YEAR IN REVIEW: Albums of 2011: 10-1

10. SBTRKT – SBTRKT
The talented London producer’s debut record is a soulful, varied and fun record that evokes many different feelings throughout. This makes it perfect for every occasion, be it relaxing at home or partying it up. 2011 has been a year saturated in amazing electronic music, but SBTRKT stands heads and shoulders above the rest in my mind, as the most well-crafted collection of songs. Sampha provides much of the vocal work throughout, but the many collaborations help elevate this album towards greatness. Each song has a distinct feel and it never gets repetitive. SBTRKT’s debut album is one of the most promising debuts of the year.
DOWNLOAD: Trials of the Past
9. BON IVER – BON IVER
Gone are the days of recording albums in secluded cabins for Bon Iver. With his second album, Justin Vernon upped his game in a major way. The album is treated to arrangements of full orchestras while still maintaining that heart-wrenching soul that For Emma, Forever Ago showed so brilliantly. Beautiful harmonies permeate every corner of the album and every element feels like it was thoroughly thought-out and planned so precisely. It’s a rather unforgettably beautiful album.
DOWNLOAD: Towers
8. GIRLS – FATHER, SON, HOLY GHOST
With Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Girls created one of the most diverse and creative albums in the diminishing world of quality guitar rock. It draws influences from a vast pool of artists, and fuses them together to make on of the most solid rock albums in a fair while. Frontman Christopher Owens’ vocals display an impressive range of emotions throughout the album, from the loved-up pop of Magic to the frantic rock opera of Die. The second album is usually a difficult thing to accomplish for bands, but Girls show that they have everything figured out terrifically.
DOWNLOAD: Magic
7. TUNE-YARDS – W H O K I L L
The way in which tUnE-yArDs style their name might look peculiar to the casual onlooker, but once you come to terms with Merrill Garbus’s second album, you’ll see that the name is one of the least strange things about it. W H O K I L L diverse, fun and just altogether different experience. She uses her voice as much as an instrument in its own right as a forms of communicating. The vocal ranges on display here are phenomenal, and the almost tribal beat of the album is really something you need to here. She has many different bases covered throughout the album, from the up-beat, bombastic stylings of Gangsta, to the eerie, haunting Wooly Wolly Gong. W H O K I L L is one of the most innovative, ingenious albums of the year. No one else makes music like this.
DOWNLOAD: Gangsta
6. DESTROYER – KAPUTT
Destroyer, AKA Dan Bejar, have had a long history of creating music, with Kaputt being the ninth studio album under the moniker. I was blissfully unaware of the musician’s existence until this offering, I had been missing out on a treasure trove of music. Kaputt was one of the most relaxing, intriguing records of the year, and the instrumentals on display were beautiful. Bejar employed so many different instruments for so many perfect occasions and combined it with his soothing vocals and honest lyricism. This album is absolutely essential listening for 2011.
DOWNLOAD: Savage Night at the Opera
5. LOS CAMPESINOS! – HELLO SADNESS
Los Campesinos! aren’t as young as they were back when recording 30 second songs filled with frantic drumming and yelping. Hello Sadness showed a distinct evolution to the band, and a distinct feeling of sorrow, but countered with an underlying feeling of confidence. Los Campesinos! are a band that just get stronger and stronger, and Hello Sadness is the most concise, powerful and brilliant collection of songs they have produced to date.
DOWNLOAD: Songs About Your Girlfriend
4. STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS – MIRROR TRAFFIC
With Mirror Traffic, Malkmus’s fourth solo album since Pavement’s end, he compiled the most rhythmic, accessible solo material to date, with hooks everywhere, this was the true return to form we’d always been waiting for from the godfather of indie music. His trademark wordplay and vocals came together, along with intricate guitar playing, to create an album that encapsulates everything that makes Malkmus such an influential figure. Tigers, the lead single displays the infectious hooks that Pavement were known for, while Senator has that signature tongue-in-cheek attitude. Mirror Traffic just has track after track of good old fashioned indie rock, with excellent production by Beck himself.
DOWNLOAD: Stick Figures in Love
3. YOUTH LAGOON – THE YEAR OF HIBERNATION
Combining minimalist instrumentation, hypnotic rhythm and soothing synth beats, Trevor Powers’ honest, heartfelt lyrics help propel this debut forward. The songs start off simple, and build up and up into more complex structures, forming some of the most mesmerizing sounds put onto record this year. For someone of 22 years old to have created a collection of songs with the power, precision and passion on display in his debut is staggering, especially bearing in mind it was self-produced in his bedroom. The future for Youth Lagoon is almost blinding.
DOWNLOAD: July
2. ST VINCENT – STRANGE MERCY
Annie Clark’s third solo album was never going to disappoint. The musicians brand of off-beat fuzz-filled pop is always unpredictable in nature, and Strange Mercy displayed the diversity that we have come to expect from St Vincent. Her soft spoken vocals harmonise with the music perfectly, while the intelligent, witty lyrics slide by seamlessly. Strange Mercy sure feels like musical bliss.
DOWNLOAD: Cheerleader
1. THE ANTLERS – BURST APART
Following up from 2009’s Hospice was always going to be a difficult task, but the resulting album feels like it was conceived by a completely revitalised band. Burst Apart feels like the perfect middle-ground between the desolate misery of Hospice and happy-go-lucky pop. The songs flow together so well, and Silberman’s haunting falsetto voice falls so delicately upon the music, it just all feels so right. The lyrics shine as much as the music itself; Silberman has taken his experience making hospice and refined his skill to create songs that can be at times brutally honest and the next moment upbeat and insightful. The emotion conveyed in Silberman’s voice is second-to-none. Burst Apart is a record that is so well conceived and has enough variation to keep it exciting. It packs in just the right elements of raw emotion on display in Hospice, to create what is, to my mind, the best album that 2011 has to offer.
DOWNLOAD: Corsicana
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