What a great year for music it’s been. I’m sure there are glaring omissions even by my own finnicky standards. Some releases earned a slot toward the top right away (Deaf Center, for instance) and stayed there all year, while others are new to me and made the list if only by virtue of how exciting it was to hear the first few times (Bvdub, Anstam). What I noticed over the span of the year is that my tastes tended toward instrumental music, particularly drone/ambient (Daniel Thomas Freeman, Winged Victory for the Sullen) or techno/electronic (Black Dog, Planetary Assault Systems), with some pop/rock thrown in. It’s not to say that there weren’t other releases I enjoyed; in fact I have an honorable mentions list to follow, as well as my favorite EPs/singles.
I will say I was disappointed by the albums presented by James Blake, Björk and Ford & Lopatin. As always I could appreciate Björk’s high concept approach, but overall I just couldn’t get into Biophilia (despite really liking a few cuts). Ford & Lopatin’s output as Games was great to me, but I couldn’t dig their more pop angle on the full-length… and James Blake just went way too far into R&B schmaltz for my tastes. It’s been a universal hit otherwise but I highly prefer his tracky EPs of yore.
Best show of the year, hands down, was A Winged Victory for the Sullen at Holocene in Portland. I also enjoyed shows by Caribou, Mogwai and Blonde Redhead, among others.
2011 was also the year that I tried to stop stealing music… I wanted to give back to my fellow artists and small labels where possible. I did so in more convenient and commercial ways such as iTunes, Amazon and Emusic, none of which is perhaps the ideal way to support bands or labels. But having sold music through each of those outlets myself, I’m confident that at least a decent amount of compensation is going back to the people releasing the music.
I put out my own album this year and without sounding like a whiner, it’s been discouraging to say the least. I am truly proud of it — I put it in my own top 5, something I don’t do lightly as I generally avoid tooting my own horn so blatantly — and yet I haven’t even made back the money it costs to run my website for the year. If you feel so inclined, buy yourself a copy on Bandcamp and put a smile on my face.
Enough prologue… here’s the list of 50 albums that I’ve really enjoyed in 2011, starting with my most favorite. Where possible, I’m linking back to my original blurb about each release (there are a few I didn’t get to)… each of those should have a sound or video clip to preview as well as links to buy. Please consider supporting these talented artists!
- Machinedrum: Room(s) (Planet µ)
- Deaf Center: Owl Splinters (Type)
- Matthew Mercer: Pianissimo Possibile (self-released)
- The Black Dog: Liber Dogma (Dust Science)
- A Winged Victory for the Sullen: A Winged Victory For The Sullen (Kranky)
- Colin Stetson: New History Warfare — Judges, Vol. 2 (Constellation)
- Balam Acab: Wander/Wonder (Tri Angle)
- Julia Holter: Tragedy (Leaving)
- Byetone: SyMeta (Raster-Noton)
- Matthewdavid: Outmind (Brainfeeder)
- Kuedo: Severant (Planet µ)
- Kreng: Grimoire (Miasmah)
- Cleared: Cleared (Immaterial)
- Amon Tobin: ISAM (Ninja Tune)
- Peaking Lights: 936 (Not Not Fun)
- Plaid: Scintilli (Warp)
- Frivolous: Meteorology (Cadenza)
- Planetary Assault Systems: The Messenger (Ostgut-Ton)
- Nils Frahm & Anne Müller: 7fingers (Erased Tapes)
- Nils Frahm: Felt (Erased Tapes)
- Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky)
- Stephan Mathieu: Remain (Line)
- Zomby: Dedication (4AD)
- Anstam: Dispel Dances (50 Weapons)
- Lucy: Wordplay for Working Bees (Stroboscopic Artifacts)
- Rustie: Glass Swords (Warp)
- Roly Porter: Aftertime (Subtext)
- Christina Vantzou: No. 1 (Kranky)
- Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic)
- Tilman Ehrhorn: Past Utopia (Neo Ouija)
- Siriusmo: Mosaik (Monkeytown)
- Kangding Ray: OR (Raster-Noton)
- Gui Boratto: III (Kompakt)
- Chris Watson: El Tren Fantasma (Touch)
- Hyetal: Broadcast (Black Acre)
- Bee Mask: Elegy For Beach Friday (Spectrum Spools)
- Apparat: The Devil’s Walk (Mute)
- Africa Hitech: 93 Million Miles (Warp)
- High Places: Original Colors (Thrill Jockey)
- Daniel Thomas Freeman: The Beauty Of Doubting Yourself (Home Normal)
- Sepalcure: Sepalcure (Hotflush Recordings)
- Martyn: Ghost People (Brainfeeder)
- Robag Wruhme: Thora Vukk (Pampa)
- Cat’s Eyes: Cat’s Eyes (Polydor)
- Barn Owl: Lost In The Glare (Thrill Jockey)
- Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica (Software)
- Bvdub: Resistance Is Beautiful (Darla)
- Mogwai: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (Matador)
- Beirut: The Rip Tide (Pompeii)
- 2562: Fever (When In Doubt)
There you have it. More to come — I’ll be posting my favorite EPs/singles as well as some runners-up that I just couldn’t not mention outside of this list.