2011 was a year of phenomenal music. Different musicians from across genres produced quality work that rose to the top of the charts – even in many cases vying with their pop competitors.
With popularization of a more indie sound on mainstream radio, it proved interesting to attempt to assemble a list of what the top 10 albums could possibly be without catering to a specific genre.
This grew into a lengthy and thorough search, with much second-guessing. It is difficult to speak for a year of music, and much more for the best of a year of music without the restrictions of pop culture.
These choices represent artists who pushed the envelope and created work that, in some respects, completely changed their sound.
These choices represent artists that took chances and ran the risk of losing fans or chart status with daring lyrics. They are artists who deserve recognition for standing out and testing boundaries.
These are my picks for best albums of 2011, in no particular order, and their best tracks.
Kiss Each Other Clean
Iron & Wine
Listen to: “Black Candle”
Relaxed, colorful and full of imagery. It’s no “Boy With a Coin” or “The Sea and the Rhythm,” but definitely a triumph for folk and indie music.
The People’s Key
Listen to: “Shell Games”
A light-hearted, more poppy feel for Bright Eyes. Hard hitting lyrics still make you think.
The King of Limbs
Listen to: “Separator”
Pretty bizarre and abstract album, definitely an adventerous step for music veterans like Radiohead.
Listen to: “Under Cover of Darkness”
An upbeat album from the Strokes, a little reminiscent of Say Anything.
Born This Way
Listen to: “Hair”
Another loud, in-your-face album from Lady Gaga. All about self acceptance, all fabulous.
Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Listen to: “Perth”
Calm, relaxed album in traditional Bon Iver style, but he takes the words and music to a whole new level. This album is a tear-jerker.
Watch The Throne
Jay-Z and Kanye West
Listen to: “No Church in the Wild ft. Frank Ocean”
Jay-Z and Kanye West – need I say more? Probably. Two big names in mainstream rap collaborated to create a truly dynamic and electric album.
Florence + The Machine
Listen to: “Only If For a Night”
Florence’s sophomore album proves to be a little macabre and fantastical. Haunting vocals paired with ethereal sound create an interesting listening experience.
The Black Keys
Listen to: “Lonely Boy,” “Little Black Submarines”
The Black Keys never fail to impress. With strong background vocals in this album, some of the tracks prove to be fantastic anthems for the year.
I’m With You
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Listen to “Look Around”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers new album brings a softer low-fi sound to a normally rambunctious band. A few tracks still capture the old RHCP feel, but this is definitely a pleasant change.
21 – Adele
The King is Dead
Zonoscope – Cut Copy
Who You Are – Jessie