2011, it’s been real! To kick off our b3sci 2011 year end coverage, we start with Top 10 albums lists from each of b3science’s seven contributors. (We’ll detail our overall site picks in the next few days). 2011.
01. Drake – Take Care
02. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
03. M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
04. Metronomy – The English Riviera
05. A$AP Rocky – Live Love A$AP
06. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
07. James Blake – James Blake
08. Kendrick Lamar – Section.80
09. SBTRKT – SBTRKT
10. Active Child – You Are All I See
01. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
02. The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From…
03. Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne
04. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
05. Low Roar – Low Roar
06. The Weeknd – House of Balloons
07. Wye Oak – Civilian
08. Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
09. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
10. Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’
01. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
02. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
03. Giraffage – Comfort
04. The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From..
05. Washed Out – Within and Without
06. James Blake – James Blake
07. The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient
08. The Postelles – The Postelles
09. Harrison Hudson – American Thunder
10. Caveman – CoCo Beware
01. James Blake – James Blake
02. A$AP Rocky – Live Love A$AP
03. Wale – Ambition
04. Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’
05. Harrison Hudson – American Thunder
06. Fiore – Fiore
07. Benjamin Francis Leftwich – Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm
08. M83 – Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
09. Mike Higbee – Secret Life
10. Chris Wollard & The Ship Thieves – Chris Wollard & The Ship Thieves
Let’s be honest. I probably didn’t listen to ten complete LPs this year that I would somehow deem “best” – it just isn’t in me anymore, maybe. I did, however, have enough musical bests paired with actual full records I loved to complete a top ten. Let’s review my 2011 faves: there are ten, they are not ranked.
tUnE – yArDs, W H O K I L L (4AD)
If someone forced me to name my best record of the year, I’d bet this would be it. While I’ll never get over the late 90s stylization of her musical pseudonym, Merrill Garbus made songs that said things I wanted to hear couched in melodies and harmonies that push me from Africa to doo-wop to “America.” There is true joy in the music she makes, even if she’s talking about eating disorders or inner-city violence. High up on the “things I danced to alone in my room” list of this year.
While I’d consider turntable.fm mostly dead in my day to day life, it ruled my world for a few weeks over the summer. I heard more great stuff I know I would’ve never come upon on my own, but I guarantee you it wasn’t in dubstep rooms. I spent time chatting and playing jams with friends I wouldn’t see for months. Turntable gave me all of the plus factors of a 1996 chatroom backed with a way better soundtrack than I would’ve had then. Spotify swooped in a few weeks later, and now I find myself listening to nearly anything I want at any time while creating playlists with friends throughout the day. Not as immediate as turntable, but somehow less of a time suck. I don’t love the ads, but I know I can get rid of them if I want.
PJ Harvey, Let England Shake (Island/Vagrant)
Overwrought concept albums can be a drag. (Confessional: I am a long-time PJ Harvey fan, guilty of knowing all of the words to “Rid of Me” by heart at a very young age.) If someone had told me a concept album by Harvey about England, bloodshed and warfare would be one of my favorite releases this year, I might have been a bit perplexed. The melodies, language, and instrumentation around this record, however, do more to transport listeners rather than alienate them. “Inaccessible” is a word often used to describe records, and I could see how some of Harvey’s records may be that way. This, however, works magic.
Jay-Z & Kanye West, “Why I Love You” (Roc-A-Fella/Roc Nation/Def Jam)
I know this record is on everyone else’s list, and that’s fine, but only one of its tracks got repeat plays with me. The production on Watch The Throne is amazing, I can’t deny it, but nearly nothing about that record sticks for me. I revisited it months after it leaked and I still couldn’t get into it as a whole. Jay-Z and Kanye West are two of my all-time favorites and I thought this record would be my dream. It wasn’t. “Why I Love You”, though, is a jam. Great sample, great chorus, okay-enough rapping.
Iceage, New Brigade (What’s Your Rupture?)
There will never be a time in life that I don’t like channeling my inner teenage dude. I know he’s there, just waiting for me to listen to the Stooges for another few hours or cackle while watching episodes of Beavis & Butt-head. 24-ish minutes of gothy punk energy (the longest track at 3:08), Iceage are my Ramones for 2011.
Drake, Take Care (Young Money/Cash Money)
I can’t stop playing this record. Merrill Garbus and Drake might have to duke it out. I thought Thank Me Later was lackluster – too much bravado and cameo, not enough actual persona. With Take Care, though, I feel like Drake is getting back to a place where he’s comfortable: an introspective, lonely look in the mirror at fame and alienation from where he thought he was a few years ago to now. On hip-hop records I’m usually disappointed if they’re not full of bangers but this one tempers enough production with the same amount of restraint.
Willie Mae Rock Camp & Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone” (RCA)
Over the summer, I volunteered for the first time at Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in Brooklyn. I spent an exhausting and fulfilling week making sure a bunch of 8 & 9 year olds made it to their instrument class, ate their lunches, and sort-of listened during workshops about the blues, gender, and other topics regarding women in music. Every counselor had her musical kryptonite and everyone very quickly found out Kelly’s jam was mine. I danced & sang to it all week when it played during various end-of-day dance parties, and one of the campers and I shared it as our best memory of the week from songwriting class. At the showcase wrapping up camp, the volunteer band played it as their song for soundcheck. I belted it just as I had every other day.
Party of Helicopters at Death By Audio, Williamsburg, February 13, 2011
I got my knees slammed into the stage all night long at this show, with terrible bruises to show the next day, but it was well worth it. They are my favorite band from my most formative years, the one whose album art my body will carry to my grave; every opportunity to relive that time while seeing them live is worth it. Even though they’ll never play “A New Kind of Power” for me no matter how many times I request it, I don’t care. I love them. Forever.
Björk, Biophilia (One Little Indian/Polydor)
There was a time growing up that I spent most hours lying on the floor in my room listening to records. Bjork was always a part of this ritual, and listening to this record sends me back to that time in my life (I am full of memories this year). “Crystalline” is a perfect hybrid of Telegram-style remixes and Vespertine vocals. “Cosmogony” hearkens back to the antics of Medulla. Everything is nostalgic, but everything is new. The David Attenborough-narrated companion iPhone app is an excellent companion if you can’t make up your own visuals in your mind.
Sharon Van Etten, “Serpents” (Jagjaguwar)
Seeing her play this live last Tuesday only further got me stoked for her record next year. Her voice is the most haunting to me, and this is that quality at its finest. Percussion and expansion of her sound into what it is on this track alone (I hear you, Aaron Dessner) bode well for the rest of Tramp. Can’t wait.
01. The Kills – Blood Pressures
02. Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys
03. The Airborne Toxic Event – All At Once
04. The Vaccines – What Did You Expect…
05. Foster The People – Torches
06. TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light
07. The Black Keys – El Camino
08. Sleeper Agent – Celabrasion
09. The Rapture – In The Grace Of Your Love
10. The Wombats – This Modern Glitch
11. Honorable mention to My Morning Jacket and Teddybears
01. Alex Clare – The Lateness of the Hour
02. Nero – Welcome Reality
03. Thievery Corporation – Culture of Fear
04. SBTRKT – SBTRKT
05. Tyler, the Creator – Goblin
06. Bassnectar – Divergent Spectrum
07. Dave Nada – Blow Your Head Presents: Moombahton
08. James Blake – James Blake
09. M83 – Hurry up, We’re Dreaming
10. Crookers – Dr. Gonzo
Reviewed by b3