Originally published at duanemoody.com. Please leave any comments there.
I know, right? FINALLY! The wait is over, and here are my 11 favorite albums from LAST YEAR, 2011. Now, this list really isn’t a surprise to me, because these are the albums that I listened to most throughout the year, and they are all stellar. However, for the first time, for me, there was a clear tie for first; I couldn’t pick one of them over the other, no matter how hard I tried. That being said, I hope you enjoy my picks for my favorite albums of 2011. I also listed several albums that were great, but just didn’t make the cut, because they weren’t up to the par of these special few. Now, on to the list!
(tie) 1. Adele – 21
I have loved Adele pretty much from the first moment I heard of her. I saw some blogs talking about this “up and coming” singer back in early 2008, and after hearing some live stuff, I was instantly on board. What came next was an amazing debut, 19, which was my number 4 album of 2008. Then, I saw her live at the Variety in March of 2009, and that concert solidified her as one of my favorite artists. Obviously, I was jazzed to here a new album was slated for early 2011, but I wasn’t prepared for this opus that she would release. This album doesn’t have a single bad track on it. It is immaculate. This is an album that is current, and one that will age well; it is a new classic. Adele is one of those singers that has such talent that it isn’t really being matched by many right now; and people are taking notice. This is one of those rare instances where there is something I love so very much that happens to make it on the radio, and gain the attention of the masses; this album made 2011 a huge year for Adele. Now, if she can just quit pushing herself so hard, take some breaks, and protect that amazing voice; I want to enjoy her for a lifetime.
Standout Tracks: Turning Tables, Set Fire To The Rain, Someone Like You, Take It All, Rolling In The Deep.
(tie) 1. City and Colour – Little Hell
This album being on top shouldn’t surprise anyone that reads this blog regularly; I adore Dallas Green, aka City and Colour. He is another one, like Adele, that when I first heard of him, I was instantly hooked, and I realized quickly that I had found an all time favorite artist in him. His most recent album, Little Hell, is raw, beautiful, dark, poignant, flawed, and still, damn near perfect. This album takes what he does best (making amazingly well written songs and setting them to hauntingly beautiful acoustic music), and builds it to a crescendo. This album captivated my attention from when it was released in June, and continues to be on heavy rotation for me now; this is a shining example of a supremely well made album by a truly amazing artist. Little Hell showed me that I chose well when I declared City and Colour as one of my favorite artists, because he does not disappoint. I was worried that it wouldn’t meet or exceed Bring Me Your Love (which is one of my favorite albums of all time), but he met the mark, and made an album that stands proudly along side it. Excellent, excellent music, here folks, and one of my favorites of the year by far.
Standout Tracks: Northern Wind, O’ Sister, Grand Optimist, We Found Each Other In The Dark, Little Hell.
3. William Fitzsimmons – Gold In The Shadow (Deluxe Edition)
I finally got to see him live earlier this year, and I KNOW that this influenced my decision to put his album this high; the album is amazing, but hearing it live made for one of the best concert experiences of my entire life. William is an incredibly folk musician, and his music is tender, and achingly beautiful. What pushed him higher on the list was the re-release of this album as a Deluxe Edition, because it contains some of his most beautiful songs to date (which are included in the standout tracks). Another great album by another amazing artist; are you sensing a trend here, people?
Standout Tracks: By My Side, Beautiful Girl, Ever Could, Blood And Bones, Bird of Winter Prey.
4. Jessie J – Who You Are
Initially, I was a bit turned off by her (not a huge fan of Price Tag), but I listened to the whole album, and man, I was blown away. This chick can SING!! She has some amazing songs, and her debut is nothing to scoff at; it’s brilliant. Definitely one of my biggest surprises of the year; glad I gave her a second chance! Also, the re-release with Domino was smart; Domino is such a fantastic addition to an already amazing album.
Standout Tracks: Who You Are, Do It Like A Dude, L.O.V.E., Domino, Abracadabra.
5. Lady GaGa – Born This Way
What can I say, IT’S GAGA. Seriously, haters beware; this is pop music people. GaGa is still killing it, several years into the game at this point, and clearly, has no intention of slowing down. Some of the tracks on this album are the best of her career; she clearly has a knack for what it takes to make a hit. This album is excellent from beginning to end, but the Deluxe version “extras” were just so-so. Overall, GaGa has never let me down, and this album was certainly one of my favorites this year.
Standout Tracks: Heavy Metal Lover, Born This Way, Marry The Night, Americano, The Edge of Glory.
6. Patrick Wolf – Lupercalia
I love how eccentric this guy is; he clearly has his own style, and flaunts it with such, well, style, that it begs for attention. I really enjoyed his previous work, and was excited to hear a new album from him this year. However, it was all shock and awe when, low and behold, this is the happiest I have heard him! There are so many wonderful love songs on this album, and it is definitely my favorite album he’s released to date. Do yourself and watch the video for House too; it is EPIC. I love artists that aren’t afraid to be themselves, and Patrick is the definition of unique. His talent is too wonderful not to explore and share.
Standout Tracks: House, The City, Bermondsey Street, Together, The Future.
7. Feist – Metals
I am a gigantic Feist fan; I have been since I saw her live on her tour for The Reminder. That album caught me by surprise and ended up being my number 2 album of 2007. I didn’t think I’d have to wait so many years to get another fantastic album from this Canadian chanteuse, but when she announced she’d follow up this year, I was thrilled. She didn’t disappoint, either; fantastic follow up to a fantastic previous album.
Standout Tracks: How Come You Never Go There, Bittersweet Melodies, Anti Pioneer, Graveyard, Caught A Long Wind.
8. Death Cab For Cutie – Codes and Keys
What can I say, Death Cab are one of my all time favorite bands, so obviously, I am going to be excited when they come out with new material. This time, they released some very happy and upbeat songs, and many of them channeled electronic elements of Gibbard’s seemingly abandoned side project from years ago, The Postal Service. I was more than happy to hear those influences on this album, and still hold out hope for another Postal Service album; but that’s a different story for a different time. The songs on this album are excellent, and it is yet another great album but one of my favorite bands… this seems to be the trend for 2011.
Standout Tracks: St. Peter’s Cathedral, Stay Young Go Dancing, You Are A Tourist, Unobstructed Views, Some Boys.
9. Florence + The Machines – Ceremonials
While her first album took me a little while to fully enjoy, I was waiting at the starting gate for this go ’round. Florence is truly an artist that crafts a song from the words, to their pronunciation, to the music, and the orchestration; all of these are her instruments, and the effect is a layered song that is unique and gorgeous. She uses her dynamic musical talent to craft yet another album that many people will continue to talk about for a while to come; she has proven she is truly an artist to watch, and listen to.
Standout Tracks: Shake It Out, Only If For A Night, No Light No Light, Remain Nameless, Never Let Me Go.
10. Mat Kearney – Young Love
Always a favorite of mine, Mat tries a few new things, while bringing the signature of his previous work on board, making yet another fantastic album. The blend of hip hop with pop-rock is unmistakably Mat’s signature, and he weaves more delightful music on this album, and makes some of his best music to date. While it didn’t quite wow me as much as his previous effort, it does stand out as one of my favorites of the year, and there really isn’t another negative thing I have to say about it.
Standout Tracks: Ships In The Night, Count On Me, Chasing The Light, Rochester, Hey Mama.
11. Britney Spears – Femme Fatale
Arguably, this is by and large, one of her strongest, and most cohesive albums to date. Some of the songs on this album made for some of her most dynamic, and interesting singles as well. Overall, this album will certainly be one that Britney can look back on one of her overall best. That being said, the inclusion of the complete throwaway track, Big Fat Bass, almost derails the entire effort for me, but I skip it each time I listen to the album, so I won’t let it ruin the pop masterpiece that soars throughout the rest of the record. It’s Britney, bitch, indeed.
Standout Tracks: Till The World Ends, Criminal, Seal It With A Kiss, I Wanna Go, Hold It Against Me.
Well, there you have it; my favorite 11 albums of 2011. I hope you found something you hadn’t heard, and give it a chance. I also hope that you enjoyed these albums as much as I did in 2011, and will continue to enjoy on into 2012 and for years to come.
Now, the rest… These are albums that were very good, but for whatever reason, missed the 5 star mark. Some of them just have fantastic singles, but a lot of throwaways dragging them down, and others were just good, but nothing stood out as fantastic. Either way, here’s a bunch of other music you should check out, as it was stuff I was digging in 2011:
Matt Alber – Constant Crows: Love this out crooner, he’s as easy on the eyes as he is on the ears. A great follow up to his debut, and the Madonna cover is amazing.
Beyonce – 4: Color me disppointed; some AMAZING singles, some really bad songs. All over the place.
Bjork – Biophilia: Kinda like above, an amazing lead single, the rest was weird, but interesting.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver: Love him, even though his voice is a bit weird to me.
Alex Clare – The Lateness Of The Hour: Dubstep meets soaring, chill inducing male vocals.
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger: Originally, I stated it was ‘meh’; well, it grew on me, some real stompers on here.
The Decemberists – The King Is Dead: Some of this is excellent, some just too twangy.
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues: Gorgeous, but also a bit too ethereal for me.
David Guetta – Nothing But The Beat: An album full of floor filling dance singles, what’s not to love (well, a few of them, that’s what).
Jennifer Hudson – I Remember Me: I love this girl. Practically as good as her debut, with just a few slight missteps.
JLS – Jukebox: Overall, enjoyable, but nothing really stands out of the pack.
Cher Lloyd – Sticks + Stones: Excellent, almost made my year end list. Reminds me of the spunk of Lily Allen. Swagger Jagger is a deal breaker, though.
Jennifer Lopez – Love?: Color me surprised with this one! Some MAJOR singles, but the rest is filler.
M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming: Pretty, weird, pretty weird… but good!!!
Jon McLaughlin – Forever If Ever: Great songwriter, but some of them felt like half-hearted efforts. The stellar songs are stellar, though!
Matt Nathanson – Modern Love: Didn’t love it as much as his previous release, but still good nonetheless.
Noah and the Whale – Last Night On Earth: Very different than their previous album, which I loved; hard not to compare the two.
One Direction – Up All Night: Fun and poppy.
Peter Bjorn and John – Gimme Some: A bit more edgy and harder than their best album, Writer’s Block, but still good.
Nicole Scherzinger – Killer Love: Damn, this almost made my best of list; but the filler songs are bland. Where she shines, however, she is brighter than the sun!
Slow Runner – Damage Points: Saw them open for William Fitzsimmons; great band, great sound!
The Saturdays – On Your Radar: A little disappointing considering their previous work, but still great girl band pop.
Vanbot – Vanbot: Almost made my best of list; excellent, Swedish pop, reminiscent of fellow Swedish pop princess Robyn. Definitely one to keep your eye on.
The Wanted – Battleground: Kinda like JLS; overall, enjoyable, but nothing really stands out.
White Lies – Ritual: Quite excellent, and maybe with more listens, I’ll love it even more; it just didn’t capture my attention last year.
Will Young – Echoes: Oh how I had such high hopes for this album, and I tried, I tried so hard to love it. It has some AMAZING singles (Jealousy being my favorite song of the year, btw), but the rest of the album was a little more dance, and little less heart for me. Will’s previous album was perfection to me, so I was pretty sure this one couldn’t stand up to it, and unfortunately, it didn’t. That being said, I really love him, and he is one of my favorite artists, and despite only a luke warm feeling for me, it’s a great album nonetheless.
Young The Giant – Young The Giant: Some great singles, but the high points far outshine the low points.