Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Anne Birkbane's Top 10 Albums of 2011

10. The Black Keys - El Camino
            I have to admit, I avoided jumping onto The Black Keys' bandwagon for as long as humanly possible, but after ‘accidentally’ seeing their live show in the Summer of 2011, I couldn’t resist. To say that I can adequately compare ‘El Camino’ to the rest of their catalog would be a lie, but I love the effect this album has on me. With tracks like ‘Lonely Boy’ and ‘Run Right Back’ I’m suddenly transformed into a teenage girl performing a 60’s novelty dance craze, a la Ricki Lake in Hairspray.   

Listen To - 'Lonely Boy' 

9. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong
            This album was entirely too underrated! But not here, not now! No way! Good for you, Pains of Being Pure at Heart! I REALLY LIKE YOU!

Listen To - 'Belong'

8. The Rural Alberta Advantage – Departing
            Oh, Canada! This album, released in March, came out at the perfect time of year, when we’re all stuck in the terrible tug-o-war between a tinge of warm weather and winter’s abyss. ‘Departing’ has everything you need to get you through: songs that allow you to prematurely put down your car window and songs that allow you to stay under the blankets just a little while longer.

Listen To - 'Under the Knife' 

7. The Civil Wars - Barton Hollow
            Attention: Bold Statement Ahead! Never have I ever heard two voices that were so perfectly made for each other.  Joy Williams and John Paul White sound absolutely flawless, both on the album and live in concert.  The simplicity of their sound paired with soothing vocals sends you into a trance-like state of awe. 

Listen To - 'Barton Hollow' 


6. Wye Oak - Civilian 
            The androgyny of Jenn Wasner’s vocals, for me, are reminiscent of those of Beach House lead singer Victoria Legrand’s. Given that Beach House had my Number 2 album of the year last year, it’s no surprise that I respond so positively to Wye Oak’s ‘Civilian’.  Although both bands share other similarities (lady lead singer, two person wrecking crew) Wye Oak is a lot more ‘in your face’ about it than Beach House ever was. The tracks on ‘Civilian’ manage to give you those haunting melodies, but only as a precursor to the harsh guitar strumming and utter rock they inevitably build up to.  

Listen To - 'Civilian'


5. Cults - Cults
           Equal parts futuristic synth-pop and old school retro-rock come together to form a brilliant debut release from Cults.  It’s almost as if a few of the past decades got together and created one big, bad love child.  Admittedly, singer Madeline Follin’s voice can be a bit much upon first listen of the album from start to finish, but give it a chance. Eventually, you’ll get caught up in these catchy tunes. Get it? Caught up…because it’s catchy…and it’ll catch you… and you’ll be caught…yeah!

Listen To - 'Abducted' 

4. The Head and The Heart - The Head and The Heart
           This album is like a huge 2-for-1 deal. Just when you think you’ve gotten everything you need from one track, it suddenly transforms into, seemingly, an entirely new one.  The transitions found on songs like ‘Sounds Like Hallelujah’ and ‘Down in the Valley’ are confusing, yet flawless. They’ve been labeled, among other things, as the US’s answer to Mumford and Sons, but quite frankly, I think they’re doing something all their own. 

Listen To - 'Lost in My Mind' 

3. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
            This is the only album that I can clean my apartment to without ending up on the couch within five minutes. And that, my friend, deserves some recognition. Really, it’s as plain and simple as that.

Listen To - 'Midnight City'

2. Adele - 21
            Adele can sing. Like, really sing. We’ve all (yes, even you, men of the world!), been caught by a passerby in the next lane over belting out our own rendition of ‘Rolling in the Deep’.  She has proven, on both albums now, that her lyrics spark the ‘been there, done that’ flame in all of us. She's human, she's relatable. Adele writes about what a lot of people write about – heartbreak. Yet, somehow, she does it just a little bit better than the rest. 

Listen To - 'Someone Like You' 

1. Bon Iver - Bon Iver 
          1. Incapable of being realized or defined.

Listen To - 'Michicant' 

Honorable Mentions:

1. Cut/Copy - Zonoscope
2. Little Dragon - Ritual Union
3. Other Lives - Tamer Animals 

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