Kellie’s Top Albums of 2011

I always look forward to this time of year and reading the many, many year end lists.  It’s interesting to see what people found to be the best and why.  Equally as interesting is reading the barrage of comments on such lists in which upset people voice their distaste because they feel as if their favorites were overlooked.  Sometimes we forget that music, like any art, is left to interpretation of those who consume it, therefore no one is truly an authority on what determines what is best.  This is my attempt at such a list.  These are my favorite albums of the year based solely upon my unique consumption of them.  Whether it be the sound, the feel, the lyrics or a specific personal attachment, these are the albums that are the most memorable in my 2011.

10. Slow Club – Paradise

This album slipped into my rotation late in the year.  Paradise is a blend of upbeat pop-style tracks and sticky sweet ballads, making it an uplifting treat from beginning to end.  The ever changing vocals and influences make each track unique.  Simple, straightforward lyrics leave you with the ability to feel each song for exactly what it is.  All individually crafted emotional journeys in song.  Standout tracks: “Never Look Back”, “Gold Mountain”

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9. Frank OceanNostalgia, Ultra

The members of Odd Future dominated 2011, however this record is head and shoulders above any other release from a member of the group.  Nostalgic in using  affectionately familiar samples, yet challenging us with ultra smooth, slick vocals.  This record is just pure fun.  A perfect soundtrack for a day at the pool or a late night drive.  Standout tracks: “Novacane”, “Nature Feels”

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8. BeirutThe Rip Tide

I can never listen to a Beirut album without wanting to jump on a plane, boat or train and travel the world.  The Rip Tide is no exception.  Every song feels like a first class worldly performance, with the charming vocals of Zach Condon and whimsical instrumentation.  Beirut has matured greatly on this release, yet they haven’t lost the element of wonder.  Standout tracks: “Vagabond”,  “Santa Fe”

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7.  Zola JesusConatus

Nika Roza Danilova’s vocals are breathtaking.  I am pretty picky when building an attachment to a female vocalist, mostly because I personally find many that are considered mainstream to be overrated.  This album is a collection of perfectly crafted accents of sound that support her flawless vocals.  Nothing about this record or Nika is overratedStandout tracks: “Skin”, “Vessel”

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6. Toro Y MoiUnderneath The Pine

It’s nearly impossible to avoid dancing to the dreamy vocals, bouncy disco and funky motown sounds his second full length album release, unless maybe you were roller skating instead.  Underneath The Pine updates everything great about vintage sounds.  This was my go-to record of the year when needing to recover from a bad day.  Standout tracks: “Still Sound”, “Go With You”

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5. Craft SpellsIdle Labor

I like to assume that the album cover’s similarity to that of New Order’s “Power, Corruption and Lies” is no accident.  This album eloquently evokes the reminiscent sound of the new wave movement.  It’s refreshing to find an album that can be catchy and playful, yet can be appreciated as a well done work of art.  Standout tracks: “For The Ages”, “Scandinavian Crush”

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4. BraidsNative Speaker

Listening to this album is like taking a journey down the rabbit hole.  It’s a fairy tale composed of unrequited love, subtle jokes, magical daydreams with a constant hint of darkness lurking underneath.  This is the album of 2011 that I don’t think I will ever tire of for years and years to come.  It sounds new every time I hear it, leaving me with anticipation for what is to come next.  Standout tracks: “Native Speaker”, “Plath Heart”

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3. Middle BrotherMiddle Brother

One part Deertick, one part Dawes, and one part Delta Spirit is an obvious recipe for greatness.  This album is just plain, simple, genuine good music.  There are many artists that try very hard to do what Middle Brother does, but the raw and real is missing.   Raw and real is done so well on this album that I think it will stand up as a legendary one for our time.  Standout tracks: “Blood And Guts”, “Middle Brother”

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2. Tom VekLeisure Seizure

I listen to a lot of music, and to me, nothing sounds like Tom Vek.  His production, his voice, his delivery are all so intriguing.  Although every artist has influences, the composition of this album is 100% his.  It has a slightly arrogant feel, but you can’t help but love him for it.  This album makes me smile, or maybe that’s a devilish smirk.  Standout tracks: “Close Mic’d”, “Aroused”

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1. Wye OakCivilian

Along with being my favorite album of the year, seeing Wye Oak made my favorite show of the year as well.   This album ranked high on many prestigious year end lists, with good reason.  After years of putting out great records, they have seemed to really control and perfect their sound.  It’s an ideal picture of grungy, noisy emotion coated in gracefully gentle vocals.  It’s musical beauty.  Wye Oak is finally receiving the attention they rightfully deserve, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.  Standout Tracks: “Dog Eyes”, “Civilian”

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