girl? Check Maxim
"Man, why does every black actor gotta rap some?"
I don't know, all I know is I'm the best one

2. Foster the People – Torches (5/23)

This will be the album I think about when I think of 2011. Admittedly, like everyone else, I downloaded it because “Pumped Up Kicks” was so damn catchy. But then I pleased to find that it is arguably the fourth or fifth best song on the album (I think “Waste” and “Helena Beat” are certainly better, and an argument could be made for “Call It What You Want and “Houdini”). I’m now a big fan, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I look back at this one and like it mostly for sentimental reasons instead of actual quality of songs (similar to how I look at 2003’s Outkast Speakerboxx/Love Below album now).

1. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Here We Rest (4/12)

So good. I never thought that I would like Jason Isbell better after leaving Drive-By Truckers, but this album confirmed it.

And a bonus version of my favorite song ever (not on the album, but still. Amaze-balls.):


Radiohead – Lotus Flower


Drive-By Truckers - Everybody Needs Love

It was nice to see (hear?) that Radiohead and DBT (my two favorite all time bands) were still able to knock my socks of.

Honorable Mention Albums (in release date order):

Drive-By Truckers – Go-Go Boots (2/14)
Radiohead – The King of Limbs (2/18)
Adele – 21 (2/22)
The Strokes – Angles (3/22)
Arctic Monkeys – Suck it and See (6/6)
City and Colour – Little Hell (6/7)
The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient (8/16)
The Kooks – Junk of the Heart (9/12)
Das Racist – Relax (9/13)
Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire (10/11)
Wale – Ambition (11/1)
The Black Keys – El Camino (12/6)

That's it! Stefan and Danny (and James?) will do theirs soon I bet.

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