Posted by: Jeff | April 25, 2011

2011’s Best Albums… So Far

Four months through 2011, there have already been a number of stellar releases from new and established artists alike.  Here are some of my favorites thus far (in no particular order as of yet):

An early candidate for album (and live show) of the year, this Aussie synthpop band complicated their pop hooks for a proggier, lusher sound on their third album.

Cut Copy – Need You Now

Following up a concept album about working in a cancer ward with something more accessible may not sound too difficult, but the Brooklyn trio exceed expectations in creating a wonderfully low-key and melodic record.

The Antlers – Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out

Though only their second album, the new LP takes back the mantle of folk pop icons from Mumford & Sons.  Expanding their sound from 2-3 minute tracks to a full 4-5 minutes allows the Foxes to add depth and nuance to their carefully constructed harmonies.

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues

Lyrically one of the silliest albums to gain such critical acclaim, Dan Bejar’s ninth album as Destroyer is probably his best, laying meandering vocal reminiscences over lush jazzy compositions.

Destroyer – Kaputt

At only 21 years old, this British R&B/dubstep artist released a wonderfully evocative album of sparse landscapes and halting soulful vocals, prompting favorable comparisons to artists ranging from Burial to D’Angelo to Radiohead.

James Blake – Limit to Your Love

Speaking of Radiohead, they released a new album this year.  Leaving the guitar-oriented compositions of In Rainbows behind, the biggest band in the world made an album with decided dubstep influences, including deep basslines, breakbeat percussion, and accentuating – often unintelligible – vocals.

Radiohead – Morning Mr. Magpie

Dubstep’s influence on modern rock paragons continued on the Strokes’ latest, an album blending traditional post-punk fare (“Under Cover of Darkness”, “Two Kinds of Happiness”) with songs featuring more unconventional structure (“You’re So Right”, “Games”).

Strokes – Taken for a Fool

Tired of being described as cutesy and delicate, this Swedish chanteuse opted for a darker, more mature followup to her breakout debut.

Lykke Li – I Follow Rivers

This Swedish trio broke into fame with the irrepressibly catchy hooks on 2006’s Writer’s Block.  After a regrettable foray into experimental pop, they’re back to whistling and clapping their way through catchy tracks that could form a soundtrack to the summer.

Peter Bjorn and John – I Know You Don’t Love Me

This Baltimore duo is getting some deserved buzz for their latest album, which fuses alt-rock guitar swells with the dreamy vocal delivery characteristic of fellow Baltimoreans Beach House.

Wye Oak – Civilian

This Welsh trio may have just released their first album, but their profile is large and still growing, thanks to epic wall of sound guitar and theatrical build and release.  It’s like Metric quit their day job and became disciples of My Bloody Valentine.

Joy Formidable – Whirring

The new millennium hadn’t been kind to these aging alternative legends, so they decided to abandon attempts to adapt their music with genre pastiche and get back to basics.  The result is an album that hearkens back to the best of their catalogue, with upbeat alternative rockers mixed with ballads that bring R.E.M.’s fans back to the fold in droves.

R.E.M. – Überlin

Despite a somewhat less than stellar lead single – TV on the Radio are never at their best in the absence of tension – the band delivers an LP that balances well a signature frenetic style with a calmer, more reverential tone.  And Tunde Adebimpe has never sounded better as an R&B crooner fronting a post-rock outfit.

TV on the Radio – New Cannonball Blues

Few bands sound as interesting as the San Francisco-based Dodos, and the addition of Neko Case’s iconic voice to Logan Kroeber’s unique drumming style and Meric Long’s finger-picked guitar is a recipe for a vibrant album of experimental pop textures.

Dodos – Don’t Stop

Recording on James Murphy’s esteemed DFA label and touring with dance-rock legends Cut Copy, Holy Ghost! release their album amidst some big-name recommendations.  Owing more to 70’s disco than post-punk, this album is funky and fun.

Holy Ghost! – Do It Again

Alison Mossheart spent the past couple of years fronting Jack White’s swamp-blues outfit The Dead Weather, and the murkier influence shows in The Kills’ new release.  Mossheart and duo mate Jamie Hince go for a fuller blues-rock sound than on previous albums and deliver.

The Kills – Satellite

Yet to see an official release, the lead singles from The Raveonettes’ upcoming LP are less feisty, opting instead for a laid back fuzz.  This promises to be a solid addition to 2011’s string of great albums.

The Raveonettes – Forget That You’re Young


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