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Thread: Best albums of 2011

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    mutton mutton's Avatar
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    Default Best albums of 2011



    Whenever people say this year/decade's music sucked, I think either they don't listen to that much music, or their standards have risen too high for enjoyment.

    Let's talk about last year's albums. My list weighs heavily toward genres I prefer, which shows I'm missing out on a lot. There are albums lower down the list that I listen to much more than ones higher; in this sense, it's a little less subjective. EPs are included.

    1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver
    2. Wild Beasts – Smother
    3. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing
    4. 65daysofstatic – Silent Running
    5. Parts & Labor – Constant Future
    6. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck
    7. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
    8. Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
    9. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead
    10. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
    11. Destroyer – Kaputt
    12. Future Islands – On the Water
    13. Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
    14. Skinny Puppy – HanDover
    15. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
    16. Mogwai – Earth Division
    17. of Montreal – thecontrollersphere
    18. Steven Wilson – Grace for Drowning
    19. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
    20. Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
    21. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
    22. Justice – Audio, Video, Disco
    23. Nils Frahm – Felt
    24. The Antlers – Burst Apart


    Usually people list only their favourites, but then you have no idea what those are relative to, and you have to ask whether they've heard such and such. Here are the albums I found mediocre to poor:

    Spoiler

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    I really like Beirut, but was also really disappointed by the Rip Tide. I really expected something a little more from him - it all felt so bland and uninspired. I read somewhere that this was apparently the first album that was "his" album, with his previous work being, or lack of a better word, homages to specific musicians (like the Flying Club Cup was heavily influenced by Jacques Brel) or styles of music (March of the Zapotec being influenced by Mexican or South American rhythms).
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    I saw Beirut last year and they were good. They seem more of a live band than a studio band, which may be obvious given the nature of the music.

    My feeling about The Rip Tide is it's catchy yet hollow, like the instruments aren't used to their potential. There's a too-much-in-your-face quality with the vocals and piano that makes it hard to listen through despite its length of only 33 minutes.

    Quote Originally Posted by coqauvin View Post
    I read somewhere that this was apparently the first album that was "his" album, with his previous work being, or lack of a better word, homages
    That would explain the lack of a distinctive style as found in previous albums.

    The best tracks are "Port of Call" and the title track. The climax of the former was a lot more aggressive live. The video for "Santa Fe" is decent:

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN-5XUqe1PQ"]Beirut - Santa Fe - YouTube[/ame]

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    Quote Originally Posted by mutton View Post
    I saw Beirut last year and they were good. They seem more of a live band than a studio band, which may be obvious given the nature of the music.
    I always thought he was better as a studio band. The impression that I got is that Beirut is led and driven solely by Zach Condon, and the element that stands out the most is the layered harmonies, especially in the vocal lines. A couple of my favourite tracks are Mount Wroclai, Cliquot and Elephant Gun. The live versions I heard (off youtube, I still haven't managed to get to a Beirut concert yet) of Wroclai lacked the layered vocal lines that made the song so strong to me. Cliquot was very similar, although Elephant Gun was done pretty well. In the end, I still feel Condon is strongest as a studio artist, but then I haven't seen him live, so take that with a grain of salt.

    Quote Originally Posted by mutton View Post
    My feeling about The Rip Tide is it's catchy yet hollow, like the instruments aren't used to their potential. There's a too-much-in-your-face quality with the vocals and piano that makes it hard to listen through despite its length of only 33 minutes.
    I'll write more on this later - I'm procrastinating on an essay atm.
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    I like your list there, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, 65daysofstatic....

    If I wasn't in jail for so long, I could have some serious input into this thread. But until I find out albums that were released last year, I couldn't tell you my favorites of last year.
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    Nice list, I will be checking some of those albums out this weekend I think.
    Mainly the 65 days album.
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    My list is literally just Tom Waits - Bad As Me (his best album for at least a decade) and Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow (she could have released an album of farts and I would have bought it but fortunately she released am album of stunning, pure beauty).

    Here's to you - Songs for Shirley Horn by Terez Montcalm is probably my absolute favourite album of the year that isn't by one of the above two artists. She's amazing, her voice is every bit as powerful and soulful as Joplin's and she's one of the best contemporary jazz musicians working today, for my money.

    I think PJ Harvey's Let England Shake is a sublimely written and produced album but, I don't know, it's a little it idiosyncratic and hard to listen to unless I'm really in the mood to listen to it. It occasionally gets played on my mp3 player if I'm taking a long walk somewhere but I usually go for something I'm more used to. It certainly deserved the Mercury prize though.

    There isn't much else this year that I've heard that I've found truly amazing. Jonathon Coulton's Artificial Heart was brilliant in that very specific Jonathon Coulton way, possibly not something I'd put on a best of the year list. I really enjoyed A Very She & Him Christmas and I'd go as far as saying it's the best Christmas album of the last 20 years at least but that's not saying much really. Even though it didn't thrill me I'd probably include Elbow's Build A Rocket Boys in my list just because I'm a huge fan and they still drink in my local pub now and then. Wilco's The Whole Love was very good but hardly reached the heights they've hit before with previous albums.

    Also, I really do not understand the big deal about Bon Iver. For years people have been telling me I will love him, I should check out such an album or such a song and every single time it just strikes me as the most boring, empty, pseudo-artistic nonsense I've heard. Just fairly pleasant noise and nothing more.
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    Quote Originally Posted by coqauvin View Post
    I always thought he was better as a studio band. The impression that I got is that Beirut is led and driven solely by Zach Condon, and the element that stands out the most is the layered harmonies, especially in the vocal lines. A couple of my favourite tracks are Mount Wroclai, Cliquot and Elephant Gun. The live versions I heard (off youtube, I still haven't managed to get to a Beirut concert yet) of Wroclai lacked the layered vocal lines that made the song so strong to me. Cliquot was very similar, although Elephant Gun was done pretty well. In the end, I still feel Condon is strongest as a studio artist, but then I haven't seen him live, so take that with a grain of salt.
    I agree about the layering, but the layers don't jump out at me. I don't know if they could be mixed better or what.

    Incidentally, Owen Pallett opened and performed "Cliquot" solo. My understanding was Beirut doesn't play this song at shows unless he's around. "Mount Wroclai" was in the encore and the ending gave me new appreciation for it, the strong part being that melody. The downsides were the songs started sounding samey after a while, trumpet blasting in every other song felt repetitive, and Condon could have been slurring indistinctly for all I could tell.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vengeful Scars View Post
    I like your list there, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, 65daysofstatic....

    If I wasn't in jail for so long, I could have some serious input into this thread. But until I find out albums that were released last year, I couldn't tell you my favorites of last year.
    The only other post-rock bands in my list are This Will Destroy You and Russian Circles, although This Will Destroy You transitioned into drone. I recommend Tim Hecker if you can consider post-rock as a gateway drug to ambience.

    Quote Originally Posted by ShitFace View Post
    Nice list, I will be checking some of those albums out this weekend I think.
    Mainly the 65 days album.
    Listen to Mogwai's Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will too.

    Quote Originally Posted by simonj View Post
    Also, I really do not understand the big deal about Bon Iver. For years people have been telling me I will love him, I should check out such an album or such a song and every single time it just strikes me as the most boring, empty, pseudo-artistic nonsense I've heard. Just fairly pleasant noise and nothing more.
    I don't think Bon Iver is one of the greatest musicians of all time or anything; it just happens that none of the other albums match it imo. It seems people either love it or find it overrated, which is understandable, so I see no reason for me or any of those people to try to convince you to listen to him anymore.

    I still have to listen to Kate Bush.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mutton View Post
    I still have to listen to Kate Bush.
    I'd definitely recommend either 50 Words For Snow or her previous album, Aerial. Her earlier stuff is great too but the production can be a bit too 80's at times.
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